Downtown Eugene

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Boondoggles vs. nothing?

Portland's auditor recently issued a finding, that in Portland, areas with Urban Renewal funding have higher property values than areas without Urban Renewal funding. Even if that is your goal (Should it be? Why is expensive property a public good?), what kind of comparison is that? "Massive, wasteful spending" vs. "no spending at all"?

The problem is a lack of "political clout" among alternative revitalization approaches, to make a case for a comparison. For example, CDC's can efficiently create jobs with community-driven revitalization and incubation programs, but these are not compared with Urban Renewal. They should be. If you compared the economic benefit of government small business aid programs (all of which are gone now, like CITA from the 1970's) the efficiency of public benefit, as contrasted with Urban Renewal, would be extraordinary.

Having impoverished community-driven development in the past 20 years, Urban Renewal has eliminated the competition for tax money, freeing it for gentrification projects. Luckily, we can still refer all Urban Renewal spending to the ballot, but there must be organized opposition to do this. Most people aren't close enough to the City's schedule to know when it is possible ... but whenever you hear about "expansion of an Urban Renewal district" or "raising the spending ceiling on Urban Renewal", you can bet that someone is pushing to destroy some affordable neighborhood to benefit landlords and private development interests. If we all pay attention, and refer spending to the ballot, we can stop this horrific practice, in our respective Cities.


At 12:10 AM, Blogger jordanm said...

You know, that makes plenty of sense to me. However I believe Eugene is too focused on less important things. I would love to see Eugene grow much faster, which it has potential to do. Let's see it happen! Let more businesses move in!

At 12:11 AM, Blogger jordanm said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 12:12 AM, Blogger jordanm said...

You know, that makes plenty of sense to me. However I believe Eugene is too focused on less important things. I would love to see Eugene grow much faster, which it has potential to do. Let's see it happen! Let more businesses move in!

At 4:28 PM, Blogger Greg Bryant said...

I don't think anyone is preventing businesses from moving in. This last election, Ballot Measure 20-134, was about giving away public money to big business. It was not about stopping big business.

If by "business" you mean big retail: they tend to move in next to highways ... they have very little interest in downtowns, except in cities of around a million people.

If you mean jobs, whether factories, or corporate offices ... every City in the country fights to get these kinds of jobs.

But small local businesses still employ most people in this country. Money invested in helping small business (and policies to avoid hurting small business) is much more efficient for revitalization than "big deals" made between large corporations and cities.

This is partly because those deals are so rare, partly because you can't depend on them any more than you can depend on winning a lottery, and partly because they often take more money from a town than they give.

So, no one is stopping growth. It's just a question of where you put money so it provides the best public benefit. Efficiency, and good ROI, would be great measures ... but Cities never look at that. They just continue to play the power broker game. A game in which the vast majority of the population loses.

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