Friday, March 13, 2020

City Council, March 16th - Urban Renewal and Airport - Canceled

Council has a formal Work Session on Monday to discuss Urban Renewal, Business Development, and the Airport Business Plan. But unless you really, absolutely must attend, it's best at this point to stay home and employ social distancing as much as possible, even for smaller gatherings.*

Update: The meeting has been canceled.

How is this offered seriously by the City? It is nonsense,
 devoid of real meaning! (Comments reversed in white added)
The report on Urban Renewal is something - deceptive, incomplete, misleading? I'm not sure of the motive, but it lacks information that Council might use to think critically about Urban Renewal and Tax Increment Financing. This has been a pattern on Urban Renewal.

The chart purports to show growth in assessed value of the districts, but each location needs three bars, not two. The missing bar is a inflation-indexed value of the district's original assessed value - what the value might have been by doing nothing. Even this is imperfect, but to say that there is "growing" assessed value, you'd want to show inflation-adjusted growth. Or maybe the number is nearby property growth in assessed value. Some control value needs to be a third bar in order for the comparison to be valid. Indications of time would also be helpful.

You might recall the Pringle Creek Urban Renewal Area in 2012 and a SWAG:
The city’s Urban Development Department noted in its memo to the council: “The Plan accomplished its purpose of improving the area. In 1971 the assessed value was $18,977,000, and in 2012 it rose to $73,766,630, with a Real Market value of just under $108,945,000.”
$18,977,000 in 1971 dollars equals $108,429,892 in 2012 dollars according to the government's Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index calculator.

If we just look at assessed value, $73,766,630 is much worse than the inflation adjusted natural appreciation value of $108,429,892.

The assessed value of the district badly underperformed inflation. By this measure, doing nothing would have been about $35,000,000 more profitable! Or you could say, Urban Renewal actually sucked $35,000,000 out of the district.

Something is terribly wrong with our analysis of "growth" in value for urban renewal. I can't say what the right analysis is, as finance is not the thing here, but it seems obvious the numbers the City is giving to Council are rather hinky, and Council should press for better ones.

There is a section on Carbon Monoxide,
but nothing on Carbon Dioxide
On the airport, we need to fold it into our greenhouse gas assessment and climate plan and ensure that before we undertake any growth in the airport, we assess the greenhouse gas implications.

Right now the City appears to be approaching a Climate Action Plan as a procedural checklist.
The report includes an in-depth review of Climate Action Plans adopted by 12 other cities, identifies elements to include for a Salem-specific climate action plan, and recommends steps for the City to undertake in developing climate action plan.

A comparison of City of Salem actions and policies to other cities with climate action plans shows that Salem has completed 26 percent of actions and policies.
And it implies that 26% of the boxes checked off has a proportional effect of 26% reduction in greenhouse gases.

But this is not at all the case. The relevant metric is not boxes checked. The relevant metric is greenhouse gas reduced. It may be that one single box has a great effect, and that a particular group of 26 boxes has very little effect. Without measuring the effects on emissions themselves, focusing on the procedural dimension alone is very misleading. What is the "return on investment" for each box?

As part of a Climate Action Plan, the City needs to fold an assessment into new policy-making and planning: If we undertake this new policy or plan this new thing, will we reduce or increase our emissions, and by how much?

The Airport Plan needs this element. If we are going to expand the Airport, we have to know what the effect on emissions will be.

* University of Oregon Professors in Italy have again sent a warning.
The first thing we're advocating is that you need to practice extreme social distancing right now.

And that means working from home, canceling all non-vital appointments, taking your kids out of school, avoiding public places, do not go to the cinemas, do not go to the theaters. Now is not the time to take a plane trip or train trip. Now is the time to really stay at home and sit and wait and not bring yourself in contact with others who may be sick....

I've actually spent my academic career looking at infectious diseases. I know for my epidemiological work that the best thing to do right now is to take precautions while you can. And these precautions cost you very little. They're inconvenient. And they might be embarrassing to tell people that you're canceling something cause you're worried about this. But they cost you very little in the long run.
Apart from this, there are other reasons to think the Oregon Health Authority is not managing well, and that the City and rest of us should not be taking cues from them:
Oregon Health Authority officials have repeatedly refused to share even basic information with the public, frustrating government officials in counties and local school districts who face questions from local people, journalists trying to do our jobs, and most importantly, members of the public simply trying to stay healthy.
We need to ensure First Responders
and Hospitals are not ill or
There is every reason to do more than the minimum right now, and that means avoiding even small meetings unless absolutely necessary. The City should want to employ the proverbial "abundance of caution," and do more than OHA and the Governor is currently recommending. They should also be considering that civic-minded people interested in City Council, other committees, and neighborhood associations skew older, and are more at risk.

(Separately, it is worth noting that the first three pages of the paper are devoted to COVID-19. On many of the interior pages there an article about it. As a bundled package of editorial content, the paper today really shows the scope of the problem, and does so in a way that is more powerful than a collection of disaggregated, individual links.)


Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Well. I see schools are closing. That conveys the seriousness of the situation, I think.

Anonymous said...

The City of Salem has announced the meeting is canceled.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Thanks, anon. The City also announced a further set of closures, including "advisory board and commission meetings," many of them with likely attendance well below the 250 person guideline. The Our Salem workshops have also been canceled.

Walker said...

I’m sure I’ve posted this before, but I think it’s worth repeating. The only logical way to measure performance of tax-increment financed projects is to compare them to overall change in values of the same municipality that don’t include the TIF areas. So if you have a 10 block TIF area, you need to compare its change in values to the overall municipal value change.

Real courage would mean re-writing the law so that ONLY that increment of increased tax value ABOVE the overall change can be devoted to paying the TIF bonds — that would make project boosters really have to sharpen their pencils and only fund real likely winners, with the private investors on the hook for any shortfalls.

As Strong Towns points out, there are a lot of stupid projects that get done because it’s easy to get money for stupid at a large scale but very very hard to get money for a tiny small project that pencils well but cannot attract any of this dumb money (because it’s being vacuumed up by TIF projects at scale).

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Thanks, Walker. It is a sign of our covid-pandemonium that I already forgot about the Portland Auditor's report on the Lents Urban Renewal District that compared it to the Montevilla neighborhood. Its analysis may not be something to duplicate exactly, but it is something to iterate on perhaps and points to something better.