Corporate welfare and the uneven playing field

In the grand scheme of things, a half-million dollars won’t solve school funding, public safety issues or pave that many streets. But, doling out our tax dollars to private entities  as “economic development” is one more example of government not “sticking to the knitting” and wasting resources on speculation and playing favorites.

It’s not a local problem, if we don’t do it, someone else will- and that’s why it needs to be banned. Everywhere.

Public dollars for public works. If government wants to “help business” the best way to do it is to make doing business in this country easier- from how we have to collect and pay taxes (the “Ohio Business Gateway” is one of the worst web interfaces I’ve ever seen), to figuring out a more efficient way to provide health care (run away health care costs make our products more expensive- and are a major reason why small businesses can’t compete for the best talent).

Looking over these Economic Development/General Equity grants to business- just try to explain what this does to the “other guy”- who is trying to compete with these companies- and not getting the funding? How would you feel if it was your competition getting “free money” while you worked your ass off?

Brookville project favored for top ED/GE grant
On Friday, the ED/GE committee voted to recommend that the Montgomery County Commission approve granting $500,000 to move the project forward (the commission has final say on ED/GE grants). The cash would be used to offset the cost of acreage in the industrial park, which is valued at $900,000.

Additional incentives worth more than $14 million, which include in-kind services, have also been put on the table by the state and the city.

Remaining grant dollars recommended for approval Friday included:

• $300,000 to Prime Technology for the creation of a manufacturing, research and development facility at the Mound Advanced Technology Center in Miamisburg. The $843,000 project is expected to create 25 jobs.

• $275,000 for a proposed expansion of the call-center company InfoCision in Riverside. The $988,000 project is expected to create up to 150 jobs.

• $75,000 to help Dayton-based Nanoteck Instruments establish a nano-materials research and development facility at the Dayton Campus for Advanced Material Technologies. The $150,000 project would create 77 jobs.

• $250,000 for a proposed expansion of the Community Blood Center in Dayton. The $15 million project is expected to create 100 new jobs.

• $150,000 for a parking lot expansion at Vandalia-based Adena Tool Corporation. The $460,000 project is expected to retain 150 jobs.

• $100,000 to Behr Dayton Thermal Products Inc. to help fund upgrades to the company’s Webster Street facility in Dayton. The $5.8 million project promises to retain 1,400 jobs. • $100,000 for facility upgrades at AIDA American Corporation in Huber Heights. The $7 million project is expected to create 15 jobs.

The part that irks me the most about this program is that there is no follow up- if the “jobs” don’t come- there is no refund.  Would all these companies gladly give up their “grants” for a national health insurance program? I’m guessing yes. Would they give them up for lower workman’s comp rates? Sure. How about would they give them up for a much simpler tax collection system- probably? Or better yet- would they give them up for a totally level playing field- where they only had to compete based on their skills and abilities? I’d like to think so-

What do you think?

First there was the “Death tax” now it’s the “Surrender date”

I’m making another exception to my general rule- stick to local things. I know I’ll regret it.

Word-smithing makes a difference in marketing- and even more in politics. Put a new euphemism on something- and someone will buy it.

I doubt you will find anyone today who will tell you that the Vietnam war was a good idea. Twenty years after we finally get out of Iraq, I think people will say the same about this war.

President Bush says he will veto a bill calling for the funding to stop if troops don’t come out starting in Oct 2007. My question is what is the benchmark that he finds acceptable?

I thought- how about 2 weeks without anyone dying in Iraq- and then we start the pull out? But, then, I thought- could we go 2 weeks in the US without 2 weeks without gun violence- and I realized how insane this is. We can’t even go a week in the Dayton area, without someone dying from gun violence.

So- when it comes to the Presidents “Surrender date”- I have to think back to what “surrender” really means- it means laying down your arms, and putting up your arms. That was what the Iraqi army did when we invaded- and won. I don’t consider walking away from a war zone- with my ability to come back and kick ass at will- anything close to a “Surrender date”- and I doubt any of our troops would call it that.

Our troops are the best in the world- they’ll kick any ass that comes along- and do it without breaking much of a sweat. The only ass that they can’t beat- is the one in the White House. Keeping our troops in a war zone- where there is no war to fight- is keeping them in harms way.

As to the lame argument about fighting terrorists there- so they won’t come here, I dare the whole Muslim world to come here and try to wage a war, between our military, our police, and a whole bunch of gun-toting bubba’s- it would be the worst mistake they ever made.

Which brings me to the point that almost all these “patriots” who insist we have to “stay the course”- just think if you would ever stop taking pot shots at troops from another country – that came here and invaded our country, toppled our government, and tried to install their form of government? I can guarantee that we’d be shooting at them for as long as they stayed.

