STAR bonds fizzle out

The Madison County Record Apr. 4, 2010, 6:28am

We all have our jobs to do, but sometimes those jobs put us in opposition to each other. Feelings get hurt, differences harden, and compromise becomes near impossible.

Other times, there's give and take, people change their minds, and things work out for the best.

The demise of the University Town Center project is a perfect example of representative government responding to a public aroused by a watchdog press. It's a textbook case of democracy in action.

When it comes to economic development, we're the most brazen of boosters. But our job as journalists is to keep the public apprised of what's going on in our community. That sometimes means exposing the shortcomings of "economic development" plans that are lacking.

U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello's son, John, wanted to build a big mall in Glen Carbon and have Illinois taxpayers subsidize its construction. He argued that the billion-dollar University Town Center was vital to the local economy. But Illinois Department of Revenue Director Brian Hamer predicted the project would siphon off sales from surrounding areas.

State Rep. Tom Holbrook (D-Belleville) introduced and played Springfield cheerleader for the sales tax and revenue (STAR) bonds bill required to do the deal which would channel sales taxes generated by designated tenants of the new mall to Costello's development group. It sought to make up for the inevitable loss of sales tax revenues by nearby municipalities and counties by redistributing property taxes.

Mayors of threatened towns were not comforted or supportive of the concept.

Following some heightened public debate, State Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Collinsville) and State Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton) have announced that they will join the mayors in opposing the STAR bond legislation. Calling the project "too risky," Hoffman, Haine, and even Holbrook have revoked their support of the measure.

Holbrook now has acknowledged the project would draw too much sales tax revenue away from other Metro East communities.

In politics, it isn't easy to admit being wrong and it says a lot about an elected leader who publicly does so.

Having reported the story in depth and editorialized against the use of state funds to subsidize this private development, we salute Holbrook, Hoffman, and Haine for doing an about face and abandoning this counterproductive project.

We're better off without it, and so are they.

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