Transforming Rochester 14 - Dealing With Corner Stores

Sunday, September 23, 2012

On this episode of Transforming Rochester, Alex White and Dave Atias discuss the City's new method of dealing with "corner stores".  They're using zoning laws to try to drive these stores out of business.  This is illegal, ineffective and racist.  Most of the stores being targeted are run by law-abiding people.  Alex has a way to get rid of the bad businesses.  Dave and Alex also discuss the recent selling of the Sibley Building.  Most people don't realize that the City is not going to see a penny of the money it was sold for.

You can listen to the podcast here, click on the link in the right column or listen on Radio Free Rochester.

Is this the end of the Sibley building saga?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

It seems the tragedy of the Sibley Building in Rochester is finally coming to an end or at the very least the start of a new act. At the end of August, Rochwil finally sold the building to Winn Development. If you were not paying attention this was a building that owed Rochester more than $20 million in back taxes and unpaid loans. The building has just been sold for $5 million. This deals gives the city $3.1 million of the total and uses the rest to pay off debts to two unions who also were fleeced by the Wilmorite (owners behind the shell company Rochwil), The rest of the money owed for the building is being kept as a debt for Rochwil which will soon declare bankruptcy and wipe this out.

So now we must hope the next holder of this property will be better than the previous one. Add to this the fact that the City of Rochester announced this sale on a Friday afternoon, the typical day and time governments release news they do not want people to pay attention to. There is obviously something not good about this deal that we do not know about. But let’s focus on what we know.

Under deals already sketched out, Winn Development will pay $75,000 in property taxes or an assessed value of $1.36 million even though they bought the property for $5 million. Of course this building also has a tenant for 4 more years that will pay $3.5 million a year. So the building will be a cash cow for a few years and even then the taxes will be tied to the rents collected. This is the sort of deal that allows owners to ignore property and keep it vacant.

Meanwhile we get little tax value from this property. This seems like a good deal for Winn, but not so much for the taxpayers and residents of Rochester. Of course it is possible Winn Development will surprise me by fixing the building and turning it into a vibrant part of downtown, but I will not hold my breath waiting.

Transforming Rochester Podcast 13 - Schools and The City are Interconnected

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

With today being the first day of school in the RCSD, Dave Atias and Alex White talkabout schools again.  They show how what happens IN our schools is directly linked to what happens AROUND our schools.  This is causing students and their families to flee to the suburbs or private schools.  We will never have an improved school district without addressing poverty.  This school year also brings free lunch for everyone.  They discuss a way to improve on this that will not just help our children.  And neighborhood schools are also included in the mix.  Leave us your comments.

You can listen to the podcast here, click the link in the right column, or listen to it on Rochester Free Radio.

Those Who Pay No Taxes and What it Means To Us

Monday, September 3, 2012

It seems that whenever someone starts suggesting that the rich need to pay more taxes, someone chimes in to remind us that the rich pay a lot of taxes. They say that the real problem is that 50% of all Americans pay no taxes. Well the unfortunate fact is that this is true . But when you look at these numbers what you really find is that 37% of all Americans are too poor to pay taxes.

For 15% of Americans, either the standard deduction or earned income tax credits are greater than what they owe. A full 22% of Americans get such a large percentage of their total income from Social Security that they do not pay taxes. You may notice that there are still 13% of Americans who do not pay taxes. These are people who are able to "zero out" their income through other deductions for mortgage, interest, charities, etc. Most of these people “earn” a high income and yet they do not pay taxes.

I see two tragedies in this, both of which seem to have escaped notice. First, it is a terrible injustice that in a country of such wealth, 15% of the working people in the country make too little money to pay any taxes at all. It seems obvious that there is a problem in our wage structure that there are people who work for so little money that they must receive public assistance to survive. If they make so little that there needs to be an earned income tax credit then what is really happening is that our government is supplementing the wages of these individuals. This means the companies they work for are really receiving government assistance and helping them keep wages artificially low.

The other travesty is that so many affluent people are not paying any of their share of the costs of having a representative government. In this election season it would be great if candidates other than those in third parties, would talk about these problems. Between taxes, incentives, enforcement, and the minimum wage, there are many ways to get companies to pay living wages so the government can stop having to provide this form of corporate welfare. It would be nice to finally hear a discussion of how best to tackle this problem. Further it would seem productive to examine our tax codes and determine if we really want all of these deductions the wealthy use to avoid taxes. Such a debate is probably asking too much of our “mainstream” candidates, but that does not mean that we the people cannot discuss this amongst ourselves and vote accordingly.

Listen to Alex...

...on Transforming Rochester on Rochester Free Radio. You can see when it's on at the Rochester Free Radio show schedule.

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