To the editor:
At the Grassroots Action City Commission debate (Feb. 16, Journal-World), several candidates endorsed a thoroughly depressing pack of urban economic folk tales, e.g.:
1. The best way to save downtown and keep taxes low is let markets do their magic. (Actually, free markets in Topeka drove up taxes for roads and sewers serving cornfield malls that destroyed the downtown, which is why Lawrence adopted laws limiting growth in retail buildings to what the market can absorb - laws these candidates plan to overturn.)
2. Increasing impact fees so that home builders pay the full cost of growth will reduce affordable housing for low-income people. (Actually, low-income people generally don't buy new houses. Also, most economists believe impact fees are passed back to landowners rather than on to home buyers.)
3. High housing costs in Lawrence are driven by red tape. (Actually, there are huge differences in land prices between Lawrence and neighboring places, very small differences in development costs.)
4. New retail development is an important source of new jobs. (Actually the main impact of new retailing is to destroy existing retailing.)
5. There are no excess vacancies in Lawrence retail space, only in office space. (Actually, Tanger Mall and Riverfront Mall are marketed as office space only because they can't find retailers.)
The best-funded candidates are endorsing these myths. They get a majority of their funding from the development community. I'm not saying they are insincere. Developers aren't likely to waste money on insincere candidates, who make bad salespeople.