On Wednesday, I went to the city commission meeting to speak against handing over tax dollars to a private corporation. As usual, I was working with somewhat faulty information that I’d received from the “Dayton Daily news” in that the money was being approved by the City Commission, but was actually ED/GE funds which are from the County sales tax collections. Either way, it’s tax dollars collected to provide government services being taken from our pockets and put into the pockets of a private corporation. Here is the basics from the PR run in the DDN:
Midmark Corp. will relocate its corporate headquarters to Dayton by July.
The medical, dental and veterinary health care equipment provider said Thursday it has completed lease negotiations and will move the headquarters, to be renamed Midmark Center, to the 1700 South Patterson Building on the University of Dayton’s River Campus. The building once housed NCR Corp.’s headquarters….
Midmark received $100,000 in economic development funding from the city of Dayton to move the jobs. The estimated payroll of the employees moving to the city is $10.8 million, which will generate about $242,000 a year in taxes for the city, according to the agreement between the city and Midmark.
The new headquarters will take up more than 23,000 square feet on the fourth floor of the 1700 South Patterson Building.
Originally, the city had hoped to put Midmark into one of the empty buildings they built via CityWide Development in “Tech Town”- another squander of tax dollars on subsidies of a few private businesses with money that should have been spent on providing best in class services to all citizens. That deal fell through- but UD stepped up, by offering even cheaper space in the NCR HQ building they got for a song when NCR bailed on Dayton. There are unanswered questions about how much UD pays in property taxes vs what NCR paid in property taxes on this property, but that’s something for a paid reporter to investigate.
There is the interesting sidebar to this story, that Midmark’s CEO & President Anne Eiting Klamar also serves on the UD Board of Trustees, making this yet another sweetheart insiders deal.
But before I share my speech, let’s take economics 101. Opportunity costs are the costs of actions not taken, now, and over time. While the five year payback in “income taxes” received sounds wonderful on the $100,000 “investment”- let’s look at the real costs that have already gone into that process.
We’ve paid a myriad of “economic development” people good money to go out and sell out city primarily by whoring tax incentives and deals, instead of selling on our inherent value that we offer. In turn, the money that we’ve wasted on them, and these deals (most of which had no real penalties or clawback provisions and many went far south of positive for the city) has cut our ability to pay for essential government services- like road paving, leaf collection, safety forces, parks and recreation programs, thus making Dayton a less attractive place to live and less safe of an investment- thereby sending a message that we’re a poverty riddled city, much like the ugly girl offering to pay and let a boy have his way with her so she can go to the prom.
Maybe, if we had invested the hundreds of millions we’ve squandered on these “ED” projects over the last 20 years, which benefited a few, at a cost to the many, NCR wouldn’t have left in the first place?
While Midmark may not have any direct competitors in the region, there is also the undemocratic aspect of giving to one company while not giving to their competition- since there are no open competitions for this money, with a guaranteed equal opportunity for all. Banks can’t lend to homeowners with out following the rules of equal opportunity, but our government seemingly gets to pick and choose who to favor. This should be illegal. It reeks of payola to friends and family and political donors much more than it creates wealth. We know that it doesn’t work, because we’ve been losing payroll and investment in the city for about the same amount of time as we’ve been practicing this voodoo juju in the name of good government.
Here is what I said. I was rudely interrupted by the Clerk of Commission as I was finishing up, because the City Commission isn’t really there to hear or respond to citizens at their “public meeting”- they are there to have the shortest possible meeting, so Nan Whaley can get back to her fund raising. For the record, Joey Williams and Dean Lovelace were not in attendance at the March 20, 2013 meeting where this was given:
People often say government would be improved if it was run like a business, but they never take the time to really discuss in depth what business the government should be in.
Apparently, now, the citizens of Dayton are in the medical cabinetry and furniture business- since our tax dollars are about to be invested in Midmark corporation. The payback is supposed to be increased employment and tax revenue for the city- and while that sounds just fine and dandy, it makes me wonder why we chose Midmark- over, well, anyone else?
You see, the tax dollars that are being handed over to Midmark, came out of the pockets of people who are working two jobs just to make their house payments. And their house, well, it’s worth less now because the house a few doors down went into foreclosure and is now occupied by a bunch of dope using thieves, who keep breaking the law and causing the police to visit, oh, 22 times a year on average.
Now those hard working residents, have to buy security cameras, replace the chainsaws that have been stolen out of their garage (twice) and they have to buy new bikes for their kids, a new lawnmower, you get the picture…
Why do hard working Daytonians pay taxes? To hire police officers to stop thieves? To pick up leaves or sweep streets? Apparently not. We pay taxes to invest in Midmark Corporation!
Not only are we spending money on this Midmark giveaway, we pay our hard earned money to hire a staff of “economic development specialists” who seem to believe that they are worth considerably more than a police officer on the street protecting citizens. What if we took those salaries and instead, made sure that Dayton was a safe place to live, where our investments in things like bicycles, lawnmowers, chainsaws were protected?
Maybe it would be easier to live in Dayton and take care of our property, and someone would want to live near us that didn’t engage in crime on a daily basis? Crimes against us.
You see, the criminals stealing my property, aren’t much different than what you are about to do- you are taking my hard earned tax dollar and handing it over to someone else- someone who may even be a business competitor of mine. You are also robbing me of additional police resources- the stuff that I thought my tax dollars were going to be used for.
This isn’t the first time the City has thought they were in a different business than providing services to their residents- I recall a recent initiative to bring a Kroger to the corner of Wayne and Wyoming. Millions of our tax dollars went to acquire options, and property for a grocery store that never came. Just imagine, instead of spending over a million dollars to own an empty lot, you’d spent it on doing the peoples business- police protection, I still might have my bicycle and my chainsaw and my lawnmower- and I wouldn’t be down here wasting my time trying to get the city to stop engaging in “economic development” and try doing the business of the city- which means making our neighborhoods safe and our city an affordable place to do business.
You could probably even cut your income tax rate- if you stopped doing “business” that isn’t any of your business, nor is it mine.
The way you help Midmark is by not getting distracted from what the business of Dayton is.
If you personally want to help Midmark- take your salaries to the stockmarket and buy stock in Midmark- but that’s the only acceptable thing you should do for Midmark with my tax dollars.
After I sat down, Mayor Leitzell made the lame response, one that reeks of the weakness of vision of our City- “If we didn’t do it, someone else would.” He told me later, everyone on the commission doesn’t like these deals, but fears not doing it. Of course, if everyone else is doing crack, that’s no excuse to do it too, at least, that’s what my momma taught me (well, almost, since crack didn’t exist when my momma was teaching me the difference between right and wrong).
I have an audio recording that’s 7 minutes long, which starts part way into Mr. Down’s explanation that this is County money, and then my talk.