It’s not “your money” to build Huber Heights Music Center, Councilman Campbell

What happened to Memorial Hall once the Victoria reopened, and then what happened to the Victoria once the Schuster opened? Or what has happened to Hara Arena since UD Arena, the Dayton Convention Center and then the Nutter Center opened? What is the utilization rates of all these venues? Hint: our population hasn’t grown at near the rate of the seats and spaces for events.

Now Huber Heights is being run by? Concert Promoters? Really? I’ve known Mick Montgomery (Canal Street Tavern) and Jerry Gilloti (Gillys) for years and I doubt there is anyone who knows the vagaries of booking music acts better than these two men, and I’ll place a bet neither of them would say Dayton can support a “Fraze 2″ in Huber Heights without cannibalizing the track record of the Fraze.

(Huber Heights Councilman Mark) Campbell said Huber Heights hasn’t identified how the music center would be funded, but didn’t rule out potential sources such as federal grant money, sponsors and selling the venue’s naming rights. That could generate about $6 million to help offset the cost, Campbell said. TIF money also could be used to build it and once the music center is fully operational, Campbell projects it would generate about $500,000 in profit per year.

City officials said the music center would not compete with the Fraze Pavilion in Kettering, a popular 4,300-seat venue that opened in 1991. The $2.6 million venue was funded 100 percent by community donations, according to Amy Berlean, Kettering’s community information manager.

Campbell hopes the city can work with Kettering to “enhance the region.”

“The Fraze doesn’t have the same type of location we do,” Campbell said. “They have longevity. The buzz in government is cooperation and working together. It’s a really good opportunity to put our money where our mouth is. What’s good for us is what’s good for the region, and vice versa.”

via Huber music center creates high hopes.

There used to be a lot more ice rinks in town before Kettering built one with tax dollars. Dayton had a Moore’s Nautilus downtown until they sunk millions of tax dollars into Joe Moores competition- the downtown YMCA and Joe closed his gym and said goodbye to Dayton. There is a reason you don’t see private libraries- who could charge for entry and renting books when there is a tax supported library that doesn’t charge? Private swimming pools also have struggled as have private golf courses that are priced for the “common man.” The list goes on.

The sad truth is that The Fraze didn’t make money for a good number of years. Finding and retaining the right mix of a successful promoter/booking agent, advertising, good weather and the right acts on the right days is almost a black magic art. Big names won’t even stop at a venue in a small market on prime weekend nights, and only if they are on the way between other gigs. This isn’t as easy as build it and they will come. Some idiot has even thought that Dayton could support two professional hockey teams at once which was a joke. UD and WSU won’t even play each other in basketball- and WSU has never been able to come close to filling the Nutter the way UD does for hoops. There are many factors at play and no guarantees.

If we had regional government, this wouldn’t even be on the horizon, but we don’t. Last I checked, Huber Heights citizens wouldn’t vote to increase their taxes for a needed school levy, yet the city council seems to think that they should speculate $18 million on a concert hall? Mr. Campbell talks about “putting our money where our mouth is” and misses the point- it’s the people’s money and they would prefer to use it to put food in their mouths, than support a concert venue that may or may not make money, but will most definitely cost them premium dollar to go to.

Kettering has evolved over the years into a model for a balanced and effective community that seems to put the needs of its citizens first. Good schools, good neighborhoods, good parks and recreation. If Huber Heights thinks it’s ready to be Kettering 2, that’s fine, but the problem is, very few followers ever manage to move to number one by doing the same thing. And, people willing and able to plop down $50 or more per ticket to concerts are a shrinking market as those in the know will tell you.

All this “development” is just sprawl being mislabeled, just like “our money” is. Huber Heights doesn’t exactly have a track record of developmental success with “The Heights” a multimillion dollar housing boondoggle in the same area as this mythical music venue. This concert venue is unneeded and unnecessary and unrealistic. Find other ways to spend tax dollars to improve the city, without killing one of our region’s true gems- The Fraze.

Taxation without representation: Township should be folded

Apparently, you can have it both ways in Ohio. Selective income taxes are apparently OK if your township can’t pay the bills. Taxes that are being passed without a vote by the public.

The concept of urban townships is a farce that has been allowed to continue so we can supply income tax havens for the wealthy. There is absolutely no legitimate reasons for this form of government in urban areas – where the services are a hodge-podge between the county and the township. The cutoff in Ohio is 5,000 residents- with the main difference (until now) is that only cities can levy income taxes.

From today’s Dayton Daily News:

Walmart and Sam’s Club on Miller Lane agreed to an employee income tax that will help pay for police services, township trustees said Tuesday night.

The sister retailers called the township Friday and said they would become part of a Joint Economic Development District with Vandalia, paying income taxes estimated to be about $258,000.

Townships, which can not collect taxes, enter into these agreements with cities. Butler will collect 85 percent of the tax revenue, while Vandalia keeps 15 percent as fees.

“Nobody wants to put a levy on the ballot,” said Trustee President Michael Lang. “To me, this is a complete game-changer. We hope in a short amount of time to get the other businesses in the JEDD.

“We may still need a levy in the spring, but we have time to see where this puts us.”

