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Considering government's impact on local business

By Scott Tibbs, September 10, 2015

What is the best way for business needs to be considered when the city council considers ordinances that could negatively impact local business? That is one of the questions I got from the Chamber of Commerce for their candidate survey. It is a good question and unfortunately I do not believe the city council adequately considers how the legislation and regulations they pass will impact local business.

Fifteen years ago, the Monroe County Taxpayers Association proposed that the city council produce an economic impact statement for ordinances, such as the temporary sign ordinance. (I was the MCTA executive director at the time.) This was a good idea then and remains a good idea today. But it was not too difficult to understand that restricting the ability of a business to advertise itself would be harmful, which is why I opposed and spoke against it back then.

After the temporary sign ordinance passed and enforcement started, I requested and got copies of over 100 citations back in 2000 to study the negative impact of the ordinance. There was grumbling in the community that it was too aggressively enforced, including by some who supported it. I am not sure what some of these folks thought was going to happen. Obviously regulations restricting signage will be enforced, especially with the possibility of fines as punishment for noncompliance. It would have been helpful to have those people on board opposing it before it passed.

There is also the issue of how regulations impact local business as opposed to national chains. With many chains, their building is their sign. A national chain's brand gives it a built in advantage over a local business. A national chain, of course, also has a much larger budget (along with attorneys) to deal with government actions in a way that a small Bloomington-based business does not.

What the city council needs to do is carefully consider how their proposed regulations would harm business, and place the economic impact of these ordinances above implementing a personal agenda. The proposed ban on plastic bags would be a good place to start with this perspective, and it could be applied to past ordinances as well. Perhaps that would be a reason to see some of them repealed.