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Misrepresentation II – Where are we going?

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The LJW is all for the city revitalizing the old Farmland property on the east side of town. The argument appears to be future growth. The details are at best vague- as they seem to be for all our economic development activities. Just who will benefit from these efforts and who will pay?

Now, I would suspect that the latter is obvious. Current and future taxpayers will pay – for a long time. The money has to come from somewhere and last I looked there is no printing press in the city building basement. Yes, there will be some federal money, but given our federal over-commitment can we be sure it will be there?

Who benefits? I am having trouble with answering that question. First, I am not sure that “growth” for growths sake is such a good idea. Lacking detail as to the type of growth to be sought, I can only wonder. If we are to bring in more jobs such as the predominant type in our eastern business park and in our recent history, I suspect most of the new hires will not even be able to afford to live here. If we extend tax rebates to the owners of whatever we obtain it would seem to lead to a net loss. Why would we want to do this?

If we are going to be highly selective as to the growth to be obtained - where the new jobs will be well paid and perhaps actually contribute to our tax base - then maybe this could benefit our community. However, it would seem that to obtain such growth we would have to offer something unique. Competition for high paying jobs such as in biotechnology is keen and many other communities have a university and in some cases an existing biotechnology business base. What do we have to offer to trump their offers?

What I am afraid of is that this is another misrepresentation where our lawgivers are more interested in lining the pockets of some of our local business interests (developers come to mind). After we acquire various facilities and pay developers to upgrade and or repair them we will be unable to attract the kind of business that will make for a positive return Our law givers will then lose interest and like past city investments we will be left holding a less then attractive “bag”. Worse, with the acquisition of the farmland property we run the risk of open-ended costs to ameliorate environmental deficiencies. There is no guarantee our exposure is limited.

What is driving this sudden spurt in economic development? Do we have a plan? Has anyone seen that plan? You would think that responsible civic leaders would know where they are going and how they plan to get there. Is anyone clear as to the total costs to do whatever we are going to do? What are the steps? What are we expecting from KU? Is the state a party? Where will the investment come from if not the taxpayers? It would seem to me a philosophy of “if you build it they will come” is a very poor approach to nurturing the future of our city.

Does anybody know where we are going? Could our lawgivers, some of whom have ties to the development community, be working their own futures at our expense? Maybe, I am just out of touch! What do you think?

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