Monday, July 13, 2015

Coyle site TIF abuse: "Because subsidizing wealthy, out of town developers is the only thing our economic development director knows how to do with our tax money."

Hint: Those little white nodules are the unregulated rental properties.

I'm going to borrow Randy's introduction to what became a well-populated Facebook discussion.

On Thursday, the New Albany city council is set to approve $4.9 million in redevelopment borrowing for site prep and infrastructure upgrades to the Coyle site on Spring Street. 190 units of what are being called luxury apartments plus 2,000 s.f. of commercial space are to be built there by Flaherty Collins of Indianapolis. What do you think?

There were many replies, which I'll purposefully restrict to a sampling only because I've bigger fish to fry.

  • My opinion on this is to look who comes out after voting on this with full pockets.
  • Is Spring Street going to be made into a 2-way street? If not, think about the difficulty accessing the apartments? 
  • How far to the nearest grocery store?
  • Rentals or condos, doesn't really matter to me. To draw the clientele they want to attract, there needs to be more in downtown. 
  • A good grant researcher/writer would go a L-O-N-G way.
  • I don't know if luxury is the right term. The last I heard the units were being targeted towards young professionals, who I absolutely believe would want to live in this neighborhood. I don't necessarily agree with the path being taken to build something like this but that doesn't mean I think it's not needed or won't work.

Randy addressed the political aspect.

Since this is our money, I think that makes it political. I can't just write a check every six months and then not care how it's spent. And yes, it's TIF money. That's our money, too. The certifier must work with an enormous multiplier to believe that the new taxes we get far in the future make this a good investment. 

Jeff Gillenwater promptly began driving nails.

Because our Democratically controlled city council will likely rubber stamp it without so much as a passing reference to the now decades long failure of trickle down economics?

Because the public will be on the hook for millions in entirely private luxury to which they'll have no access?

I at least hope the district's councilman will vote against it.

We could easily reconfigure the downtown/midtown street grid for less and see a higher rate of return in both private investment and public well being. That would be a worthy TIF goal. This is TIF abuse.

I subsequently noted the obvious, or at least what should be obvious to those without Kool Aid stains on their suit jackets.

Currently a half-dozen developers are rehabbing downtown properties into residential space. They're doing it almost entirely on their own dimes, gradually and sustainably, sans breathless incentives. I simply find it appalling that we're forever willing to provide breaks to entities of a certain size that don't need them, while allowing small and independent business to spin the wheel.

To which Jeff replied (emphasis mine):

And you can bet that if all those local players hadn't already invested millions of their own, this developer wouldn't be looking at New Albany at all. Using TIF properly to improve shared infrastructure rewards those local investors, induces further investment, and helps level the playing field. Using it this way does the exact opposite across the board.

I added a final thought of my own.

Lest we forget, hoping that our councilman Greg Phipps is reading: Everything we're discussing here has been summarized by David Duggins with one special word: "Boilerplate."

Just another day with the same usual suspects, and their same customary cash flow. Indie businesses often refer to recirculation of money through local economies. What we see here is the recirculation of political wheel-greasing slush.

To conclude, Jeff summarized two major themes in magisterial fashion. First, how to do it right. Next, how the current City Hall occupant continues doing it wrong.

The only thing we have to do in the oldest parts of our city to attract young folks, old folks, and in-between folks is to allow them to function as they were designed. We already have an enviable collection of assets and plenty of smarts not represented in local decision making. Return the infrastructure to a safer, multi-modal pattern with a few modern updates, make sure stuff is accessible and works, and then largely get the hell out of the way. Some will want to live in it, some will want to live near it, and others will visit regularly. It's cheap, it's easy, it's the primary function of local government, it's the only part private parties can't do on their own, and the pattern is right in front of us. All the $750,000 pocket parks, $3 million single streets, $9 million aquatic centers, multi-million developer subsidies, and other largely irrelevant schemes in the world don't change that.

We keep electing people who want to be the absentee dad who shows up on random weekends to take the kids to the amusement park and buy them ice cream.

What we need is a mom during the week.

I can't recall it being said any better, and Jeff already knows that I'll be borrowing that last line.

1 comment:

Michael Ladd said...

From an April 23, 2014 article in the Tribune: "Our street department does not need direction from that organization," Gahan said. Nor anyone else, I would add.

Whether or not one agrees with New Albany Clean and Green's confusing agenda and Stumler and Jerry Finn's political platform for Stumler's council campaign, the fact is that Gahan and Duggins really mean they don't need input from anyone other than their selected cadre of minions and contributors. I think they have proved that on numerous occasions over the past four years. In his point of view he was elected to rule over the city and everyone else had better step out of his way.

New Albany, if you were disappointed in him the first time round, think what a second term would look like. Re-elect them and you are only going to get worse; after all, a reelection will only amount to confirmation of the abuses of the first term.