31 March 2008

Lame-Brain Idea of the Week

This featurette may become a regular thing on this blog, maybe not....depends on my mood.

As in most American cities today, the local government here has established a special purpose 'development' district which encompasses the downtown area and its immediate environs. The district, like other similar special public entities of this sort, receives its income from a special tax which is levied on all businesses located within the bounds of the district. Only businesses operating within the district pay the tax. The purpose of the district, which is funded by this tax, is to promote economic and residential development within its jurisdictional area.

As Butt-head would say: Ehhhh, what?

Operating businesses in urban areas already have many taxes and fees to contend with: property taxes, sales tax (and cost of collection), liquor license fees, building permit fees, inspection fees, income tax (state and federal), etc. etc. - the list goes on and on. Explain to me how adding an additional depredation, on top of all these others, is supposed to help stimulate economic activity.

(Sound of crickets chirping)

I didn't think you could.

"But what about all the non-economic, aesthetic benefits the district provides? After all, that has done some good. Doesn't downtown look cleaner and nicer today than it has in years?"

Let's count the physical benefits, then: Cypress trees which look sort of out of place in a concrete canyon, new shiny benches for hobos to sleep on, and wayfinding signage that will probably go the way of the last wayfinding signage installed ten years ago, which is still standing up rotting in place. The place is still as lively as a funeral on most weekends and after five on weekdays, though. Not sure if that's worth Joe Businessman's money, and certainly not worth the hassle. Last I heard, he decided to open his restaurant in that new strip center out by the mall.

And we wonder why downtown is practically dead here.