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

100 Black Men Of Bradley County Thanks Community For Support

The 100 Black Men of Bradley County would like to thank each and every individual who lent a hand in making this year’s Annual Scholarship Banquet a success.   The outstanding support confirms that the people of Bradley County are committed to helping provide the much needed mentoring and education opportunities to all of the children in our community.   ... (click for more)

Appointing Justices Is More Important Than A President Of Moral Character - And Response (2)

I'm trying hard to understand why there's been so little criticism on the part of conservatives and evangelicals towards a President that paid $280,000 worth of hush money to a porn star, Stormy Daniels, and a Playboy Playmate, Karen McDougal during the campaign.  If this had been any other president the outrage would be constant and harsh.  Where is the outrage on the ... (click for more)

City May Make It Easier For Food Trucks To Operate In Chattanooga

The City Council is considering action that would make it easier for food trucks to operate in Chattanooga.  City Attorney Wade Hinton said cities like Austin and Portland have thriving food truck operations and Chattanooga is studying those models. He said, "It's truly an industry there." He said a 2013 food truck ordinance was limited and did not allow food trucks on ... (click for more)

Magistrate Says She Was Fired Because Philyaw Did Not Want To Be Seen With Someone Openly Gay

A former magistrate at Juvenile Court said she was fired because Judge Rob Philyaw and Court Administrator Sam Mairs "wanted me gone because I was openly gay." County Attorney Rheubin Taylor said Elizabeth Gentzler was not the only gay at Juvenile Court and Hamilton County government, indicating that may be part of the county's defense. Attorney Stuart James, representing Ms. ... (click for more)

Keiser, Wigg Power Ooltewah Past East Hamilton, 9-5, in 5-3A Baseball

Frustrated by an early season hitting slump, Ooltewah left-fielder Payton Keiser broke loose with four hits, including a clutch three-run triple in a five-run seventh inning, and drove in five runs as the Owls beat rival East Hamilton, 9-5, Tuesday in District 5-3A action in horrible weather for baseball. Keiser had run-scoring singles in the second and fourth innings and ... (click for more)

Moc Golfers Finish 9th At Linger Longer Invitational

The Chattanooga Mocs men’s golf team finished ninth Tuesday at the Linger Longer Invitational. The Mocs final round 300 gave them a season-best 876 total for the 54 holes. Lake Johnson led today’s effort with a level-par 72. Luke Long was one off his pace with a 73. Andrew Weathers and Oliver Simonsen carded 77 and 78, respectively, to round out the counting cards.  The ... (click for more)