Butler Twp. has been operating its 14-member police force on $1.1 million budget generated from a previous 4.9 mills levy, while also supplementing that money with an average of $350,000 yearly from its general fund. A 3.0 mills levy was estimated to generate $695,303 in new money, but that was before home values tied to the levy were downgraded last week. The extra revenue was going to go into the township’s general fund.

Trustees said they were looking to Miller Lane businesses for help since those businesses account for more than half the township’s police calls. The township has already laid off one officer, and Chief Danny Hobbs retires at the end of the month, further reducing the staff to 13.

It was feared without a levy or a JEDD, the police force would have to be further reduced next year.

“They (Walmart and Sam’s) understand the importance of this,” Trustee Martin Russell said. “They don’t want services reduced.”

via Butler Twp. cancels police levy after 2 retailers agree to JEDD.

The real question is how many property tax abatements were granted along Miller Lane to “lure” jobs in the name of “economic development.” The Benchwood Road exit was an earlier version of the Austin Road exchange, adding more sprawl and unneeded retail space to an already overbuilt market. We will soon see the same problems for Miami Township thanks to their manipulations at Austin Road.

This “agreement” to collect income taxes for the Township made by members of the Township and Walmart- should be questioned in the courts. The trustees should be tossed from office- and ultimately, the township should be disbanded and merged into Vandalia (the taxing authority) immediately.

How the citizens of this community can stand idle while this kind of back room shenanigans take place is one of the reasons “Greater” Dayton is such a dysfunctional mess. If we moved to a “One Dayton” regional government, we wouldn’t be having this kind of BS going on.

Government is meaningless, except as a sucker in my Ponzi scheme…

If you or I wanted to build a house, out in the middle of nowhere, and asked the local government to build us a road, or garage, and then give you the ability to set and collect your own taxes- we’d be laughed at.

However, when Randy Gunlock, of RG Properties, wants to build, the local governments all fall all over themselves to give poor Mr. Gunlock all the help and support he needs. You want an intersection- here you go, you need roads, of course, retaining ponds for runoff, don’t worry Mr. G we’ve got you covered, a parking garage- we’ll build it- and let you run it, and pay us with “payments in lieu of taxes” and when you’ve paid it off- it’s yours.

Oh, and what does Mr. Gunlock have to promise in return? Well, it’s really not spelled out. It’s all one directional. Tax dollar amounts are clear- rights to Mr. Gunlock are clear- responsibilities of Mr. Gunlock? Penalties for non-performance- Hah!

If I were a full-time reporter for a real newspaper, I’d not only have all these documents provided to my readers to analyze- I’d also have a complete timeline of all the real estate transactions in the area of the Austin Road interchange going back over the last twenty years. It’s a large undertaking- but when we look at the tens of millions of dollars that have been funneled that way- and how most of it has gone into the pockets of a select few- but mostly Mr. Gunlock’s pocket- it should be a cause for a major investigation. However, I’m just the local alternative news source- very part time, not making a dime for crawling under the veil of bull crap that’s fed the community- so you only get what I can stumble across and work with what is fed to me.
Like the “memorandum of understanding” between RG Properties and Miami Township and the TID that arrived Thursday in an unmarked envelope.

But before I try to dissect that lopsided deal with the devil, we’ve got to look at the propaganda coming out of the local “economic development” cartel- from the Dayton Daily News- and just remember, propaganda always works best when it’s based on fear:

Joe Tuss, the county’s assistant administrator, said the presence of any jobs at the Austin Interchange adds up to economic development because many of the companies moving there were considering leaving the area altogether. He said businesses have invested close to $90 million for buildings near the interchange in addition to the $75 million in public funds that paid to build the interchange and relocate and widen nearby roads and utilities.

Local companies, including Moto-man Robotics and Teradata have moved to the Austin Boulevard Interchange area. A law firm, Thompson Hine LLC, recently announced plans to move more than 100 workers from downtown Dayton to new office space near the interchange.

A development agreement between Montgomery County, Miami Twp., Miamisburg, Springboro, the Montgomery County Transportation Improvement District and developer R.G. Properties Inc. to develop 1,200 acres around the new highway interchange calls for the work to create 20,000 jobs there by 2029. The agreement does not stipulate that the jobs must be new to the region. Nearly 70 percent of the 1,200-acre development is in Miami Twp. and the rest is in Springboro and Miamisburg.

Jobs were just one of the goals for building the interchange. Proponents sought an I-75 interchange at Austin Pike for more than two decades as a way to ease traffic congestion on Ohio 725 and Ohio 741 near the Dayton Mall and to open up development opportunities in southern Montgomery County from Miamisburg to the Warren County line. One of the primary goals was to make southern Montgomery County more competitive in attracting businesses.

“What we’re trying to do is provide the best alternative for people to be in Montgomery County,” said R.G. Properties’ CEO Randy Gunlock. “Whether that alternative is used by existing businesses or new businesses is somewhat irrelevant.”

This week Miamisburg’s city council approved $4 million in financing to buy 81 acres of land along Byers Road near the intersection. City officials say they hope to sell the land this year to an unnamed developer….

Gunlock said governmental boundaries are meaningless to business owners and retaining companies is as important as creating new jobs. Gunlock said the Austin Interchange is doing both.

