Just say no to Amazon HQ2

Say no to Amazon HQ 2, sad amazon logo

Just say No to Amazon HQ2

If your city thinks it should offer incentives for Amazon to come to town, it’s time to reevaluate your leadership.

Sure, landing an HQ for a corporate behemoth is prestigious, and  can put any city on the map, but, to offer incentives to one of the richest companies in the world, that has been stealing from local coffers from its inception?

If you are looking at empty retail developments, a hollowed out downtown, declining sales tax receipts in the last 15 years- thank Amazon. It’s not that they did anything wrong, it’s that they did almost everything right- including putting pressure on every small business (the true job creators in America) to cut margins and compete on an uneven playing field.

An uneven playing field that is just made more uneven when our leaders are willing to bend over and offer their rear ends for a reaming with a smile. There is a reason Amazon has to make more room outside Seattle- they can’t afford to stay there. They’ve already driven the housing and office markets into the stratosphere, they’ve pushed the limits of infrastructure, they’ve caused more troubles than they’ve solved- all in the name of “winning” at the capitalist trough.

Don’t worry, they aren’t alone. We’ve seen it time and time again- as companies that don’t pay taxes like General Electric leverage their “job creation” into tax free offices in places like poverty stricken Dayton Ohio. Or watched companies like Boeing move their HQ from  Seattle to Chicago. NCR did the same to Dayton- and now their stock is worth less and their CEO makes more.

It’s not governments job to subsidize and coddle business- it’s governments job to provide a safe, healthy, clean, secure and well organized platform for communities to thrive. Business is only one part of that equation. It’s time to put a stop to corporate welfare.

What’s laughable is that despite not clicking on any of the boxes of Amazon’s dream list- Dayton thinks it should be in the running. This coming from a city manager who has repeatedly failed at “economic development” projects- the Wayne Avenue Kroger debacle, where years and millions of tax dollars went into actually devaluing a community, in order to lure a store that was supposed to come- however, she’d forgotten to get that in writing. On the other- the hole on Ludlow- City Manager Shelly Dickstein gave millions to developers who didn’t do anything but promise to do something- even stiffing the demolition company that ended up owning one of the historic gems of Downtown. And then she had the nerve to insist any developer of the vacant space which the city still owns- has to buy the demolition companies building as entry to the deal (how this isn’t illegal is beyond reason).

Let’s see- Dayton doesn’t have over a million people, it doesn’t have an airport with the connections, it’s lacking in quality education (no, you can’t move 50,000 people into the Oakwood School district), we don’t have a highly educated workforce ready to switch jobs (counting the base is laughable- many of those people have contracts with the US Government that aren’t really negotiable). The list goes on.

Only the Dayton Daily news would even write about this pipe dream without laughing. The New York Times did an analysis and came up with Denver, other smart publications have also done their filtering and come up with other communities- none in Ohio.

The attraction of jobs that pay six figures landing in your city with an income tax is mouth watering, however, the chances of landing them in a city with a 2.5% income tax on top of a state income tax is slim. Especially when Denver does it without any income tax.

At some point, Ohio needs to grow up and realize that allowing this state to be a ridiculous patchwork of local fiefdoms all trying to stay in power and support the friends and family plan of the Ohio Political Caste is keeping us from competing. You can’t have 28 jurisdictions in one county, and 88 counties in a state that’s losing population and clout at an alarming rate without thinking “we’re doing something wrong.”

Nationally, this country needs to just put an end to “economic development” incentives that support big companies over small ones, and make the playing field uneven and unfair. Did the residents of Georgia even get their $100 Million they invested to lure NCR there back, before NCR asked for another handout to move within the State? Doubtful.

If you read George Orwell’s “Animal farm”- this line should come to mind: “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Corporate welfare causing a catfight on Dayton School Board

Dayton Public Schools were one of the biggest losers when NCR picked up and moved to Atlanta. NCR paid a lot of property tax that funded the system and when the University of Dayton acquired the 25 acres with the former World Headquarters building for $18 million, that revenue went away. UD doesn’t have to pay property taxes as a “non-profit.” Unfortunately, neither do our large hospitals- Miami Valley Hospital, Grandview, Good Sam- all get a hall pass when it comes to paying property taxes despite paying executives multi-million dollar salaries+benefits and acquiring property left and right (the recent Premier Health Partners purchase of the former Citizen Federal/Fifth Third bank building at the corner of 2nd and Main also cut DPS tax revenue).

