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.”)


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