Economic Development for All

For more than a decade and in election after election, we hear about the millions of dollars in investment projects in the City of Worcester and that the City is on “the rise.” We have seen millions in tax payer monies invested around Union Station and taxpayer subsidies to big business. The laundry list of “new projects” that are often only a continuation of old projects is continually bantered about. However, year after year our taxes go up and our services decline as we fund tax breaks for big business on the backs of small businesses and residents on the theory that large-scale projects will spur development.

The simple fact is that after all the chatter about new projects and millions of dollars in investment, along with the continued economic theory that we the only way for Worcester to succeed is to give financial benefits to big business through tax-incentives that are paid for by our residents and small business yet the millions in tax relief has failed to produce results or “trickle out.”

The City of Worcester is in such economic decline that we now qualify for the federal free lunch programs in our schools because the overall income of those that live here is below the poverty level. This is not the track Worcester should continue down. We are on the wrong track because we are chasing the “TRICKLE-DOWN THEORY” of economics.

Merriam-Webster defines the Trickle-Down Theory of economics as follows:

a theory that financial benefits given to big business will in turn pass down to smaller businesses and consumers.”

I am not against big business, but it is clear that our current focus on big business and government projects is not working.

We need new leadership to return Worcester to her former glory, by restoring opportunity for small businesses so they can take root, develop, hire, innovate, and move our City forward.

Revitalizing our community starts with gainful employment and opportunity.  Small businesses are the major job providers and should be the focus of our economic development efforts. 

We must stop taxing ourselves into an ever deeper hole, chasing out residents and small businesses

I submitted an item prior to the last budget requesting that we explore holding the line on taxes. I specifically carved out provisions within my item for increased spending on police and fire. Yet, we are taxing at $32/thousand commercial and $20/thousand residential with our surrounding towns at a single rate between $15/thousand and $17/thousand. Our retail business has moved to the periphery of the city as they are chased out by the high tax rates, insurance, and other costs of doing business. The increasing tax rate on residential properties hits those on a fixed income and reduces the value of their property.

This is the text of my item:

Request that the City Manager consider not raising property taxes on residents and businesses with the next budget.  However, if the manager's budget includes a tax increase, it be prescribed that each and every dollar of the increased tax revenue be used to fund the City's pension and OPEB liabilities to protect the City's financial standing and fulfill the City's obligations.  Alternatively, that the increased revenue be used to fund a police and fire class with the remainder be used to fund the City's pension and OPEB liabilities.

In furtherance of this item, a report is requested outlining the property tax percentage increase in each budget for the past 20 years, specifically identifying any year where property taxes were not increased.

Kindly note that the item provides for police and fire classes.

I am not proposing level funding or even tax cuts. What I am proposing is that the City begin to operate within the means of its Citizens. We cannot continue to raise taxes on our residents and small businesses year after year when our resident’s income doesn’t increase. The choice shouldn’t be between food or taxes for anyone.

We must restore our existing buildings to marketable condition so they can be rented rather than remain vacant or be torn down

You may recall that I worked with Councilor Gary Rosen to push for a “Philly Plan” and we were advised that it could not be done. In fact, there was push-back from several members of the council including some on the Economic Development subcommittee.

In case you are not familiar with the Philly Plan, it stimulates redevelopment of commercial properties. For example, if an owner wants to invest several million dollars to rehabilitate a building the owner gets a loan from a bank, hires contractors, and as soon as the project is done, the tax man comes in and reassesses the value of the property. Thus, the taxes increase before the first tenant moves in. The Philly Plan provides that the increase in taxes will not occur immediately, giving the owner a period of time for the property to develop and bring in revenue. This creates an incentive for commercial property owners to rehabilitate. We have so many buildings in Worcester that need to be rehabilitated, but the philosophy has shown a lack of enthusiasm to incentivize rehabilitation over tearing down.

Within a year after hearing that we could not implement a Philly Plan model, we did exactly that with the Osgood-Bradley building by using our TIF programs. There is always a way to get things done and sometimes we must fight through the pushback for the betterment of the City and our residents.

We must simplify the start-up process for small businesses

No, we don’t need another website with all the forms or a middleman to help take a small business owner through the start-up process. We need to eliminate “the process” it takes to start a small business. The risks, financial capital, investment, and hard work it takes to start a business should not be met with loads of red tape, hearings, submissions, resubmissions, plans, modified plans, amended plans, etc. Our local government must make “the process” a one-stop and speedy set up. There is no reason in this modern age that a start-up should take multiple trips to City Hall and several agencies.

The harder we make it to start a business, the less likely a business will start here in Worcester.

Worcester is a great City that needs leadership with a vision that will bring Worcester back to the thriving City she can be.