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CB

to be fair, I think they are clear that the abatement Downtown is not judged by the vitality index. The vitality index criteria is used to determine what other neighborhoods are included in the program. I don't even think there was a vitality index created for Downtown in itself.

While I am on record saying the abatement should be universal if anything, it's a little unfair to throw out that reverse engineering charge if you don't have anything at all to base that on. They have put into the public record the details you ask about: The City's Department of City Planning came up with the vitality index and I suspect they would show it to you if you asked.

Sam M

"I think they are clear that the abatement Downtown is not judged by the vitality index."

That's what I am asking. And not rhetorically. Maybe they have been clear elsewhere. But this article doesn't seem to touch on the issue at all. Which isn't all that strange. This is one of those midday things posted online, so I am guessing we will see more about it soon. Or maybe I am not reading it closely enough.

So maybe they did include downtown automatically. Like I said, I am open to that possibility. But the question remains: Why? Why not apply the index, if it is a worthwhile measure of vitality, investment, etc.? Maybe Downtown is a special case. But seriously. If you are worrying about abating residential properties that are going to get built anyway... doesn't it still seem like Downtown might be a bad candidate for the program? The publc has already sunk a lot of investment into that area. And I think at least some of it was sunk with the idea that we could collect some of it back in property taxes, etc. Now we are saying we are not going to collect said taxes?

That is, it seems like we have already dished out a lot of incentives for downtown living. And if you believe what's been said so far, those programs have been wildy successful. So successful that they are even exceeding Jack Piatt's expectations.

So... if the Vitality Index still included Downtown after all that investment, doesn't that call into the question the vitality created by these programs?

If, on the other hand, the area has already been effectively revitalized--and if we are currently measuring the need for abatements by measuring the lack of vitality--why would we automatically include Downtown in the mix? The investment is already happening there. We have heard it time and again. And we know we do not want to offer abatements for projects that the market is bringing online. Etc.

So... Why automatically include it?

I think I pose a valid question. If the index includes Downtown, claims about the effectiveness of recent projects seem to be in trouble. If, on the other hand, the index did not include Downtown but we are offering incentives there anyway, why? And last, given recent statements about which neighborhoods would be the best candidates for the abatement program, and given statements about the various ways in which Downtown has moved beyond existence as such a neighborhood, why would it get a pass?

I readily admitted that I don't know if they applied the index to Downtown. But even if they didn't there are still questions to ask.

Look, maybe someone can make the case that Downtown needs abatements because or despite the fact that it is already an incredibly vibrant place where people are already investing hundreds of millions of dollars in residential development. OK. Fine. But so far, all we have are some explanations about how abatements can help revitalize areas where development needs a jump start.

You could get around that by arguing for a blanket abatement. But that's not what's on the table. What we have is proposal that offers abatements in selected neighborhoods.

Which is a dangerous sort of thing. Because it gets political. (Yeah, I know. Big surprise.) But come on. If what they say about abatements is true, the last place we need them is Downtown. So why are we getting them there anyway? If we HAVE to cross some neighborhoods of the list, shouldn't downtown be first?

C. Briem

as best I can tell we are in agreement on the idea that an abatements ought to be applied throughout the city. In fact the news and you both miss the bigger news (to me at least) that came out of council deliberations that they tabled a plan Peduto had to study a wider tax abatement.

but nontheless the charges you throw out there: "reverse engineering" and implying the sources of the analysis are not fully disclosed are fairly serious and I believe baseless in and of themselves. They debate these details for hours in session (you could watch it all on TV if you wish) and the PG gives it a few inches and you pick apart the details not included in the paper. fair? balanced? spin?

Also, Downtown is just fundamentally a different kind of place, with minimal population that can be compared to other residential neighborhoods to make most neighborhood metrics very meaningful.. and that is their point I do believe.

but I will end one point that I think your description of a new abatement is incorrect. You seem to be saying that an abatement Downtown could take away the ability to collect tax on projects already built or in process. Without reading the proposed plan that shouldn't be the case. Abatements on incremental investment should be just that: applied to investment coming up. If you abate after the fact, I think that is called a plain old tax decrease. I would not be surprised if there are some loopholes in there for the newest projects though.

Seriously.. Call up City Planning. Ask if they will show you the analysis and see if you find any of it biased. I would be curious how that all works out and what you think. I think you are doing people a disservice to throw out there baseless presumptions that you could check easily enough. Trust me, there are enough things out there lacking transparency to get mad at.. this isn't one of them.

Sam M

Jesus. Sometimes you get fired up over the strangest things.

The whole point of blogging.. at least some blogging... is to offer a real-time reaction, or stream of consciousness, or whatever you want to call it. Don't believe me? Ask the Post-Gazette. Which offers the quick-hit articles like the one I linked to. Just to get stuff out there. I suspect they will offer more details tomorrow. So?

And with regard to hurling accusations at anyone, I did no such thing. I asked a question. A rhetorical one. That is, one with rhetorical intent. Did the index apply to downtown? EITHER WAY, it seems kind of strange. It's a pretty common rhetorical device, actually, akin to, "If he knew those facts, he's a bad guy. If he didn't, he's an idiot. Either way, I am not voting for him." Blah blah blah.

And transparency is not the issue at all. Is that what you think I am concerned about? Why? I never said that the meetings were not held in public. I never said they were done in some back room. YOU said that they made it clear that the Vitality Index did not apply to Downtown. I said I saw no indication of that in this article, but offered that you were quite possibly correct. And that I might see more of that soon. And as for other analysis, as i mentioned, I DID call Peduto's office about those other assumptions. And I said I got a reply. And that it was not scandalous. And that I might bolg about it. If there is a conspiracy theory, it is not originating here.

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