“Of course this is economic development,” he said. “Our job as a developer is to provide the best opportunity for businesses to flourish and that’s what we’re doing. How would you feel if we could have retained the jobs from NCR that moved to Atlanta?”

via Dayton Daily News Archive of Past Articles | Austin project better at keeping jobs in area.

One must ask how a city council can legally buy 81 acres of land, without clearly expressing what the public need is for this purchase- and how it can be based on a “hope to sell” to an “unnamed developer.” If that doesn’t set off immediate questions of legality and integrity of public officials, I don’t know what else does. Since when did your tax dollars become fair game for real estate speculation?

Gunlock’s quote about governmental boundaries being meaningless – right before talking about retaining NCR-  is laughable. Gunlock is the master of playing one governmental boundary against another in the location of his developments. If governmental boundaries truly didn’t matter, he should be the first on the bandwagon for regional government and reduction of governmental overhead.

But feudal warfare is great for the king of the tax abatement, and Mr. Gunlock has plenty of experience from dangling super WalMarts to communities across the Midwest- he’s now perfecting his art on the misguided local Podunk authorities, while recreating in his indoor ice rink in his back yard.

Looking over the “Memorandum of Understanding” between RG, the TID and Miami Township Trustees- due to be voted on this Tuesday, one has to wonder what are we getting in return for this massive tax dollar donation to RG?

Section B:

Pursuant to a Memorandum of Understanding dated November 26, 2008 among Developer, the TID, the Township, the Board of County Commissioners of Montgomery County, Ohio (the “County”), the City of Miamisburg and the City of Springboro, the parties have proceeded with the implementation of a master plan based on a preliminary conceptual plan prepared by the Developer for the Property and other land owned by Developer in the area of the Austin Road interchange, and Developer has obtained from the Township appropriate zoning of the Property supporting a mixed use development as contemplated by the master plan.

So despite having zoning and planning authorities- we’ve let RG do the plan for us. No leadership at all on what is best for the region that already has an abundance of vacant commercial and residential space due to population stagnation and sprawl.

F. The Township and the TID believe that the Phase II improvements will promote the highest and best use of the land through the development of amenities and employment opportunities that will encourage knowledge workers to live, work and recreate in the Township and benefit the entire region. To that end, the TID and the Township are willing to pursue and provide financial support for the public infrastructure improvements supporting the development of the Property which will, in turn, support the entire Austin interchange area.

Two things should set alarms off: “highest and best use” is a purely subjective statement- lacking any proof of need. If in fact all these people do come to the “Township” – it will break the threshold of population and should be converted into yet another city. Secondly- “encouraging knowledge workers” is a total flight of fancy, with no substantive description of what a “knowledge worker” is- or what they bring to the table. Because of these two clauses- we’re opening up our wallets to give money to RG Properties.

H. Developer recognizes that the obligation of the public parties to commit to finance the Phase II public improvements is based on Developer’s commitment to develop and construct the Phase II private improvements set forth in this Memorandum.

The public parties have an obligation- the developer only has a commitment. No contract. The difference in words is vast in a court of law- one must perform, the other only says he will.

Then comes the escape clause:

I. The Parties desire to enter into this Memorandum to memorialize certain understandings relating to the scope of Phase II and the Parties’ respective obligations relating to the Phase II development. The Parties recognize, however, that certain sources of funding have not yet been fully developed, and a more detailed agreement will need to be entered into when the funding sources are fully identified and the requirements relating to that funding can be addressed in greater detail.

What are the “certain understandings”- and why aren’t they spelled out? In other words, Gunlock can’t and won’t swing this deal until he’s shown that the government is going to back his project with a bunch of money down. When was the last time the government financed 20% or more of your business- with only promises of future performance?

So what is RG to build in phase two for these “knowledge workers”

NOW, THEREFORE, in consideration of the mutual benefits and obligations contained in this Memorandum, the Parties agree as follows:
1. Developer’s Phase II Obligations. Subject to the terms of this Memorandum, Developer agrees to proceed with the construction and completion of the following private improvements on the Property (the “Phase II Private Improvements”):
(a) The “Village Area” and adjacent retail area consisting of approximately 70,000 square feet of retail building area on the first floor and approximately 186 residential apartment units on floors 2 through 4 above part or all of the retail buildings;
(b) A 14 screen cinema adjacent to the Village Area; and
(c) An office building with a minimum of 120,000 square feet.
The Phase II Private Improvements, together with an approximately 520 space parking structure that will be subject to real estate taxation, will have a minimum value of $50,000,000.00.

So- 70,000 additional square feet of retail area- because we don’t have enough at the Dayton Mall?

