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Bradley County leaders decision to tax and spend, not sitting well with taxpayers

In Uncategorized on February 26, 2013 at 10:52 AM

The Bradley County News room just received an email that I thought would make a very appropriate “Letter to the Editor” type blog to be addressed in this news outlet and shared with our 50,000 plus readers in 106 countries.

The relevance of the letter comes on the heels of a huge regional tax and spend program startup with meetings to be kicked off in the month of March.

The Local Chamber of Commerce and other NGOs will be gambling billions upon billions of your tax dollars on “economic development” for our 3 state, 16 County megaregional “Thrive 2055” growth program.

The enormity of this project will be horrendously expensive and we the taxpayer will get very little benefit and we will see very little oversight by our elected leaders as non governmental organizations run amuck with your hard earned tax dollars.

The biggest message I received from this email was our locally elected representatives are not concerned with reducing our debt, only receiving more grants to spur new spending sprees. That is a fantastic summation of where our leaders are directing us with this regional growth plan.

They all “say or preach” the right thing when the press is around or hog the print to fuss about DC when they are doing the same thing only at the local level and on a smaller scale.

It’s time the citizens and ultimately taxpayers speak up and say enough is enough. We do not like the direction our County is going and we want to preserve our children’s future not gamble it away for the next federal grant that may come our way.

I think it’s high time we take responsibility for our city and county. Act responsible and live within our means for a change, cut our debt instead of mounding it on our children’s backs, robbing them of their own ability to be prosperous.

Letter to the Editor:

Gentlemen,
Let me please begin by recalling some of your quotes that are the basis of this e-mail to you all.
 
Gary Davis quote from TFP article by Paul Leach on Jan. 11 2013:

“These are all very good signs that we are slowly but surely growing our way out of this recession and, at least in Southeast Tennessee, doing our part to generate the revenue we need without raising taxes”
 
Jeff Morelock quote from TFP article by Paul Leach on Dec. 5, 2012:

“Are we going to invest in future industry here and have growth so we don’t have to increase taxes, or are we going to tell industry we’re not interested in you coming here?”
 
J. Adam Lowe from a CDB article 2/22/2013 by David Davis:

He “absolutely despises the conversation about reducing the deficit. I want to eliminate the deficit. I want to reduce the debt”.
He said his parents would pay more in taxes if they knew it would go toward paying foreign debt.
“There is not trust it will go to that”. “Their concern is that it will continue to fund programs…”
 
Each of these articles were about different issues but I found a common thread running through each of them in your quotes. All of you rail against Washington. All of you talk about how federal debt is an issue and all you ascribe to the same basic political and economic philosophies as the solution.
 
We have our own ever increasing debt problem in Bradley County and none of you talk about it (at least publicly as I can tell). It’s always about how bad things are in Washington. As a proportion we are at least as bad as Washington in this county. Is it not hypocrisy on your part to attack Washington when our situation is approaching a mirror image? And unlike Washington, you can’t just print more money until it is as worthless as the the currency became during the days of  the Wiemar Republic just preceding Hitler.
 
Instead of remaining within the bounds of what is expected of your job you take on the task of “economic development” based on the principles of sustainable development, public/private partnerships and now regional growth. We have been at this kind of activity for over 20 years now? How has it worked for us? Have all these PILOT programs, incentives and business “attraction” produced a ballooning budget surplus yet that you have so hoped for? No it hasn’t and it never will. Do you know what else? I cannot find one study, one piece of documentation anywhere that tells us this unholy alliance between big business and bigger government works. I have multiple studies from the right wing (The John Birch Society) all the way to the left wing (The NEA) as well as many other legal and academic studies that show what you are engaging in always fails. I defy you to find me one study that shows the success of government directed economic development. Understand: I want to believe it works. I want to believe that I can turn all of life’s problems over to my government and they will create a “livable community” for me. The evidence does not bare that out.
 
“Whirlpool is still here.” “Look at Volkswagen and Amazon”: is not a study. Sorry. There are always silver shovel ceremonies and short term bubbles of economic growth (makes for great headlines and photo ops) but that bubble always bursts. Then it leads to more economic development which means more debt! You promote these deals, we provide infrastructure and services at no cost to these corporations. They take federal, state and local monies in these programs. The result: either they are long gone by the time it is time for them to begin paying their full tax burden or if they are still here, we are hit up for another PILOT agreement. You are all aware of cities that have gone bankrupt such as Stockton, Cal. The big lie in the media is that it was all about out of control public employee benefits, retirements and the SEIU. I know there is some truth in part. However the real issue in these California cities is their net bonded debt that they could not pay. This debt was created by redevelopment schemes and business attraction programs just like what is being unleashed in our area now. What makes you think you will do better this time? Regionalism? Thrive 2055 will take care of it?  
 
