Thursday, December 23, 2010

Campaign Cheap Shots Have Begun

The cheap shots have started in the aldermanic campaign.  Joe Moore has a supporter who is determined to stand by his man, but who is evidently unable to provide objective evidence for perusal, let alone able to make a cogent argument against the competition. One can only hope that time and experience will fix that deficiency.  I am sure Moore doesn't need, or want, a bevy of supporters who are equally unable to offer up objective evidence or make logical sense of candidate websites.

Before going further, if any reader has access to public documents or a website that backs up any of the claims made by my caller, please point me in that direction.

I got a phone call this evening that alleged the following -

Blane Roberts - has a car in the city impound lot, owes $3,900 in unpaid tickets, and his license is suspended due to the unpaid tickets.  Was I given a link to pursue, or access to any documentation that confirms any of the foregoing?  Why no!  Should I be surprised?  Why no!

The city's website indicates that license suspension occurs if the violator has accrued 10 or more parking tickets or 5 or more red light violations that are unpaid.  In my earlier conversation with Blane he made it clear he did due diligence to ensure he could survive any election challenge.  He was very upset about the challenge and wanted the details when he learned about it.  I should point out that my caller claimed the information is online, but I couldn't find the specifics of what he alleged.  Surely Blane would have if he consulted online databases, and assuming the data was entered correctly.

I would like to read the Exhibit A referenced in the challenge affidavit since it has the details, but was not posted at the Board's site.  I would also like to read the recommendation document from the Hearing Officer, which is not yet posted.

And it gets better!

Brian White - I was asked if I had read Brian's website.  I did once before and I have now.  The caller asserted that Brian intended to extend the lake-front bike trail through action to acquire the private beaches.  Not exactly.  Brian does address the issue of reengineering Sheridan Road.  

As Alderman, I’ll commit to re-engineer Sheridan Road as a pedestrian-centered and bicycle-friendly neighborhood street. I will:
  • Work to develop better access to the Lakefront across Sheridan Road by improving timing of lights at key intersections and improving signage.
  • Work with residents along the Lakefront to come up with a continuous and safe route for people traveling by bike along the Lakefront. This will include adding buffered bike lanes on Sheridan, where the street can accommodate them.

In response to a direct query about park expansion and Lake Shore Drive he has this to say:

I’d like to preserve and improve the Lakefront beaches as neighborhood beaches, not as continuous parkland and certainly not as an extension of Lake Shore Drive. I think there is a need to create access to the Lakefront across Sheridan and to connect the bike path north and south, but we can do that without resorting to excessive landfill that changes the fundamental character of what is there.

That does not sound like someone racing to take over the private beaches.  I pointed out to my caller that the issue of the lake-front, and the extension of Lake Shore Drive, is a hot item in this ward, and anything Brian proposes will be heavily scrutinized.

My caller mentioned Howard Street, an issue on which Brian and Joe have a shared vision, whether they realize it or not.  It can be argued as to whether our incumbent has done enough to get the ball rolling and share his efforts with his constituents, aside from the street-scape initiative.  Regardless, both candidates are on the same page about its future.  Howard St. and North of Howard are hot buttons for many in the ward.  At the last 2422 CAPS meeting a representative from the RPCC (or was it RPBA?) was in attendance and commented on the fact that potential retail and service lessees were expressing interest in Howard, but not committing to renting the available space.  The business people are concerned about the neighborhood and whether their businesses can thrive there.  Howard St. needs help, thus it makes sense to me that every candidate would offer a plan for revitalizing that area.  I don't know what the caller's point was in bringing this up.

My caller also stated Brian intended to raise taxes.  Having perused the website, I can't find anything that says he intends to do that, or that infers he intends to do that.  The issue of the TIF/RIF is still pending, and that is not a revenue generator.  Once again, my caller offered no objective evidence to support the allegation.

The bottom line is that I received a phone call from someone who thinks Moore is wonderful and clearly wanted to point out the deficiencies of the opposition.  Might have worked if he had bothered to produce evidence to back up his allegations.  So here's what I have to say to my caller, and by extension to anyone else supporting a specific candidate :

If you are going to make allegations you better produce evidence to back it up.  Don't have any? Then keep the hearsay and gossip to yourself until you can produce something.  I'll accept a thorough analysis that explains how you reached your conclusions, but it better be based on facts and logic, not mere inference because your gut has something to say.  To borrow from Scrooge, it might be nothing more than an underdone potato or a bit of bad beef that has your panties in a twist.

Got that?

So why bother posting this, to be kind, balderdash?  Because silly season is officially underway now that the Board has made its decisions.  Voters should know what is being alleged by the various camps about their opponents.  Given facts and evidence they can make up their own minds about who is the better candidate.  That includes assessing the behavior and actions of the supporters..


