November 14, 2014

Had a kind of disappointing series of emails with a member of Durham City Council, someone who is by most markers a progressive, but who at one point said the following:

 I’d say that people who can convince others that they are a good bet get access to capital. Some get access to a whole lot of capital, because they convince a whole lot of others–or at least some with who have access to a lot of capital.

At no point in that email (or any other) did he acknowledge the fact that race, gender or social class might in any way affect people’s access to capital. 

In his original response to my email (the one posted to Tumblr yesterday), he said:

The incentives for large scale developers are based on what the developers will do–jobs, tax base increases and more. To get any incentive money, they have to perform. If they don’t, they get nothing. If they do perform, the incentive is paid for by a portion of their property tax. They don’t get the incentive until they’ve finished their improvements, increased the tax base and started paying increased taxes. Large scale developers are, in a way, funding their own incentives.

My question back to him, and to the rest of the City Council, to which I have still not received a response, was as follows:

I’ll confess that I don’t know as much as I should about how business taxes are structured in the city of Durham. So does every successful business get a discount on their taxes as a function of the value they’ve added back to the city? Does one’s tax rate go down for every new employee hired? Does one’s base rate go down in proportion to every dollar of additional taxable value one’s improvements add to a piece of property?
Because that actually sounds like a pretty interesting system, especially inasmuch as it could be used to incent people who are sitting on empty structures to actually put them to use. So is it applied across the board?
I’ll absolutely post followups here if/when I get an answer to that question.
In case these posts haven’t made it crystal clear: I believe that handing out millions of dollars in incentives to out-of-state developers now, at this point in Durham’s growth, is a terrible idea.
The city’s success thus far has been achieved, to a remarkable degree, by people and companies who are heavily locally invested. The out-of-towners are showing up now because they want to capitalize on all of that hard work done by others. Which is fine, up to a point, but I see no reason to promise them additional incentives for doing so.
It was really cold after the sun went down. We walked to Toast for dinner & the chill (not to mention the freezing wind) was undeniably wintry. Walking back home, we noticed a couple of folks sleeping rough in the doorway of the Bargain Furniture building. 
It’s never a good time to be homeless, y’all, but winter is a real killer. If you’re not already, please donate to Urban Ministries of Durham. They work tirelessly to feed, clothe & house Durham’s homeless (and unlike some other groups, they don’t lay an explicitly religious trip on people as a condition of receiving help).

November 14, 2014

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