Tag Archives: EEZ

Hoppe Responds to Keep Columbia Free

Hoppe

Sunday evening I received an email from Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe in response to my last post on this site regarding her grumbling about Mark Jones being a spoiler. Read that post HERE.

The section from that post that prompted her response reads as follows:

But the local Columbia leftists won’t stop spitting sour grapes all over social media. Even liberal icon Barb Hoppe, who – by the way – voted to expand Downtown government surveilance and voted for the EEZ every time until REDI told her not to, got in on the action, chiming in on a post on her hubby Mike Sleadd’s Facebook wall amidst a throng of “Jones was a spoiler” rants.

Hoppe responds:

Hi Mark, Mitch and Dan, and Keep Columbia Free,

I just saw a post one or all of you did on Keep Columbia Free and it’s facebook book page.
I want to set the record straight on two things that you were totally wrong on about regarding my position and votes.

You stated:
“Even liberal icon Barb Hoppe, who – by the way – voted to expand Downtown government surveilance and voted for the EEZ every time until REDI told her not to, got in on the action, chiming in on a post on her hubby Mike Sleadd’s Facebook wall amidst a throng of “Jones was a spoiler” rants.”

1. I was not in favor of the downtown cameras and voted against them every step of the way and also spoke against them at the Keep Columbia free forum at the Blue Note before the public vote. After the City wide vote in favor of the cameras, I did vote to FUND the cameras, but only after they were approved by the public ballot process. I also made it clear when I voted for the funding, that I did not personally support them and the majority of the 6th ward did not support them either.

2. EEZ- The EEZ first vote came up very quickly, with only a few days notice before the council meeting.  I and Helen Anthony had many questions about the EEZ and  raised them as quickly as we could given the short notice, but in retrospect we were not provided accurate or full  information at the time of our first vote. Thereafter, I worked very hard to get additional answers to questions and concerns that I had, as well as those the public had.  I worked vigorously to get City staff, Council and the Mayor to have more dialogue and hear concerns from the general public who had been left out of the process. I worked to and voted to rescind the first EEZ Board and worked behind the scenes to get new members on that board who would ask tough questions and represent the public.  I attended many meetings with the public and continued raising concerns and questions, publicly and in many private meetings. I  was responsible for help opening up the process for dialogue and community involvement, that ultimately led to REDI asking Council to rescind the EEZ Board and not pursue EEZ’s further. Your statement regarding this is ridiculous and unfounded. You are either uniformed or untruthful. I would like to think it is the former rather than the later.

Sincerely,
Barbara Hoppe

So let me explain why I still stand by what I wrote.

In a nutshell, claiming to be against something but voting in favor of it multiple times is a problem.

Let’s take a look at the first point from Ms. Hoppe’s email — government surveillance of peaceful citizens in Downtown Columbia.

It is true that she spoke against the camera plan and it is true that she voted against the camera plan when it first came before the council prior to being placed on the ballot for voter approval. Thanks for that.

What we must remember is that Proposition 1, the camera ballot initiative, merely authorized the Columbia Police Department to place cameras downtown. The CPD could have made this request at any time and were already authorized to do so. The ballot initiative, as successful as it was, did not mandate that the council provide funding for such a plan. In fact, all the council really could have done in any case is vote to fund the project and Ms. Hoppe voted to do exactly that.

In fact, Ms. Hoppe not only voted to fully fund the original plan for government surveillance in Downtown Columbia, she voted to expand the camera system with a remote control upgrade. Heck, even Fred Schmidt had the guts to offer a protest vote against the expansion.

I also find it alarming that, as Ms. Hoppe states, “the majority of the 6th ward did not support” the camera plan, yet she voted to fund the project. She was, after all, elected by the voters of the 6th Ward to be their representative.

Voting to fund a project that your constituents are against and that you have spoken against is like admonishing one’s alcoholic uncle for drinking too much and then giving him $20 with which to go to the liquor store.

Now let’s take a look at the second part of Ms. Hoppe’s email — the EEZ.

