Thursday, May 04, 2006


Interesting column in today's Star.

I've heard said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. It's an old maxim often recited by recovering addicts.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that what the mayor's doing?

She keeps pushing this economic development agenda. Debt. Tax breaks. Tax increases. More debt. Saying, over and over again, This is how we grow a city.


Every audit of the city's tax incentive program that I've ever read shows that the projections for revenue are almost invariably overblown. All the evidence out there seems to back up Yael's skepticism about the projected tax income for this big downtown rehab will fall short.

(I have to throw out an aside here: Yael and I were both at the press conference where they announced some out-of-town company would be developing the downtown district. I asked the muckity-mucks why they're doing a big planned development when all previous big developments seem to have bombed in Kansas City while the unplanned ones (Westport, 39th St) have thrived. I was barked down by Mr. Snooty Developer and made to seem like a fool.)

But I digress. I have another yet.


In 1997 a bunch of this city's finest citizens and public officials gathered to try to figure out why our budget's all shot to hell, why we can't afford to do basic city stuff like fill pot holes and fix sidewalks and have sewers that can handle what we flush. They put together a landmark report that said, in no uncertain terms, The city keeps gambling on these big-ticket projects, and the city keeps crumbling and crumbling. Stop the insanity!

It was a scathing indictment of two decades of major debting and tax-breaking, from which we got dubiously beneficial things like the two big (almost empty towers) downtown, flush creek, Union Station rehab, Crown Center.

It would seem that all of those were "This is how you grow a city" style schemes.

But all it seemed to grow was a multi-billion-dollar backlog of unfinished infrastructure chores.

It's interesting that Herroner the mayor came into city politics during that go-go era of the 70s and 80s.

I mean, am I an idiot? Can it possibly be so simple?

From my point of view it looks like plain, old, addiction-variety insanity.

Like, they keep doing the same shit. It hasn't worked before. But they keep saying This is how it works.


Anonymous said...

Gripe about Union Station, Downtown, Crown Center, and whatever else all you want: nothing sucks this town drier than the casinos. Nothing.

joe said...

How do you figure?

ginak said...

sometimes, it seems like the city has a grasp of the superficial side of development, but lacks the insight to elaborate with content. union station is a great example. if Union Station were either functional as a train station, like Grand Central, or a shopping mall, like St. Louis' Galleria, or even as a museum with really mind-blowing exhibits, then the city would have been right. the money would have been well spent. instead, it's a place you go to look at that place. which, really, isn't very interesting more than once. if you're going to have exhibits, hire awesome curators, you know what i mean? i'm worried about downtown turning out the same way. i hope its not just a place that proclaims itself to be "urban" with sex-in-the-city inspired bars, stadiums, lofts and parking spaces. but no corner markets, no place to eat at 3 a.m., no laundromats, no kiosks, no reason to be out on the sidewalk... no content, all structure.