June 3, 2007

Kruzan taking a conservative position on Finelight garage

Kruzan has said that the city canít build ó or subsidize with taxpayer money ó a parking garage for a developer without knowing that itís necessary. -- June 1, 2007.

Politically speaking, I'm not a supporter of Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan. Nonetheless, I agree with him on the matter of a taxpayer subsidy for a parking garage for Finelight. While the jobs that Finelight brings to downtown are important for the city's economy and city government should look for ways to keep the company downtown, both the Mayor and the City Council should be wary of using the people's money for a private business.

As a conservative, my automatic first answer to any such request would be a solid "no". Finelight would have to present a very compelling case for an extra expense of taxpayer dollars for me to consider moving away from that automatic "no". By showing skepticism and caution about a public subsidy of a private company, Mark Kruzan is taking a fundamentally conservative position.

The first issue to consider is one of simple fairness. Why should Finelight get special treatment from city government? What justifies using taxpayer monies to build a parking garage for Finelight but not for another business? City government needs to treat everyone equally, and not play favorites. (The smaller any unit of government is, the less opportunity it has to play favorites, but that is another topic for another time.)

The other question is how a parking garage for Finelight benefits the overall parking situation downtown and other public policy goals. If the city is going to invest a large amount of money into a parking garage, the primary reason has to be a legitimate public policy benefit, not simply a bribe to keep a large business downtown rather than on the west side. City government needs to look at how the entire city benefits from such a structure.

Naturally, Finelight is going to be upset that they did not get a subsidy. The newspaper is complaining that Kruzan did not provide the necessary "leadership" on the issue, but leadership is not a good thing if city government is being led in the wrong direction. Mayor Kruzan did the right thing, proving once again that even a broken clock is right twice a day.