Friday, January 04, 2008

Conversation with Mayor Becker

I got through to Mayor Becker today and had an interesting conversation. I wanted to know how much the uptown rehab project will cost. The project is part of a larger initiative intended to spur development by enticing artists to the area. The mayor did not have the info that I sought- he will by next week- but he assured me that the project will lose money.

It is quite apparent that I have a different philosophy on development than does the mayor. The mayor obviously believes that government must provide the stimulus to encourage development. And while I have no doubt that government stimulus can stimulate growth, I suspect that the flip side is that this stimulus, taken from taxing profitable economic activity, will ultimately reduce the amount of taxable activity. It will do more harm than good, only the good will be visible while the bad will be less immediately apparent.

A property on Martin Luther King Drive has been purchased by the city. It will soon be demolished and cleared for redevelopment. The city has created a TIF district for this property only. A microTIF, if you will. I advanced this idea some time ago- not that I am taking credit for this particular TIF- I oppose the idea. But the idea of stimulating development among ANY citizen is attractive to me. Rather than providing money to John Doe to fix his roof, I suggested that there should be some fixed period of time wherein the improvements would not be taxed. The mayor assures me that this would be unconstitutional and I will assume that he is correct. So the system is rigged in favor of big developers and against John Doe. A big developer can get government money to reduce the cost of his project while it would be unconstitutional to simply defer tax increases to John Doe. Is this fair? I think we should change the constitution. I will get right on that.


Caledonia Unplugged said...

"The mayor assures me that this would be unconstitutional and I will assume that he is correct."

The Mayor is correct and referring to the Wisconsin State Constitution's uniformity clause. Which, obviously, would be easier to revise than the U.S. Constitution.

Article VIII, §1 - ANNOT.
Improvements tax relief provisions of 79.24 and 79.25, 1977 stats., are unconstitutional as violative of uniformity clause. State ex rel. La Follette v. Torphy, 85 Wis. 2d 94, 270 N.W.2d 187 (1978).

However, this also exists: Article VIII, §1 - ANNOT.
A tax exemption with a reasonable, though remote, relation to a legitimate government purpose was permissible. Madison General Hospital Asso. v. Madison, 92 Wis. 2d 125, 284 N.W.2d 603 (1979).

Denis, if you read through Section VIII
of the State Constitution
you will find case law where instances of property tax exemption have been ruled unconstitutional or upheld as constitutional, based on whether or not there is a relation to a legitimate government purpose. The interpretation of that relation could vary somewhat depending on the judge making the ruling!!

Also, this uniformity clause is 30 years old - might be time for someone to look at it - nice project for you ;^)

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile the budget for plowing snow and salting dwindles. Good thing it will be warm this weekend or it would have been two weeks with the same road hazards on city streets (not the main ones).

Couldn't we use all of this extra artist colony, etc. money to hire more cops - and when that money gets a little short, hire a few more cops? THIS will be the only thing that fixes Racine - visible law enforcement that keeps manners on the punks, gets them to leave town or puts them in jail. The schools will get better - the business climate will get better - the interest in community involvement will get better - people and business might start relocating to this beautiful area.

No, increasing services like law enforcement isn't sexy. Let's spend money on artist colonies, rain gardens, sloar panels, conferences on global warming.

Maybe the city can start to charge a fee for police and fire and throw ALL of the tax money into fun projects like windmills.

Pariah Jeep said...

Sorry, that was me. Who else?

Anonymous said...

"So the system is rigged in favor of big developers and against John Doe..."

...and you just had that thought today? That is something that Progessives have said for decades...that 'corporations rule the world'...

Anonymous said...

Yeah it's kind of like the money available for lead abatement. You either have to be dirt poor or you can be a rich slumlord to receive the funds. The rest of us have to fend for ourselves. I believe the city also has low interest loans they give out to landlords as well. Denis, how about doing some research on that? You could start with Mike Miklesevich since he owns a lot of property in the inner city.

Anonymous said...

Try looking at these wonderful sites on MONOPOLY power that have been around a long time...

Oligopoly Watch
...The latest maneuvers of the new oligopolies and what they mean

They Rule
...aims to provide a glimpse of some of the relationships of the US ruling class. It takes as its focus the boards of some of the most powerful U.S. companies, which share many of the same directors. Some individuals sit on 5, 6 or 7 of the top 500 companies. It allows users to browse through these interlocking directories and run searches on the boards and companies.

colt said...

Walked downtown with my young bride today, was confused with all the empty store fronts on Main and 6th St. Gee I been told we have such a huge art area downtown. So now I am to belive that art types are going to move into the Uptown with the Thugs, dirty streets, buildings that should be razed.
And of couse the meeting are noticed by a posting on a board in City Hall.

Denis Navratil said...

Thank you very much calunp for the info. I have not been able to read the entire decisions that you cited, but it would seem that the idea I am advocating has been tried and rejected in State ex...v. Torphy. On the other hand, the more recent decision, Madison GHA v. Madison suggests that tax exemptions are permissible if a reasonable relation to legitimate government purpose could be demonstrated. That shouldn't be too hard to prove. I mean if giving cash to developers is detirmined to be a legitimate function of government, why wouldn't tax breaks for developers also be a legitimate government purpose? I supose the devil is in the details of these two decisions, so I will try to get to the library to read them. Thanks again.