Yes, the original vote was thrust upon the council with very little supporting documentation and no public input. I will concede that she made a mistake that anyone could have made. I will also concede that when a grassroots groundswell of opposition arose against the EEZ, Ms. Hoppe attended public forums and worked to dissolve the original ordinance which allowed for some public comment. She also helped get Anthony Stanton and Jeremy Root on the new EEZ board.

In reality, this did nothing. Ms. Hoppe voted to establish the original EEZ board, voted to dissolve that board alongside the most fervent EEZ supporters, and then immediately ignored the public and voted to re-establish the EEZ board after hearing volumes of public testimony from the citizens of Columbia and several renowned experts including attorney David Roland of the Freedom Center of Missouri and David Stokes, a policy analyst at the Show-Me Institute who specializes in tax incentives, specifically Enterprise Zones.

Voting to allow public input and then ignoring public input is not representative government — it is political theater.

This might all have something to do with the fact that Ms. Hoppe was in a difficult and rather dirty race against the extremely cantankerous Bill Tillotson. During the campaign, she hopped on the anti-EEZ wagon and cooperated with and listened to the EEZ opposition. After she defeated Tillotson, she went right back to voting in favor of the EEZ plan.

I had a feeling it would happen exactly this way. Here is an excerpt from an email I wrote to the CiViC email group in April of 2012:

It seems likely that the original resolution will be rescinded at the next Council meeting, but I have little doubt that a new map will be ushered in via ordinance. While the new blight map will likely be smaller than the original, any blanket blight designation is too much.

While the map was never finalized, it is true that the council rescinded the original EEZ resolution, allowed for a couple of weeks of public comment, promptly ignored that public comment, and created a new EEZ board within weeks.

It is also true that the council, including Ms. Hoppe, only voted to finally dissolve the second EEZ board when REDI made the request.

In her recent email to me, Ms. Hoppe also claims:

I was responsible for help opening up the process for dialogue and community involvement, that ultimately led to REDI asking Council to rescind the EEZ Board and not pursue EEZ’s further.

Is she kidding?

Does she really think that she helped defeat the EEZ by voting for it —- TWICE?

Ms. Hoppe, your pressure on the council did lead to some public input, but ultimately, the EEZ process was simply renewed, and you voted for it. What “ultimately led to REDI asking Council to rescind the EEZ Board and not pursue EEZ’s further” was the hard work and relentless dedication of folks like Linda Green, Monta Welch, Mary Hussman, etc. who kept the pressure on the EEZ Board and REDI. I have no doubt they would have done the same had the original EEZ Board been left in place.

Ms. Hoppe, please put your money – and your vote – where your mouth is.

Mark Flakne

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EEZ – It’s Still Corporate Welfare

Recent comments made by Mayor McDavid and his cohorts indicate that he and his pals were simply not listening to public outcry regarding their plans to blight Columbia in order to give tax breaks to manufacturing businesses. The Mayor believes that since a blight protection provision was tacked on to a last-minute omnibus bill and recently made law, the misgivings of EEZ opponents should be assuaged.

BOB, YOU HAVEN’T BEEN LISTENING!

Well, maybe not. Part of me feels like this is just some crafty media wrangling. With the specter of blight seemingly removed from the discussion, everyone should be happy with the EEZ plan, right?

WRONG!

The fact remains, with or without blight, that EEZ’s are a waste of time and energy. EEZ’s do not create any lasting economic advancement. EEZ’s only provide short-term gains for the well connected. The EEZ plan is a simple corporate handout, providing huge tax breaks for a small number of businesses while the rest of us go on picking up the financial slack as we feed our hard earned dollars to the plutocratic, government, money-gobbling machine.

But wait, everyone else is doing it, so we have to do it to compete, right?

WRONG!

Somebody (some city) needs to take a stand against corporate prostitution and Columbia is the perfect candidate. Columbia does not need to compete with Centralia’s EEZ. Columbia is America’s Hardest Working City. Columbia has been listed in the top 25 places to live, work, and raise a family repeatedly, by several publications, over the last 25 years. Columbia has the lowest unemployment rate in the state and is among the lowest in the country. Columbia is an intelligent and affluent town, fully capable of maintaining and growing an already vibrant economy without working the street corner, selling quick rolls in the hay of tax incentives to  middle-aged, morally-challenged corporate Johns.

