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Nitpicking and micromanaging the CVS project

By Scott Tibbs, January 18, 2006

In a January 12 guest column, City Councilor Chris Sturbaum (D-1st) defends the City Council's nitpicking of the CVS project by mentioning the design included Exterior Insulation Finish Systems, which "has been the subject of a national class action lawsuit since 2002."

This is easy enough to refute. It is the job of the county Building Department to make sure the structure is safe and up to code. If the materials are indeed unsafe, it should be dealt with through the proper channels, not by a bunch of wanna-be experts who managed to win a seat on the City Council. CVS had already gone through a lengthy planning process, and if this was really an issue it should have been dealt with long before the City Council was asked to vacate an alley.

Sturbaum said "The council is asked to give city property to CVS and in return we simply want to see the best building possible put on the site for the community's best interest." That sounds good in theory, but why is it up to the City Council to decide what is the "the best building possible"? What qualifications do the nine members of the City Council have to make that decision?

The answer is chilling. In a letter to the editor, Jim Sprague shares an exchange with Mayor Mark Kruzan.

After his short speech questions were invited and I asked if he believed building design and architecture were the proper role of city government. He answered yes. I asked what qualifications they had to undertake such a role. He answered "They were elected."

This is exactly the kind of arrogance that turns people off to politics. This has become a bit of a cliche, but the City Council was elected to represent the people of Bloomington, not to rule us. Such arrogance is not new. Two years ago, Democratic activist Don Moore (husband of City Clerk Regina Moore) responded to my objection to a city subsidy for Planned Parenthood with the statement "Sorry, Mr. Tibbs, but that ship sailed election night of '03." This is the same Don Moore who whined on the AM 1370 Afternoon edition that the word "micromanaging" was meant to stifle dialogue on the CVS project.

What the City Council should be doing instead of micromanaging how CVS builds their store is make a decision on whether or not vacating the alley is best for Bloomington. How many people use the alley? Would giving the alley to CVS negatively impact traffic? (Almost certainly not.) The benefits to the city from vacating the alley are clear. CVS will revitalize a blighted area and create jobs. Instead, the City Council is determined to live up to Bloomington's "anti-business" reputation by making CVS jump through hoop after hoop.

If the City Council wants something in return they should look into whether or not they can sell the alley to CVS rather than vacate it.

What if it was a small business that wanted to build on the blighted former Burger King lot instead of a national corporation? Would they be able to afford the lawyers and architects to satisfy the City Council's silly demands? My guess is that a "mom and pop" drug store would have given up a long time ago. At the meeting, Steve Volan said that he wanted to see a three-dimensional model of such projects, which would drive the cost up even farther and make it harder for small businesses to compete with large retail chains.

The City Council has again overstepped their boundaries and showed great disrespect to the people who elected them. City elections are only one year away. I sincerely hope we can get some sanity into the Showers Building on November 6, 2007.