Never forget that it’s been a long time since the Ohio Supreme Court found Ohio’s formula for funding education through property taxes unconstitutional in 1997 and nothing has been done to change it.

The UD/NCR deal was thrown back in the spotlight when UD decided to underwrite a GE jet engine research facility on the former tax generating NCR property, serving as a false front to give GE a 15 year tax abatement. This “deal” was covered on this site in detail as it happened.

Now, we have political gamesmanship going on in the school board race, with Joe Lacey (who is not running and is the only school board member to have the guts to comment here) calling out the recently appointed replacement for Jeff Mims, Bill Schooler, a liar in statements made to the Dayton Daily News last week.

From today’s DDN:

Dayton Board of Education member Joe Lacey has filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission against fellow board member, the Rev. William Schooler regarding comments Schooler made about the General Electric multimillion-dollar tax abatement deal the board approved in July.

Schooler is running for the board seat he was appointed to last winter. Others vying for the three seats in the Nov. 8 election are incumbents Nancy Nerny and Sheila Taylor and challenger Robert C. Walker.

Lacey — who said he’s backing Nerny and Taylor in the election — alleged Schooler violated election law by making false statements designed to promote himself….

Schooler said in a recent newspaper article that he voted against the tax increment financing (TIF) arrangement in the board’s 4-3 decision because it will sacrifice more than $400,000 per year for the first 15 years of the TIF deal.

Lacey, who voted in favor of the TIF, noted the district “did not give or expend financial resources” as part of the approved agreement. “The district did vote to abate taxes on future property improvements under the tax increment financing agreement, but there was no abatement of currently existing property,” he wrote in the complaint.

To entice GE to pick Dayton, the city created the TIF plan to forgive all property taxes against the estimated $19.2 million facility for 15 years, then split the property taxes evenly between the city and Dayton Public for the next 15 years. The district would receive about $311,000 annually in the second 15 years under current distribution rates.

Lacey also took issue with Schooler saying the district likely will return to the voters with a levy in 2013-14 and have to explain why it gave $6 million in future property tax revenue.

“Mr. Schooler’s statements that the district ‘sacrificed’ and ‘gave away’ district resources are designed to alarm the voting public to support his candidacy because of his opposition to the district’s actions,” Lacey said in the complaint filed Tuesday…

A probable cause panel will hear the complaint Oct. 27 and decide whether a violation occurred, Executive Director Phil Richter said.

via BOE member files complaint.

The problem with all of Lacey’s argument is that while technically correct, that the School Board didn’t give away tax dollars that it was receiving- it lost those when UD took over the property, the reality is that GE can well afford to pay taxes and shouldn’t be allowed to hide behind UD’s tax abatement at all- it’s pure and simple corporate welfare handed out to one of the biggest tax evaders in corporate America.

If Lacey is saying that Schooler is lying about the need to go back to the voters for a levy, does that mean that Joe Lacey is guaranteeing that there will be no levy? Can we have that in writing, and who will enforce it? Certainly not the kangaroo court run by Mr. Richter and the Ohio Elections Commission which seems to make great efforts to go after minor losing candidates for campaign finance reports while leaving things like 17 members of Qbase senior management all donating $1000 ea to Congressman Steve Austria’s campaign, in the same week, with most of them never having given over $250 ever to anyone except for the former CEO and his wife.

A ruling on Oct 27th does nothing to solve the matter either, only adding more publicity to the rift between the two factions on the school board. To keep score, here’s the lineup: Yvvone Issac’s (the last remaining kids count candidate) and Stacy Thompson (highest vote getter in all Dayton races last year) and Schooler (the recently appointed member) all voted against the GE handout. Only Schooler is on the ballot of the minority block. For the majority vote you have Joe Lacey and Ron Lee who aren’t up for election and board president Nancy Nearny and Sheila Taylor who voted to give away the store.

Schooler is supporting the only challenger, Rev Robert C Walker, which could potentially shift the power to the minority if both are elected. Nearny almost didn’t make the ballot, which would have done this automatically had not the Board of (S)Elections found 8 additional signatures as good on her petitions (for the record, I signed her petition believing it is in the best interest of the voters to have the choice to make the decision- not the BOE).

