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Our Opinion: Helping downtown El Centro to flourish

April 06, 2002

Whenever people look to themselves to better their condition, instead of looking to government, we think it is to be admired.

Such is the case with merchants in the downtown area of El Centro. Local business owners have banded together seeking to form a business improvement district. A BID may be formed by action of the City Council unless a majority of business license-holders who would pay into the district demonstrates opposition to the formation prior to the closing of a public hearing on the issue.

A BID is based on business licenses, is mandatory and must be approved annually by the City Council.

The public hearing is set for May 1.

Under the proposal, the BID would encompass Main Street from Fourth Street to Eighth Street. The proposed BID is expected to raise about $34,000 annually. Some of the allowable functions under a BID include sidewalk sweeping, tree maintenance, graffiti removal, security, economic development, marketing and promotion, and parking related actions — but not capital improvements.


We hope it becomes a reality.

On the heels of the BID, there will likely be a lighting and maintenance district. The LMD would encompass Main from the railroad tracks on the east to Imperial Avenue on the west. City, county and Imperial Irrigation District property would be included in the LMD.

Although we are not within the boundaries of the BID or the LMD, we are within the area that one day will likely be included in the LMD, which we also support and will willingly join.

Some of the allowable functions of an LMD include sidewalk sweeping, tree maintenance, graffiti removal, security and capital improvements, but not marketing or promotion. An LMD is subject to the weighted voting requirements of Proposition 218, is limited in its scope and is subject to a public hearing. The weighted voting is based on lot size, frontage and building size.

An LMD is expected to raise about $186,000 yearly.

The city has been told by a consultant that without the LMD and its money, the BID will not be viable economically.

Meanwhile, the efforts being made by downtown businesses, not all properties will be included in the BID. There are a number of churches, government offices and other service-type organizations that do not have business licenses and so will not be included.

We think the City Council should discourage the location of non-businesses in the downtown area. There are plenty of other areas where they can locate, but we understand when a store front is vacant, a landlord will want to rent it to someone. Still, vibrant businesses are needed to make downtown flourish, which should happen more readily once the BID and LMD are in place.

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