Here is an interview I gave a local station just this week on the subject. Sadly, much of the media has a limited understanding of the nuances surrounding the EEZ.

http://www.komu.com/news/opponents-of-eez-skeptical-of-new-blight-legislation/#

It is important to note that the anti-eminent domain abuse provision tacked on to the recently passed law is a giant step in the right direction. However, this law, due to its omnibus nature, is precarious at best due to Missouri’s Hammerschmidt law. Hammerschmidt basically says that any law that is comprised of a pile of unrelated subjects can be struck down if challenged. Rep. Chris Kelly reportedly thinks it will be challenged and struck down. Rep. Caleb Jones, who also supported the bill, thinks it will stand unmolested by the courts. When I spoke with Jones during his appearance on The Gary Nolan Show, he promised to pursue a stand-alone bill that would provide the same protections as the omnibus provision. It also bears mentioning that Sen. Kurt Schaefer, one of the best in Jeff City, sponsored this bill in the Senate.

Isn’t it strange that our state lawmakers are more responsive to the opinions of their constituents than are our local representatives? This fact stands as an indication of the perversion and general corruption that has infected our local house of government.

Kudos to these lawmakers for listing to the large public outcry that was spearheaded by Keep Columbia Free. Thanks to all of you who wrote, called, and spoke publicly against this plan. Thanks to all of you from Occupy CoMo, the Tea Party, the Ron Paul group, Food Not Bombs, etc., who made up a huge crowd of unlikely allies at the Keep Columbia free “Pack The Council Meeting” rally for basic responsive representation at the the local level in the struggle against corporate control of our government.

Here is the video from the City Council meeting that was preceded by the Keep Columbia Free rally. The first 6:30 is the presentation from David Stokes of The Show-Me Institute in which he outlines his preliminary findings from his EEZ study. The second half is a rousing speech from our very own co-founder and former treasurer Mitch Richards. Be sure and watch the very end of the video to hear the rousing applause as Mayor McDavid bangs his gavel in vain.

But… the fight is not over. There hasn’t been much public action lately, but Keep Columbia Free is involved in a discussion with one City Council Person who has drafted an amendment to the City Charter aimed at protecting property owners from blight-based condemnations and eminent domain abuse.

If you have the time, I would encourage you to attend the EEZ Advisory Board meetings as they struggle to design a plan. It is important to keep an eye on the process, speaking up when something is wrong and supporting the things that are done correctly.

Rest assured. When the next opportunity for public opposition to the EEZ arises, Keep Columbia Free will muster the troops. Follow us on Facebook to stay informed.

 

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The Mike Mathes TIF Delusion

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” — source unclear

 

When it comes to telling lies on behalf of Columbia City Government and its corporate masters, Mike Mathes is no slouch. Rumors surrounding the firing of Zim Schwartz aside, there is little doubt that Mathes is willing to say or do anything to bring large-scale Tax Increment Financing to Columbia. His rabid, pro-corporate welfare whirlwind of half-truths and lies has many Columbians wondering, “What is Mathes smoking?”

(For a quick wiki-breakdown of TIFs, click HERE. In a nutshell, instead of paying taxes to the government, the developer/business gets to collect tax, but pocket the proceeds to offset the cost of development.)

To tell you the truth, I really had high hopes for the guy when he was hired. He seemed reasonable, likable, and fiscally responsible and even expressed some ‘off the record’ opinions that had the civil libertarian in me almost giddy with delight. That, however, was before he stepped up as Columbia’s Champion of Corporate Welfare, weaving a web of lies so tangled it boggles the mind.

Mathes has been pitching his love of TIFs to anyone who will listen and he seems to have convinced Superintendent Chris Belcher that TIFs will actually bring funding to the Columbia Public Schools. This proposal is, of course, laughable to anyone who has studied the relationship of TIFs and school funding.

“I’ve said publicly you can’t have a strong community without strong schools,” he said.

Belcher said although there are several types of TIF proposals, this one makes “everyone have a little skin in the game.”

“Their success benefits us,” he said.

 

The only problem is, TIFs usually aren’t successful. It sure looks like the TIF for the Tiger Hotel has been a failure, while Laverick lives it up on the public dime.

