Chicago Politicians Must Choose Small Business Over Politics
As local businesses and neighborhoods struggle to emerge from the pandemic, there has never been a more important time to remove unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles that stifle the success of small businesses. Chicago politicians have an important role to play in this regard.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot has tabled a legislative package containing several essential provisions to reduce this bureaucracy.
First, it would eliminate the need for every Chicago City Council member to vote on a sign permit. Right now, an ordinance has to be passed by the entire board before a small business owner can post a single sign. It is hard to imagine more unnecessary regulation. Why should aldermen miles from a storefront vote for a sign in another neighborhood?
Imagine facing this requirement as a business owner. The mayor’s office says a small business can take 150 days, or about five months, to get a sign or other road use permit. Everything for permission to let customers know that this showcase is a boutique or a pizzeria or a florist. The signs mean so much to entrepreneurs; Is this ridiculous and unreasonable requirement really necessary? He should be eliminated now.
Lightfoot’s proposal would also legalize sidewalk signs when placed safely outside a storefront, a long overdue reform. The special or deal of the day touted on that sidewalk sign may drive new customers to an establishment still reeling from the pandemic.
And the mayor’s package would create a fast-track food licensing process to help fill the gaps with new restaurants. This can speed up the opening of new restaurants in the city’s commercial corridors.
There is a lot to digest in the Chi Biz Strong legislative package. Indeed, some parts of the legislation will probably need to be amended or deleted. There will certainly be dialogue and compromises given the scale of the proposal. However, bureaucratic-cutting reforms for small businesses should not be controversial or further delayed.
This is not the first time that small business advocates have battled to cut red tape. And it’s not the only time that Chicago policymakers, including aldermen, have attempted to cut unnecessary bureaucracy to help small businesses in their neighborhoods. Unfortunately, the turf battles prevented good policies from moving forward. This way of playing has cost small business customers time and money.
Small businesses and local communities should not be caught in a power struggle as they struggle to recover from the pandemic. Successful small businesses will be essential to the recovery of Chicago’s economy. Politicians must choose small business over politics.
Elliot Richardson is president and co-founder of the Small Business Advocacy Council.