Sunday, February 19, 2006

Part 2: Falbo projects fall behind in paying tax

I don't like the URA. But, I really don't like subsidized housing for the rich. To be building downtown housing with taxpayer's money in the mix, is wrongheaded. Rather, let downtown housing happen on its own, as a private sector development. I have no problems with people living downtown, not at all. But, I have a problem when we pay some of their way to reside downtown.

We should be putting the efforts and attention of the governmental programs to work in the areas where they are needed the most -- mainly with the poor, the edge communities (such as Knoxville, Beltzhoover, St. Clair Village, and other areas around our town and county where the crumbling of the infrastructure has begun, sadly.
Falbo projects fall behind in paying tax His 151 First Side project, Downtown, to include 82 condominiums, got a $1.5 million loan in 2004 from the Urban Redevelopment Authority.
This is bad policy, to subsidize housing for the rich in downtown.

It is much better to build up Brighton Heights (i.e., neighborhoods) rather than downtown. Everyday working people live and own property in the neighborhoods. The little-guys are the lifeblood of the city. Downtown property owners are generally big corporations. Ask, who should GOVERNMENT cater to?

The best answer is NOBODY should get a free ride. NO special interest group should get favorite attention and handouts.

The worst of the worst are the big downtown handout deals. The $18-million TIF to PNC for PNC PLAZA goes on top of the $30-million GRANT already given for the project by Gov Rendell. That state money is our money too. Comcast's building in Philly got a $300-million tax break.

Those numbers are huge and this is where we need to lay the shovel down.

The answers from both O'Connor and Weinstein are on the mark. Way to go.
"There's nothing in the law that addresses sitting still and being patient," county Treasurer John Weinstein said. "I give all the credence in the world to anyone who would take an abandoned piece of property and redevelop it. But someone owns it, and someone ought to be paying taxes on it."

As the abandoned property sits idle, the entire neighborhood goes into a tailspin. Everyone's property is pulled downward. Those little bumps are significant to the families.

Furthermore, we've been rewarding, with cash, those that do the wrong things. You start a crack house and you get money from the URA. You let your property go into the toilet -- you get a tax break. If you fix up your property, you get a tax hit.
Even as it failed to pay taxes, the partnership received $625,000 in loans and grants in 2002 from the URA to demolish the old hospital. The abandoned hospital had become a scene of drug dealing, teen parties and occasional fires.
The philosophy and policies are wrongheaded.

The best solution is the freedom-based solution. Liberty and justice for all. So, everyone gets treated as they should -- no favorites. Mr. Falbo wants "constitutent services treatment" -- not justice for him. You're not doing a favor for Brighton Heights. The tunes have changed since Tom Murphy was mayor, perhaps. Or have they just changed because of Rich Lord, the P-G reporter?

Mr. Falbo said he was doing the city a favor by holding the property. "Do I just walk away and give the thing to the taxing bodies and let them deal with the drug parties and all the other problems?" he asked.

URA's Jerry D said it wasn't uncommon for developers to delay tax payments. "I think it's wrong," he said of the practice. "I think it's unfair to the municipalities."

A good developer in Pittsburgh is one who knows all the angles and can play the system. They use things. They squat where they need to. They get and give favors. They wheel and deal -- and the taxpayers get the bills and the lower home ownership values. The URA said that the developer knows the funding programs -- knows the red tape -- knows the hoops to jump through.

Take the funding programs and put them in the trash. We need HONESTY. PAY THE BILL. EVERYONE PAYS. No give-a-ways. No more funding programs. LAY THE SHOVEL DOWN. Game over.

Without fairness in the system -- we'll never have prosperity, unless it goes to the cheats.

Such a JOKE: But, he added, Mr. Falbo "is a very good developer. He knows the funding programs. He's very good at managing the projects. He's a risk-taker."

Here is another game of corruption that needs to be fixed once and for all: These assessment fights where an independent living center in Allegheny Center was reassessed by the county at $4.9 million, and taxed accordingly. The partnership appealed and won a reduction to $2.5 million. It appealed that and, on Feb. 1, the assessment was cut to $1,125,000. The value dropped from $4.9 Million to $1.1 Million.

That is a massive discount. What if everyone in the city and county paid only 20% of their tax bill? And, to put insult onto injury, this is a project that was another governmental boondogle -- Allegheny Center. This is what's crushing us.

We would have been better to leave Allegheny Center alone. Lay the shovel down -- and we all have a chance to have prosperity. Otherwise, they mess things up in a big, big way.

When we see things that are "billed as a boon for the struggling" -- watch out.

The county assessed the houses at $37,000 to $85,000, with most around $50,000. The partnership challenged those assessments and got them reduced to $3,700 each. So, the changes in assessment went from $50,000 to $3,700, EACH.

This is how the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. This is how corruption wins the day. This is why we need a fresh voice on council who knows that the way to prosperity, for all, is with the taxes on the land. Land can't be fudged like they have been doing in these instances and throughout the county.

The real solution here is simple, and it is proven, and it has been something that has been in our legacy for generations. The solution is NOT about a UNIFIED TAX, such as pushed and later agreeded to by Bob O'Connor and Tom Murphy. Bob O'Connor, then City Council President, pushed for and got a UNIFIED tax and that leads to troubles such as these. Now we've got a quagmire that needs to be undone.

We need to tax the value of the land. This is often called a LAND VALUE TAX. The Land Value Tax is what caused our downtown to be a dense business climate with many high-rise properties. The Land Value Tax is what has allowed our neighborhoods to flourish in the past generations while keeping our total cost of home ownership as the most affordable in any urban region in the nation.

If the Land Value Tax comes back into our policy direction -- we'll see another boom in home values, home ownership rewards, and downtown buildings. Presently we are seeing folks who can't sell their homes as they are worthless on the open market. Neighborhoods are a big risk for new home buyers. We are seeing the tax shift from the big fish to the smaller families. We are seeing many of the downtown buildings be torn down because it is better to make green space or a surface parking lot.

Oh my oh my.

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