THE LANDMARK VIEW
You think sales taxes in North Riverside and your mind goes to the big department store cash registers at the mall or the big box stores at Harlem and Cermak. Those stores, most would assume, have been providing the sales tax juice that has eased the property tax burden on local homeowners over past decades.
Surprisingly, we learn this week, it is the unassuming, taken for granted Edward Don and Company that has long been the largest collector of sales tax revenues in town. And we know that only because there is a good likelihood that the restaurant and food service supplier is preparing to leave town after 40 years in a dispute over rental costs on its 20-acre campus along Harlem Avenue.
The dispute is real, and the set-up for it goes back many years and deep into the inner workings of this family-controlled business. It reminds us of the sad tale of Kiddieland in Melrose Park, where one branch of the family owned the land and another branch owned the business. We all know how that ended. Kiddieland is kaput and a supersized Costco sits on the property.
Something similar is unraveling at Edward Don. Some family members sold the corporate headquarters in 2007 to developers. The portion of the family that owns the business have been mere tenants ever since and they’ve been paying cheap rent on the tail end of a long-term lease. Well, that lease ends at the end of 2012 and a new deal that could double the rent (at least) seems legitimately unlikely.
There aren’t bad guys here. The developers paid a fair price for the property in 2007, expecting a fair pay day when the lease ended. That payday comes either from the current tenant or from redeveloping the expansive site with the prime Harlem frontage into retail.
The good news for North Riverside is that a new stream of sales tax revenue would follow new retail. The bad news is that luring new retail in a tough economy might take notable concessions from the village. And there will most certainly be a many-month construction lull while a new store gets built.
The key right now is for the village to actively engage in this process. It doesn’t have control, but it certainly has influence in areas of zoning and any financial incentives. This is too big a deal for North Riverside to see its officials sit hopefully on the sidelines.
Make cop-killing a federal offense
There are many reasons to admire Riverside Police Chief Thomas Weitzel – but here’s a notable one. Weitzel continues to take a lead role in persuading federal officials that the murder of any on-duty police officer ought to be made a federal offense.
There has been an increase in the number of cops murdered on duty in recent years, and there has been a widening of the sort of towns where such deaths occur. It used to be that only police officers in big, tough cities faced this potential sacrifice. Not any more.
Weitzel’s view, and it is one we share, is that federal prosecutions bring more resources, more speed and more certainty to a trial for an officer’s murder. That is a respect and a possible protection that ought to be offered to men and women willing to serve our communities as peace officers.