Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sound familiar?

Found this Wall Street Journal op-ed piece about the Forumla One race in Baltimore. Might shake David Watkins up a little bit. See if any of this sounds familiar.

"The race exemplifies the city's development strategy: Subsidize big downtown projects with other people's money — in this case, over $6 million in federal stimulus funds for the two-mile race course — and proclaim an urban renaissance.

Away from the waterfront, this strategy's failure is apparent. The city has lost 30,000 residents and 53,000 jobs since 2000, marking the sixth consecutive decade of population and employment exodus. About 47,000 abandoned houses crumble while residents suffer a homicide rate higher than any large city except Detroit. The poverty rate is 50% above the national average.

Much of this decline is a result of the city's exorbitant property-tax rates, which are twice as high as any other jurisdiction in Maryland and Washington, D.C. The encouraging news is that all four major mayoral candidates are promising property-tax relief....

To attract what little investment Baltimore has in recent decades, public officials awarded subsidies to big developers to offset the difference between the city's confiscatory tax rate and that of nearby counties. But developers have to "pay to play," which assures a reliable flow of campaign contributions to sitting officials — and invites corruption. Indeed, Ms. Rawlings-Blake took office only 18 months ago, after the previous mayor resigned as part of a plea bargain to resolve a scandal involving her allegedly accepting gifts from a developer seeking subsidies.

Now Ms. Rawlings-Blake's challengers are asking: If tax breaks for the connected are a good idea, why not give them to everyone? State Sen. Catherine Pugh promises to halve the city's tax rate in her first term or not run for a second. Otis Rolley, a former director of city planning, offers a similar 50% cut for the first $200,000 of assessed value and higher rates for more expensive properties (or vacant ones). And Jody Landers, a former city councilman, promises a cut of 30% to 35% phased in over four to six years.

But tax revolts are hard to win at the local level. The problem is what Harvard economists Edward Glaeser and Andrei Shleifer have called the "Curley effect." In Boston during the first half of the 20th century, Mayor James Michael Curley built a political machine by strategically shaping the electorate — taxing well-heeled "Brahmins" heavily and redistributing the proceeds to poor Irish immigrants. This not only bought Irish votes but chased the old Yankees out to the suburbs, further tilting the political playing field in Curley's favor....

But Baltimore's high property taxes have repelled investment in physical capital for decades. As that capital decayed and became scarce, labor became less productive and less prosperous. In 1950, the city's median family income was 7% above the national average. Today it is 22% below it. And it won't be easy to undo this damage as long as City Hall remains in the hands of politicos who are committed to a fatally flawed business plan.

Other noteworthy victims of the "Curley effect" have been rescued via statewide referenda. Boston, for example, was in worse shape than Baltimore back in 1980: Its population had fallen more in the preceding three decades (30% as opposed to 17%), its per capita income was 2% lower, and its crime rate was 42% higher. Then, in 1980, Massachusetts voters adopted Proposition 21/2, forcing Boston to cut property taxes by an estimated 75% within two years and capping future annual increases at 2.5%.

It was the kind of reform Boston needed but wouldn't have chosen itself (akin to California's earlier Prop 13, which revived cities like San Francisco and Oakland). Businesses and residents flocked back to Beantown. Its population rose 10% between 1980 and today, while its per capita income is now 43% higher and its crime rate 25% lower than Baltimore's.

The spillover benefits of capital-friendliness — enhanced public safety, school quality, and economic and social mobility — are much-ignored but crucial elements of tax reform. As the renowned urbanologist Jane Jacobs once said, "cities don't [just] lure the middle class. They create it."

Baltimore stopped creating its own middle class decades ago, but it has a chance now to reverse decades of disinvestment, depopulation and decay. All voters have to do is invite capitalists back to town for more than just a weekend car race.
" Column


20 comments:

Anonymous said...

the real kicker? a group of private investors in austin tx got together, got in talks with F1 in europe, building track now and on 2012 F1 calendar. will have other events of course, music etc; but anyone with knowledge of F1 would laugh at the chance of a street course in a decaying slum.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes King I look away, look back and mistake you for an arsonist. Do you really want to light the discussion fire about the rape of Jackson's taxpayers?

Anonymous said...