It’s time to bring our troops home. If Iraq goes to hell, that’s their problem. It’s not a “surrender date” unless we call it that.

If we need to prove it- we can always invade again.

Things that make you go hmmmmm

The Dayton City Manager manages a half-billion dollar plus budget, has 2000 odd employees, and has to live in the City.

The Downtown Dayton Partnership president has a staff of under a dozen, a couple of million dollar budget- and can live in Clayton.

Yet, they both get paid about the same.

Downtown partnership sticks with Gudorf
The partnership named Sandra K. Gudorf president Tuesday.

Gudorf, 51, has served as interim president since September, when her predecessor, Maureen Pero, resigned to become vice president of strategic management and legal affairs for CareSource Management Group.

“The right person to lead the partnership has been sitting in front of us the whole time,” said Michael Greitzer, president of Miller Valentine Group and co-chairman of the partnership.

According to federal tax filings, Pero was paid $182,000 in 2004, with $25,000 in benefits. Gudorf will earn a base salary of $125,000, plus the ability to earn an additional 10 percent based on her performance, Greitzer said.

Couldn’t we find an urbanite to take this job? And should this position have pay parity with the City Manager?

Could someone please explain this thinking (or lack of)?

Crazy economic development idea?

One of the advantages of being written off as nuts, is the ability to say what you think and let history sort out the diagnosis.

Try protesting with a mask at a Dayton City Commission meeting sometime- just make sure you have better PR abilities than the City (and if the web had the reach then, that it has now, I think things would have been quite different).

So- how many of you have heard of a HUB Zone? If you live in large parts of Dayton- you live in one. It’s a federal designation for a “Historically Underutilized Business Zone” and its residents are qualified to apply for Federal Contracts that are in set-aside programs. Read more here: sba.gov/hubzone

The areas have already been defined- so how do we encourage development in them?

Let the H-1b tech visas be unlimited for companies that open offices and have their employees live in the zone- for a minimum of 10 years. Yes, you can come to our country and ply your mad programming skills- only you have to live and work in places like South Park, Wright Dunbar etc. This is a quick way to get investment and highly educated talent to locate into areas that have been economically screwed in the past.

Of course, it also opens the flood gates to those scary people who don’t look or talk like us- just like my parents, many peoples grand or great parents- etc. As a nation of immigrants-  it’s time we rightfully regained that stature- and if it takes robbing Indian, China, Russia and Iraq of their best and brightest minds- so be it. It’s a global economy- get used to it.

A radical school funding option

Ten years plus after the Ohio Supreme Court found the Ohio school funding system flawed- nothing much has changed (other than the authorization of Charter schools- which is a whole other mess).

However, as a property owner, who is looking at a huge jump in taxes to support a school system that isn’t being funded properly to begin with (according to the court) I have to ask a question?

Why does Miami Valley Hospital get to own all kinds of property- and speculate on property- without having to pay property tax? Why does the City of Dayton get to own and speculate on property- without paying property tax (the list of properties owned by the city is insane- I once saw a green bar paper print out- with one address per line- that was over 3 inches thick!).

If the City was forced to pay the school tax on property it is sitting on- it would seem that we’re robbing Peter to pay Paul- but, in reality- what we would be doing is forcing the city to dump real estate that should be in private hands. No costs of maintenance- and opportunity for the private sector to compete for it.

Government is almost never a better developer.

As to “non-profits” like Miami Valley Hospital and Kettering Medical Network- there should be some kind of standards that they have to meet to be exempt from paying property taxes. For instance, a cap on executive pay (this would have to be nationwide to be fair)- but claiming non-profit status while your CEO is bringing in a million plus a year- is not a non-profit. Someone is profiting quite well, thank you. I’m not going to get into the mechanics of the limit- just the idea of it. Maybe a ratio linked to the median income of the “community that they serve” – or a cap based on the payroll of their organization. Also- the tax exempt status wouldn’t apply if they are just a part of a mega-conclomerate. Only locally owned and operated non-profits would be exempt.

Same would go for churches where pastors are taking home millions, mega-churches should have to pay their part for the schools. I’m not talking about property taxes in total- just the school and other public health levys.

What do you think?

And I said- don’t do anything like a movie review…

I’m probably going to make a mistake here- but, I just rented “Man of the Year” with Robin Williams- and highly recommend it.

Could John Stewart take a pay cut and be our next president? Unlikely. But, if you don’t think that celebrities are the next big thing in politics- you haven’t been paying attention. First with Jesse Ventura as Governor of Minnesota, then Arnold Schwarzenegger as Governor of California.

When I ran for office (up until the last time) I refused contributions- I skipped signs, buttons, bumper stickers, hats, tv commercials, radio commercials- and self funded campaign literature. My only mistake, I wasn’t famous.

