Archive for Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Depressing myths

February 28, 2007

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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.

David Burress,

Lawrence

Comments

Sigmund 8 years, 1 month ago

Other depressing myths.

  1. Raising taxes will "save" downtown Lawrence.

  2. Impact fees don't impact renters because only owners see the bill and they won't increase rents to cover this cost like they do with all other costs.

  3. Because land is relatively more expensive in Lawrence increased costs of "red tape" doesn't matter.

  4. Retail is a zero sum game where existing retailers (The Merc!, for instance) must be protected from new competition (WalMart, for example) and retail jobs are not an important source of income for the Lawrence economy.

  5. Until virtually every existing retail vacancy is filled (no matter how poor the location nor decrepit the building) we cannot allow new retailers to build better facilities.

But perhaps the MOST DEPRESSING AND DANGEROUS MYTH is that the PLC Kommissioner's and their Bozo Business Czar can micro manage the Lawrence economy and they know better than private investors (who are risking their own capital if they are wrong) how to best serve Lawrence's current and future retail and housing needs.

Stephen Roberts 8 years, 1 month ago

Wait a minute David. Are you telling me the city will start to dictate where a retail space to locate in? So we should have any more retail space until Tanger Mall and Riverfront Mall are leased up?

I guess those dumb retailers trying to put there business close to where poeple "will " come into their bsuiness is pretty stupid.

Thank god you are here to enlighten me.

dragonwagon2 8 years, 1 month ago

I support your points all the way. It's going to be a tough fight though to get the growth people to be honest about these things. If they win, Lawrence will soon look like every other city instead of being a mecca of hometown businesses that really support the population.

Stephen Roberts 8 years, 1 month ago

Sigmund. You are soo right. You must work for a for profit compnay or own your own. I can tell by the way you express yourself that you "hopefully" do not wotk for the government or the education group.

SettingTheRecordStraight 8 years, 1 month ago

The current model isn't working. The voters want change in the city commission, Mr. Burress.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 1 month ago

"1. Raising taxes will "save" downtown Lawrence."

What makes you think raising taxes to help fund more sprawl is somehow better? Because that's exactly what going back to the bad old days will mean.

"2. Impact fees don't impact renters because only owners see the bill and they won't increase rents to cover this cost like they do with all other costs."

Please tell us, mr. fiscal responsibility, why it is preferable to instead raise everyone else's taxes to subsidize growth. If this growth is so essential and desirable, let it pay for itself.

"3. Because land is relatively more expensive in Lawrence increased costs of "red tape" doesn't matter."

Relatively more expensive? The cheapest buildable lot in Lawrence will cost at least $30,000, and it goes up really quickly and dramatically from there. It is a major factor in why Lawrence houses cost more, and it has been recently pointed out that five families own a majority of buildable real estate in this town-- guess which candidates they funded.

Almost all of the "red tape" everyone likes to complain about is the same "red tape" that's been there since well before 2003.

The single biggest increase in red tape in the last 4 years was the institution of contractor licensing, almost exclusively at the behest of the Lawrence Homebuilder's Association. While there were good reasons for doing that, its most immediate effect was to lessen the competition for the members of the LHBA.

While everyone can agree that reducing pointless red tape is a good idea, some red tape has a very good purpose. Just replacing it all willy-nilly with an uncritical rubberstamp would be a disaster.

"4. Retail is a zero sum game where existing retailers (The Merc!, for instance) must be protected from new competition (WalMart, for example) and retail jobs are not an important source of income for the Lawrence economy."

In the short and even medium term, retail most certainly is a zero-sum game. To deny that illustrates, at best, willful ignorance born out of a religious adherence to ideology.

Certainly, developers don't have to worry about the effects of new retail development without a corresponding increase in retail demand. That's why they funded the candidates they did in this election. Like you, they have no conscience. If making another quick buck or a million means blight and increased taxes across town, who cares?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 1 month ago

"5. Until virtually every existing retail vacancy is filled (no matter how poor the location nor decrepit the building) we cannot allow new retailers to build better facilities."

Until there is some idea of how to keep new development from doing little more than shifting the population and creating blight, there do need to be some restraints on almost certainly redundant retail capacity.

"But perhaps the MOST DEPRESSING AND DANGEROUS MYTH is that the PLC Kommissioner's and their Bozo Business Czar can micro manage the Lawrence economy and they know better than private investors (who are risking their own capital if they are wrong) how to best serve Lawrence's current and future retail and housing needs."

Well, in way too many ways, they aren't risking their own capital. They're risking the capital of the entire city of Lawrence, and if they control the city commission, they risk very little of their own capital.

That's why they are so intent to buy it back.

x96merrill3 8 years, 1 month ago

Do you ever see a post from Bozo (paid blogger) and just skip to the next one because you know what he is saying is nonsense???? Me too.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 1 month ago

The most unfriendly part of doing business in Lawrence is high property land prices and inflated downtown rent all of which is controlled by the respective property owners.

This unfriendly problem is further exacerbated by the few downtown real estate owners who pay more than list price for properties thus creates artifically high values thus higher property taxes for small business owners.

