Objective Assessment of Tax Options // Eliot Singer

I will leave it to East Lansing government to explain why it spent $20,000 tax dollars hiring a private consultant to conduct a scientifically worthless survey of tax options, when if it really wanted unfettered public input, it could have gotten that for free by asking neighborhood associations to hold town hall meetings, with members of Council in the audience in their capacity as citizens. Tabulating data when the data is not scientifically obtained is pointless. The first, and most important, thing I learned about computers back in the stone age (c. 1970) was GIGO: Garbage in, Garbage out! For … Read more →

The Costs of Boozing, Bloody Well Boozing // Eliot Singer

I see the 50-50 rule is being dissed again. For those who do not know the history, the 50-50 rule says that half the revenue from bars and restaurants must come from food not booze. This rule was at behest of the Responsible Hospitality Council, a group of businesses who recognized the need for responsibility when it comes to boozing, bloody well boozing (to quote an old English boozing song). Whether or not the rule has helped over the years is impossible to prove. It was undermined by having several establishments grandfathered in who did not have to comply and … Read more →

Financial Crisis and Meadows Still in Denial // Eliot Singer

I hate to talk about this now, given the immediate flood crisis. I hope most of you are managing. This flood is worse than anything in my 35 years in residence in Lansing/East Lansing, and our backed-up sewer problems were not flood related. I feel compelled to say something after reading the latest on financial crisis in Eli. Avondale Square is not the worst by any means. The building of the new DPW building without a debt millage last time Meadows was mayor is costing about $600,000 per year for 25 years, ultimately mostly from general fund money, though hidden … Read more →

More Tax Comparisons // Eliot Singer

I am very curious about why certain non-city taxes are so much higher in EL/Ingham County than in TC/Traverse Bay/Grand Traverse. I have analyzed why EL city taxes are so high—the disproportionate cost of policing a college town with much smaller tax base than Ann Arbor, with collateral effect on legacy costs, which are mostly for public safety, and the huge amount of money squandered on building public works, without seeking voter approved debt millages, and pursuing public-private development with snake oil finance. ISD costs might be something to look at through state funding, at least something local legislators might … Read more →

TC v EL Taxes // Eliot Singer

Having recently received my Traverse City 2018 assessment, with 2.1% inflation increase, I have been trying to more fully understand my tax millages in comparison with what I was used to in East Lansing. Both communities have significant aging infrastructure problems. As far as I can tell, public safety and public services in TC are as good or better than in EL. Bottom line is TC local taxes (defined as for a brownfield plan, including ISD but not school district) comes to about 27.8 mils as opposed to about 47.1 mils for EL. (I have excluded voter-approved debt. EL debt … Read more →

City Attorney Ad Naseum // Eliot Singer

ELi has another story about the city trying to keep secret information surrounding what us old-timers call retaining-wall-gate. http://eastlansinginfo.org/content/following-fraud-suit-city-admits-fault-has-not-released-public-documents The city spent a significant amount of HUD Community Development Block Grant money to fix the retaining wall of the city attorney’s firm’s building. There were people yelling and screaming about it at the time, so pretending they didn’t know is absurd. Secrecy over this or over the hundreds of thousands of dollars in Lotto 1 fees to pay the developer’s lawyer and the city’s bond attorney, among other excessive costs, shows a city government that has failed to learn lessons … Read more →

Public Purpose Must Be Commensurate with Cost // Eliot Singer

I am trying to push state legislators on development authority reforms, using East Lansing as the poster-child for how to do public-private development wrong. One of the key reforms needs to be requiring all brownfield projects or DDA expenditures provide a detailed breakdown, including financials, of what the public purposes are in relation to tax diversion and other costs, and also requiring a strong procedure for objective assessment. Currently, all government has to do is wave a magic wand and say, there’s a public purpose, without explaining what it is, let alone why it is worth the money. Public purpose, … Read more →

DRW Illegal Trade Case Still Undecided // Eliot Singer

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-21/for-legendary-chicago-trader-slow-justice-in-manipulation-case I hadn’t check for many months, but someone asked me a few days ago, so I finally got around to it. DRW is tied to Core Campus/Convexity. After City Center II/Park District and the brownfield project with the developer with a felony fraud conviction, East Lansing government and MEDC needed an absolute no crooks and deadbeats for tax incentives rule to restore even a modicum of credibility and ethical standards. They didn’t. DRW should have been excluded from tax incentives for the project that fell apart with the $10 million MBT credit fiasco (complete with the usual, don’t worry, … Read more →

Secret Fees for Lotto 1 Bond Are Outrageous // Eliot Singer

When the $25,265,000 for the Lotto 1 bond was announced, with only $24,389,518 going to pay for the $33,000 per space parking structure and other infrastructure, it didn’t make a lot of sense. Typically, the city pays the bond broker 1%, and this is to do the paperwork/bookkeeping and to sell the bonds on the open market. In this case, it was a private placement deal, so the origination (broker) fee should have been less, since there was no need to sell on the open market. Now we know why the difference was so high. Not only was there a … Read more →

Killing the DDA // Eliot Singer

I’m sure the usual suspects do not want to place killing their beloved, functionally obsolete, DDA and BRA at the top of the budget cut list. I don’t know exactly how much can be saved through cuts to planning staff and city attorney, probably on the order of 4 positions and 25% city attorney time (based on recent billing records). Preventing further expenditures on discretionary projects and programs, for example, piggybacking road reconfiguration on the Project Formerly Known as City Center Two, will save a bundle. The problem is how to kill the DDA, even if the usual suspects can … Read more →

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