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Who gave away the taxpayers’ equity? - The Galveston County Daily News: Guest Columns

October 20, 2016

Who gave away the taxpayers’ equity?

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Posted: Saturday, March 29, 2014 12:00 am

For 25 years at New York’s famous Apollo Theater, the great saxophonist Louis Jordan played his composition “Somebody Done Changed the Lock on My Door.”

Recognizing that as the parodic title of many of Galveston’s past zoning and building code exceptions is long past due.

While in most cases, those changes immediately increased the value of the land, at the same time, the developer’s plan for development took on a value that would not have existed without those changes.

The city gave away the taxpayers’ equity without cash remuneration.

There’s a question that has never been properly answered, much less properly studied.

Exactly how did the residents of Galveston participate in that wave of the magic wand?

And, what was its real aggregated value? I submit that no one knows. I don’t.

Shouldn’t the city and the taxing entities have a properly educated and trained market analyst who can study and determine that before waivers are considered, much less granted?

For an example, in most cases, there is no direct benefit to the Galveston public schools.

While the owners of the developments pay school taxes, the Robin Hood law takes them away to be used in other districts.

There are ways to solve that problem. One would be the requirement of a specific-use long term licensing agreement that would cause an agreed amount to be funded by the applicant to Galveston Independent School District for use in, say, supporting student technical education and training.

Any number of great cities have similar logic intact, but those that don’t have seen the tenor of their cities change to a place that is all but unrecognizable to those who live there, those who raise their families there.

The only reason to make any change is if the result will be significantly better than the status quo for the city’s residents.

Otherwise, when it’s all over, you’ll find once again that Louis Jordon was right — “Somebody Done Changed the Lock on My Door.”