Some of us are probably familiar with the old “Bait and Switch” scheme?

In retail, “Bait and Switch” is when a store will advertise something that you’ve wanted but when you get there, they offer you something else in its place. The same can be said for our politicians.

Back in the early 1980s, we were told that the old State of Illinois building was obsolete. The state, we were told, needed a new modern building to function. So we watched while the entire block of Randolph and Lake, and LaSalle and Clark was cleared for what would eventually be known as the Thompson Center. Approximately $89 million of our tax dollars were used to build the new building. Now, almost 30 years later, the prior building that the state owned at 180 N. LaSalle is still in use, still functioning and, for all intents and purposes, is better today than when the state decided to sell/give it away.

Now let’s flash forward to the start of this millennium. The county had a functioning traffic court building at 321 N. LaSalle. Again, we the taxpayers were told that that building was too small, obsolete and lacking whatever else was required to serve our local government into this century. So plans were made to build a new traffic court on the West Side at Jackson and Homan. But community outrage was strong and the traffic court to this day is successfully located in an even smaller space – the basement of the Daley Center downtown. The old traffic court building is still functioning as a privately-owned building sitting in now one of the hottest real estate sections of the city, River North.

Last week, I wrote about the old Brach’s site and what plans there are for it. I also saw by reading this paper that State Rep. LaShawn Ford is still looking into our wallets so that the site can go off the city tax payroll and onto our backs as a taxpayer-funded site for a high school. Never mind that we have a huge population of folks who need jobs – that manufacturing site should be used to lure a business there. Never mind that the Brach’s site is a stone’s throw from the Northwest Incinerator. Never mind that two active railroad tracks -the Metra which runs at ground level going east-west, and a Belt Railway freight line directly behind it – are running trains all day and night. And never mind that businesses located in that district might not take kindly to a thousand or more teenagers converging into that neighborhood.

What no one is telling you is that the Chicago Board of Education just granted $5 million to Aspira Charter Schools to open an additional campus at 1856 N LeClaire. It’s now an abandoned factory but will soon be called the Rosa Parks High School.

Add to that, the brand new North Grand High School at Wabansia and Kostner. Now, I’ll ask the question I’m sure most of you are wondering: why in the world doesn’t the average person in Austin know about these things? Why are we paying taxes while others get their pieces of the pie and our children are left to suffer?

A couple of years ago, I wrote a series of articles about turning Brach’s site into a hotel/waterpark/casino site. I also read a letter in one of the daily papers where someone suggested turning the soon-to-be vacant Macy Warehouse at 4000 W. Diversey into a site for a Chicago casino.

If we are to survive as a community, we must encourage land use that can generate employment for the average Austin resident versus land use that will dip into our pockets in order to pay for it.

Otherwise, that brand new school (the bait) will be for the brand new residents (switch) because without employment, our time and days are numbered.