Thomas Westgard said...

I''m not convinced how wrong it all is. Brian is proposing that we create a new housing program with a budget of $58 million dollars. I love housing programs, and the money always has to come from somewhere. Either you raise taxes or you cut an existing budget. I guess Brian didn't say which of those things he wants to do, but saying he wants to raise taxes is pretty darn close to fair.

For that matter, I'm not aware that Brian addressed this point either, which is a meaningful omission for someone who wants to be a legislator. Would you have nodded your head in strenuous agreement if your caller had taken Brian to task for failing to address this crucially important point? I mean, $58,000,000 is a lot of dough for one ward to mysteriously allocate. I want to know what the collateral damage will be (taxes? programs - which ones?), and I suspect lots of other people will want the same.

Kheris said...

Thomas - The housing program is to be financed via the Rental Improvement fund via the ward-wide TIF. The $58M is the estimated revenue expected from the TIF over its lifespan. This is of course the subject of your RP WikiLeaks.

Everything else in his housing and development priorities involves zoning or achieved via new ordinances/regulations, which appear to be revenue neutral to me.

Thomas Westgard said...

Sure, no disagreement. To restate the above more succinctly, isn't it reasonable to ask how that new $58,000,000 program fits into the rest of the budget? I think it's a good question that proponents of the TIF should answer.

Kheris said...

OK, I am paying the price for being up late, but when I look at your comment my reaction is this: I agree completely that the proponents of the TIF have a lot of explaining to do on more than one front.

The underlying assumption of a TIF is that debt is issued to improve existing property and create the conditions for additional investment. The financing assumes payback from the revenue generated by the tax increment due to increased property valuations and investment. There are 2 questions I would pose to the TIF proponents:

1 - what is the basis for the assumptions leading to the expected increase in tax revenue (the tax increment expected to reach $58M over the life of the TIF),

2 - what happens if the money does not materialize because property values do not increase as assumed?

I suspect the uncertainty about property valuation is what underlies the assertion that taxes will get raised. The financing has to be paid somehow.

Thomas Westgard said...

Here is how I understand the claim that a TIF is the same as a tax increase. If there's no TIF, property taxes go into general revenue and thus pay for fire department, police department, housing department, aging, health, etc. This TIF would remove $58 million from general revenue, and shunt it over to a new affordable housing program, so either general revenue loses that $58M in income, or the city raises the overall rate to restore the amount for general revenue.

There are budgetary complexities. It's true that property values normally increase, but so does the population. If tough economic times continue, per-capita demand for municipal services will increase, and of course there's always inflation to contend with. But generally you wouldn't call it a tax hike if you're just keeping pace with inflation.

This proposal is a TIF, but the more fundamental point is that it's a new program costing $58,000,000. Either that is taken from other programs, or taxes go up. There is no other way.

Kheris said...

Nothing gets reallocated until the tax revenue rises above the base. That is the Tax Increment. See the Illinois Tax Increment Association for the explanation of how TIFs work. Money is not diverted until the tax revenue rises over the base, thus creating the increment.

If the increment kicks in, then yes that increment money gets diverted, not the base. But if city expenditures are rising it's not hard to imagine rates going up and we all get it in the neck, TIF or no TIF.

The problem I see gets back to my question as to what happens if the tax revenue does not rise above the base. The municipality helps with financing today, but if there is no Tax Increment generated tomorrow as a result how does the debt incurred get paid for? The base tax revenue continues to go where it always has, and if there is no increment to pay the debt then what?

My concern is that TIFs are not as simple as they are portrayed, and the way this city has controlled and used the money has added to the confusion about their value, especially in this economy with an anemic real estate market.

Thomas Westgard said...

I sense that we're talking past each other. There are unanswered questions if property values go down, and there are unanswered questions if property values go up.

Given that there's a TIF proposal, its implications only come into play if property values go up. Otherwise the TIF is a fiscal nullity, except the cost of the eligibility study.

If property values stay the same, in one sense, it's neither loss nor gain, but generally there is inflation on other products and services. The first dollars into a TIF are what would be needed to keep pace with inflation.

Kheris said...

I think we are agreed that there are unanswered questions. I agree the TIF is a fiscal nullity if the property values fail to rise, but that doesn't help me with issue of the debt that is incurred to improve property or infrastructure and thus spur investment and rising values. My understanding is the revenue that accrues in the increment is used to pay that back, or is supposed to be.

Looks like I am in an endless loop on that issue. I'll give it a rest.

Hugh said...

This is classic Joe Moore campaign strategy. If you can't win a campaign based on your own performance, start spreading lies about the competition. Causes me to ask if the best thing for Rogers Park is another four years of this kind of slimy so-called leadership.