When Mathes met with County leaders to peddle his TIF plan, he told the biggest doozy of a lie yet. He actually – I’m not kidding – made the claim that the Kansas City Power and Light District is an example of of great TIF success.

Benefits of TIF districts include the creation of a pool of money to invest in the district, the prevention of blight and an increase in property values, Matthes said. Improvements could be funded for infrastructure and aesthetic upgrades. He pointed to successful TIF projects such as the Power and Light District in Kansas City.

Mathes made this comment less than a month after the Wall Street Journal called the Power and Light District Kansas City’s “Budget Hole.”

Today, the project, which sits near the onetime headquarters of Kansas City Power & Light Co., generates less than one-third of what is needed to cover the debt service on the bonds. The city is setting aside $12.8 million in its budget for the fiscal year that starts next month to cover the gap, a notable hole in a $1.3 billion budget that calls for $7.6 million in cuts to the fire department.

As Mathes surely knows, Columbia is already having trouble funding an adequate fire department, let alone its pension fund. If he thinks Power and Light is an example of success, what on Earth might he consider a failure?

Heck, surely Mathes read the Show-Me Institute piece entitled, Revisionist TIF History From Columbia’s City Manager, in which policy analyst Audrey Spalding takes Mathes to task on his wild TIF claims and makes mention of the Kansas City Power and Light debacle. Regardless of reality, it seems to be full steam ahead for the Mathes TIF train. 

There is little doubt that giant TIFs are in the works for Columbia. During a February Council Meeting, First Ward Councilman Fred Schmidt expressed an interest in applying a giant TIF to the entire First Ward.

Plans to develop a TIF district that would encompass the entire First Ward remain in their infancy. Schmidt, however, said the approach would allow the city to improve urban density, provide infill housing, bury power lines along Business Loop 70 and pursue a backlog of stormwater retention measures.

 

The bigger problem with these blanket TIF districts, besides the fact that developers often take the money and run leaving the taxpayers holding the bag, is that the TIF process is often used for “urban renewal.” In these urban renewal schemes, private property is often condemned and purchased for below-market value or seized by the government only to be handed over to developers. In Columbia, plans for a new hotel and convention center in the North Central Neighborhood area of the First Ward are rumored to have been discussed. Wouldn’t a blanket TIF make this plan more likely to come to fruition? While a new hotel and convention center might sound wonderful, it would require the removal of a great deal of North Central affordable housing.

The good news is that Columbia is waking up to the evils of these egregious corporate tax swindles. The proposed Enhanced Enterprise Zone tax abatement scheme currently being pushed by a few powerful, elitist business people is but the latest example. Fresh on the heels of Moberly’s Mamtek fiasco, REDI, a quasi-public/private entity with considerable influence at City Hall, has proposed a similar plan for Columbia: the EEZ.  This move has sparked strong grassroots opposition from across the political spectrum. The fight should be fun to watch as the people of Columbia wake up to the fact that their government is controlled by profit-seeking paternalists.

 

 

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Pack the Council Meeting

Come out and help send a strong message to the Council. The people of Columbia are united against corporate handouts in the form of EEZs and TIFs, blight, and eminent domain abuse. Help pull Columbia out of the plutocratic race to the bottom! 

Recall petitions will be available for signing! 

 

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Kespohl Lies About The EEZ

In response to a recent press release issued by Keep Columbia Free warning the council that they could possibly face recall if they vote in favor of blighting Columbia to insure corporate welfare via the EEZ, Councilperson Gary Kespohl made an interesting comment. Councilman Kespohl has been known to stretch the truth to get what he wants, as evidenced by the unprecedented negative ad campaign that helped him edge out Karl Skala in 2010, but his comment in this interview was more than a stretch; it was an outright lie. 

During the KOMU interview Kespohl stated that, “the city council gave citizens the opportunity to submit names of whom they would like to serve on the advisory board, but received no suggestions.” Watch the KOMU story HERE

Oh really, Mr. Kespohl? 

