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?