14 more movie screens- because the Rave Cinemas at the Dayton Mall plus the Danbury- aren’t enough movie screens? Remember how we used to have movies in the Dayton Mall, but they were forced out by Shocase Crosspointe, which was then closed because of the Rave Cinema complex? How many movie screens do we need- especially since movie attendance has been dropping? So a 120,000 square foot office building is really the only thing that provides “knowledge worker” amenities- and – don’t worry- that garage, we’ll come back to it…

Because- the taxpayers are really paying $10 mill to build the garage and roads and parks:

2. Phase II Public Improvements. Subject to the terms of this Memorandum, the Township (with the cooperation of the TID) agrees to undertake $10,000,000.00 of public improvements on or supporting the Property, to consist of the following (the “Phase II Public Improvements”):
(a) Public street and utility improvements in the areas shown on Exhibit B attached to this Memorandum (the “Roadway Infrastructure”);
(b) One parking structure adjacent to the Village Area (the “Parking Structure”) as shown on Exhibit B; and
(c) Park improvements in the Village Area (the “Park Improvements”).
The Phase II Public Improvements also may include other related amenities and costs

Because, no matter what the developer does- the Twp. is going to build the garage gratis:

The Parties agree that it is impossible at the execution of this Memorandum to predict all of the factors that will impact the timing and development of the Phase II Private Improvements and the Phase II Public Improvements. The parties agree to be flexible and work cooperatively as the project moves through the stages in order to maximize the development potential of the Property. For example, the parties may agree to delay or accelerate the timing of certain Phase II Private Improvements to correspond with the Phase II Public Improvements. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Township agrees to commence construction of the Parking Structure no later than August 1, 2011.

Yep- we build- RG does what they please- because it is “impossible to predict all of the factors.” Hmm- I always thought contracts were contracts and laid out specific duties and obligations- but this is a memo- for the developer only.

In section 4:

(b) The Parking Structure will be financed through the TID’s issuance of bonds pursuant to an agreement (“Cooperative Agreement”) among the Developer, the TID and the Township. Under the Cooperative Agreement, the Township will commit to make all payments of principal and interest on the bonds issued by the TID, and will pledge its available non-tax revenues to the funding of such payments, such non-tax revenues consisting of payments in lieu of taxes received by the Township under the applicable TIF arrangements that include the Property.

I will skip another section that is critical- to finish off the garage deal:

7. Parking Structure. The Parties intend that the Parking Structure funded by public funding, as part of the Phase II Public Improvements, will be owned by a public authority during the useful life of the structure (or, if permitted by law, the term of the bonds), with management obligations delegated to Developer pursuant to a management agreement. Under the management agreement, Developer will have the ability to establish rules that limit the use of the Parking Structure to specific users in the development during business hours, but be open to the public after business hours. If necessary in order to permit this arrangement, the Parking Structure funding shall be handled through taxable bonds rather than tax exempt bonds. The management agreement will place all costs of operation, maintenance, repair and other costs and expenses of the Parking Structure upon the Developer. At the end of the term of the management agreement, title to the Parking Structure shall be transferred to Developer.

Translation: Tax dollars build it. Payments in lieu of taxes pay the taxpayers back, and when it’s paid off, RG Properties owns it free and clear. And, by the way, all parking revenue- goes to RG Properties as well.

So, you build your house, pay for it money that should have been paid as taxes and at the end you own it free and clear? Am I missing something?

And the last- OMFG moment- RG Properties gets to create their own city- and levy their own taxes to maintain this property:

6. Establishment of New Community. Subject to the adoption of certain modifications to the Ohio law governing new communities, and subject to the approval of the affected retailers on the Property, Developer agrees to submit the retail and hospitality portions of the Property to a new community, the terms of which shall be mutually acceptable to Developer and the Township. The new community authority established for the new community shall have the right to levy a service charge in an amount up to one-half of one percent of the sales generated from the new community area up to a maximum of $500,000.00. The sales to which the service charge would apply would include all sales that are subject to state sales tax, specifically excluding food sales for off-premises consumption, but specifically including hotel room receipts and theater admissions and concession sales. Any such revenue shall be made available to Developer to apply toward the costs of operating and maintaining the Phase II Public Improvements, with any balance to be applied to the repayment of the Township’s obligations as described in Section 4.

A population of voters that allows this kind of transference of wealth from the taxpayer to the wealthy, without protest, deserves a country with a junk bond credit rating. There is zero reason for this deal to be approved, nor is there ANY guaranteed payback to the taxpayers.

There are no clauses to hold the developer liable or responsible for anything, other than to build buildings. No guarantees of tax revenues, or jobs or even payback for investments made by the taxpayer if the developer doesn’t go through.

Just like handing Bernie Madoff money with promises of a return, this deal has no guarantees. We know where Madoff’s victims ended up- in the very same poorhouse our local governments are headed to. RG Properties has nothing on the line, we have it all.

I’m sure there are other aspects to this deal my readers know more about- please feel free to comment freely, your personal information will be protected. Feel free to email or mail me any more supporting documents.
Thank you to my confidential source for forwarding this memo.

 

I want to make money- taxpayers should help pay: Sprawl at the Dille estate

Because a developer wants to build something, does that automatically mean you should pay for it with your tax dollars? George Oberer Jr. has a dream- but he wants the taxpayers to pay for a large part of it:

Wilmington Pike could expand to up to 10 lanes and the bridge at Interstate 675 above the busy street could undergo reconstruction if preliminary plans from Cornerstone Development Inc. advance to the construction phase.

The street expansion would accommodate Cornerstone of Centerville, a 225-acre mixed-use development, which is planned for property formerly owned by the Dille family…

Centerville City Manager Greg Horn said city officials believe the developer’s plan for 10 lanes may be ambitious.

