Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Morrison barks up the right tree

...for a change. Yes, I'm as stunned as you, but I found myself agreeing with the gist of her latest column, which is basically a book review of Redevelopment: The Unknown Government, by Chris Norby, apparently an elected official in Orange County California. I haven't read the book, but I gather from Morrison's article that the "unknown government" refers to influential real estate developers and the TIFs and tax breaks and other laws that fuel development. Says Morrison:
    "It is time we began to get our thinking straight. Our tax dollars were never meant to be dumped into private ventures such as development. Our tax dollars were meant to provide needs for the public such as schools, libraries, fire districts, police and other civic services. ... "In California, Norby says the “unknown government” is supported by a powerful Sacramento lobby and backed by an army of lawyers, consultants, bond brokers and land developers. Your state no doubt has its own supporters ready to line their pockets. It doesn’t take long to figure out development is not really coming to your town to benefit you, but someone will reap the profits at your expense. It is important to understand this unknown government provides no public services. “It does not educate our children, maintain our streets, protect us from crime, nor stock our libraries,” Norby states. Anyone involved with a TIF district realizes this tax money does not go back to support any of the above public needs as the property taxes stay in the development area for up to 30 years or more.
It's funny how Morrison's conservative populism has gotten so extreme that she's actually boomeranging back into the arena of common sense. Instead of blaming the environmentalists, who are essentially reactionaries to environmental, cultural and economic decay, she now, perhaps for the first time, recognizes one of the true causes of that decay: TIF districts, corporate welfare and politically connected private developers. That is, when big business runs your community, everybody loses. This is part of the reason why I joined the Green Party. The Democrats, like their Republican twins, with regularity, sell out our communities to developers and other private interests. And the Greens are dedicated to making sure communities are governered by the people who live there, not some faceless profiteering entity. Or as the Wisconsin Green Party says it so clearly in their platform (I know other state parties agree, but Wisc. was the first up in the search):
    The Greens believe that government decisions should be made as close to the people as possible. When money comes to a community from the state and federal government, the people of the local community must have greater say in how that money is spent. ... Giving individuals or corporations tax breaks is similar to spending, since it deprives the government of revenue it would otherwise receive. Therefore, special tax breaks should only be granted when there will be a benefit to society to justify the cost. In particular, the Greens believe that the state just crack down on tax incremental financing (TIF) tax breaks, which are often granted in questionable situations.


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