It just so happens that the one and only, former-councilperson Karl Skala, a member of CiViC (Citizens Involved and Invested In Columbia), a group formed in opposition to the EEZ proposal, submitted a list to Mr. Kespohl and the rest of the council five days prior to this interview. 

 

Click HERE to view the attachment Karl attached to his email to Mayor and Council. 

So why did he lie? I guess we all know why, but fellow councilperson and Chamber-endorsed running mate Daryl Dudley summed it up the best. Near the end of the KOMU video, Dudley is quoted as saying he’s “willing to do whatever it takes to get the EEZ plan up and rolling.”

If it takes a few public lies and distortions, I guess Kespohl is willing.

For a more in-depth story, visit the KMIZ video by clicking HERE

Click HERE for the Missourian story regarding the potential recall.

Click HERE to read the Missourian’s in-depth report on the issue

Contact the council today and tell them to stop lying and stop the plan to blight Columbia. Click HERE for City Council contact info. 

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Call For Council Recall

Due to the overwhelming public outcry resulting from the City Council’s plan to declare large areas of Columbia “blighted” and create an Enhanced Enterprise Zone, Keep Columbia Free is asking for volunteers to step forward and take action to recall any and all current City Council representatives who choose to ignore the wishes of their engaged constituents and vote in favor of establishing an EEZ board.

Blight-based eminent domain abuse is common in Missouri, as Missouri law provides little to no protection for property owners. Blight designations and the resulting condemnation proceedings have repeatedly been used to take property from low-income and minority populations across Missouri. This outrageous abuse of government power ignores the most fundamental property right protections enumerated in our beloved Bill of Rights and threatens the very Liberty around which our great country was founded.

As an organization dedicated to protecting and upholding the free market, Keep Columbia Free opposes tax abatement schemes, corporate welfare, TIFs, EEZs and public/private partnerships that use government regulation to distort the market and limit competition. As proponents of limited government, we call upon fiscal conservatives to stand against these perverse ploys and demand real economic freedom for all citizens.

Considering that Columbia has the lowest unemployment rate in Missouri, was recently voted the hardest working town in America, and is likely the best place to live in Missouri – if not the entire Midwest – declaring large portions of our city blighted is nothing short of fraud.

Anyone interested in volunteering to collect the small number of signatures required to force a recall vote or interested in running to replace a recalled council member should send contact information to kcf@keepcolumbiafree.com or call 573.808.4770.

For more information please visit www.KeepColumbiaFree.com, email kcf@KeepColumbiaFree.com, or call Mark Flakne at 573.808.4770, Abhi Sivasailam at 636.675.2917, or Mitch Richards at 573.777.2306.

For background info, please read the recent story by Columbia Missourian reporters Hannah Cushman and Madeline O’Leary.

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Letter to Tom Bradley

Following an appearance by Dave Griggs and Mike Brooks of REDI on the 93.9 Tom Bradley Show,  I sent Tom the following email.

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Tom,

I listened to today’s segment featuring Mike Brooks and Dave Griggs from REDI and I feel it is important to clarify a few of the significant statements they made regarding the EEZ proposal and blight prerequisite. I know you are a reasonable guy so I hope the information I provide herein will allow you to give your listeners a more complete picture of this matter. I also hope the evidence I have cited below will help you to see that the uproarious negative reaction from a large cross-section of the Columbia citizenry is far from knee-jerk.

 

Sincerely,

Mark Flakne

President – Keep Columbia Free

573.808.4770

 

 

EEZ:

I would argue that tax abatement schemes like the EEZ designation are merely crony capitalism which allows the government to pick winners and losers. This type of activity tips the playing field and distorts the market.

When one company’s taxes are abated, the government does not simply run on less money. When the government can’t get its money from one avenue, it simply gets it from another. Other businesses and individuals (you and me) pick up the slack. Really, when was the last time our gluttonous government ever trimmed its budget? If we really want to allow businesses to create jobs, taxes should be lowered for everyone and government red tape hurdles to entrepreneurship should be removed. Targeted tax abatements are simply unfair.

