A pair of items appears in this morning’s paper - pp. A11 and 2B - which, interestingly enough, are both based on "research center" studies. One comes from the University of Virginia and the other from Ball State. One is a news story. The other is an op-ed column.
The Virginia researcher is discussing the re-shaping of downtown areas by the surging population of "Millennials" who prefer to live downtown, and the reversal of the traditional donut effect wherein suburban growth strangles urban life.
The author seems happy about the development and gives as one of the reasons for its occurrence. "...a rise in demand by Millennials for ‘walkable neighborhoods’." (Please note the use of the word "demand.")
The other item carries the headline, "Frequent use of TIFs needs careful review." Frequent readers of this blog will now recognize where we are headed!
Both authors are discussing the general applications and effects of public policy legislation and administration. We ask that you remember our writings are directed quite specifically at the City of Indianapolis.
We are bombarded with news about the increase of downtown inhabitants. We seem to go only a few days at a time without an announcement of another real estate development with hundreds of luxury apartments. (And accompanying parking facilities. We’re not sure how "walkable neighborhoods" and thousand of parking spaces work together, but we’ll leave that one alone.)
At the moment, we don’t recall which of these developments if any, are NOT accompanied by public subsidy. The use of TIF money may well be the leading abuse of the taxpayer, among loans, abatements and downright gifts.
We agree with the Ball State author that the very basic premise of the TIF may well be beneficial to the community. But that basic premise involves a specific geographic area as affected by a specific project.
A large section of downtown is now a "consolidated" TIF district with a number of approved "projects" floating around therein. Who is sorting out assessed value increases, the amount of property tax dollars, and where the dollars rightfully go?
We wonder whether the "demand" of a generation of so-called "millennals" is worthy of the seemingly unquestioned tax burden shifted to other individuals. Is all this just another part of the cultural shift wherein personal responsibility to pay for what you want is disappearing?
The author thinks the TIF should be a "...tool for long term growth." From where we sit, so far the growth has been mainly in the political slush funds which are consistently handed out to the next guy who will paint the rosiest picture about what his project will do for the city. And maybe for the politicians who make these decisions.
It is said that the city should be welcoming the young, well educated, high wage earner. Fine. But does that mean the average Joe who has been here for years should help pay for those demanded "walkable" neighborhoods, particularly when he can’t get sidewalks in front of his own home?
Who does he have to connect with?