I'm again disappointed that the city council doesn't see things my way. It's not fair!-- no, honestly- however predictable the vote to reform Tax Increment Development Districts on Monday, it is really unfortunate how the Council continues to proceed with TIDDs as the answer to all our woes, with so little understanding of the tool's ramifications. See the SWOP Blogger
for a great accounting of recent TIDD developments.
I thought I'd share an email exchange I'm having with my city councilor- one of five who voted against reforming TIDDs. My first communication was sent to her just before Monday's meeting, urging her to support the reforms. I've pasted her response that came in my inbox today. I just couldn't resist responding back to her comments. I'm compelled to hold her accountable in some way- but I know this email exchange will do little to sway her.
::: MY original Action Email urging her vote for the TIDD reform bill that failed on Monday:::
I appreciate the time you took yesterday to visit our Kiva Monte Park Neigborhood general meeting. It is refreshing to have a councilor so engaged in our community.
Regarding the issue of Tax Increment Financing, I strongly urge your vote in support of O-08-11. I'm one of many voters in your district who supports better growth, but I don't support huge tax subsidies for large private developers on the fringe.
Tax Increment Financing is a tool best used to help spur redevelopment within the already-built city. I'm concerned about how TIF in Albuquerque's fringe area has the very real potential of luring jobs, economic activity, homebuyers and neighborhood vitality away from the existing community.
I'm also concerned about continuing to build large sprawl subdivisions further away from the city. Global warming is a serious challenge, and making people drive further is a step in the wrong direction to addressing this threat meaningfully.
The city should get out of the business of paying developers to sprawl, causing more problems for our families, our environment and our local economy.
For these reasons, I hope you will vote for the needs of your district over the needs of private developers.
:::Councilor Mayer's Response to my email action note:::
Dear Mr. Nims,
Thank you for taking the time to send me an e-mail. There is no need to thank me for going to your neighborhood meeting - it truly is my favorite part of my job. I'm glad your neighborhood has reformed itself.
By now you know that I voted against 0-08-11 and that it was defeated 5 to 4. We already have good TIDD legislation in place that allows the Council to decide on a case by case basis which TIDDs we want to approve and which we want to turn down.
You and I have different definitions of fringe areas and sprawl. I consider the sprawl/fringe areas of Albuquerque to be outside of the City limits - Los Lunas for example. Those are the areas that some of our policies have caused growth to occur in but that the City receives no taxes from. Los Lunas residents still come to Albuquerque to work, drive on our roads, pollute our air but we get nothing in return - no property taxes and very little gross receipts tax.
I will agree with you that it is "our" fault that people are driving further. Our policies have made new homes in Albuquerque much more expensive than those outside of Albuquerque. Stopping people from buying homes in Albuquerque doesn't stop people from buying homes, it just causes them to buy homes in Los Lunas. There is a saying that has become so true here "you drive until you qualify" qualify for a loan on a home you can afford. My policies aren't causing people to drive further yours are.
Much of the NE Heights is further from downtown than much of the proposed west side development. I personally think all of Albuquerque should be treated the same way, that is why we have city limits. All Albuquerque property owners should have the same rights and expectations.
I work hard to be sure our District gets a fair share of the limited resources available. Respectfully, I take issue with your last sentence. I always vote for the needs of my District by doing what I believe to be best for all of Albuquerque. District 7 is not an economic island. Well developed areas benefit everyone. 0-08-11 unnecessarily shuts the door on possible opportunities. I'm confident that as a Council we are capable of making the right decisions where TIDDs / Tiffs are concerned.
Sincerely, Sally Mayer
:::My most recent response to her reply which I cc'd to all councilors:::
I appreciate the time you've taken to respond to my note. While your decision was predictable, it was no less disappointing, but the time you've taken to explain your interpretation of the city's complicated growth dynamic is appreciated.
You are correct that sprawl plagues not just Albuquerque, but outlying communities as well. Sprawl is more defined by the type and impact of homogeneous developments than it is by geography. To place the blame of sprawl and rising housing costs on the city's progressive growth policy is clearly a misdirection- and entirely consistent with the misinformation too often being distributed by area developers and their respective advocacy/professional organizations.
First, Los Lunas, Rio Rancho, the West Side etc, were condoning and creating sprawl development long before any meaningful growth policy was adopted by Albuquerque's Council. Further, the Planned Growth Strategy, although adopted, has yet to be fully implemented. There is so much more in the economics of development that impacts where and how growth occurs that it is a simply a cop-out to point the finger at growth management policy as the sole culprit.
Also- I'm curious that you display such concern for housing affordability in the Albuquerque area. Certainly "drive 'til you qualify" is an unfortunate reality for many working families in the area- which is why the Workforce Housing Opportunity Act created a new framework for addressing this issue. I don't recall your vocal support for that measure as it came through in 2006. In fact, I recall your comments at one council meeting questioning the whole idea of whether or not there is a true need for affordable housing in Albuquerque at all.
Growth management policy, impact fees, permits, etc. are all part of the developer's cost of doing business in a particular area- and the developer must adapt the product to absorb those additional costs and, to some extent, pass those costs along to the consumer- but a developer would not be in business long if he/she continued to produce developments that the consumer cannot afford to buy. Simply put- the market is a much stronger determinant for development than policy- this has been proven over and over again.
Lastly, you mention that we get nothing in return for allowing sprawl in los lunas, rio rancho, etc, except the impact of those residents driving on our roads, polluting our air and giving virtually nothing, in terms of GRT revenue. Putting aside the issue of the need for ABQ to take a leadership role in regional planning, I want to ask you how this scenario is much different from using TIDDs closer to home, but still on the fringe? By every account- the city council has relegated its authority and awarded a huge chunk of the city's future tax revenue for use by private developers, yet the future residents of these communities will be impacting the city in the same way you say the folks in los lunas, etc already are.
Neither proponents nor opponents of the TIDD issue can say with certainty how this will impact the economy, environment and social fabric of our city. It is still very speculative, but you and others on the council see no problem with forging ahead, against more wise and thorough understanding of this complicated and powerful tool. My only course, then, is to assume that you value development for development's sake over the careful scrutiny of policy that may impact the future health of your district and the whole city.
Again, thanks for your time and consideration and I hope we can continue thoughtful dialogue about this city's well-being.
District 7 Constituent