Now that I’m infamous, I’m often told- “yeah, I voted for you” or “I would have voted for you”- or “aren’t you the crazy one”- and yet it comes down to one thing- and one thing only in modern American politics- it’s all about the money.

Go rent “Man of the Year”- have a few laughs, but then realize that the reason it’s funny- as is so often the case- is because most of what “Tom Dobbs” (Robin Williams) is saying- is exactly what we refuse to face: Our politicians are the best politicians money can buy.

And, please- don’t skewer me if you hate it.

“This is how we do economic development”- NOT.

Without discussing options in public, without thinking about true economic impact, without a vision to do anything but a mediocre band-aid on a problem, the Dayton City Commission voted to build a new rec center on the Roosevelt site, and enhance Lohrey- as opposed to doing a world class single center at the center of town- in a highly visible location- to serve as a hub for our entire city- and, squandering an opportunity to put our best foot forward for all to see.

They can’t say they weren’t aware of this option- I had breakfast with Commissioner Joey Williams long ago at the Golden Nugget in Kettering- when they were still looking at doing 6 half assed rec centers- and I pushed for doing one really right- than many only partially right. But, since that meeting, we’ve lost even more citizens, jobs, and property values- as our city has floundered along with our grand plans for “economic development” that still under-estimate the power of two very important tools in the economic development toolbox: our own social capital, and pride.

It’s our inability to do the stupendous that kills our ability to recruit new talent. It’s our inability to work together, to focus, to cooperate and collaborate that is stopping us from moving forward in big steps. It’s our constant focus on the past, that prevents us from seeing a new future. It’s our appeasing small, but vocal groups, that keeps forcing us to do things as silly as this:

Dayton considers rec center changes
DAYTON — The Dayton City Commission approved three contracts on Wednesday geared toward recreational activities for residents. Two expand opportunities, the other looks at reuses for neighborhood recreation centers slated to close.

• The commission awarded a contract to Dayton-based Lorenz Williams Inc. for $820,000 to develop schematic designs for the new recreation center, called a rec plex, to open in Fall 2009 at 2013 W. Third St.
The city commission and the Dayton Board of Education agreed to hire the same architect for redevelopment of Roosevelt into a 50,000-square-foot recreation center adjoining a 73,000-square-foot school. The Board of Education plans to demolish Roosevelt in late summer or early fall.

“This is exciting. This is how we do neighborhood development,” said City Manager Rashad Young.

Lorenz Williams will coordinate the bidding and administer the construction of the recreation project.

The architectural firm will subcontract with Cincinnati-based Brandstetter and Carroll Inc. to assist in the design of the rec plex.

• The city commission also hired Brandstetter Carroll at a cost of $135,000 to work on design and construction services for expansion of the Lohrey Recreation Center, 2366 Glenarm Ave., and the Northwest Recreation Center, 1600 Princeton Drive. Construction begins this fall.

• Commissioners also agreed to pay the Gem City Real Estate Group. Inc. $21,000 to determine the best use for three neighborhood recreation centers projected to close. Those centers include Burkhardt Center, 215 Burkhardt Ave.; Stuart Patterson Center, 2013 Baltimore St.; and the Ellison Center, 2412 W. Third St. The Linden Center, 334 Norwood Ave., which has already closed, will be included in the market study.

Once again, it’s too late to look at really big ideas that may redefine this city. While the city is busy patting itself on the back, these two rec centers will do little to change perceptions of the city. Instead of showing off one spectacular complex, in a highly visible, central location- as a place for the entire region to come, play, enjoy- linked by our bikeways, building on the existing infrastructure of Riverscape, Island Park, Kettering Fields, Deeds Point, connecting up through DeWeese Parkway to Wegeryzn and the Playhouse etc-  and the coming Kroc Center, we’re going to put some poor imitation of a rec center on the site of a grand old school (which had a rec center that wasn’t fully utilized) that will only draw from a small radius.

That’s not economic development- that’s not even progress-

What do you think?

 

 

The South Park Kroger- or how to guarantee a lawsuit.

If a new Kroger gets built anywhere around South Park- it will be a major miracle at this point. So many mistakes have been made- and more are sure to come.

For those of you who don’t know the history- in a nutshell:

The existing Kroger, which has more nicknames than parking spaces (Creepy Kroger, Ka-Ka Kroger, full-contact Kroger, butt-crack Kroger, crappy Kroger- etc) is small by today’s standards, and not owned by Kroger.

They wanted a new 80,ooo sq ft. style store, and hired MidLand Atlantic to be a developer – and assemble a package of land at the North East corner of Wayne and Wyoming. Midland came in- made good offers above market value to property owners but had a few hold-outs and let their options expire.