While the REDI representatives are correct when they list the number of EEZ zones across the state and the number of businesses benefiting from the tax abatement offered by these zones, there is no proof that the EEZ designations actually “created” jobs. While companies do look at their respective bottom lines, these abatements generally represent a small fraction of the overall operating budget. Are these tax abatements merely going to companies that would have located in these areas anyway? One thing is for sure, there is no evidence that the EEZ designation was responsible or will be responsible for job creation. Any claims made by REDI regarding the success of EEZ’s are pure conjecture.

Look at what California has learned about tax abatement for redevelopment http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3wXHjUyqLw&sns=em

Blight:

Regardless of what Griggs and Brooks claimed to “believe” on your show, blanket blight designations can be and are used to take private property in Missouri. While the folks at REDI continue to point to HB 1944 as evidence of the eminent domain abuse protections provided individuals by the state, a mere cursory perusal of the law will demonstrate its impotence. Mike and Dave noted that Missouri law requires that property must be blighted individually and cannot be taken under blanket blight designations like the one needed for the EEZ. While the law does say that, their statement is only partially true. Good propaganda indeed. Here is what the law says.

HB 1944 523.274.

“Where eminent domain authority is based upon a determination that a defined area is blighted, the condemning authority shall individually consider each parcel of property in the defined area with regard to whether the property meets the relevant statutory definition of blight.  If the condemning authority finds a preponderance of the defined redevelopment area is blighted, it may proceed with condemnation of any parcels in such area.”http://www.eminentdomain.mo.gov/documents/HB1944T.pdf

So if you are in a blighted area, your house can be taken regardless of the condition. Here is how the State of Missouri Ombudsman for Property Rights explains it.

“Under the new Missouri law, each parcel of land must be considered individually as to whether each meets the relevant statutory definition of blight. However, the area will be considered blighted if the condemning authority finds a preponderance of the defined redevelopment area is blighted. This means that you may have the nicest home in the state and still be in a blighted area and therefore be subject to condemnation” http://www.eminentdomain.mo.gov/faq.htm

But even if you are protected by law, you must be prepared for a lengthy and expensive legal battle. Most property owners, especially in lower income areas, don’t have the means to fight a blight-based condemnation and taking. The deep pockets and coercive power of government often wins, regardless of the legality of the proceedings.

Another point that is often emphasized by REDI and other EEZ proponents is the notion that Missouri law prevents eminent domain condemnation for private use. Again, these proponents site only part of the truth in an attempt to influence the public. Here is what HB1944 actually says.

HB 1944 523.271.

“No condemning authority shall acquire private property through the process of eminent domain for solely economic development purposes. For the purposes of this section, ‘economic development’ shall mean a use of a specific piece of property or properties which would provide an increase in the tax base, tax revenues, employment, and general economic health, and does not include the elimination of blighted, substandard, or unsanitary conditions, or conditions rendering the property or its surrounding area a conservation area as defined in section 99.805, RSMo”

Notice the word “solely.” Since the famous Kelo case, no eminent domain condemnation based on blight has ever been “solely” for private economic development. In fact, “the elimination of blighted” conditions is enough to make the taking of private property legal. And remember, your property doesn’t have to be technically blighted. It only needs to be in a blighted area to be subject to condemnation and “redevelopment”.

What I really find odd is that there is evidence that our Mayor, Mike Brooks, and REDI do understand the dangers of blanket blight designations. On Feb 27th, 2011, Mr. Brooks emailed State Representative Chris Kelly, urging him to change the state statutes regarding the blight requirement for EEZ formation. While changing a state statute, even if Kelly tries, is a pipe dream, this email indicates that REDI understands the danger and is mounting a propaganda campaign which misrepresents these dangers.

From: “Michael Brooks” <JMBROOKS@GoColumbiaMO.com>

Date: February 27, 2012 12:24:51 PM CST

To: “Chris Kelly” <chris.kelly@house.mo.gov>

Cc: “Dave Griggs” <dave_griggs@carpetandtile.com>, “Bob McDavid” <bob.mcdavid@gmail.com>, “Bernie Andrews” <BKA@GoColumbiaMO.com>, “Fred Boeckmann” <FAB@GoColumbiaMO.com>, “Michael Matthes” <MEMATTHE@GoColumbiaMO.com>

Subject: Proposed Changes for Enhanced Enterprise Zone statutes

Chris

Thanks for your concern with this issue.

