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Late Night FDL: It’s So Rude to Stand Up for Yourself

A school district getting screwed over by the state of Illinois’ relentless desire to give tax breaks to corporations that don’t need them had the temerity to point out that this was total crap, which of course upset the guardians of decorum:

Crates and her school district had suddenly found themselves at the epicenter of Illinois’s latest political and financial crisis, described by one lawmaker as round-robin blackmail among Midwestern states. Unless Illinois agreed to extend the tax break, Sears threatened to leave. The state of Ohio, for one, dangled $400 million in tax incentives as a lure.

But when lawmakers agree to corporate demands for property tax relief, they induce strain on the financial stability of schools, local governments, libraries and parks that rely on those taxes as their most stable form of revenue. The State of Illinois, with $3 billion in unpaid bills, has already disrupted local governments’ revenue streams, often delivering payments to schools at least four months behind schedule.

So when Crates and her colleagues learned in March that Sears might win an extension of its tax break, they followed the lead of many corporations with well-connected lobbyists. They began a fierce campaign.

At first, the district wasn’t even involved in discussions about the bill. The village of Hoffman Estates oversees the distribution of the Sears property tax revenue. Village officials did not mention that they had helped write and introduce legislation to extend the tax break until months after they did so, according to Crates. “I was dumbfounded that a public agency like ourselves, right next door, didn’t bother to tell us and tried in the middle of the night to pass legislation without telling us,” Crates said.

The Hoffman Estates mayor, William McLeod, disputed Crates’s account. He said that school officials knew early on that the village supported Sears’s efforts to lengthen the life of the tax break.

“Rather than complaining, they should be happy to be getting $6 million” under the compromise, McLeod said of the school district. “They’ve been very boorish, very rude. Some people just roll that way. They’ve got to learn to wear their big-boy and big-girl pants.”

Yes. Absolutely. What they ought to do, these schoolchildren who have the temerity to want to learn, is save all their pennies and give them to Sears, so the CEO won’t have to go begging on a cold winter’s night. We should all understand that wanting to teach people to read and do algebra should take a back seat to “redeveloping” a corporate campus that hasn’t seen an increase in property taxes since 1989, and to argue anything differently is the absolute height of bad manners.

Why, if school districts begin lobbying like corporations, pretty soon we’ll have to genuinely consider their needs! Pretty soon we’ll have to have a conversation about what really it really costs to provide for the needs of a community, and about what exactly the point is of having a business in town if that business doesn’t contribute its fair share toward the place of which it’s meant to be a part.

Far better if those school kids just know their place, and stop troubling our beautiful minds with their rudeness.


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Allison Hantschel

Allison Hantschel

Allison Hantschel is a 10-year veteran of the newspaper business. She publishes First Draft, a writing and politics blog, with her partners Holden, Jude and Scout. She is the author of the books Chicago's Historic Irish Pubs (2011, Arcadia Publishing, with Mike Danahey) and It Doesn’t End With Us: The Story of the Daily Cardinal, about a great liberal journalism institution (2007, Heritage Books). She also edited the anthology “Special Plans: The Blogs on Douglas Feith and the Faulty Intelligence That Led to War” (2005, William, James & Co.) Her work has appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the Daily Southtown, Sirens Magazine, and Alternet. She lives in Chicago with her husband, two ferrets, and approximately 60 tons of books.