I’ve seen a whole gang on interesting points made on the Edgewater in recent days, so I’d like to share a few of them with you.
First: Brenda Konkel brings up an interesting motive for supporting Tax Incremental Financing for the renovation: schools. According to Brenda, the proposed changes to the TIF district (which you need to be a part of to receive TIF funding) include James Madison Park (which Ald. Bridget Maniaci has lobbied for), as well as the Lincoln Elementary School.
For those of you unfamiliar with the jist of TIF, the city pays a subsidy which it expects will be paid back through increased property tax receipts that result from the increased property value in the area. It is in the interest of public schools, who are the largest beneficiaries of property taxes, to support plans to increase the property tax base.
Although Brenda seems to use this point to illustrate a sinister scheme by the schools, I see it as a valid point in favor of TIF. The public sector can benefit as well as the private sector. And please no comments about Kelo v. New Haven!
Forward Our Motto, another Edgewater renovation opponent, points out that Madison has been inconsistent with its allocation of TIF money. For instance, Epic, the Madison-based software firm, moved to Verona years ago in an apparent attempt to find a more business-friendly climate. Lukas points out that Verona gave them $14 million of TIF money, which is $2 million less than we’re giving the Edgewater people. Lukas correctly points out that Epic represents a helluva lot more jobs than the Edgewater.
In response I would make two points. First, it doesn’t look like Epic ever applied for TIF funding from Madison. Did they want to stay here anyways? They rejected sites in Madison and Fitchburg before settling on V-town. Take a visit to their headquarters sometime and you’ll understand that the vision their CEO had likely wouldn’t have been possible within the city limits. If Epic approached Madison with some kind of offer and the city told them to go to hell, well, that was very short-sighted. But I doubt that’s what happened. Secondly I would make the somewhat predictable point that the Edgewater is taking place during a recession and we’re desperate for any kind of investment we can get.