As stated earlier; none of you suggest addressing the spending side of the equation to solve our deficit issues and spending “needs”. All of you agree that your activity will generate growth, that will generate jobs, that will generate revenue. Once again, we have been doing this for a long time, where is the budget surplus? Where is the debt reduction? Why do you still despair over a lack of revenue?

Your quotes are essentially threats to the people: let us spend this money on economic development or we will raise your taxes. Those are the only options you give. Jeff Morelock, this is especially true of your quote. You clearly give no thought to spending reduction. You want to grow the tax base to match the size of this government that continually increases. How are any of you different than Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama? I can’t tell the difference. These are the ones you probably all criticize and complain about “strings attached” as you continually take money in federal grants and sit back and act appalled at their behavior.
 
Let me make it simple and if you disagree, then at least I said my peace to you.
PILOT programs, TIF and other Tax abatements are wrong for four reasons: 
1. People like free stuff. Whether it is an individual or a corporation. I don’t blame them: they would be stupid for not taking what you are offering because if they don’t, their competition will. Once people or corporations start taking free stuff, they will never stop and demand more free stuff. I asked another county commissioner this  question to his face one time: Where does it end? He shook his head and muttered “I don’t know”. How sad of a response; yet he still votes for all this.

2. Corporations that have tax abatements do not pay for the services they consume. If you want to perform an experiment: let all county residents only pay the school portion of their property taxes for 6 months and see how far you get. And you don’t even have to build us a new fire station or a new road! The NEA study takes my position because they know the safeguards written into the law to protect school taxes does not work.

3. As you start using our tax money as an incentive do you not think other municipalities, regional entities, etc… are doing the same against us? I know in business when someone cuts a price, there is always retaliation against the price cutter. Soon a price war ensues. Gary Davis: I know you understand this: That is why you were caught on a YouTube video at the Walden Club asking our local municipalities to “stop competing with each other, that’s the point”. You said: “We don’t need to compete”. In business, that is a clear violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust act; In government, I guess you can create any sort of Cartel you want. You must be really excited about Thrive 2055. This is a whole new layer of unelected, unaccountable government who make decisions on what businesses will go where and what areas grow. However, this didn’t work in ancient Rome where it was pursued by Emporer Constantine in Constantinople. It did not work in the Soviet Union, and it will not work here. Central planning ALWAYS fails and leaves a trail of debt and poverty. Again, I will share multiple studies if you are interested.

4. NGOs like the Chamber of Commerce and quasi-government organizations like the Industrial Development board shop our tax money to people and corporations. I know these things are not your creation but your quotes and actions show you are more than willing participants. Again, these are unelected organizations and individuals that have no accountability to the people of Bradley County but declare themselves as our “representatives”. There were some very smart people who wrote our various state constitutions who outlawed the very activity the IDB engages in. I know full well these industrial development boards were created to get around state constitutional restraints that forbid municipalites from lending their credit to private comapnies or individuals. Again, many of these things came into being as a result of the New Deal and are not your doing, but they are still wrong. You can choose to not go along with this if you want. 
 
In closing,
We are poor. Let’s start acting like it. Stop complaing about Washington when in truth Washington is your life blood. We rely on federal grant money and you know it as well as I do. Its’ not just funding our local government directly from Washington – you can even look at our local “growth”. For example look at Spring Creek which is being built with HUD 221 backed financing. This is not real, organic economic growth and you know it. These developments are built with non-recourse loans with a lower down payment than any mortgage today. This is a formula for disaster. That’s exactly what caused the housing bubble in the first place! However there is always a recourse – The American taxpayer!!

Show Washington how it’s done. You have your own debt problem to deal with.
J. Adam Lowe: If you are serious about debt, I suggest you offer up a proposal to raise property tax rates in the county with all the proceeds to go to a “lock box” for debt reduction. Think about it – you can be the Ross Perot of Bradley County!! Remember he ran on a platform to tax a gallon of gasoline $.50 that went right to debt reduction? I don’t think you will get that far in your political career by pointing attention to our local debt load but it’s worth a try.

The truth of the matter is that all of you don’t want more revenue for debt reduction: you want more revenue for more spending. My proof is the wheel tax proposal that failed. More money for more borrowing.

Gentlemen, please consider going in a new direction. Consider these words and I am happy to reconsider where I am wrong in my conclusions. Can you say the same about yourselves? I have nothing against any of you personally as I have not met many of you. It’s not any of you as a person that drives me to write this: It is the political and economic philosophies you are following that I find objectionable.
 
P.S.
Let’s start by pulling out of that exit 20 land deal that the city and county paid about $4 millon dollars too much for. I would like a copy of the property assessment for that land by the way. can one of you please scan and send your copy to me?
 
Thank you for your attention,
 
Rob Bower 

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