The real question is are the voters even paying attention to any of this. When the Dayton Informer has asked the #Occupy Dayton protesters if they knew about the GE deal- most have been totally unaware that this kind of thing isn’t just happening on Wall Street but here in Dayton on South Patterson boulevard thanks to UD, GE and our current Dayton Public School board.

[full disclaimer, I own The Next Wave – a local advertising agency that is currently engaged in contract work for the Dayton Public Schools public information office- ultimately, any contract over $5k has to be approved by the school board, and by writing this I am taking a chance that the great work we are doing to transform the image of the schools could become a political football by my writing this. I believe the quality and value our work provides the Schools should outweigh any political repercussions from my attempt to honestly cover the important issues in our community]


Hairstylists doing brain surgery

The Dayton Daily News editorial board, with prompting from George Will has finally realized that politicians’ involvement in “economic development” is nothing but a way to provide tax breaks to big business or their politically connected friends.

It’s time to stop corporate welfare nationwide. No more tax breaks for “job creation” unless it’s mandated by Congress- and applies broadly, so as not to favor any one business, group of businesses or payback lobbyists. It’s time for government to concentrate on the basics- public safety, public infrastructure, education, health and welfare of the general public- to create a “standard of living” befit of the most powerful country in the world- not just the über rich.

Letting local politicians double as venture capitalists is sort of like letting your barber do brain surgery- sure, they work on your head and are trained to cut- but, the two procedures are as unrelated as night and day.

The Dayton Daily finally notices that Ohio is “investing” way too much to “create jobs”- while screaming poverty when it comes to being able to provide the services that are fundamental- including a legal way to fund schools. (Note- the Ohio “formula” for funding schools was found to be unconstitutional more than a decade ago- and nothing has changed). And, remember, the first line of tax breaks is usually a property tax break which cuts money from school districts.

The state of Ohio has given out tax credits to the tune of $104,000 for each job it claims to have helped create or save in the Dayton area during the past three years.

Statewide, expenditures have come to $5.4 billion. (For purposes of comparison, the projected state budget deficit that’s causing all the cuts in the pending budget is about $8 billion over two years.)

And that’s just the state’s money. The number doesn’t count what cities, counties or other local governments spend.

And it includes jobs that already exist, but are not moved from the state after a company has raised that possibility. In the Dayton area, more than half the jobs said to be saved or created were saved.

via Editorial: Competition between states getting us nowhere | A Matter of Opinion.

Those numbers look like the mortality rate when trusting a barber to do brain surgery to me- what about you? Why are we allowing government to play favorites when it comes to business? “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others” seems to apply perfectly here (to go Orwellian on you).

There is only one solution- a national movement for a constitutional amendment that allows the practice of diverting either tax dollars or tax discounts to any business except at a federal level- and then, only if it is applied simply and broadly to all. For example- a rollback on new employees hired who have been unemployed for more than a year (to stimulate hiring)- or, incentives for employees who live within walking distance of their employer (to conserve oil) etc.

I tweeted the other day- that if we funded wars the way we fund schools, we wouldn’t be in three of them right now. Can you imagine voting a tax increase to fund the F-35? And at the same time, while we have our young men and women risking everything in those wars- we are allowing the über rich to continue to whine about how tax increases on them- will hurt the economy. It’s time to make them pay for their safety with a war tax that reminds them what real risk is- like trying to live in a mansion in Somalia instead of Palm Springs. Security has a price- and they aren’t paying for it the way the rest of us are with higher fuel costs, lower paying jobs and housing foreclosures.

Our country is being run by people more interested in getting re-elected than getting it right. Let’s help remind them whom they represent and whom they are supposed to be serving- US.

Let’s stop the local hacks from wasting more money and screwing up a level playing field- let’s end corporate welfare once and for all.

Brookings Institution quantifies Turner’s failings of OH-3

Life has been good for “Meds, Feds and Eds” in the Miami Valley under Mike Turner- because that’s all we seem to have left. After GM closed its manufacturing plant here (after massive local tax dollar support- the clear coat paint line, not the federal bailout), NCR leaving (after massive Georgia and NYC public tax dollar incentives), DHL closing down Wilmington (after massive tax dollar support)- we’re left with high unemployment, a gerrymandered district, and a Congressman who can’t give you an example of one way HE would do things to change things nationally to help locally. Of course, he has plenty of ideas for earmarks- because Turner admits he’s for sale (NCR was not only one of his largest donors- it was also a recipient of an earmark that he had pulled when they left). I’ve repeatedly called for an end to “Corporate Welfare” on this site.

