The expansion of the Deep Ellum Tax Increment Refinancing Zone to pay for a parking garage for the Latino Cultural Center, as mentioned below, flies in the face of the core argument the city makes for TIFs in the first place: the “but-for” argument. TIF money, after all, is tax money taken out of the general fund -- the money we use to pay for cops, sewers, libraries, frou-frous like that -- and given instead to companies and institutions for their own use.
In this case, the money's being spent a parking structure for an institution that has had a very sad attendance record since opening. The argument is supposed to be that TIF money encourages development that would not happen but for the incentives provided by the TIF.
But City Lights, the development being taken into the TIF today, is already happening. It’s on the books and on the ground. So putting it into the TIF just jacks money straight out of the general fund and puts it into the TIF instead.
This money will be spent to build a parking structure for the Latino Cultural Center. This is strictly a "build it and maybe they won’t keep staying away" deal. The center is hoping maybe more people will come if they don’t have to park on scary-bad East Dallas streets. Could be.
But do we really have to gamble on that with millions of dollars in money that could be used to hire more cops otherwise? How about gambling on keeping the money and hiring the cops instead?
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This is an Elba Garcia deal. I have great respect for council member Dr. Garcia. But the whole problem with TIFs is this: They are a back door for politically wired entities to make raids on the city treasury. And, you know: What treasury?
Why, you might ask, would the City Lights people especially want to be put in the TIF? Oh, it may have something to do with the part of the deal that allows them to buy a crucial chunk of city-owned land near their project in a "sole-bidder" process, according to the deal. What's a sole-bidder process? It's an auction where only one person allowed to bid. "We have an opening bid of 25 cents? Do I hear 30 cents? 30 cents? Well, it looks like 25 cents takes it."
Suhweeeet, eh? Other question: Why have an auction? I know. Question is too philosophical. Why have a city?
Hey, by the way, I forgot: did Laura ever fix those pot holes? Are we like rich or something and we’ve just got extra money to spare for crap like this? --Jim Schutze