The Current State of Economic Development in the Village of Justice
Village residents were shocked to see the headlines in the Feb 21, 2020, Chicago Suntimes: “Suburban strip mall has everything you need for the weekend In the new Illinois economy, only the grocer seems out of place in Towne Square devoted to pot, gambling and liquor.”
Right below this damming observation was a photo of the Justice Towne Square, an anchoring strip mall adjacent to the Roberts Park neighborhood in the Village of Justice.
How is it that our town has become synonymous with gambling, liquor, and marijuana within the Southwest suburbs and what can we do to turn this image around? First, before proposing a comprehensive plan, we must identify the root cause of the “bottom of the barrel” choices coming into our village and what forced a once quality economic development plan off the rails.
The Man Behind the Madness Kris Wasowicz
When asked about the peculiar observation mentioned above, our current mayor expresses the following sentiment, “I’m a pragmatist. Who am I to judge? Who am I to say no?” Within the philosophy of Kris Wasowicz, commercial decisions and the externalities they bring are of no consequence, what property owners, real estate appraisers, community groups, or families think seems to be of no effect.
To Wasowicz it’s a take what you can get mentality. For one who prides himself in being a “mayor”, one would think Wasowicz would take a more comprehensive approach to his community. Wasowicz may claim he only makes such decisions out of the need for precious revenue and wants to resist raising taxes, of course, this is a documented lie as he raised taxes on hard-working businesses when given the opportunity to do so. So what drives such shameless decisions by Wasowicz, is it perhaps he has other motives when making or approving economic development decisions for our village?
“Follow the Money!” What Really Drives Economic Development in Justice
A curious search of Wasowicz’s and his Residents First Party campaign committees reveal a rather peculiar trend: with over $10,000 from liquor distributors and $5,000 from gambling moguls is it any wonder why residents are starting to observe that every new business is a gambling parlor, or is quick to place a slot machine in the corner? One would think with all the gambling that Justice must be a front for a casino town.
Think we’re being too harsh with such a statement? Consider this Better Government Association article calling out the issue, which directly pressed Wasowicz on the matter. You may also observe the BGA calls out how elected officials are being bought off as lobbyists by gambling firms with significant campaign cash, perhaps we should ask the age-old question “Cui Bono?” Who benefits, from such decisions?
How to Fix it? A Comprehensive Approach
How will we reignite economic development? By Carefully and thoughtfully seeking new development that enhances the villages’ tax base and creates a family-friendly, convenient and progressive community environmentSuzanne M. Small
Candidate for mayor Suzanne M. Small has a plan to spur community-oriented economic development in our village, and the Village Voice intends to help her bring that plan to reality. Sue is no stranger to working with our local businesses, she is a member of the Justice Chamber of Commerce and has years of experience as a business consultant. While a member of the board of trustees Sue worked with fellow Village Voice Party members to fix our community infrastructure to better appeal to potential commercial investors and has been a staunch advocate for local commerce, especially during the Covid pandemic. Sue’s plan is a combination of marketing and regionalism and includes the following points:
- Reignite both the economic development board and zoning board of appeals which have been neglected and ignored for far too long.
- Clean up the village parkways and beautify the community to create an open and welcoming aesthetic.
- Work with existing businesses to revitalize commercial storefronts and boost local advertising
- Work with interested entities and commercial consultants who have expressed interest in the Justice triangle property and incoming tollway development to spur interest from big-name commercial franchises.
- Create an Archer Road economic and historical corridor to work with neighboring villages of Summit, Bedford Park, Bridgeview, and Willow Springs to find regional solutions to local complexities.
- Strengthen relationships between the Justice Chamber of Commerce to unify relationships between the village hall and the local business community.
- Network with Moraine Valley Community College to provide resume building services and workforce readiness programs to our residents through the college’s Job Resource Center
With this plan, Sue hopes to bring a new vision of economic development to our village that restores pride in our community and saves the image of our town. Economic development ought to be community-oriented and strive to cater to the tastes and needs of the surrounding community and the families that call our village home.