Monday, March 05, 2007

Springsteen Next Weekend - a TIF Alternative?

In my last TIF post, I was pretty negative. In my heart of hearts, though, I'm a positive person, looking for answers to society's problems, and hoping to leave this world a little better for my time here.

So, today, I offer up my alternative to TIF. My only request is that you erect a huge statue of me after I'm gone.

First, let's focus on what we all want. We all want a thriving, interesting, active downtown. We all want good jobs downtown. We all want people to use public transportation. We all want to help the homeless (actually, that's a lie - we all say we want to help the homeless, but many just want them to disappear). We all want our basic services, such as police protection and snow removal, funded.

These are all good things.

Unfortunately, someone in Kansas City's past convinced us that the way to get these things is to give tax money to real estate developers and lawyers. I don't mean to cast blame, but I distinctly recall that the first person to describe TIF to me was Jim Glover. While Jim Glover is certainly an extremely handsome man, he is not the sort to chair the social committee. The fact that Jim was seduced by the charisma of developers and real estate lawyers is where we made our first wrong turn on our path to a lively, thriving, exciting downtown.

With a logic that baffles me, our fine city has decided that the best way to get a fun and lively downtown scene is to funnel our tax dollars to developers and their lawyers. The result is that we are going to be spending $79 million this year on TIF plans, and their most visible success is relocating a lot of IRS people from Kansas City to Kansas City.

Do you realize how much money $79 million is?!?!?! And what we could do with that money to give us a thriving, cool downtown?! And I'm not talking about some dim, distant day when the Penguins finally give up on Pittsburgh - my plan could start next weekend! I guarantee that my plan would have an impact immediately.

Here it is - there are 52 weekends in a year. Each weekend, we're going to spend a MILLION FREAKING DOLLARS on a kick-ass party downtown. I checked the Gomer's ads, and we can get 12 packs of Boulevard (gotta support the locals!) for $10.48, so, doing the math, we can get a million bottles of Boulevard to hand out FOR FREE - that's two and a little extra for every man, woman and child in Kansas City - for $833,333. The extra $166,666 we'll use to get Bruce Springsteen and a whole bunch of porta-potties.

And the thing is, we could do this EVERY WEEKEND, FOR FREE, and WE'D STILL BE SAVING $27 MILLION off what we're paying real estate developers to bring us IRS agents. IRS agents, or rock stars - what kind of choice is that?

Think of the spin-off benefits! People would not want to drive downtown and park, and, with all that beer flowing, they shouldn't drive home. Light rail would be jam packed, as would the Max and every other form of public transportation available. The businesses downtown would make a retail killing - pretzels, pizza, and tasteless t-shirts are some products with known appeal to this sort of crowd. And we could tax everything! Heck, the homeless could even recycle the bottles and make money off them, too!

Now, if we threw a million dollar party every single weekend, can you imagine how many people would come here every weekend, and how many would find a way to stay here? Omaha, St. Louis, Wichita, Chicago, Minneapolis, Denver - they'd all be ghost towns on the weekends.

Remember, this is still $27 million LESS than what we're paying the developers and their lawyers. You'd have to pay for my statue out of that, but you could use the rest for other stuff.

Maybe you'd want to take the 8 solid blocks on the north side of downtown that has been flattened by - umm, yeah, civic-minded real estate developers again - and put up a whole bunch of Butler buildings (local industry again) and stock them with Nintendo Wiis and pinball games, that people could play for FREE. Maybe we could permanently shut down some of the roads that the city has closed for construction and have the coolest go-cart tracks ever through downtown. Maybe we could dig another huge hole or two, and have some awesome moto-cross space!!

The mind boggles when you have $79 million of taxpayer money to play with. Maybe, you'd just want to have the parties, and use the extra $27 million for basic services, like police and snow removal. It's your money - it ought to be your choice.

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Anonymous Brent said...

My hope is that the statue of you is large enough that I can go around the back of it and pee after my 4th Boulevard Irish Ale instead of waiting in line for the Johnny on the Spot.

Actually, this is a great post. I laughed, and cried. $79 million is a lot of $$$

3/05/2007 11:02 AM  
Blogger Heidi said...

Genius, Dan!

Actually, this gets to one of the things that makes me sad about our downtown development. Why chase out-of-town developers and businesses and chase our own locals out to become like every other suburbanized downtown? ("Where's the Hard Rock?")

What could we be doing if we had, instead, focused on making it grassroots, local and unique, and given some of that money to the locals to do it? What if local banks loaned to locals for rehab? What if the Crossroads artists had more money and access?

3/05/2007 11:46 AM  
Anonymous Michelled said...

Brilliant! The only thing holding this plan back is getting a license to allow drinking in the streets. The city would never go for that...

I'm sure the Hard Rock is just a matter of time...we couldn't even get a local BBQ joint down there!?

3/05/2007 12:27 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

I'm not always given to irrational exuberance, but this is just quite simply the best idea I've ever seen. Ever.

Since the Royals aren't moving downtown, I would like to use some of the extra cash to buy a prolific number of whiffle balls to supply the over the Missouri River home run derby each weekend.

3/05/2007 12:40 PM  
Blogger Stacey K said...

That is quite simply the best plan that has ever been proposed. KC downtown is a ghost town devoid of anything interesting. This would sure liven it up a bit!

3/05/2007 2:39 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

I'd rather you get Prince.

3/05/2007 2:57 PM  
Blogger Janet said...

Well, there are 52 weekends in the year, I'm sure Prince could be fit in somewhere. Although I lost all my respect for him after he became a Jehovah's Witness, and after seeing "an evening with Kevin Smith".

(the JW's are a brain washing cult that I am proud to have escaped from, but my parents and my brothers won't speak to me because I left.)

3/06/2007 8:18 AM  
Blogger emawkc said...


I know you were writing somewhat toung-in-cheek, but in actuality, the City of Milwaukee does something very similar (or at least they used to when I visited there 10-15 years ago). They hosted weekly cultural fests, sponsored heavily by the city, just to get people to come out and mingle. The events featured well-known bands, carival rides, etc.

Just sayin' it's not that crazy of an idea (except for that statue thing).

3/06/2007 8:58 AM  
Blogger joeinkc said...

Add in some dancing monkees and you have my vote!

3/06/2007 12:23 PM  
Blogger les said...

Not to knock the idea--I'm as excited about a statue of Dan as anyone--but there is a small glitch. TIF is Tax Increment Financing; the only money available to "give tax money to real estate developers and lawyers" under TIF is the increase in taxes, compared to what the city was getting without the project. So, we need a source for the party fund beyond the current city revenues. By the way, all the free money the developer gets has to be used for infrastructure; like sewer (to carry away the flow-through Boulevard), streets and walks (to dance and party on), parking (for the partiers), utilities (to power the amps), etc. And the only people who think there is no oversight have never done one. Like any gov't program, I'd never claim it's perfect--waste, mismanagement, etc. are no more unlikely in TIF than any other program; but I haven't seen any reason to think it's worse. So, the city doesn't have the $79MM party money unless it's generated by the projects you don't want built. The city also doesn't have that money in hand to improve the sewers so that modern office buildings and restaurants can happen. And once TIF costs are paid, the tax increment is still there for other needs.

3/06/2007 1:37 PM  

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