Sunday, November 23, 2014

Lucky's Gets Lucky: $1.7 Million of Taxpayers' Money

November 23, 2014, 12:30 p.m.
"The Iowa City Council decided in a 6-1 vote Tuesday night to allow CORE Sycamore Town Center LLC to convert the Iowa City Marketplace’s vacant anchor space into Lucky's Market, a Boulder, Colo.-based grocery chain . . .."

-- Andy Davis, "Iowa City Marketplace receives $1.75 M in TIF aid," Iowa City Press-Citizen, November 19, 2014

Sycamore TIF Unnecessary

Nicholas Johnson

Iowa City Press-Citizen, November 23, 2014, p. A5

Hats off to Iowa City Councilor Jim Throgmorton for thinking, speaking and voting rationally regarding his colleagues’ generous $1.75 million gift of your money and mine to a Colorado corporation. (It’s the second such gift to the Sycamore Mall, after the first proved, once again, that TIFs very often don’t deliver on their backers’ expectations.)

For 41 previous columns and blog essays detailing a dozen categories of reasons why transferring taxpayers’ money to the bottom line of private citizens’ for-profit businesses is bad for taxpayers, consumers, competitors of the recipients, the general economy, neighboring communities and governments, see “TIFs: Links to Blog Essays,”

And hats off to Andy Davis and the Press-Citizen for not limiting their TIF story (”City Council votes to provide funds to improve Marketplace,” Nov. 19) to quotes from council members’ swooning over the glories of TIFs. Included within it we find:

“Councilor Jim Throgmorton ... voiced his concerns during the meeting about whether TIF money should be used for the project. ‘One normally thinks of a TIF as an incentive. I’m not yet persuaded that the owners need support from the city to take actions that are already in their own economic self-interest.’ ”

His judgment is supported, in another TIF district, by two of those bidding for the former St. Patrick Church property. They’re also able to profit within a pure capitalist system, with no need for taxpayers’ money.

Given our councilors’ untreated addiction to TIFs, and their repeated refusals even to acknowledge the harms, they leave voters with no other option than to oppose their re-election.

Nicholas Johnson

Iowa City

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Nick said...

Nick's exchange with Deb Thornton on the Iowa City Press-Citizen online regarding this piece:

Deborah Thornton
Don't often agree with Nic Johnson - but do on this one. TIFs are not very effective and a terrible waste of taxpayer money! Hopefully more reforms will be supported by the Iowa Legislature this year. Maybe some of them, especially the JoCo delegation, could be defeated so we can get movement on this? Wonder if Johnson will support that!

Nicholas Johnson
Yes, Deb, every once in awhile you and I find ourselves coming around the barn from opposite directions only to find ourselves in agreement.

Frankly, what's always befuddled me is how this TIF business continues in the face of the extent to which "marketplace economists," conservatives, libertarians, liberals, and socialists all find it abhorrent.

Commercial bankers go after what they claim to be the "unfair competition" they face with credit unions, and yet say nothing about the unfair competition offered by the Municipal Bank of Iowa City. Businesses trying to survive in the marketplace remain silent when the City favors one of their competitors with subsidies. Those who oppose any and all governmental programs, and the taxes to pay for them, can seldom be found objecting to TIF benefits.

Mary Murphy said...

Thanks for continuing to write about TIFs. The proposed TIF on next Tuesday's (12/2/14)Iowa City Council Agenda almost seems like a deal already done since the Agreement with the developer is being presented to council with the Developer's and City Attorney's signatures. This would be a precedent setting TIF because it is purely a residential project. I don't like that we're now subsidizing single young people who make up to $66,840 per year--definitely not a subsidy for moderate income households, and especially don't like seeing the subsidy in an area where rental housing has already proven it can be developed without subsidies. Again, thanks.