“Long term, we agree there will be interchange improvements as Miami Valley Hospital South (and other local businesses) continue to grow out,” Horn said. “We think there are errors in their (projected traffic) numbers, and we as a staff will continue to work with them.”

George Oberer Jr. of Cornerstone Development said the village center would be a cluster of restaurants, entertainment establishments and boutiques within the complex.

“(The village center) certainly is nothing to compete with The Greene, just a little village of shops,” Oberer said.

Cornerstone Development is in the process of conducting a traffic impact study; the city is conducting an independent review of that study.

The city and developer are hammering out details in preparation for a public presentation Aug. 15 at the Centerville City Council meeting.

Some of the proposed elements include:

  • Expanding Wilmington up to 10 lanes between Whipp Road and I-675.
  • Reconstructing the bridge at Wilmington and I-675 to accommodate those lanes.
  • Widening Feedwire Road.
  • Preserving the north parcel’s perimeter of trees, which City Planner Steve Feverston called an “iconic portion of the site,” and/or various stands of trees throughout the project.
  • Adding two new traffic signals; one on Wilmington and one on Feedwire.
  • Constructing medians on Wilmington and Feedwire, both as a safety measure and to align them aesthetically with the city’s boulevard look.
  • Expanding Clyo Road to five lanes where it borders the south parcel.

via Centerville development could lead to major street expansion.

Without having to prove to the public that this complex is needed (we have 30+% retail space vacancy rate in the Dayton Metropolitan area)- the developer is forcing roadway improvements that you and I have to pay for – and continue to pay for for years. Whom does this benefit?

Let’s create an example: If my neighbor wants to upgrade his home- I’m happy. If my neighbor only will upgrade his home if I agree to upgrade mine, and all my neighbors to upgrade theirs, I don’t think it will fly. Why do developers get to have this kind of sway with politicians- because politicians aren’t spending their money- they are spending ours (and we see how that works out). Also, since politicians depend on donations for their re-election campaigns- they get mighty friendly. Local records aren’t recorded in a unified data base like national donations, but if you want to see what kind of money the Oberer family “invests” in politicians, take a look here at OpenSecrets (the FEC database isn’t connecting right now) http://www.opensecrets.org/indivs/search.php?name=oberer&state=OH&zip=&employ=&cand=&all=Y&sort=N&capcode=cp5rc&submit=Submit

So if you are wondering why Oberer is able to ask for the taxpayers to prop us his “development” with millions of your dollars- you quickly realize it’s just payback for his investment in politicians.

It’s time to end this pay-to-play system of “economic development” – we need to fund elections out of taxpayer dollars to stop this kind of influence peddling and payback.

We don’t need wider roads, more roads or more retail space- even if it will create construction jobs for a few years. After this boondoggle is built- we’ll see more vacancies at the Mall at Fairfield Commons and the Dayton Mall, then we will see those businesses ask for tax breaks- and the cycle continues.

Economic development isn’t created by construction- investment follows quality of life. Good schools, safe neighborhoods, and a level playing field do wonders to lure people to invest. Adding taxes to support political supporters is a losing strategy. We should know, we’ve been doing it for years in Dayton.

Why Nan Whaley is dangerous – the shrinking cities fallacy

The check Nan Whaley got for $5,000 from a Westerville demolition contractor should have been the first indication. The rush to spend money tearing down houses and create “land banks” makes the rich happy- while screwing the poor. The free market economy doesn’t work- as long as you have the government stepping in, and taking the low-cost housing options off the market- and replacing them with fantasy homes for the “New Urbanist – Creative Class” while forgetting about those who want to work, and live in the homes they own.

First I highly recommend reading the entire article from the Huffington Post- sent to me by a reader- Terri L.:

To understand the crisis, we must embrace the fact that the “experts” behind Shrinking Cities never offered a roadmap to prosperity; what they designed was a plan for development’s opposite.

Rust-belt politicians funded short-term city tax revenues at the cost of long-term regional development. They expropriated the resources of ordinary people, permanently setting back decades of national investment in education and housing.

Across the Rust Belt, Americans with money misunderstood the nature of development. Dystopian city planners believed that in economic collapse, only the elite would survive. They betted (sic) on an economy in which their best possible strategy was to convince working-class people to move away. Their vision was short-sighted and their sense of justice clouded.

Economic policy is not only a matter of the developer and the dollar. It is also a matter of participation in a market where ordinary people have a chance at employment.

The culprits for the current depression are more numerous than the mortgage vendors and Wall Street bankers who profited from it. The deeper culprits are the economists and politicians who sold a plan for fake development to city governments across the nation.

via Jo Guldi: The Anti-Development Crisis: Who’s Really to Blame for Lost Jobs This Christmas.

While I may not have the answers on how to fix up every home in Dayton- I don’t believe that spending our tax dollars to tear things down is as good as spending them to build things up- for all of us- not just the developers who gave to the campaign:

City commissioners gave a local developer approval to build 18 condominiums near Fifth Third Field, a $3 million project that could be a tipping point to ease the lack of downtown housing.

Commissioners approved a $300,000 grant Wednesday to Charles Simms Development, which will pay for soil remediation on the planned site at First Street and Patterson Boulevard.

Charles Simms, president of the company, said he hopes to have nine single-family condos priced from $140,000 to $160,000 available for purchase by the end of the year.

