Editorial: Get state to reel in payday loan operations
Payday loan establishments are odious businesses that prey upon vulnerable people - often poor, undereducated, desperate for whatever reason. They do so by charging outlandish interest rates and fees that should be considered usurious, trapping customers in debt that's nearly impossible to repay. Some are garish in appearance, blighting whatever neighborhood is unlucky enough to have them. We'd not lose a blink of sleep if they were banned in Illinois, as they have been in some other states.
Because of all the above we're sympathetic to a measure that comes before the Peoria City Council Tuesday night which would impose a 180-day moratorium on all new payday loan establishments in a community that already has 27 of them, which is about 27 too many. City Hall wants to buy itself some time to come up with a better way to control their seemingly steroid-driven growth.
But we're also a little wary, as this doesn't seem like a local obligation so much as a legislative one. Even if we don't care for what these businesses do, in Illinois they are not illegal. No doubt some will argue that there's a role for personal responsibility here. If there wasn't a market, these advance-cash stores wouldn't exist. So long as it meets all other zoning requirements, a business should be treated fairly and uniformly under the law.
We appreciate that the council is not contemplating a permanent prohibition and that there is some precedent for restricting the proliferation of these businesses in other communities. Belleville has a law capping them and Springfield has proposed one. But generally we view this matter a bit like we do the issue over granting a local strip club a liquor license: Not our scene, but no city should go out of its way to tempt lawsuits it can't win for its taxpayers, either.
Too many fast-food franchises clumped in one spot arguably "have an adverse impact on the neighborhoods where they are established," too. Would the city consider a legal limitation on their reproduction? Picking on a specific class of business could be iffy.
The council should tread carefully here, while lobbying legislators to look into more aggressively regulating or even prohibiting these quick-cash operations and their victimizing ways.
Peoria Journal Star