Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Planning to Fail

I had a nice conversation with a City of Racine alderman yesterday. I expressed my concern about the hassles involved with opening a business in Racine. If I understand the situation correctly, Racine has an ordinance that requires most businesses to get approval from the city council before opening. This approval also involves the Racine County Economic Development Corporation which exercises authority over many of Racine's commercial corridors. Ultimately the council decides the matter. When opening a business, there is considerable effort, thought, and expense required. In Racine, you can undergo this process flawlessly - you can have a great idea, you can find the perfect location to buy or rent, you can complete a business plan, you can successfully arrange financing, and you can see that your business concept accords with zoning laws - only to be stymied and or rejected by bureaucrats and politicians that have other ideas for said property. We now have a top down economic model in Racine.

Anyway, back to my conversation with the alderman. On numerous occasions he said that I made a valid point. Not once did he suggest that I was mistaken or ill informed. The conversation was quite pleasant and there was evidently much that we agreed upon. Even so, I am discouraged. Why? Because, based on years of experience, I have no hope that this alderman or any others will make any attempt whatsoever to repeal the ordinance that makes the top down economic model possible. There are too many entrenched interests from RCEDC to city development personnel to city alderman who depend on maintaining control of economic decisions in Racine. If Racine residents and would-be entrepreneurs were free to make their own decisions, there would be no need for the economic development specialists and planners. They plan on keeping their jobs. The bondage will continue for the rest of us.


Tim the Shrubber said...

"The bondage will continue for the rest of us."

A good post, until you reached for the hyperbole.

Denis Navratil said...

hyperbole - a figure of speech which greatly exaggerates the truth.

bondage - subjection to the constraint of duty or of some strong desire.

Assuming someone has a strong desire to open a lawful business in Racine, and is then constrained by government, as has happened numerous times, then this circumstance would meet the dictionary definition of bondage.

But why quibble about semantics? I am glad you liked the post.

Anonymous said...

enlighten us as to who said alderman was please.

Tim the Shrubber said...

That is a rather odd definition of the word bondage...what is the source? Typically any non-sexual definition of bondage is more like these...

Bondage from Random House Dictionary:
1. slavery or involuntary servitude; serfdom.
2. the state of being bound by or subjected to some external power or control.

Bondage from American Heritage Dictionary:
1. The state of one who is bound as a slave or serf.
2. A state of subjection to a force, power, or influence.

No mention of a 'constraint of duty' or a 'strong desire'.

I think you have to be making the case the the City regulations are creating a condition similar to the slavery or serfdom to use the word bondage without engaging hyperbole.


"But why quibble about semantics?"

Because semantics matter is you want to have honest discussion.

Downtown Brown said...

Tim el Shrub; By your very own definitions from both sources item #2
"2. the state of being bound by or subjected to some external power or control."
Free Racine's comment here is that the "external" controlling forces are the City council, who are enslaving the business owners, and the potential landlord; (Current and future); from free exchange of commerce. If the Council in it's wisdom fails to allow an environment that is hospitable to future growth the value of all our businesses and the entire community will suffer.

Just in the last week a new vendor was disallowed an opportunity to open a restaurant, because they have only one Toilet, (Which I believe meets ADA requirements). But they were denied because the City requires 2 Bathrooms! For a space that size it seems extreme to have such a requirement.

In the mean time this new business doesn't open and "hole" in the Landscape continues.. Enslaved (Bound), by the City Council and it's overbearing rules!

Each time the City/ County State or Federal Govt. gets in the way of Commerce the proprietor suffers, and thus suffers capitalism which will be needed to raise the economic boat of Racine,.to improve schools, City services and pay the bills of our City and surrounding areas.

Denis Navratil said...

Tim, the definition I used was from Webster's Dictionary. But even if I used the definitions that you offered, as DB has mentioned, my use of the word bondage was accurate and thus not hyperbole. Anyway, I am ready to move on to substance. If you have anything substantive to add, please do so.

Anon, I don't care to mention the alderman's name. But I have a suggestion. Call up any alderman and express your concern about the politicization of business startups. Feel free to use any of the info that I have supplied here. My guess is that all of them will say things like "you raise a good point" or "I agree with you" or "I share your concerns." And when you have completed the conversation, ask yourself if said alderman is likely to act in any way to address the problem. The answer is no. So, to answer your question somewhat cheekily, it could be any and every Racine alderman.

