Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Nihilistic policymaking generally: it's all about the benjamins and special interests

"Nihilistic selfishness" is a criticism that can be leveled against politicians seemingly so desperate for revenue that they seek to approve gambling, marijuana cultivation, etc., more for the revenue producing aspects than anything else, while at the same time supporting special interests that had been advocating for a long time for the changes anyway.

-- Video, Puff Daddy featuring The Notorious B.I.G., The LOX & Lil' Kim - It's All About the Benjamins

Odious DC Councilman Michael Brown's comments about the recent repeal of his "midnight passage" of Internet gambling provisions through their inclusion in last year's budget bill are mostly about money. (At the time Brown had a side job with a lobbying firm with an active gambling interests representation practice, although he claims he was not directly involved with that group in the firm.)

"This was going to be our thing, our laws, governed by us,” Brown said. “We were going to reap the benefits from tourist, from residents.” ("D.C. Council rejects Internet gambling," Post)

Council member Michael A. Brown (I-At large), the chief proponent of online gaming in the District, said the council’s decision means a loss of tens of millions of dollars in revenue and will criminalize city residents who turn to the Internet to gamble.

“It’s the residents who lose, including residents who play every day now and will be left unprotected,” Brown said. ("D.C. Council votes to repeal Internet gambling law," Post).

In the "hearings" on the bill, The Current newspapers article on the subject interviewed people whose quotes focused on the alleged financial benefits that would come to the city from the act, even though the amount of money--$4 million annually--is miniscule, especially in relation to the just reported over $100 million budget surplus for 2011 ("District Has $240 Million Budget Surplus," NBC4 Washington).

The New York Times has a piece, "Struggling cities turn to a crop for cash," on the taxation of marijuana cultivation. (While I am a libertarian about drug policy, personally I don't believe in use, and worry about widespread anesthetization of the populace, especially in the inner city.) From the article:

As the stubborn economic downturn has forced [Oakland] to take painful steps to balance its budget in recent years, it has increasingly turned to one of its newer industries to raise much-needed revenues: medical marijuana dispensaries.

The city has raised taxes on marijuana dispensaries several times in the past few years, and last year it collected $1.4 million in taxes from them — nearly 3 percent of all the business taxes it collected. Now Oakland plans to double the number of dispensaries it licenses, to eight from the current four, in the hopes that it can collect even more revenue.


This is what happens when we aren't honest about what we want, our values, and our unwillingness/willingness to be taxed and to pay for what we want.

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