Green Candidate Petitjean Challenges Dieter
Criticizes Incumbent Over Responsiveness to Citizen Input
September 20, 2007
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Green Party candidate for South Bend's 1st District Common Council Kathleen Petitjean today issued a statement calling on the district's incumbent, Derek Dieter, to directly address citizens' concerns over the city's tax abatement structure. Dieter serves as chairperson of the Common Council's committee on Community and Economic Development (CED).
"The City's existing laws are not being enforced." Petitjean said, "Tax abatements should be a tool to both attract business investment and ensure that the well-being of the city is taken into consideration. If the city is failing to act on progress reports and enforce compliance, then these businesses are getting a free handout while the city suffers."
Petitjean suggested the plan put forth by the Community Forum on Economic Development (CFED) should receive thorough consideration of Dieter and the full council. The CFED is an organization dedicated, in part, to stimulating greater democratic participation in the discussion and decision-making surrounding economic development. Earlier this year, CFED submitted a proposal on South Bend's tax abatement ordinance through Martin Wolfson, citizen member on the Community Economic Development Committee who is also active in the CFED.
"Unfortunately, it seems Mr. Dieter as chair of the committee on Community and Economic Development has failed to respond to CFED's proposal," Petitjean said. "As the councilperson for the first district, I will ensure that constructive input from citizens be given a fair review, at a minimum. In this case, I support CFED's proposal that strengthens a point system by which businesses are rewarded for providing good jobs, benefits, and a number of other provisions."
Petitjean pointed to a memo sent by Wolfson to Dieter and the rest of the Common Council that raises three issues of compliance with the South Bend Tax Abatement Ordinance. The memo details problems with enforcement and calls attention to a lack of action on the part of the committee. She noted that under Dieter's leadership the Community and Economic Development Committee has not taken any action with regard to several companies that failed to provide as many jobs as promised.
"But what is perhaps a larger issue here is the lack of responsiveness on the part of Mr. Dieter and others on the Council to input from the community," said Petitjean. "The citizens of the first district and South Bend as a whole deserve better. We deserve an explanation as to why the city has been lax on enforcing its own ordinance."
Petitjean further suggested that enforcing the existing ordinance should be a "minimum" action while adoption of the CFED proposal would represent a first step in the direction of including provisions on green building and Community Benefit agreements as part of any tax abatement.
"Ultimately, South Bend's economy must move towards self-sufficiency and a greater inclusion of quality of life considerations in order to protect the overall health and well-being of the community," said Petitjean. "Any tax abatements should work to improve the quality of life for all of South Bend's citizens and should be tied to a strictly enforced ordinance."
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