December 31, 2009
The Chamber of Commerce says that the dual-tax rate is stagnating Worcester’s commercial growth. Not true. What’s undermining Worcester’s commercial and residential tax base isn’t the dual tax rate, it’s the growing poverty rate. Jordan Marsh (Macy’s), Filene’s and Sears didn’t leave Worcester because of taxes. They left because of the growing poverty population, and because they couldn’t get customers to come to Worcester. And now, Diamond Chevrolet is following Sears to Auburn. Why? Customers!
Worcester’s galleria had the best stores in New England, yet couldn’t get enough customers. Many suburbanites and even Worcesterites would shop the Auburn Mall, and malls to the east of Worcester to avoid dealing with the poverty people downtown. Worcester lost its entire retail center to surrounding towns, and the Chamber of Commerce said nothing.
Under Judeo-Christian law, we are mandated to help the poor, but we aren’t mandated to destroy Worcester with poverty housing, which is driving out our upper-income residents to the suburbs. Upscale retail and other industries will follow the upper-income to the suburbs.
I’m disgusted with the Chamber of Commerce because it refuses to speak the truth. The truth is, to expand the tax base we must do three things.
- First, initiate a moratorium on the production of low-income rental housing.
- Second, upgrade the entire inner-city, starting with downtown.
- Third, get rid of the Chamber of Commerce that has done nothing for Worcester, and bring on the Worcester City Chamber of Commerce that will represent Worcester exclusively apart from the towns.
RICHARD L. CHERNISKY Worcester
December 30, 2009
December 29, 2009
Once we have it nailed down, I will post the income and expense statement here and hope the city administration requires the other 4 NRSA's to do the same so we all know exactly how all the NRSA's are investing these CDBG funds.
Guest blogger, Dave "Dewey" Zimage
I decided to get some facts from the U.S. gov't about Worcester, Somerville, Springfield, and Providence. I chose these 4 cities because most of us DO NOT think we should "aspire" to be Springfield but rather use Providence and Somerville as examples of where we should be going as a city. BTW, I concur with that thought process.
Here is the link to the site - http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/25/2582000.html
To be honest, I think what you, Paul and others do in the city is admirable but I don't think Worcester is nearly as bad as the recent tone suggests in some of the posts. Granted some of the data from the government is "old" but this is the type of data that prospective business owners look at when deciding if they want to locate in a particular community. I only looked at the city proper not their defined metropolitan areas which in the case of Somerville wouldn't be comparing apples to apples because they are part of the Boston metropolitan area. In fact, I believe that accounts for some (if not all) of the higher median family home price in Somerville (its proximity to Boston). I think Worcester would look substantially better statistically as a metropolitan area in all of the categories.
I highlighted some lines that I believe sheds some rather positive light on Worcester when compared to the others.
1) We are outclassed by Somerville in the number of persons 25+ with a Bachelor's Degree or higher but we're fairly close with Providence.
2) We were the leader in total retail sales and sales per capita by a quite significant amount of all 4 cities. So much for the perception that a store would not want to locate here or could actually be successful.
3) The poverty rate in Providence was 29% vs. 18% in Worcester and our median income is higher than Providence. Somerville was way ahead of both cities in this category and I applaud them for it. However, I have to wonder, is this because young professionals started discovering Somerville 20 years ago as a natural extension from the higher housing costs in Cambridge? Even Paul has to admit that Somerville didn't happen overnight.
I truly believe Worcester has a perception problem more than anything else and we constantly sell ourselves short. The locals (especially those that have lived their entire life in Worcester) don't see the positives as quickly as an outsider because we tend to focus on what isn't working. We need to sell what is good about Worcester while working on the issues that are before us.
For example, some of the good stuff, an incubator for Biotech - MCPHS - Hanover Theatre - Centrum/DCU Center which put us on the entertainment map - world renowned Mechanics Hall - world renowned Worcester Art Museum - St. Vincent Hospital relocating to downtown instead of the suburbs - our colleges - Union Station finally beginning to hit its stride - Worcester Academy - Mayo Group's aggressive makeover of downtown (have you seen their rehabs on Portland Street yet?) - locally owned 4 star restaurants (why does success have to be defined by having an Abe & Louie's, Capital Grille, or Morton's) - Canal District being driven by private investment - Paulie's NOLA Fest - First Night (we are the oldest New Year's Eve First Night after Boston) - our proximity to Boston, the seashore and the mountains - Worcester's affordable housing stock. And the list could go on and on and on...
That is why I truly believe that CitySquare will help us (locals) focus on some of the positive stuff. If everything Berkley Investments has promised comes to fruition with CitySquare ( and I'm realistic enough to know that the project scope could change significantly over the next couple of years), what a positive story to shout from the rooftops.
December 28, 2009
- The above-ground sewer line from May Street over to Main Street, is that legal.
- The closing off a public street next to the newest low to mod income project on Piedmont Street.
- The status of all the loans from the City of Worcester to the various tenants at Union Station.
- Exactly what price are we selling ORH to MassPort.