As an ex-Baltimoron (pun intended) I assure you this WSJ scribbler is a lying racist. How could they have a problem with violent crime, decaying infrastructure, a fleeing middle class, atrocious public schools, and sky-high taxes?

They have had nothing but Democratic mayors and City Council members for at least 50 years; the place must be Nirvana by now ;-)

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a failed experiment to me.

Anonymous said...

Downtown Jackson is a wealth transfer house of cards only possible by the lavishing of public spiffs and treasury giveaways the tax base can never repay.

It takes $5.41 in incremental (meaning net new) taxable sales dollars to replace just $1 lost residential property tax dollar.

The downtown gold rush is a colossal scam.

Anonymous said...

To better understand this, just watch The Wire, which is probably the best show ever. With a few tweaks, Seasons 1, 3, 4, and 5 could easily be in Jackson, Mississippi rather than Bodymore, Murderland (I exclude the travails of the unionized stevedores in Season 2). I thought that the whole time I watched the show. And Jimmy McNulty is my hero.

Anonymous said...

oh! not F1, but Indy (IRL); different and far inferior beast.

Boarzombie said...

Wait, I saw this episode. This was the one where McNulty was sleeping with the Mayor's political advisor and Omar was on the warpath against the Barksdale crew, right? Wasn't this all from an episode of The Wire?

Shadowfax said...

If one reads the comments here, without considering the source document to which they respond, one might swear Rod Serling is on the loose.

PS: I didn't check the archives to see if this comment is redundant.

Auburn Rat said...

The best thing about Baltimore was John Waters and "Devine". "Lust in the Dust" and "Hairspray" are set there. Infct all of his movies were.

Anonymous said...

sounds like George Pelecanos's the Wire

Anonymous said...

An F1 race? Please! Don't they know that all they have to do is build a BB King's Blues club and turn a decrepit old hotel into overpriced apartments and downtown Baltimore will become a cross between Times Square and the Vegas Strip? And it will be crime free (except for that nasty "perception" of crime perpetuated by racist white Baltimorons who only want the city to fail).

Anonymous said...

Pelecanos is all D.C. - nothing to do with Baltimore or The Wire.

Or do all Yankees look alike to you? ;-)

Anonymous said...

Have any of you been to Baltimore or do you form all your opinions from fictionalized television shows?

KaptKangaroo said...

I actually have been to a baseball game. At the time, it was a nice area, stadium was really cool. I believe this was a time circa 1994-5 when they were investing in Baltimore in this particular area.

Sounds like it didn't go well in the years since.

Anonymous said...

Called on a customer in Baltimore 6 times a year for over 15 years. How 'bout you? What is your experience?

Shadowfax said...

I've never seen a fictionalized account of Baltimore, but all I need to know about Maryland comes in the form of Barbara Mikulski. I've been to Baltimore a number of times and love the harbor area and the crab cakes are great.

I think 7:37 bastardized a comment of Ben Allen's and used it as a reference to Balmer City. On 6/15/08, Allen made the following comment on a local chat site, "Have any of you been to Jackson or do you form all your opinions from fictionalized perceptions?"

Anonymous said...

Got a link SFax? Do you know how?

Anonymous said...

So SFax is a Y'all Reader? Things are becoming so much clearer.

Anonymous said...

I asked had any of you been to Baltimore and at least some of you have visited. My brother married a native and has lived there and owned a business there for over 30 years.
He loves Baltimore. He thinks, like all cities, there are rundown, poverty stricken areas that have high crime rates which spill over into adjoining areas from time to time. He has never been a crime victim in his business or home nor have his neighbors or clients been victimized. But, crime is greater in the city than in the suburbs.
He thinks city living vs suburban living is a trade off. Those in suburbia have a different lifestyle . And, he sees that suburbian life seems to be losing it's charm for many as his property values keep increasing while suburbian values have been in decline. The suburbs up there are no longer " new and shiny" as they are here and the suburbs have not aged well. Indeed, he reports that once failing city neighborhoods are being "regentrified". The good "bones" of those structures make them appealling. That has been Baltimore's biggest controversy as lower income property owners can no longer afford their homes or businesses as the tax value of their property has increased.
Going to a ballgame and calling on a client might not have given y'all an opportunity to discuss city issues in detail. My brother hasn't been to a " tourist area" in some time and is concerned that tourists and frequent visitors have gotten such a terrible impression of a city he loves.

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Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.


In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

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Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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