Construction on the condos, each featuring 1,400 square feet of space, will likely begin in June, he said.

There are no environmental concerns with the soil, but Simms said he wants to bring in new dirt.

He expects to have another nine units built in 2012 on the one-acre site known as Patterson Square.

Mayor Gary Leitzell said downtown’s occupancy rate is about 93 percent and the Simms development is a “great thing for Dayton.”…

Citywide, the city’s quasi-public economic development arm, also agreed to lend Simms $100,000 for the project.

via Condo project near Fifth Third Field wins City Commission OK.

To do the simple math- that’s $33,333 for each of the 9 homes. Even if he builds the other 9 as promised- that’s still $16,666 per home.  In a city where we are spending somewhere around $12,000 each to tear down old homes. That’s not even including the extra $100,000 that Citywide (our quasi-governmental slush fund) is throwing Mr. Simms’ way.

If we had spent the money on good neighborhood schools, adequate police protection, good parks- maybe we’d have people still living in the neighborhoods we are tearing down. We have no plan. We have no respect for the hard-working people who paid their taxes for schools and services- and instead, fund the dreams of kings.

Never mind- this property was part of the botched Deb Feldman fiasco where we overpaid for the old Sears property from a group that included her husband and father-in-law- so we could put one of the Riverscape Fountains on a remote parking lot. Bad investment on top of bad investment- making the rich richer.

That’s what “economic development” means today.

When we stop handing tax dollars over to political donors- we may start getting somewhere.

Let’s also hope there is a non-performance clause attached to this grant- if 18 homes aren’t built- the money comes back (so we don’t have another “Kroger deal.”)

 

Is “Economic development” bad for the economy?

In our free-wheeling, “democratic” nation with our belief that capitalism solves all problems, we seem to have let Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” deal us a whopper of a punch. All of a sudden, property values are dropping like a rock, causing tax revenues to drop, causing local and state governments who are mandated to have balanced budgets to go into crisis mode. The federal government has jumped in to “bail out” the major players throughout this crisis- by extending super-low-interest-rate loans, grants, and a lot of “stimulus investment” in construction and infrastructure projects.

Yet, what if they have it all wrong? That the real disaster was too much “economic development” and not enough investment in “social capital.” Had we invested more in education than the war on drugs, national health care instead of the military-industrial complex and public transit instead of more off ramps and cul de sacs where would we be today? Did oversupply of new housing, new office space and new developments lead to the disaster? And was it mostly fueled by politicians who love to have their picture taken with a shovel in hand at a groundbreaking?

A real estate lawyer in Florida, Ms. Lesley Blackner seemed to think so- and is taking on the culture of construction with an amendment to Florida’s constitution to put the brakes on builders gone wild:

the real estate crisis is not just the fault of Wall Street, Washington or misguided borrowers; it is also the back-scratching bond between elected officials and builders — a common source of frustration in weak real estate markets around the country wherever developers are still fighting to add more housing.

In Florida, at least, Ms. Blackner hopes to put an end to the chronic oversupply with a ballot initiative she has labeled “Hometown Democracy.”

Amendment 4, as it is officially called, would give Floridians a vote on changes to state-mandated plans for growth in every county and municipality. Much of the potential impact of the measure is up for debate, with important details most likely to be decided by the courts.

But if it is added to the state’s Constitution — which would require 60 percent approval on Election Day — critics and supporters envision revolutionary change.

Leaders of the Yes on 4 campaign, including Ms. Blackner, say it would end a culture of freewheeling development

via In Florida, Battle Over Growth Goes to the Voters – NYTimes.com.

When I first entered politics I had no idea who the power brokers were, or what their agendas were. One that I kept running into, which seemed odd, was the HBA- the Homebuilders Association. They were one of the primary backers of Mike Turner in his first run for office as Dayton mayor, and the money was substantial. Considering Dayton had shrunk by about a third, it would seem that the city had an oversupply of housing already, and “home building” wouldn’t be high on the list of priorities- how wrong I was.

Bankers like home builders too- because construction loans, and then the mortgages that go with them are a constant source of revenue. Heavy construction people like home builders, because we then need new roads to carry the sprawling suburbanites to and from their cul de sacs. Automakers love new homes too- because they are generally built further and further out- on pristine farmland- instead of in core cities. And because the density of new construction has been lower over the last thirty years- shopping malls and “town centers” like them as the ideas of walkable communities falls apart in our mad rush to build, build, build.

In Florida, a ridiculous  glut of new homes is now causing the real estate market to fall apart. There is such an oversupply that when the rose-colored glasses come off, the landscape is pretty grim. The state had decided that “growth” was a goal – instead of sustainability and the results have been a disaster. Whether a constitutional amendment is the right solution or not, judging by the amount of money the Homebuilders are throwing up against it (considering many of them had to ask for a bailout from the feds) one should be able to infer it’s a shot in the right direction.

While Montgomery County’s population hasn’t grown substantially in the last 40 years, our footprint has spread out at a ridiculous pace. The Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission has the numbers and show that we’re overbuilt between 20 and 45% depending on type of development- from housing to office space to retail, yet the politicians keep banging the drum for builders to build.

