Nov 24, 2006

Editorial continues to misrepresent the facts in defense of lawmaker’s tax giveaway

I try hard not to be cynical, but when I see another attempt by the local newspaper to defend sate Rep. Chris Ward and his attempt to give $9 million of taxpayer money to Quadrants, the developer of the Green Oak Village Place mall, for necessary road improvements it’s quite easy. The latest attempt to defend the indefensible appeared in today’s paper, and it makes you wonder why now? Why are you still getting the facts wrong?

We know that the executive editor of this newspaper contributes to the Ward campaign, but this piece is worth more than the cash he gives to the campaign. All it really costs is the integrity of the editorial board, and we know that’s long been compromised.

Here’s some background. The DDA law was established in 1975 to halt the decline of property tax values and deterioration in downtowns. It was also intended to give downtowns a weapon to fight huge shopping malls, like the $100 million Village Place Mall, that were just coming on line in 1975 that had uniform hours, lots of free parking and everything within walking distance. In other words, the law was made to combat the very thing Mr. Ward wanted to pervert the law to benefit.

In 2004 Mr. Ward changed the law – for just one person mind you – that allowed a DDA to expand its boundaries if it was a $100 million project and it did away with the requirement that the property had to have declining property values.

Only when the ruse was called, and it was clear that Livingston County Board of Commissioner would not approve this tax giveaway to a rich developer, did Ward rescind the law made for just one person.

The newspaper got the facts completely wrong, and they should talk to Livingston Country Commissioner Jack LaBelle for the facts. The chair of the Commission and a member for more than 30 years also saw it for what it was, a tax giveaway.

The road, the roundabouts and the bridge would have looked exactly the same if the con had gone forward. The only difference would be the taxpayers would have paid for the improvements that would have benefited the developer instead of the person who would see the profit paying for it. In most other states of the union they have what are called “developer impact fees.” That means the developer must pay fees for the infrastructure and other improvements his development will cause and require. Apparently, here in Michigan the exact opposite is true, and we have taxpayer impact fees, meaning we have to pay for the improvements the developer’s project will require.

Although both the city and county voiced legitimate concerns, the fact remains that the loss of the DDA option did not stop the mall construction. But it does mean that the traffic system is not as good — or as safe — as it could have been.
That's too bad. Despite some misconceptions voiced in the last political campaign, the DDA was not a scheme to cut taxes for the developers of the mall. The developer pays exactly the same property taxes with or without the DDA.

That’s completely untrue. Mike McGonegal, Ward’s opponent in the last election, made it a campaign issue. However, he never once said it was a “scheme to cut taxes for the developers of the mall.” It was a scheme to have the taxpayers pay for something the developer should pay for. There was never any intention from the developer to pay for anything or pledge any money for improvements.

We are still not sure why it's OK to use a DDA to build an expressway ramp in the city of Brighton, but it's somehow not appropriate to use the same funding mechanism to improve the road system just outside the city limits.

I’m surprised that the editorial board is that misinformed, or is that they just think the readers are stupid. DDA’s were developed to keep downtowns healthy, and the law was introduced because many downtown storefronts were being boarded up and abandoned in favor of suburban shopping malls. The law was approved to fight the very thing that the new bastardized DDA law would have helped, huge suburban shopping malls. The fact is townships can form DDA’s, they just have to do it under the law instead of having some friendly lawmaker pervert the law just for them. To form a DDA all you really need is to have some kind of central business district, and property values must be falling. That’s the rub here. They did not have the latter. Enter Mr. Ward.

Perhaps when you are in downtown Howell tonight watching the Fantasy of Lights parade or in downtown Brighton watching the Holiday Glow you will be thankful that things like the DDA Act was passed to protect these jewels we call downtowns. If not, you will be watching parades in some huge, ugly strip mall.


Anonymous said...

The executive editor gave money to the Ward campaign? How much and when?

I hadn't heard that.

Communications guru said...

If you go tot the Secretary of State’s web site and look at the 2006 Post Primary finance report you will see a $50 contribution on 8/7/2006.

Anonymous said...

I just went to the SOS website and looked.

This is what you wrote:

"We know that the executive editor of this newspaper contributes to the Ward campaign, but this piece is worth more than the cash he gives to the campaign."

You said that HE gave money to the Ward campaign. The only donation I saw on 8/7/2006 was from his wife.

You said HE gave money to the Ward campaign.

Did HE give money to Ward or did his wife?

Communications guru said...

I stand by what was written in the orginal post.

Anonymous said...

You stand by it? It was wrong.

You said he made the donation to Ward. He didn't. His wife made it. Do you think that's the same thing? If somebody's spouse does something, it's the same as him doing it?

If you want us to trust the information you post on this blog, it has to be accurate. Don't make up facts to support your arguments.

Communications guru said...

Yes I do think it’s the same thing, who-ever-you-are. If you don’t that’s your choice, but you had your mind made up before anyway.
However, it’s funny that you say, “If you want us to trust the information you post on this blog, it has to be accurate.” You should say the same thing to the newspaper. We have presented our argument with facts, and you latch on to this interperation. Why this editorial now? The election is over. If they were soo concerened about writing this editorial three weeks after the election why no facts backing up theur position? They had plenty of time to go back and look. Why ask questions in the editorail when you already know the answer? This smells like a favor to help clean up a certain politician’s’s sullied repupation.