How is any of the above friendly? How would any of the above encourage new business?

Exactly what red tape is being discussed that perhaps was not in place 20 years ago? Exactly what problems does it create? Some of this red tape may in fact have been implemented by Mayor Amyx and or Comm. Hack as both have long city commission histories. Or perhaps Doug Compton,Marty Kennedy,Jim Henry and Erv Hodges all former city commissioners.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 1 month ago

No city commissioner or CC candidate can promise anybody that personal property taxes will not increase.

The real estate/development community to control of property tax increases by failing to bring in light industrial when they had majority control of our city and planning commissions. They instead got fairly well off by building a ton of residential which adds to the Cost of Community Services because new residential DOES NOT does generate enough revenue to cover the Cost of Community Services consequently taxes are increased.

Light industrial is probaly more important than retail at this point in time as good paying jobs are always in demand which makes one wonder why did the real estate community want to squash the SE Lawrence Light Industrial Corridor. People are always looking for better jobs which = economic growth. No community can afford polluting industries as taxpayers typically get stuck with contamination clean up.

Retail is restricted by the number of retail dollars available in small communities and empty retail space places a drag on sales tax generation which is necessary to pay bills.

Stephen Roberts 8 years, 1 month ago

Merrill:

You are right about limited dollars for retail, that is why I don't shop at the Merc. For me it is too expensive.

conservative 8 years, 1 month ago

Don't forget the myth that bozo and merrill like to perpetrate that huge amounts of retail dollars aren't being spent in KC and Topeka because of the lack of variety in Lawrence.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 1 month ago

"Don't forget the myth that bozo and merrill like to perpetrate that huge amounts of retail dollars aren't being spent in KC and Topeka because of the lack of variety in Lawrence."

The lack of variety is part of the problem, but it's kind of a chicken or the egg scenario. Does Lawrence lack the variety because the market is small, or is the market small because it lacks the variety?

But as Jack points out just adding more retail outlets doesn't mean that more retail sales will happen, especially with such a huge percentage of the highest income Lawrence residents commuting to either Topeka or KC on a daily basis.

That's a situation created over decades of bedroom-community sprawl. As much as everyone wants to blame that on the city commissioners of the last four years, they didn't create that situation, and no matter who wins the election in April, there is no quick fix.

One thing's for certain-- more mindless sprawl will just get us more of the same problem we currently have, plus a looming blight problem, but that's what it looks like we're going to get.

conservative 8 years, 1 month ago

Jack, you're thinking in terms of individually owned retail. What lawrence needs is more big box retail to keep those tax dollars in town.

A Lowes, Red Lobster, and a Toys R Us, are the top three I would like to see. And their prices would be the same in Lawrence as they are in KC & Topeka.

Yes there is a Home Depot in town, but Lowes stocks different brands and therefore I do spend a fair amount in KC because there isn't an option in town. There isn't a reasonably priced toy store in town, and we have no comparable seafood restraunt in town.

Stephen Roberts 8 years, 1 month ago

Conservative- I am with you. My wife and I like going to Red Lobster. It is too bad we have to go to Topeka or KC. Actually, we go shopping there and then eat.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 1 month ago

If Lowes did come, which they won't, then Home Depot or Lowes will close due to insufficient demand. If another big box comes one of them will close due to insufficient demand. Lawrence cannot duplicate KCMO or Topeka Metro due to insufficient demand. The answer is not in duplicating. The answer is build accordingly and stop pretending that no matter what is built shoppers will flock to Lawrence.

Like my daughters in laws from Lee Summit say " they love downtown Lawrence".

As for the "free market" nonsense there is no such thing. The "free market" in todays world cost taxpayers way too much money in infrastructure cost/maintenance and tax abatements/ tax incentives. Did Rudy's Pizza,Weavers,Free State Brewery,The Merc, Sunflower Outdoor& Bike, Pachamamas, Sylas&Matties,Raven Book Store request a tax abatement? It's the wealthiest corporations who wander about in search of tax abatements which is not truly a level playing field or "free market".

Stephen Roberts 8 years, 1 month ago

I moved to Lawrence so my kids could learn more about socialism. I thank Boog, Schauner, Merrill and Bozo. My kids are learning alot.

Last night my daughter told me she doesn't like redistribution of wealth. It is unfair to the person who worked hard and saved to keep his/her money.

Great job Thanks Guys another republican in the making.

MyName 8 years, 1 month ago

Last night my daughter told me she doesn't like redistribution of wealth. It is unfair to the person who worked hard and saved to keep his/her money.

WTF does that even mean? Are you talking about a flat tax, or programs like unemployment insurance, medicare, and welfare? There may be socialists in America but they're aren't any holding elected office in Kansas.

davisnin 8 years, 1 month ago

Ever notice how there aren't many Red Lobsters at all? Even in KC. It wouldn't survive. Socialism? The only people getting redistribution from the city government are the companies like the ones in East Hills and the Dever-elopers.(you heard it here first, I want credit)

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