This is an excellent article on the failure of TIF's in KC. I don't usually agree with this guy, certainly not on big picture issues, but on this issue we are in absolute agreement. Of course I've been ranting against the TIF's for a while. I never believed they would drive a true downtown renaissance, or sustainable progress anywhere else. I have detested that most of these are awarded to out of state, much less non-local, companies. And just as was suspected, as City revenues are falling, the City is giving it's money away to enable private developers who are in turn are getting a competetive edge against local companies and driving them out. TIF's are just a small-scale, localized version of the massive Federal bailouts and wrong for all the same reasons.
It would have been far more equitable and sustainable to simply lower sales tax rates. This would have placed money in the hands of consumers instead of developers, and encouraged suburban consumers to shop in KC, instead of the other way around. Increasing the desire to buy in KC would mean that smart businesses would seek to enhance their edge by moving to KC, instead of away from it, especially the small to mid sized businesses that make life- and shopping- much more interesting (the way the Plaza used to be and the Crossroads district is). More shoppers and more buying would have meant more revenues and, on top of all this, happier citizens. We could have been happy about the flourishing of local businesses, instead of suspicious of corruption and "outsiders" coming to push out local guys and we could have been happy about a better economic position. We also could have been happy with- heck, even proud of- our local government. But far be it from our City Council members (and I use the term 'member' in the lowest sense of the word) to make a right decision when there's good money to be made in making the wrong one. Bastards.
And as a post script, these miserably implemented TIF's happen because a private developer comes along with a plan. In this plan they boast a grand picture of economic development: so many jobs will be created, so much revenue will be generated and the face of the City will be given a lift. The Ephors at the Council buy into this and move to grant special favors to the developer. But there is no follow-up and no accountability for these claims. There is very little questioning of the assumptions that go into the grandiose claims and no research on the actual impact. The developers can and will say whatever they want to seduce the self-indulgent politicos into their bed. In short, they get away with it.