Don’t play the TIF game
Make no mistake, developer schemes such as TIFs cost the taxpayer, and cost them dearly. The economic theory gets it absolutely correct: There is no free lunch. Someone pays.
TIF's were invented in California some decades ago. California has outlawed TIFs due to the extreme corruption they spawned and the huge costs TIFs shifted from benefiting developers to other taxpayers.
No doubt Knoxville attorney Mark Mamantov, with Bass, Berry, and Sims, left these corruption details and history out when conducting a workshop for county and municipal leaders in October. Mamantov was here to sell a bill of goods on behalf of the developer class.
Some will argue developments are spawned that would otherwise not occur and those developments "pay for themselves." This is far from truth. TIFs are little more than Three-card Monte confidence games in which the 'mark' is presented with what appears to be a sure bet and win. All the players except the mark, or taxpayers in a TIF, conspire to trick and cheat the mark.
When development comes, and the new property or other collectable taxes are used to finance the project, it sounds appealing. Officials will even assure it is "free money!"
What officials carefully avoid explaining is how the costs associated with the development continue to mount: fire protection, police patrols, water and sewer expansion, public parking and other costs are simply shifted to the surrounding businesses and community which are not getting a "free money" deal.
Exclaim an emphatic "NO TIFS" and require developers to pay the full freight of costs associated with joining the Johnson City thriving business community.
Let’s make a name for ourselves in the new year
As 2018 draws to a close, many of us take stock of our past and look optimistically to the future. As a recent resident to Johnson City starting a family and a career in my new adopted hometown, I find myself reflecting on Johnson City and the Tri-Cities region on where we are going and what is our focus as we move into 2019?
As the Press reported on Dec. 28, Northeast Tennessee cities lag well behind the other major centers of Tennessee. How are we working to combat this downward trend and what is the economic plan from our region's leaders?
I love Johnson City and the whole Appalachian Highland area. I look around and I see countless possibilities and endless untapped resources. Whatever our focus is as we enter a new year, it should reflect our unique people as well as protect our greatest assets, our mountains, our forests and our rivers.
I think most people who call this area home would agree we don't want to continue to grow unchecked into a college town like Knoxville with its miles of suburban sprawl. And we do not want to become Asheville either, trading in our small town tempo for expensive housing and a downtown clogged the panhandlers and tourists. And let’s not fall into the footsteps of Gatlinburg or Sevierville either, I don't think we want amusement parks on our mountains. If we are simply selling ourselves as the premier outdoor recreation city, that may be a hard sell considering Chattanooga is already racing towards that goal and is decades ahead of us. And while these are all great cities, they are simply not us.
Let’s start 2019 with a public conversation about the future of our region. I would love to hear from all of our elected officials.
DR. B.D. WHITFIELD