The City That Works - For City Hall

Regulatory jungle stifles small business

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Institute for Justice
    Not working for the little guy.

    Let's face it, Chicago is a city that works best for those not doing the working.

    Otherwise, the cost of doing business in the city is two parts aggravation to one part "here's my wallet, please leave me with something when you're through pillaging."

    "The privatization of parking meters is costing us all a lot of quarters and some freedom of mobility. But when incompetence, favoritism and negligence in city government determines who can start a business, entrepreneurs lose their very livelihoods and their freedom to choose an occupation. Neighborhoods lose the mom-and-pop shops that give them character and variety and low prices. And Chicago loses its ability to foster new jobs and economic growth," Elizabeth Milnikel writes today on the Tribune's Op-Ed page.

    "Small business owners all across the city are being ticketed for having signs without permits, even though some of them hung the signs when it was perfectly legal to do so," Milnikel writes.

    "A [children's] playroom must meet all the same requirements as a strip club or sports stadium . . . A street vendor selling bottles of water on a hot day will be harassed by police if he does not have a special license or if he crossed an invisible line into a no-peddling zone."

    Meanwhile, the city is subsidizing the remodeling of Willis Insurance's new offices.

    One of Milnikel's interests - as the director of the Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago Law School - is on the other end of the spectrum: helping low- and middle-income entrepreneurs in the inner city.

    Over-burdensome government regulation often hobbles the little guy while protecting the interests of, say, large corporations who help regulate their own industries.

    “The sheer volume, cost and complexity of regulations on small businesses in Chicago is head-spinning,” says Milnikel, co-author of Regulatory Field: Burdensome Laws Strike Out Chicago Entrepreneurs.

    “Among the most corrupting and stifling of the restrictions is the veto power aldermen can exercise over the entrepreneurial aspirations of anyone in their ward - the power to kill a small-business person’s American Dream before it can even get started.  Getting into business in Chicago shouldn’t require someone to kiss the alderman’s ring."

    Paging Tom Tunney!

    "If Chicago remains so hostile to start-up businesses and self-employed people when the region has now lost nearly 170,000 jobs in the last year alone, we have no hope of recovering," Milnikel writes today. "Instead of fining small businesses at every turn and enforcing confusing regulations that have nothing to do with protecting the public's health and safety, the government should get out of the way of industrious people who want nothing more than to pursue their American dream."

    Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.