Tuesday, June 19, 2007

All the news thats fit to omit

Randy Brandt is no longer the editor of the Journal Times. This bit of news came at the very end of an article announcing the appointment of Steve Lovejoy as the interim editor. Lovejoy "succeeds Randolph D. Brandt, who is no longer with the paper" announced the Journal Times.

Now I know the JT is not noted for in depth coverage of news events, but I would think that the departure of their long time editor would rate more than one line.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Utopia in Racine

If I had visited Racine for the first time last night, I would have concluded that Racinians are the happiest people on earth. I went to a concert on Monument Square. I was amazed by what I saw. The square was packed with people of all ages. The weather was perfect. The band, The Britins, played Beatles songs. Everyone was smiling. Those not dancing were swaying to the music. There was not a police officer or politician in sight. After the concert, I witnessed some scruffy looking teens pick up the garbage. I overheard one of them say something like "I don't have to get paid for everything I do." It was a special night in Racine.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Development Blues

According to the figures presented in a JT commentary today, the Point Blue project near downtown Racine will be worth $145 million upon completion. The cost of construction, though not mentioned in the commentary, is presumably projected to be somewhat lower than $145. The developers have already received free lakefront property valued at $1.25 million and an additional $1 million for cleaning up the contaminated soil. They are also likely to receive another $21.5 million in TIF money. TIF money is money borrowed by local governments and "repaid" by developers in the form of property taxes. Since taxes must be paid anyway by property owners, the $21.5 million in TIF money is actually a gift to the developer from Racine taxpayers, via our elected leadership.

All told, the Point Blue developers will be recieving $23.75 million from taxpayers. In actuality, the sum will likely be much larger because the $21.5 million borrowed by the city must be repaid with interest. At any rate, the $23.75 million gift from taxpayers represents, at the very least, about 16% of the projects costs. This figure assumes that the cost of the project is the same as the property valuation (an unlikely scenario) and 0% interest on the government bond (an impossible scenario).

Let us put this in perspective. I am presently engaged in a development project of my own. I project the cost of my project to be about $160,000. If you, generous taxpayer, would also provide me with 16% of my costs, I could cut my costs by $25,000. This would be most helpful to me.

So we have a situation were some politically savvy developers finagle huge sums of money for their developments, financed by you and I, while you and I pay the full price for our own developments, and then some, because we are also paying additional taxes to finance other people's projects.

There is a fairer way to encourage development. First, we could lessen the tax and regulatory burden on all development. We should realize that the tax burden is too high if a developer can not profitably develop lakefront property. Secondly, instead of the city borrowing upfront for development projects, they should instead offer any citizen the opportunity to develop their properties with an understanding that the increased property valuation will not be taxed for some specified number of years. By the way, I offered this idea to Mayor Becker a few months ago.

An arrangement like this would be fair for anyone wishing to improve their properties. Additionally, it would reduce the need for developers to cozy up to government for cash. And this will not be happening anytime soon because politicians derive their power and influence by granting favors and money in return for political support.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Film Follies

I recently read two separate articles in the JT. One of the articles described a proposal to require liquor license holders to pay for and operate a surveillance system at their establishments. The other article involved a proposal to fine liquor license holders for infractions that occur on their premises.

Well how do you like that? The defendant will be required to pay large sums of money to install a surveillance system which will provide evidence to be used against them in court by the prosecution. Now if we could only get the corner drug dealer to film his transactions...

Taxing Alternatives

The Journal Times yesterday challenged Republicans to offer an alternative to Governor Doyle's proposed Big Oil tax, noting that absent the tax, "the state will have a $160 million hole in its transportation budget."

Well, I am not a member of the GOP, but perhaps our top Democrat could return the $500 million he raided from the transportation fund during the most recent budget. Or should Big Oil pay for our education system as well as our roads?