I have attached two documents to this email with proposed language/changes for Chapter 135, and are highlighted below.

In Section 135.953, I would request adding this language

(5) A finding of blight under Chapter 135 cannot be used to meet the conditions for blight under any other state statute.

In Section 135.960, I would propose eliminating under 135.960-2: (1); (2); and (6).  I would guess that these points were part of the original enterprise zone legislation and they are not germane to the existing program and add confusion to people who are trying to understand the program. May give some reason for the concerns being expressed regarding what can be done with the finding of blight under the program!

Thanks

Mike

J. Mike Brooks

President

Regional Economic Development Inc. (REDI) 500 East Walnut Street Suite 102 Columbia, MO 65201 Main Phone Number: 573-442-8303 Phone Direct: 573-441-5542

Cell: 573-355-0643

Email: jmbrooks@GoColumbiaMo.com

Web Site: https://www.columbiaredi.com/

If you’d like to hear and present to your listeners the other side of this issue, Jeff Rowes from The Institute for Justice would be a good guest for your show http://www.ij.org/clinic/?option=com_content&task=view&id=626&Itemid=165

I’d also highly recommend Dave Roland from the Freedom Center of Missouri http://www.mofreedom.org/about/ He has been in the 93.9 studios several times. Ferguson knows him and Nolan likely does as well.

Below is the text of a letter Dave wrote in response to this piece in the Tribune http://www.columbiatribune.com/news/2012/mar/03/eez030312/

Mr. Barker,

My name is Dave Roland and I am the director of litigation for the Freedom Center of Missouri, a non-profit, non-partisan law firm that has a particular focus on the constitutional protection of property rights.  My wife and I formerly worked for the Institute for Justice, which litigated Kelo v. New London and many other important eminent domain cases over the past fifteen years.  I was part of the litigation team that fought on behalf of Ms. Kelo and her neighbors, and my wife was IJ’s legislative affairs attorney, tasked with helping state legislatures all over the nation work to protect their citizens from the threat of eminent domain in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo.  We have extensive, first-hand experience with the way that cities and states have used blight designations to erode their citizens’ property rights – and we also have experience in helping citizens fight back.

I’m glad you are interested in exploring how blight designations may be used to enable the use of eminent domain.  I’m afraid, however, that your article in today’s paper was not complete.  While you did accurately describe the statutes that should afford some protection for Missourians, the truth is that statutes mean only what courts say they mean – and at least one appellate court has already eviscerated the requirement that cities must look at parcels individually to determine if they are blighted, as well as the requirement that a preponderance of the targeted area be blighted.

In Allright Properties, Inc. v. Tax Increment Financing Commission of Kansas City, 240 S.W.3d 777 (W.D. App. Mo. 2007), the Western District Court of Appeals ruled that the statute at issues did not require municipalities to evaluate whether each individual property in an area was blighted.  The court also ruled that when the statute referred to a “preponderance” of the targeted area being blighted, it was referring to square footage, not to the number of properties.  Here are the quotes directly from that case:

“Allright argues that the General Assembly intended for the requirement in Section 523.274’s first sentence to mandate that the condemning authority make a specific finding as to whether or not each individual parcel is blighted. Under this interpretation, a blight study would be flawed if it did not contain a list of the parcels and specific findings as to whether or not each parcel was blighted. Although the statute requires a condemning authority to evaluate each parcel, we see nothing in the statute that requires the authority to make a specific finding for each parcel. The General Assembly mandated that the condemning authority “consider” each parcel in making a finding that the entire area was predominantly blighted-not that an individual parcel was blighted. If the General Assembly wanted the condemning authority to make express findings for each parcel, surely it would have used the term “finding” or its equivalent in the first sentence. Although the condemning authority is not required to make an express finding for each parcel, it still must consider each parcel and evidence must establish that it do so… 

“The second sentence of Section 523.274 declares that, “[i]f the condemning authority finds a preponderance of the defined redevelopment area is blighted, it may proceed with condemnation of any parcels in such area.” Allright argues that this sentence means that the condemning authority can proceed with condemnation only if it finds that a preponderance of the individual parcels is blighted. TIFC, on the other hand, contends that the sentence means that the condemning authority can proceed only if it finds that a preponderance of the overall area is blighted… [W]e agree with TIFC that the General Assembly wanted the condemning authority to determine whether or not the defined redevelopment area was blighted by considering its total square footage and not whether a preponderance of the individual parcels were blighted.”

