Sunday, April 30, 2006

Who's really looking out for the working class?

Posted by Craig Westover | 12:01 PM |  

Insightful letter in Sunday’s Pioneer Press --

A subtle form of eminent domain?

The April 24 article about the "land rush" on University Avenue is a major concern for many of the landowners along the University corridor who will "benefit" from the future light rail between the two cities ("In grip of a land rush").

The problem is, as a lessor, we are forced to raise the rent to our tenants in order to pay the exorbitant rise in taxes. Our tenants struggle now to meet the lease payment and still stay in business.

We have seen an increase in value of 300 percent over two years. Yet we have not benefited from this great "land rush" nor have our tenants. The city is using the "land rush" as a subtle "eminent domain" to force the small businesses off the corridor to make way for the large corporations. Why should the city and county reap the fruits of "increased land values" many, many years before we as landowners ever realize a profit? Meanwhile, our tenants are forced out of business because of the huge jump in real estate taxes.


Business page columnist Ed Lotterman, in a longer piece that notes that government actions like light rail increase as well as decrease private property values, nonetheless supports the letter writer’s point.
This [increased property values] isn't necessarily good news for businesses along University. Many rent their properties and face being pushed out by buyers with deeper pockets. As British economist David Ricardo observed 200 years ago, increases in the profitability of a business accrue to the owners of the most limited resource -– usually owners of land — and not necessarily to those running the store.
Once again we are confronted with the irony that it is liberals that continue to push light rail projects using the power of government and the government subsidies to displace the poor, the working poor and local landlords in favor of “evil” corporations and aging yuppies that want to return to the cities they abandon in the panic of white flight during the 70s and 80s.

Meanwhile conservatives, who quite frankly don’t really give much of rip about the poor, the working poor or local landlords but do care more about principles like limited government and individual freedom than they do about a particular constituency, oppose government-imposed economic development at the expense of corporations and to the benefit of the constituents liberals are quick to abandon.

To light rail supporters -- Push light rail if you must, but don’t pretend it’s a project intended to improve transportation options for the working class poor. It’s simply another upper middle class subsidy gained at the expense of the so-called wealthy taxpayers that have to foot the bill and the working poor that are forced to relocate to more affordable less desirable places to work and live.