TIF Proposal Fails Straight Face Test

Monday, February 19, 2018

Mayor Berke has put the City Council in an unenviable position. The Council will be asked to vote Tuesday on whether to use tax increment financing (TIF) to pay for a one-block extension of M.L. King Boulevard to the Riverwalk. 

Accountability for Taxpayer Money supports the road extension concept and understands its timing. However, we strongly oppose using TIF future property tax revenues to fund this project. It raises policy and transparency issues and makes the project more expensive. 

The city has cash reserves that could be used. They could use proceeds from the Alstom settlement (for not meeting their PILOT tax break commitments) or use hotel/motel taxes, which are the typical funding source for public projects on the riverfront downtown. 

For whatever reason, Mayor Berke insists on TIF, thus asking Council to ignore their own adopted TIF policies. The project is not in a blighted area. It does not provide a lot of well-paying jobs. It may not be eligible for tax increment financing under state law. It does not meet the "but-for" test because the apartments and office building are well underway. They would happen without the TIF and would pay property taxes to support fire, police, streets, etc. 

The Council asked good questions on January 30. The mayor's administration responded in part by removing the most egregious aspect of the initial proposal. Originally, the TIF proposal would have allowed public taxpayer dollars to be used for the private development (apartments and office building). Additional policy questions remain unanswered. 

The City Council and County Commission have an obligation to explore other aspects of private benefit before voting to approve a TIF. They need to know who determined the price of the land and the loss of units to development. Was an appraisal done? They need to understand why such a high percentage of the TIF project is earmarked for "soft costs" rather than for the actual street construction project. 

Finally, the public expects our elected officials to find out (and tell us) the names of the property owners who own the land where the one block extension would go. It is not Evergreen Real Estate, the Nashville Cameron Harbor developer. The TIF application from Evergreen said this property was "formerly" owned by Newton Chevrolet and is "under contract." To whom? In the absence of transparency, there is increasing speculation that well-connected local business leaders are involved and may stand to benefit more if a TIF is approved rather than if the city purchases it with cash reserves. 

For all of these reasons, ATM requests that members of the City Council not approve the TIF. Sometimes it is hard to do the right thing. This decision should not be hard. There are much better alternatives than TIF to pay for this street. ATM hopes that Councilors will demonstrate the “wisdom to know and the courage to defend the public interest.”

Helen Burns Sharp


Roy Exum: 2018 Ig Nobel Awards

The word ‘ignobel’ is rarely used because only a few among us know that it means "characterized by baseness, lowness, or meanness." About 30 years ago, a glorious group of great scholars took a literary hatchet to form the word into ‘ig nobel’ so it could be placed in the dictionary as a term that means “a satirical social criticism that identifies absurd research.” Think of ... (click for more)

A Societal Ill Wind

A societal ill wind blows a lot of controversy around over drug addiction and how it effects citizens, families and how we all live..  A recent doctor appointment brought me closer then I ever thought to drug addiction and its effects on the total community. I drove to Carthage, Tn. the first time ever travelling to another small town in eastern Tennessee. The injection, affordable, ... (click for more)

Black Creek To Pay For Engineer Firm's Review Of New City Road Up Aetna Mountain

City Transportation Director Blythe Bailey said Tuesday that the Black Creek Mountain Development Group will pay for a review by an engineering firm of plans for a new city road up Aetna Mountain to a planned major development on top. Geosyntec Consultants is charging $39,754 for the examination of the planned road that will roughly follow the track of the current dirt road that ... (click for more)

2 Bank Tellers Say They Are Positive Walter Rice Was Gunman Who Robbed Hixson Branch

Two tellers from the Hixson branch of the Bank of America testified Tuesday they are positive that Walter Frank Rice is the individual who robbed them at gunpoint last July 25. General Sessions Court Judge Lila Statom bound a bank robbery charge against Rice, 36, of 4734 Sabrina Lane, Hixson, to the Grand Jury. She raised his bond on the bank robbery charge to $250,000, calling ... (click for more)

Baylor Volleyball Pounds GPS, 3-0

It was just 20 days ago on August 29 when Baylor and GPS faced each other for the first time this season in volleyball.   The match was played at GPS.   The Bruisers lost that day, but they left feeling pretty good after winning a set and giving the defending state champs all they wanted at times. The second match between these two storied rivals at Baylor wasn’t ... (click for more)

Lady Mustangs Corral Lady Owls, 3-1, To Keep Share Of 5-3A Volleyball Lead

After dropping the first two sets, Ooltewah gained momentum by staving off defeat and was playing visiting Walker Valley on almost even terms before the Lady Mustangs did what the Lady Owls could only talk about. Walker Valley finished off a 3-1 volleyball victory Tuesday night and stayed tied with Cleveland atop the District 5-3A standings. The Lady Mustangs (16-10 overall) ... (click for more)