Letters to the Editor

Lease issue

May 28, 2011


To the editor:

Your paper clearly outlined the issues with EN Engineering’s unfortunate departure in the May 21 edition and May 23 editorial. It should be no surprise that the Illinois-based management of EN Engineering has no loyalty to Lawrence. Of equal importance is the fact that the Midwest is awash in vacant commercial and industrial buildings of all types. EN management no doubt acted in the best interest of their bottom line.

It is unfortunate that the landlord was not willing to have a month-to-month lease with EN until a new building could be built. That way he might have had income for another year or more. Now, we will see how long his building stands vacant before another lease is signed.

It is hard to imagine that any leader in this city would consider for a second giving money to the landlord if EN moved before a two-year lease ended. With citizens, including other landlords, already having their backs to the wall with property and sales taxes, this is a type of corporate welfare that citizens would never tolerate. Anyway, if money was going to reimburse landlords for tenants that move before their lease is up, they could head down Massachusetts Street with a wheelbarrow full of cash. That won’t happen either.


jhawkinsf 6 years, 11 months ago

The city needs to analyze each situation. Looks at the costs to the city and compare that to the benefits to the city. If it make economic sense to assist businesses with tax abatements or other types of assistance, then the city should do it. If the numbers don't add up correctly, then the city should not do it. It seems foolhardy to behave in any other manner.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 11 months ago

But unless there is a very specific policy laying that out, then it will lead to favoritism for those who are most well-connected.

To my knowledge, there is no city or county policy that would allow city/county funds to reimburse a landlord for a tenant breaking a lease. And I can't think of any way to write one that doesn't lead to a slippery slope the taxpayers couldn't afford.

jafs 6 years, 11 months ago

And, any agreements that businesses might make in exchange for those abatements, number and type of jobs, etc. have to be upheld, and the city would have to ensure that.

Sue Hack, to name one example, didn't want to do that - she called it being "too picky" or something like that.

Which of course messes up the cost-benefit analysis after the fact.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 11 months ago

We elect leaders to make decisions that hopefully are in the best interests of the city. A specific policy sounds good, it also sounds like a bureaucracy. We all know how efficient those are. In lieu of a specific policy, transparency could be substituted. Then, at the next election, the people could decide whether the decisions of our elected leadership have been steering the ship in the right direction.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 11 months ago

It's the job of elected officials to write such a policy. And without a policy, there can be no transparency.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 11 months ago

Writing such a policy negates the possibility that what is needed in any particular situation may not fit squarely into that written policy. Flexibility is also needed. Then the voters can decide if our leaders are doing their job.
Given the history of what government does best, creating bureaucracies that expand faster than the universe, the written policy will soon enough be thousands of pages long, have it's own department with many employees enforcing the policy. It will guarantee that no cost/benefit analysis will benefit the city, ever, because the Department of Redundancy Department will need to be serviced.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 11 months ago

"Flexibility" is almost always a code word for back room deals between good ole boys.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 11 months ago

Look at our tax codes. A specific written policy, right. The type you're advocating for here, right. Some complain it's way to redistribute the wealth, others complain about undo influence the wealthy have upon it (good ole boys?). What's clear is that what started out as a written policy has turned into a monstrosity that has succeeded in making everyone unhappy. It's the way government works. They write a policy, tweak it here and there. Hire staff to enforce it. Hold hearings, tweak it some more, respond to the last crisis, not the next. Create another department, hire staff, buy desks, buy computers, but new computers, buy newer computers, etc. Write some more policies. It doesn't end. It's what government does best.

jafs 6 years, 11 months ago

And a "flexible" tax code would be better?

jhawkinsf 6 years, 11 months ago

Point taken. But at the local level, where we are discussing whether or not we should be giving certain benefits to businesses in exchange for an overall benefit to the city, it seems the city needs the flexibility to respond to the business environment that is created when other cities or states offer incentives to businesses. I was suggesting that with transparency and our elected officials being held accountable to the voters, that a whole new bureaucracy would not be needed. The creation of a new bureaucracy with it's increasing costs, means that there will never be a cost/benefit analysis where the benefits will outweigh the cost of the bureaucracy.

jafs 6 years, 11 months ago

I really don't think it would take much of a bureaucracy in Lawrence to set and implement a policy about such things.

In fact, we have some of that, including tax abatement policies.

The problem there has been lack of a consistent standard, and lack of enforcement when businesses don't live up to their promises.

BigPrune 6 years, 11 months ago

Historically, startups in Lawrence that do good then blow town typically fail within a few years (sometimes months) of leaving. It's almost the kiss of death, unfortunately.

The "curse" of Lawrence is upon them. Don't let the door hit ya, where the good Lord split ya.

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