There’s a lot of spin out there from boosters of the downtown redevelopment and the tax scheme to siphon $22 million of the public’s tax money and hand it over to a Wall Street developer.
Despite spending thousands on a well-paid lobbying firm with almost zero ties to Burlington to come up with fake sloganeering and fake supporters, there’s little that can be done to spin a taxpayer ripoff masquerading as a TIF masquerading as a “unity” project masquerading as a last gasp to save a “dying” downtown.
Setting aside the problematic zoning issues, poorly managed public engagement, this is why voting for the TIF is a bad idea. It’s because voters are being asked to:
• Hand out $22 million in taxpayer money to a Wall Street developer to do work that we as a community said must be done (reconnecting streets, among other items) in order to build in the downtown core.
• Hand out $22 million in taxpayer money to a Wall Street developer and wait 20 to 30 years to reap the reward of additional taxes while developer Don Sinex will most certainly be reaping profits for himself from day one.
• Hand out $22 million in taxpayer money to a Wall Street developer, and as such taking needed money from funding education, or bonds to improve the safety and energy efficiency of our schools.
• Hand out $22 million in taxpayer money to a Wall Street developer who is only making the minimal investment in truly affordable housing, while expecting to charge high(er) market rents for other apartments (doing nothing to stem the rising cost of housing).
• Hand out $22 million in taxpayer money to a Wall Street developer who is going to be privatizing more of downtown, and making minimal truly public spaces accessible to all residents.
Good grief. And, people thought Burlington Telecom was a bad deal – at least it ended up being a public benefit that could pay for itself and has been credited with creating good-paying jobs (Dealer.com) and an emergent tech sector in the Queen City.
To reiterate above, though: boosters of this Wall Street development conveniently omit the fact that the TIF makes it such that our tax rates won’t truly benefit until 20 OR MORE YEARS FROM NOW when the TIF expires and any new monies go to the city or school coffers. That’s right – 20-PLUS YEARS. Not next year, or even in five years – but almost a generation away! By then inflationary costs will likely chew up any perceived benefit we’re told about today.
And, while the money might not be directly helping Burlington schools, floating this TIF funding and the $50 million bond will only make it harder for the schools to ask taxpayers to fund long overdue classroom and building improvements in the coming years. That, too, will have a ripple effect that will negatively affect the next generation of Burlington students.
You can call it what you will, but this is a corporate welfare—using our tax money for one person’s private gain with an incremental, if nonexistent, gain for us, the chumps who forked over millions in our taxes for someone else to make money on while we sit there, hands in pockets, waiting on a reward. If Sinex were asked to fund these required improvements himself, then we could see a more immediate impact on our city’s coffers and we could use the new revenue to make improvements throughout the city and lessen the burden on homeowners to pay back the other bonds we’re being asked to approve.
If you’re not fond of corporate welfare or putting corporate interests before those of the community—then it’s simple. Vote NO against the TIF on the November ballot.
We need to step back, truly examine our city’s infrastructure needs for both city and schools, and then determine what needs public funding and what can be leveraged from the private sector.
We face too many challenges as a city right now to be doing this in such a piecemeal, knee-jerk fashion.
If you’re interested in an additional take on the TIF, check out this previous post.