What would happen if government got out of the “economic development” business altogether? What if there were zero incentives for new construction, instead, only offering incentives on projects that either reuse and adapt, or increase population density? What if there was a premium impact tax on expansion? Isn’t this what Portland, Oregon, did with its development limits? But, let’s also realize that we’ve let our state and local governments’ preoccupation with “economic development” take center stage instead of focusing on delivering top-notch, low-cost public services. The Ohio taxpayer is supporting a whole legion of people who do nothing except spend our tax dollars on diluting the value of our housing stock, our existing infrastructure and add overhead that makes doing business even more expensive.

Is it time for a referendum in Ohio, or perhaps nationwide? Florida may be leading the way if Amendment 4 passes this November.

Learn how to grow your own from a pro

I love garlic and “Armando” tomatoes from Mike Malone and Hungry Toad Farm- I see him every Saturday at the 2nd Street Market, outside near the main steps. Mike’s got the real deal farmer’s tan- and can tell you everything you need to know about growing vegetables organically.

This e-mail went out over the “liberal list” – and I’m posting it because I’m a big believer that organic, sustainable, local food is part of the answer for America- not just in cutting down on our foreign energy dependency, but as part of getting American’s health again- moving away from processed crap that we have come to call food. Those of you have known me- and noticed that I’m 20 pounds lighter- and have a new bounce in my step- have heard the story of how my significant other read an amazing book- “The 7 principles of  fat burning” by Dr. Berg. I’ve changed the way I eat- and it’s been amazing.

So- here is the e-mail from farmer Mike:

My main worker is off to the Army Reserves for 3 weeks, and my other full time worker has suddenly decided to cease farming work. It looks like the cheese stands alone, and I don’t think the cheese can do it all by himself – especially with a 40 member CSA. 689-5910

Farm Workers/Volunteers needed at Hungry Toad Farm

Hungry Toad Farm is an Organic farm in Washington Twp.

I need help harvesting and weeding and planting and preparing boxes for the CSA, and harvesting and preparing for two farmers markets.

Help for pay, or help for experience, or help in trade/part trade for housing in a 4 BR farmhouse.

The season lasts until early November. Continued housing through the winter and beyond is an option.

Write to me here and check out Hungry Toad Farm on facebook.

Michael Malone

We live in the “bread basket of America” (although after you read Dr. Berg’s book you won’t be eating much bread)- this is some of the most fertile growing land in the world. Instead of building more pop-up offices with parking lot seas on prime farm land (Austin Road) we should be looking to grow as much of our own food within a half-day’s drive or less.

With the latest egg recall- and other recent food scares, it’s reassuring to know where our food comes from- and who actually grew it. Farmer Mike isn’t a big agri-business, he’s a small guy in a tough business- with the best tomatoes and garlic you can buy.

This is good for all of us.

First we’ll kill off the bees

While we’re still convinced that building more highways and developing housing on prime farmland, we’re sort of forgetting about the smallest things that make a big difference: Bees.

Reading the comments on the Dayton Daily News site (I really have to stop doing that) makes me wonder if anyone who uses that site paid attention in junior high biology. Bees are critical to our survival- here is a quick take from the USDA Agricultural Research Service:

Why should the public care about honey bees?Bee pollination is responsible for $15 billion in added crop value, particularly for specialty crops such as almonds and other nuts, berries, fruits, and vegetables. About one mouthful in three in the diet directly or indirectly benefits from honey bee pollination. While there are native pollinators honey bees came from the Old World with European colonists, honey bees are more prolific and the easiest to manage for the large scale pollination that U.S. agriculture requires. In California, the almond crop alone uses 1.3 million colonies of bees, approximately one half of all honey bees in the United States, and this need is projected to grow to 1.5 million colonies by 2010.

via ARS : Questions and Answers: Colony Collapse Disorder.

In the same way that the stock market is connected to the financial health of our country- even though it only represents a tiny fraction of the businesses in this country- bees are critical to our entire ecosystem.

Here is the Dayton Grassroots Daily Shows discussion on the future of humankind- if we forget about the bees:

It’s not just here- but everywhere: Sprawl

Students of advertising know that when one of the greatest ad agencies of all time got going, the question was posed “how big can we get before we get bad?” It was the early days of Chiat/Day- the ones who brought you the Energizer Bunny, the Absolut bottle campaign, the best Apple ads and the sock puppet for pets.com and the Taco Bell Chihuahua (Babe Ruth struck out a lot too).

In America, we’ve always been fans of “Bigger must be Better.” In fact, everything about this country, including our people comes in XXL- except our thinking about the consequences of being supersized.

Remember David and Goliath? The bigger they are, the harder they fall? We keep growing, building and expanding for the sake of it. Just because we can we do. We came over to America to get away from an empire- and are now making a new one- and it’s falling apart at the seams.

Greg Hunter and I attended a planning meeting for the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission last night. We did the sticky dots on a map and the ideas on the white paper thing that are the required activities for all groupthink™ exercises- leaving the session knowing that it was pointless.

If you know much about complex systems, chaos theory and entropy- you know that as things get bigger they eventually fall apart. Dayton is a small city trying to fill a pair of XXL dungarees and it’s not working.