- Best Buy, although any reporting is way too late
- What is exactly going on with the former Royal Linen property on Mason Street, 4 years after it was sold via RFP
- Pharmasphere, the company who was suppose to start building in the spring of 2008 that has not even taken title to the property as we enter 2010. The latest story from the Telegram reporting Planing Board approval was more of a press release then reporting.
- Abe & Louie's
- Capital Grille
Very expensive, very good steak houses. Now do you think the City of Boston Economic Development Office should get credit for three great steak houses like this? Why do you think there are three great steakhouses like this in one neighborhood? Maybe there is alot of low mod income housing on Newbury and Boylston Street The more and more we talk about this on the blog, the more I know that it is the people. We need to get people with money to come back into the City of Worcester's downtown core and low mod income housing development is not doing it.
December 27, 2009
- Then why are we going into the lending business?
- Do we have a credit department that analyzes the credit worthiness of the said applicant?
- What type of billing department do we have?
- What steps do we take if a loan goes into default?
- How is our current loan portfolio performing?
December 26, 2009
- all existing loans
- status (current, behind etc)
- amount owed
Before any more loans are considered.
December 24, 2009
- A task force is convened to look at the dual rate tax system and review options like Citizens for Business Philadelphia Plan
- I lose my bet with Dave Zimage
- Al Maykiel is reimbursed for his facade project by the City of Worcester before 2010
- No more low-mod income housing developments in 2010
- The Chandler NRSA receives more monies to continue the good work that we have been doing
- The Chamber of Commerce does something, anything
December 23, 2009
Let me explain, We have done this twice at Union Station and both restaurants failed owing the City of Worcester money. True, both have been replaced by realtively (I think) successful new businesses. Does anyone know how much money is owed, however, on these prior loans? Did the new tenants take over payments? I do not know the answer to either.
Councilor Palmieri suggested that the loan was good and would help spur economic activity. I agree, the loan does spur economic activity so why not offer to any business looking to do a build out? The reason we are doing these loans for Union Station and the Major Taylor parking garage is because these are city assets and the city is trying to get tenants to help pay down their debt. Imagine the commercial spaces for the Union Station parking garage will be next.
In the end I do not think the City of Worcester should be giving out loans to businesses to do build-outs, just like we should not be in the airport business. Micro-loans for facades/storefronts should be the extent of the City of Worcester's lending portfolio.
December 22, 2009
Imagine if this happened on Montvale.
What do you expect to happen when you fill the inner core of the City of Worcester with low-mod income developments?
December 21, 2009
- Direct Air flew in and out of ORH yesterday. Kudos to ORH and Direct Air.
- Rumor mill cranking. Major chain announcement coming soon to the new Wal-Mart on Route 146
- My bet with Zimage looking good
- Another rumor mill item Heard Punta Cana in the Dominican from ORH?
December 18, 2009
Couple points were left out that I would like to add. This bid was awarded in January of 2008 (almost two years ago) with construction to start last Spring. To date the winning bidder has yet to take title. In addition the the City of Worcester is guaranteeing a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Section 108 loan program administered by the city in the amount of 2.5 million that was never in the initial RFP.
Bottom line nearly two years later,
- title has not transferred
- lot itself is still a mess
- no taxes have been paid
- City of Worcester is now on the hook on a 2.5 million dollar loan.
December 17, 2009
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez painted capitalism as the enemy of the earth — not to mention the cause of AIDS, poverty and war — in a speech to the UN Summit on Climate Change that invoked Mohammed, Jesus Christ and Simon Bolivar.
“The cause of all this disastrous situation is the destructive capitalist system,” the Venezuelan socialist leader told delegates Wednesday.“Capitalism is the road to hell.” “I would exhort the government and the people of the earth … to say that if the destructive nature of capitalism exists, let’s fight against it and make it obey us,” he said. “If capitalism resists, then we have to give battle against capitalism and open our way to save mankind.”
But, the Venezuelan leaders attacks on capitalism did not bother the leftist representatives at the summit meeting.They gave him a rousing ovation.Andrew Bolt reported: President Chavez brought the house down.
When he said the process in Copenhagen was “not democratic, it is not inclusive, but isn’t that the reality of our world, the world is really and imperial dictatorship…down with imperial dictatorships” he got a rousing round of applause.
When he said there was a “silent and terrible ghost in the room” and that ghost was called capitalism, the applause was deafening.
December 16, 2009
December 15, 2009
Answer. They figure by doing at night they will can avoid any permitting fees or engineered plans that may be required.
December 14, 2009
Click here for the story. Good story, but a couple things that were not able to make the story. First Steve Foley was able to download numbers from the Department of Transportation site for the first 7 months of this year.
- January, 2009 26 flights 1615 passengers 3874 seats
- February, 2009 24 flights 2248 passengers 3576 seats
- March, 2009 25 flights 1898 passengers 3347 seats
- April, 2009 31 flights 2401 passengers 4106 seats
- May, 2009 24 flights 1726 passengers 3171 seats
- June, 2009 20 flights 1720 passengers 2656 seats
- July, 2009 9 flights 971 passengers 1341 seats
12,579 passengers out of a possible 22,071 seats equates to a 56.99% load factor.