In stepped the city- heavy handedly declaring the area “blighted” and threatening eminent domain. Note- this is use of eminent domain for a private entity- not the public good- something that isn’t that well received. Their offers to the home owners were for considerably less than Midland Atlantic’s offers. The residents felt like they were screwed- especially, since many people had stopped doing maintenance on their homes once the original offers had come. Once the blight designation was in place- their homes had been devalued by the city- a break in the basic trust factor that we believe our government is there to protect our property values through their actions- not devalue them- that’s why we pay taxes, damn it.

There is also a sticking point with the “Ecki” building. An interesting building that has been left to rot on the corner thanks to a landlord who pocketed the insurance money after someone torched it. Some claim it’s historic- others just recognize it for what it is- funky- and others who just say- tear it down – but, this is a minor sideshow to the big story.

So- now, we’re at an impasse. The city either has to step in and make payments comparable or better than Midland Atlantic- or face lawsuits to restore the value that they sucked out of the properties with their “blight” designation. Either way- the project has gotten more expensive.

Unfortunately- there were other options, for this development that were either never discussed- or were side-swiped before they had a chance.

One option was a plan put in place by Jeff Samuelson and Unified Developers to build a new store on the DMHA Cliburn Manor site that is to be vacated and raised by fall of 07. He had secured options on all the parcels but one- and the plan could have moved forward without that parcel. Somehow, Miami Valley Hospital, CityWide Development and our Neighborhood President, Karin Manovich derailed this plan before it had a real chance. This location would have helped enhance the Brown Warren corridor, provided a on-the-way home option for MVH, UD and NCR employees headed to US 35 and I-75, and also for Downtown employees heading back to Oakwood and Kettering- via the newly reopened 2-way traffic from Patterson to Warren.

But- it was never to happen. The sad thing is that the developer who has already proved his commitment to the area- with a string of successes on Brown Street- was treated like a second class citizen- while the carpet baggers from Midland Atlantic were allowed to talk trash and even waltz out some phony drawings of a development that would never happen here- as an option for the Cliburn site.

The last option- one that was never discussed, was putting Kroger on the corner of Stewart and Brown on property UD acquired in a sweetheart deal from NCR. This would provide students with a walkable grocery solution- as well as build on the strengths of the Unified Developers projects. It would also be accessible to the near West Side folks from Edgemont. No buildings to tear down, no parking lots to build. But, of course- we can’t even begin to talk about that. As an even more pie-in-the-sky idea, the Fairgrounds could also easily handle a new Kroger- but that’s a discussion for another day.

In the meantime, it’s too bad that Kroger doesn’t have the vision to try to build a new store on the old location- flush on the street- maybe with parking on the roof. If real estate was as valuable here as it is in big-cities, this would be looked at in a heartbeat.

The reason I penned this today- was because someone asked me if I had written about it on this blog. I searched- and didn’t see anything- so, this is my take on it.

No matter what Kroger does- I hope they realize that we don’t need a suburban sized store here- but, we would like one that has been taken care of and doesn’t feel like yet another one of it’s nicknames- the “Deliverance Krogers.”

Got Comments?

The “Master Plan” for South Park – and how it relates to all of Dayton

I’m super happy and enthused about the AIA 150 gift to our neighborhood- a donation of time and talent by local architects. We had our third meeting today- and all kinds of great conversations have been taking place: all about how to make South Park the best place to live in the city.

In a few more weeks- we’ll have a party- and have amazing conceptual plans for new parks, infill housing, commercial district improvements, rehab plans for problem housing and new boundaries. And then the realization that there aren’t millions of dollars available to make the changes.

But- all is not lost. In fact, I think that, as often is in the advertising business- the process of creating the plan/campaign, can be more valuable than the actual result.

Let that sink in for a minute.

When we start an ad campaign- we have to identify things like who our best potential customers are, what motivates them, what are our products strengths and weaknesses etc- before coming up with a marketing “solution” – which may, or may not be an ad campaign.

Same goes for the neighborhood. In the discussion of what we want our neighborhood to be- we often discover our real intrinsic strengths- and come together to believe in our own abilities to see a vision together- even if we can’t wave a magic wand and make it happen.

We also forge new friendships with neighbors, with businesses in the ‘hood- and with the architects in our community- all from talking and brainstorming about what the future could be.

To extrapolate this to the city- it’s the reason I hate the way our City Commission works- where things are decided in private and voted in public. How the priority board system actually buffers the people from the powerful- and how we are afraid to talk about options for things like “Ballpark Village” – and just taking the deal at face value.

Will we come up with an amazing master plan for South Park? We will see- but, if nothing else, the discussions have been amazingly valuable just because it focuses us on the future- and what could be- if only…

Any thoughts?