Citygate and the government gravy train

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A recent article in the paper about COSTCO has once more brought up the problems with College Town. Perhaps you remember this project on Mt Hope which was to have a bus terminal, grocery store, book store, gym and other retail but now is an office park for the Strong Hospital. The city, state and county have given the developer more than $60 million for an office park for the largest employee and one of the colleges with a more than $1 billion endowment. Well COSTCO is going into a project called Citygate built by Anthony J. Costello & Son Development, less than 3 miles away. Citygate is a $177 million project which was already getting $32 million in tax breaks to build a COSTCO, street of shops, 300 apartments, hotel, and parking garage. As Costello was clearing the site they discovered a few unforeseen problems in the 42 acre of the project. This meant an additional $3.7 million in expenses. The odd part is that COMIDA with the full support of the city and county gave them $11.7 million more. Now this project was already approved and development was moving ahead. The main Anchor store of the project was almost signed. We had already given a very generous package to Costello and they agreed at the time this was enough. They have also been in business long enough to know that every project has unforeseen expenses and to plan that into the costs. They also were not going to stop the project if this money did not come through. Under these circumstances it seems unbelievable that we would give them more. It is interesting that in the story the head of Neighborhood and Business Development Del Smith, claims that without this we would not be fair to Citygate as its package was so much less than College Town. So we get to the crux of the problem. The package of government support was so generous for College Town that Citygate could demand more money. While this may seem fair to Costello what about all the small projects which receive no help, no tax breaks, and no government support for 75% of their debt. These people just have a harder time competing or never start at all. Further any large project now has a precedent for getting huge government assistance even though these projects are done by some of the richest in our area. So we are widening the income gap by using our taxes, making it harder for small businesses to compete, and making it harder to stop the subsidies. Not bad for a days work by our government.

Is Teacher Tenure really so bad?

There is presently a fight in NY over teacher tenure. While the case has been filed in NYC there is a local Rochester connection as two parents have joined on to this case. One of these, Mona Pradia has a student in the eighth grade who had an excellent co-teacher four years ago. This teacher was suppose to follow her child to the fifth grade but was laid off in one of Rochester's yearly budget crisis. Mona claims the replacement teacher did not work as well for her child. I do not know all the details but what I do know is that tenure is not the villain here, budget shortages are. Our state refuses to fund our schools adequately and our city has refused to increase the schools taxes for a decade. It is interesting that Mona did not sign onto this until a meeting at City Hall. Which is interesting as this is the city government which has refused increase funds for the schools for a decade and is really responsible layoff. Now tenure may not be a perfect system but it was instituted for very good reasons. Teaching is after all a government job and before there was tenure elected officials used teaching as a way to reward campaign workers, friends and family. Teaching is a skill and to make it a patronage job would be a much worse problem. If you think this would not happen consider that in 3 of the last 4 mayoral changes the incoming mayor preformed an almost clean sweep of all positions they could. This has resulted in upheaval which makes the schools yearly lay offs look fine. So perhaps tenure is not such a bad idea.

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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