The only problem with using the following Brookings Institution numbers to blame Turner specifically- is they are by Dayton’s MSA- not by the insane boundaries of OH-3, if that was the region measured, unemployment and production drop figures would be even bigger:

The Dayton area ranks in the bottom 10 among the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas in both loss of employment and loss of economic activity since 2004, a new report by the Brookings Institution has found.

Through the end of March of this year, the Dayton Metropolitan Statistical Area — which is comprised of Montgomery, Greene, Miami and Preble counties — saw an 11 percent drop in employment and 4.1 percent drop in goods and services produced as compared to the third quarter of 2004, when employment and economic production reached their peak among the metro areas. Both of the Dayton MSA’s figures ranked ninth-worst among the 100 largest metro areas.

Dayton’s 11 percent employment drop almost doubles the 6.4 percent average drop for the 100 metro areas and the 6.1 percent drop for the nation as a whole. The loss in gross metropolitan product was much larger than the 0.2 percent drop for the 100 metros and 0.8 percent growth for the nation.

The report is another look at familiar bad news for Dayton and other Ohio metro areas, said Jennifer Bradley, senior research assistant for the Brookings Institution.

“It’s sobering to see that a lot of Ohio metros, particularly those that have been especially dependent upon the auto industry are really struggling,” said Bradley, who also co-directs the Washington D.C.-based institution’s Great Lakes Economic Initiative….

Perhaps one bright spot for the Dayton area was that it fared much better than most in housing price decline. The region ranked 37th out of 100 in the drop in housing prices over the last three years. Prices in the region dropped 11.0 percent, about half of the 21.4 percent average drop among all the metro areas.

By comparison, the worst housing drops over three years were in Modesto and Stockton, Calif., where prices dived a whopping 55.5 and 55.3 percent. Las Vegas dropped 53.4 percent over three years and almost 22 percent last year alone

via Dayton metro area gets 9th worst ranking in U.S..

The only reason our housing didn’t get hammered as bad was that we were already overbuilt, losing population and our housing values never bubbled. Yet, our housing has lost much of its value thanks to predatory lending, induced foreclosures and foreclosures due to job loss.

Turner can’t point to a single position he’s taken to defend his constituents from this giant sucking of value out of the community- leaving it prime for vulture capitalists to come steal what’s left. Entire office towers are in foreclosure and some are being auctioned off- including one right across the street from Turner’s new luxury condo in Performance Place (which have also seen huge drops in value).

The pillaging of our community, while Turner continues to accept massive campaign donations (despite lack of credible challengers) from special interests and the wealthy are a good reason to challenge his incumbency.

On July 13th, Democrats, independents and Republicans who are willing to sign a form 10z and come over to the D side- can choose me to be the Democratic challenger to Mike Turner. For that to happen, I’ll need your support: www.electesrati.com/donate

You can find my positions on how to turn this around throughout the many posts on this site. Please explore- and comment on the issues or ideas you find most interesting- you will get a response from me.

Thank you.

Qbase? or Qbust? Qbase has left the building.

The company that forced its employees to donate to political campaigns or risk losing their jobs- Qbase, is apparently coming apart at the seams. Major firings this week including CEO Willard Pardue’s executive assistant and the son of the company’s “president” or “CFO” depending on where you look. Also taking one for the team is the father of one of the forced donors to Steve Austria’s campaign.

They are also vacating the building off 675 that has their sign on it- and moving to smaller digs (still owned by Mills/Morgan) at the Acropolis.

This company was the darling of the Dayton Development Coalition and the Dayton Daily News. They tried to portray Willard Pardue and his corporate welfare scam, where he got taxpayers to “invest” in his company as a new model for how “economic development” should be done, as some kind of business guru.

This is just one of the ways your tax dollars have been misused over time in the name of economic development. It’s why we need open honest government and better journalism in Dayton. The no-bid contracts to Congressman Turner’s wife, the earmarks for NCR that were yanked when they pulled up stakes, the continuing flow of tax dollars to private companies must stop.

I may not get elected by the people, but I’m not going to stand by and let the wool continue to be pulled over people’s eyes.