Low and behold, David Brooks of the New York Times writes an OpEd piece today talking about this very problem. There aren’t that many times I find his Faux News perspective worthy of the electrons used to transmit it, but today, his words (or rather the ideas that he’s pushing from British think tank head Phillip Blond):

The free-market revolution didn’t create the pluralistic decentralized economy. It created a centralized financial monoculture, which requires a gigantic government to audit its activities. The effort to liberate individuals from repressive social constraints didn’t produce a flowering of freedom; it weakened families, increased out-of-wedlock births and turned neighbors into strangers…

Economically, Blond lays out three big areas of reform: remoralize the market, relocalize the economy and recapitalize the poor. This would mean passing zoning legislation to give small shopkeepers a shot against the retail giants, reducing barriers to entry for new businesses, revitalizing local banks, encouraging employee share ownership, setting up local capital funds so community associations could invest in local enterprises, rewarding savings, cutting regulations that socialize risk and privatize profit, and reducing the subsidies that flow from big government and big business.

To create a civil state, Blond would reduce the power of senior government officials and widen the discretion of front-line civil servants, the people actually working in neighborhoods. He would decentralize power, giving more budget authority to the smallest units of government. He would funnel more services through charities. He would increase investments in infrastructure, so that more places could be vibrant economic hubs. He would rebuild the “village college” so that universities would be more intertwined with the towns around them.

Essentially, Blond would take a political culture that has been oriented around individual choice and replace it with one oriented around relationships and associations.

via Op-Ed Columnist – The Broken Society – NYTimes.com.

I’m not sure how “out-of-wedlock births” enter into this (sex is still fun kids, just don’t do it) but- the ideas of limiting large to keep small viable and cut the risks of the fall of the giants from taking everyone with them may have some traction after what the Wall Street Casino managed to pull off.

Brooks nails it when he says: “This confluence of crises has produced a surge in vehement libertarianism. People are disgusted with Washington. The Tea Party movement rallies against big government, big business and the ruling class in general. Even beyond their ranks, there is a corrosive cynicism about public action.”

And herein lies the struggle: at a point where we need true leadership most, our leaders are less likely to be trusted. If you are looking for a similar point in time- look to pre-WWII Germany and Italy- where the financial collapse set the stage for the rise of the dictators.

The writing is all over the walls- on a global, national and even the local, MVRPC level. We’ve gotten too big, it’s bad- and we need to look to move to smaller systems that won’t destroy us when they implode.

Here’s the video:

Planning by popularity. MVRPC holds “community meetings.”

When there is a lack of leadership- we look to building consensus. Nothing wrong with collective hand-holding- as long as it’s in church, but when it comes to politics and policy- generally, what you get when you get a crowd together is mediocrity.

In church- you have an ultimate leader. One who clearly states what’s wrong and what’s right. In urban planning- not only do we lack a clear leader, we’ve put an impotent committee together- Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission- who then wants to hold a popularity contest- to set our course.

I’ve resisted writing about this- because, I generally like the people who work at MVRPC now. They are bright, they know what’s wrong, but, in general are powerless to really make anyone do anything.

They even reached out to bloggers like me – asking to promote their community group think.

I am contacting you to ask for your assistance in publicizing a community-based workshop for Phase II of Going Places – An Integrated Land Use Vision for the Miami Valley Region (please visit www.mvrpc.org/rlu for more information). We are hoping for support and publicity from bloggers like you.

Since I’ve delayed talking about it- there are only 3 left- including one at Kettering Fairmount HS tonight (you can stay after and see Thurgood Marshall kick butt in basketball at 8pm).

a brief overview, the second phase of the Going Places Initiative will explore the future landscape options of the Region. More specifically, Phase II will build future land use scenarios and will evaluate land use scenario impacts. In order to identify and build collective regional land use scenarios, MVRPC will host 17 community-based workshops throughout the region to engage the general public in the future land use themes and scenarios development process. The workshop is designed to last approximately 90 minutes.

  • Thursday, March 18, 2010 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Fairmont High School, commons area 3301 Shroyer Road Kettering OH 45429
  • Wednesday, March 31, 2010 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Center for Regional Cooperation 1100 West 3rd Street Dayton OH 45407
  • Wednesday, April 7, 2010 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Friendship Village, Convocation Room 5790 Denlinger Road Trotwood OH 45426-1898

A few posts ago, we covered Martin Kim of MVRPC analysis of the land use in the region. And it’s funny- we mentioned him in the post on committee forming as well (first link in this post).

After that- I got a follow up note from someone at MVRPC “Um, Thanks, I think. :-)”

I’m going to keep the contents of most of that note private- since if they wanted it public- they could have commented on the post itself. But here is the reason I’m pumping the last three meetings:

We’re hoping to go to each of the 78 jurisdictions at the conclusion and tell them, “X number of people — voters — attended these workshops.  Maybe you should listen to what your constituents say.”  If developers show up, then our results will reflect that.  If environmentalists show up, our results will reflect that.  All we can do as an agency is to beg folks to come and voice their opinion.

Heaven help us if the “developers” show up- we’re already over developed. The key thing to note- why the hell do we have 78 jurisdictions? Can we please move into the modern day- instead of sticking with a structure devised with the Northwest Ordinance of 1784 and the Land Ordinance of 1785.

And, oh, yeah- how about a leader? One whom we can hold accountable?