Friday, December 06, 2013

If you could wave a legislative magic wand what would you wish for?

Sometimes the best ideas come out of thinking outside of the box so I thought today we could engage in a little exercise of "What If?"

What piece of DC (or federal) legislation would you create? Could you create a law that would improve responsible development and investment in Ward 8? Could you create a workable program that would increase the number of jobs and careers east of the river? Could you create an initiative that would shape an economic plan for the future?

A few things I would wish for:

  • That when a new big box store/grocer/retailer approaches DC government about entering the DC market for the first time that they have to promise to open their first store east of the river. If they don't want to move EotR that's fine - they just don't receive any of those yummy tax abatements and special pieces of legislation they are always asking for.  For once I want to see amneties and services come first to the place that needs them most -- east of the river. 
  • No more unnecessary tax abatements for new development projects west of the river. Tax abatements are meant to encourage development but for some reason they are being offered for projects in locations that are not necessary yet those development tax abatements aren't heading east of the river. The only development incentives we see for Wards 7 and 8 are low-income housing tax credits and that is all we are getting -- low-income housing. The result is that the income levels remain depressed and the retailers (and their jobs) stay away. If a developer is asking for tax abatements for a west of the river project I want them to have to explain why that project couldn't be located east of the river where the land is cheaper and the area is in much need of amneties, stores, and services.  Again, developers don't have to move east of the river but they should not get their tax abatements -- funded in part with my tax dollars -- but avoid my section of the city like the plague. 

  • Change the grocery store tax credit that gives grocers task credits for "underserved" areas that aren't really underserved. Tighten that list up so that it is accurate. In reality Ward 8 has only one grocery store for all of its 73,000 residents so it can't get much more "underserved" than that. If any tax credits or abatements are given for grocery stores to open it should open in Ward 8 first (if not only). 
  • A "one-for-one" development incentive program. For every DC tax payer dollar invested in new development projects west of the river the same amount flows east of the river. If west of the river gets a stadium I want a stadium (or something comparable) to head east of the river. No more stadium for office space trades, unless of course the stadium is coming east of the river and the office space is going west of the river. 
  • Creating of an EotR economic development task force funded by a tax on DC developers and new retailers coming into DC's market. The purpose of this task force should be to find ways to increase the income base of east of the river residents, attract jobs and businesses to locate east of the river, and to bring services and amneties to east of the river FIRST.  It should also help shape or at least advice DC of the housing market situation east of the river. They could make recommendations on how to turn more east of the river renters into homeowners now while the prices are so low. This task force should be made up of EotR residents and professionals  with real world experience with contacts in the real estate, business, employment and education community. To allow them to do real work and not be beholden to DC politics they should be an independent agency managed by a board of trustees. 
  • Affordable Housing investments. Whenever someone proposes creating new large scale "affordable" housing projects those projects have to be located in close proximity to a grocery store, basic amneties, jobs, and  transportation. No more of this investing affordable housing dollars and low-income tax credits in places that are the farthest away from opportunities. Affordable and low-income housing should be created in the best parts of the city -- not the most challenged.  If a low-income housing project is coming to east of the river it better come with some retail, jobs, and a grocery store attached. 

I've told you before that my little blog is read by those in a position to make some change -- or at least not stand in the way of it. Maybe your ideas can spark some change.

What if?

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Anonymous said...

I like your last bullet about affordable housing a lot.

The Low Income Housing Tax Credit has a couple of really backwards features:

(1) If you build low-income housing in a Qualified Census Tract (where over half of the population is already low income), the amount of your subsidy increases by 30%;

(2) Projects are eligible for a subsidy equal to a percentage of certain project costs, which exclude land. Therefore, projects with high land costs get a smaller subsidy (as a percentage of total project cost), or inversely, and more relevant to Ward 8, projects with cheap land get a larger subsidy.

DC could use its local subsidies to counteract the federal preference for building low-income housing in already poor neighborhoods, but for the most part we don't. Instead we reinforce the skewed incentives.

Anonymous said...

Great question! My legislative, social justice and freedom fighter vision is in process of coming to fruition. I proposed the congressional joint resolution (SJR15/HJR43) to remove Congress's deadline for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. The Equal Rights Amendment would guarantee that whether you are male or female, you are treated equally under the law. It is both historical and practical as we must have women and men at the table in order to start to prioritize the 99% who is suffering under the greed of capitalism. The biggest problem is not our commitment to equal rights for all but publicity and voter engagement.