By Ted Schnell • BocaJump | Jan. 19, 2012
While acknowledging he ultimately was wrong about who supplied the city with a list of businesses used to initiate Elgin’s business license, OCTAVE spokesman Chuck Keysor said the group continues to stand by other criticisms it has leveled about the issue.
“… I still stand by the list of all the other issues I raised a few minutes ago,” he wrote, referring to an email he sent in which Keysor outlined an array of issues with the business license program, all of which have been aired publicly before the City Council and in emails to OCTAVE supporters and others following the group.
“The point hasn't been to hammer on the chamber,” Keysor wrote Wednesday. “But, anyone that is connected to the business license that can provide an indication that the business license is not being run correctly is subject to examination. It just turned out that the chamber was heavily involved in this issue, so they got heat as a result.
“The issue of the chamber getting a $400,000 contract from the city, without any deliverables seemed unfair to us, so we made an issue of that,” he wrote, adding, “The city originally drafted the contract with a full page of deliverables. But the chamber deleted all the deliverables, before they would sign the contract. We have a photocopy of the original marked-up version. Of course the council is also to blame, since they ultimately approved the contract without any deliverables. Only (Councilman) Rich Dunne objected.”
The city entered into the contract with the chamber so it would provide economic development work for Elgin after the city cut its own economic development staff in a cost-cutting move several years ago.
For 2012, the City Council has cut its contribution to the chamber to $275,000.
Other issues the group still holds as legitimate, Keysor said, include:
The chamber receiving $400,000 last year from the city while the chamber president was making a bit more than $100,000 per year.
That the business license generated only about half of what was intended to pay to the chamber and the Downtown Neighborhood Association for economic development efforts, yet the city never cut payments to the two organizations.
The idea that every business in the city, by paying for a business license, effectively would be contributing to the chamber of commerce, even though OCTAVE’s own survey of “every licensed business in Elgin” found only a small percentage that supported the chamber.
The city funding to the chamber creates a conflict for the organization as an advocate for businesses, particularly if an issue would pit the chamber, as an advocate for one of its members, against City Hall. Keysor has raised this point repeatedly.
City rebuts claims of unfair enforcement
Keysor and OCTAVE also claim the business license has not been enforced and administered fairly. In September, the group claimed a crackdown had begun when the city sent letters to businesses that were known not to have applied for the business license.
At that time, Kozal insisted no crackdown was under way and that some of the letters imply advised of the consequences of noncompliance, including the possibility of daily fines and, ultimately, being forced to close.
On Wednesday, Kozal acknowledged that the city administration is awaiting some guidance from the City Council in regard to further enforcement.
The City Council last considered the business license issue in August and chose then to delay further consideration of it until January, when it would have a full two years of business license data in hand.
“You are correct that the staff has been waiting for direction from the city council on further enforcement,” Kozal wrote in his email on Wednesday. Even so, he said, the city has been applying some pressure on businesses to bring them into compliance with the business license.
“Since the creation of the original list of businesses described above, the city has been conditioning the issuance of a certificate of occupancy or re-occupancy for any commercial establishment with proof that a business license has been obtained,” he wrote.
Kozal also noted that the city has other means to make its list of businesses more complete, which further would ensure fair enforcement of the issue.
“There are other methods and sources for obtaining information on businesses operating in the city (that may not have been included on the original list or that have not obtained a certificate of occupancy or re-occupancy since the business license ordinance became effective),” he wrote. “Staff is waiting for city council direction before initiating those additional measures.”