Anon, by now it should be obvious even to you that your contributions (to use the word very loosely) to this blog are informed only by a personal anymosity towards me. I have never advocated corporate welfare and this is something you would realize if you weren't blinded by hatred. So to suggest sarcastically that I first had the thought today is simply pointless and mean spirited. Given your behavior, I suspect Pope John Paul would rather you not associate yourself with him.

Colt, your observations on downtown are correct. Though property values have increased significantly in recent years, it does not follow automatically that all properties are generating income. I think that there are many businesses that are struggling, and the increased rent and increasing property taxes will only make matters worse.

colt said...

So insted of using the City in one area The Mayor will now start another art "center"
What ever happened to find good companies to move in this area.
I beilve that the group New North is doing great things in attacting wind power companies in moving to Northen Wisconsin.

Anonymous said...

So, what made the city the bastion of impoverished ghetto dwellers that it is?

White man's benevolence?

White man's love of african/americans? - descendants of enslaved human beings?

colt said...

So, what made the city the bastion of impoverished ghetto dwellers that it is?

Easy the idea that Goverment will allow and reward bad behavor
that Dems will in prison thugs

Greg Helding said...

Anon 6:08,

For the most part, the money designated for this artist's plan cannot be spent on police officers. People always set up this false choice of spend it on X (you pick it: monument square, redevelopment, the artist plan, conserving energy, etc) and adding more police officers. We could choose not to do the other things, but that does not make the money available for police officers.

Also, your assertion that spending money on cops is not "sexy" ( I assume you mean in the political sense) could not be further from the truth. There are some liberals in town who would squeal about it, but your average citizen loves law & order and spending more money on police would be the winner every time.

What is controversial, and sometimes far from sexy, is the nuts and bolts of redevelopment and city planning. These efforts seek to create a place where we do not need as many police. The uptown redevelopment plan would do just that. The idea is that an investment now will mean less costs down the line and a safer, more productive city.

I am not saying the uptown artist plan is perfect or the only answer. It is, however, a plan. It is an attempt to make things better. I would love to talk with anyone about an alternative or a plan that could be tried in another area. I am especially interested in ideas that go beyond "add more cops" and get into how we can make the area better instead of just dealing with the fact it is bad.

Kcin97 said...

Ald. Helding, with all due respect, "...These efforts seek to create a place where we do not need as many police. The uptown redevelopment plan would do just that. The idea is that an investment now will mean less costs down the line and a safer, more productive city."

So are you saying that by improving uptown, the surrounding areas will get better? I hardly think so. I don't care how "artsy" uptown becomes, it's not going to keep the trouble out. The only way to do that is build a fence which is almost as silly.
Private business needs to be welcomed in this city be it tax relief, or how about just a plain 'ol show of support? My example is my mom tried to run a restaurant within the past few years in the city and all she got was grief from day 1 from her local Alderperson at the time for "having their oppenents sign up in front of her PRIVATE business at election time". From that day forward, the Alderperson made things very "difficult" for my mom. This actually happened to many surrounding businesses at the time. See, it's all about the game you play. My mom played it wrong and got burned. Now, local politicians wonder why everyone in the city thinks they are a joke.
Again, with all due respect, I don't know much about you politically, but I think you get my drift.

Pariah Jeep said...

Alderman Helding -

As I noted in the post immediately afterward, I was anon 6:08

First of all, this statement says much:

"For the most part, the money designated for this artist's plan cannot be spent on police officers.

Is that Racine's decision or some funding agency that Racine can't control? I accept the fact that some money might be available from grants from other sources (State or Federal) for certain projects, however, sometimes I hear these arguments and it is actually the municipality that has chosen a budget then falls back on "we don't have the money for this or that".

The whole process of city planning and development - at the city level - is usually a ridiculous waste of money but consultants and others get lots of cash. I am not saying that these projects are not well-intentioned, but I have seen too many multi-million dollar projects run by people who could not effectively collect bids for a siding job on their own home.

"These efforts seek to create a place where we do not need as many police."

This was an absurd statement. So you want to pretend that crimes like burglary, assault, etc. don't happen or are less frequent in nice neighborhoods? An important part of police patrols is to provide visiblity and deter crime, not just clean up messes.

You want to bring business here and help things grow. Great. Try bringing in a company for a visit and respond to their question of "hey, these streets still have snow and ice on them - when was the last storm" with "last week BUT we are spending money to tear down buildings and do all sorts of special things". Try responding to their questions about crime and what they, their families and employees will have to deal with. Respond to their questions about the schools and their problems.

Police. Fire. Schools. Services like plowing and salting on streets besides the four laners. THIS is what people with companies and investment dollars are looking for. If money is only available for the other things then you folks at the City level need to FIND a way to pay for Police, fire, schools and real services.

As I said before, the problems with the schools is a direct result of the crime problem in Racine. You can spend money on a fancy website, you can have game show host "economic developers" parading around the country and world "marketing" Racine, you can spend all you want on rain gardens, solar panels, whatever - but in the end, the fundamentals need to improve or this beautiful area will continue to deteriorate.