In the wake of this case, a municipal government can condemn someone’s property – even if the property itself is immaculately maintained – as long as the city designates the property as part of a larger “blighted area.”  Additionally, cities have almost completely unfettered discretion when it comes to deciding what constitutes “blight,” and courts simply refuse to reconsider these blight designations.  Only once in the entire history of this state has a Missouri appellate court reversed a city’s determination that a property or area is blighted – and that was because the city of Clayton neglected to include one perfunctory finding when it tried to declare blighted a well-maintained, fully-occupied, tax-generating downtown office building that the Centene corporation wanted removed to make way for its new headquarters.  In other words, had Clayton merely dotted its “i”s and crossed its “t”s, the condemnation would have been permitted.  Once a city has made a finding of blight – no matter how absurd or specious! – it is virtually impossible for property owners to defend themselves against an eminent domain action that the city may later conclude is desirable.

I would be happy to discuss these matters with you (or anyone else there at the CDT) at any time.  I have attached for your consideration a copy of a brief that Jenifer and I authored discussing the use (and abuse) of “blight” and eminent domain in Missouri; it provides a useful overview of this subject.  I am actually planning to be in Columbia on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week – perhaps there would be some interest in setting up an editorial board meeting?  If so, please let me know and I’ll be happy to put it on the schedule.

Sincerely,

Dave Roland

Director of Litigation

Freedom Center of Missouri

Invest in Liberty!

Here are a few more links of interest.

Don’t forget that Vicky Russel, publisher of the Tribune, sets on the REDI board. http://www.keepcolumbiafree.com/blog/beata-of-blight/

This is Ron Calzone’s group, Missouri Citizens for Property Rights http://www.mo-cpr.org/victims.html

Owners Council of America http://www.ownerscounsel.com/Eminent-Domain-Condemnation/Private-Redevelopment-and-Blight.shtml

Eminent Domain and Blacks http://www.castlecoalition.org/pdf/publications/Perspectives-Fullilove.pdf

The Castle Coalition http://www.castlecoalition.org/

Let There Be Blight – Dave Roland http://issuu.com/davidroland/docs/let_there_be_blight?mode=a_p&wmode=0

Dave Roland Eminent Domain Video http://www.mofreedom.org/2011/03/eminent-domain-abuse-in-missouri/

Missouri Western District Judge Harold Lowenstein on Blight http://law.missouri.edu/lawreview/docs/74-2/Lowenstein.pdf

I just heard from Harold Lowenstein, the retired Missouri appellate court justice who wrote the law review article I quoted at our first meeting.

He is careful to separate the Blight Decree from the Enterprise Zone, noting that legally, they are separate entities.   As redevelopment tools, he says he has heard very little about EEZ or its effectiveness.   He has more experience with TIF.

“A declaration of blight is not a compliment, and such a governmental finding would probably not increase land values,” Lowenstein told me.   This comment rebuts a note by REDI chairman Dave Griggs, who told the Council the EEZ would probably increase property values because of all the opportunities it might open.

Justice Lowenstein also says that in all these programs, from TIFs to EEZ to Land Clearance, etc., what “scholars have decried” are two primary things:  the declarations of blight;  and a slide in property values that occurs after the declaration or an announcement of any possible takings, i.e. eminent domain.

“Using market or arms length transactions (the market value method), the fact that when the announcement happens, it makes any future sale not possible,” he says, to anyone but the government or the private developer with the initiative (TIF, EEZ, Chapter 100, etc.).

Finally, the scholarly take on blight decrees is that they are a bad deal as presently configured under Missouri law.

“As you will note, my article and the sources cited in it are unhappy about the definitions of blight used by those who want to ‘rehab the land,'” Lowenstein explained.   “You will also note that many folks also want to give the courts more authority to look into government declarations of blight.”

 

 

 

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