Tim the Shrubber said...

So, was it 'bondage' when I was forced by the government to stop for a red light? I mean technically in this case I am "bound by or subjected to some external power or control." Sorry, but you guys are pushing the definition to claim something which is not the case.

This cheapens the word and leaves nothing to describe real bondage. Are you really going to argue that 'bondage' ranges from slavery on one end to municiple business regulation on the other. With a definition that broad the word becomes meaningless.

You know, I would love to see the red tape involved in opening a business reduced, but I cannot accept that this can be described using a term typically used for truely totalitarian social systems.

Denis Navratil said...

You are boring me Tim.

Denis Navratil said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

A perfect example of this is what is going on in West Racine. The city is dragging a local business owner through the wringer.

Real Debate said...

A city in this bad of economic shape should be doing everything possible to assist new businesses in opening.

In Racine they prefer to throw up barriers.

This defies all logic.

Very nice post Denis.

Anonymous said...

My advice for anyone planning on opening a business in Racine is to RUN. They will make your life a nightmare. They will bury your alive in bureaucracy. They are chasing away every viable business in town except for SCJ. RUN RUN RUN. The mayor is a babbling idiot an staff members are cast members of the 80's movie "Airplane". Remember that one? Spend your life savings in a different city where you will receive respect for your investment.

Judge Mental said...

In principal I agree with your stance Denis. I do get a little wobbly though when I envision myself opening up a business and then having a business open up right next door that wouldn't compliment my business (wig shop, convenient store selling 44 oz beer bottles, etc). I do agree though that the city should error on the side of creating jobs instead of arbitrarily trying to do social engineering. A lot of gray area in this debate.

Denis Navratil said...

Thanks for your comments Fred, anon and Judge. I understand the wobbliness Judge. I am sure you know that there is no utopian solution. Yes, its a bit of a crap shoot if we are left to make our own decisions more or less. We might end up next to the wig shop or whatever. However, the alternative is even worse. The alternative - leaving the decisions in the hands of politicians - is far worse. Why? For starters, we will have just taken a huge chunk out of the notion of property rights. Does one really have property rights if they are prevented from using their property? Secondly, it is quite difficult to get agreement among the numerous factions that are interested in these matters. While you might not like the wig seller, a nearly bald guy like me might might welcome the idea. The wig seller down the street might be opposed because they don't want the competition. This stuff can get kind of messy and the pols involved will too often take the easy path of denial of the lone guy/gal that wants to open a business. Far easier than taking a stand on principal when faced with an angry mob. Here is some additional food for thought. Isn't it a crap shoot when you buy a home? Maybe a future neighbor will have 14 kids and you don't like it, or they are loud, don't mow the lawn enough etc... So why stop the government involvement in commercial areas? Why not have residential property transactions and rental agreements subject to government approval? Mind you I am not suggesting this, I am just sayin... The problem here is that people can express their personal bias or prejudice in an acceptable manner via the government. So we can say we don't want people fixing their cars on the grass as a sort of code for we don't want Mexican neighbors, we don't want loud rap music blaring day and night as code for we don't want black neighbors etc... Am I exaggerating? I don't think so. The city basically told a Korean family to take a hike when they wanted to open a convenient store downtown. Was the stereotype of Korean store and ghetto customers a factor in the denial? I have no doubt. Do we want our government as the official, legitimate discriminator? I don't. I think we would be better off individually and collectively if we protected property rights and the right to open lawful businesses.

George Meyers said...

Hi, Dennis,

Bondage is really a matter of viewpoint. The fellow that does not recognize our current situation as a matter of bondage simply has no vision of freedom; not real freedom anyway.

The current definition of freedom is something more akin to freedom from. (You know, Freedom from Fear, Freedom from Want, that sort of thing.)

And once one gets into that state of mind, what we see around here can look pretty good.

Real freedom is a pretty wild game. But if you are up to it, its a lot of fun.

Anonymous said...

"There are too many entrenched interests from RCEDC to city development personnel"

Note they all make money by being the experts no matter how high the unemployment no matter how fast those who can leave Racine, they will still have good jobs and suffer little harm. They are not elected until The Mayor gets the balls to say no more Racine is just screwed.

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