Secondly, I tried to emphasize how Cape Air with their JetBlue code sharing would have been perfect for ORH like it has been for Hyannis. Would have like to have seen some answers from the Airport Director as to why this has not happened.
December 13, 2009
- Commence land development within one year
- Complete development within two years
- Land shall not be used for the storing or dumping of trash or refuse
It has been four years, development has not started although the land was used to store fill when the new Worcester Sttate Parking garage was built.
- The City of Worcester should find a balance in its affordable housing needs that benefits all of its residents. Demographic indicators suggest that the increase in rental assisted living housing during the 1990's, coupled with the high supply of low value units, has attracetd lower income residents to the City. This, in turn, has not helped the residential tax base!
- The City should be less aggressive in providing rental assisted housing if the object of the residential housing stategy is to improve the tax base.
- Off street parking should be the priority for any vacant lot or available tax title property.
- The CCDC's in the future should be considered more of a developer of last choice.
Looking back at this study it is amazing how right they are and startling how we did the exact opposite of what they recommended in 2002.
December 12, 2009
December 11, 2009
I do, however, disagree with his Housing policy that focused on dense concentration of low-mod income developments in concentrated areas mainly through the CDC's. We need to completely change the focus of our Housing policy and as the RKG study said place " More emphasis should be placed on attracting a higher class of people, who in turn would improve the commercial vitality of the City, and allow the City to leverage more private investment to increase the amount of upper-end products."
There are many cities that do not have the required minimum low income housing units that would benefit from the skills of our former Housing Director, who was actually incredible (no exaggeration), combining and leveraging the various sources to build "affordable" units while obtaining all the underlying variances.
December 08, 2009
Remember last year when I commented on the fact the most, if not all the apartments, were low to mod income and Gabe countered that the second phase would consist of market rate condos. Let me ask you a question, Gabe do anyone really think market rate condos are coming to this location???
For now, I will even settle for a parking lot for the apartments that have been built. Drive by and check out the parking lot. Trick question, there is no parking lot. Sure there is an empty area, where cars park, but a up to code parking lot is suppose to have set backs for green area sand property drainage.
This lot has none of this. Imagine if a private developer did this?? Once again, another example, of two sets of rules. How does one get an occupancy permit when there is no parking lot for the apartments?
December 05, 2009
They only want 15 Billion, let me say that again BILLION over the next 10 years. If the Feds do not commit to that, then just 1 BILLION for this year. But there is more:
- Limit the deduction of mortgage interest to end at $400,000, not the current $1,000,000. Can you imagine the effect this would have on houses priced over $400,000, if you could not deduct the mortgage interest?
- Urged a federal tax credit for renters. Again effect would this have on the home building industry?
- Double the number of the nation's 2 million Section 8 vouchers
The one the blows me away was her line "home buyer tax credits, will not stimulate new housing, she said, but is directed at upper income housing purchasers, most of whom would have bought those homes regardless of the credit." Nothing could be further from the truth. Home buyer credit has been the impetus for many first time home-buyers, who are not upper income, to buy a house.
Bottom line is that the National Low Income Housing Coalition wants to promte rentals not the American Dream of home ownership.
December 03, 2009
For years, flying to Orlando on Allegiant Air meant a flight into Sanford International (SFB), the metro area's secondary airport. Not any more. In a move that highlights increasing competition with low-cost rivals, Allegiant announced Tuesday it will begin flying into Orlando International (MCO) – the city's primary airport – as well as to its longtime base at SFB.
Actually Cranky has a good blog on it too.
BOSTON — Gov. Deval Patrick is rolling out a new $150 million loan fund designed to help create more affordable housing units in Massachusetts.
The fund, created primarily using private resources, is intended to fill the funding gap faced by affordable housing developers unable to get financing for their projects from traditional lenders.
The announcement follows Patrick's decision last week to sign a bill aimed at preserving the state's existing supply of subsidized housing units.
Patrick said about 17,000 units are at risk over the next three years as their owners pay off publicly subsidized mortgages and are able to seek higher, market-rate rents.
Some tenants groups say the new law is too weak and doesn't offer enough protections.
December 02, 2009
Got to give Gary Vecchio credit for locking in councilors, up to 9 months, on this vote way before any numbers are ever released. Lets hope councilors realize their mistake, however, and wait for numbers to be released before they commit to anything? Truly believe some of the councilors last night realize they were making a mistake, but did not want to back off from a promise that they had made.
Lastly where is the Chamber of Commerce. Sure, they got up and talked last night, but this needs to be their number one mission (24/7) of the Chamber of Commerce. Today they should be on the front page of the Telegram, on all the radio shows and fighting the fight starting today not next year at tax classification time.
Bottom line Gary Vecchio is 100 times more powerful then our Chamber of Commerce.
Councilors were concerned that an affordable housing requirement would have led to more low income housing, saying the city really needs more commercial development. Also, there was concern that the rules would have made it difficult for abutters to challenge development plans.
December 01, 2009
I'm concerned that the elected officials only care about short term elections and appeasing the majority of homeowners (voters) in Worcester, instead of paying attention to the long term prosperity of the City as a whole. By rubber stamping a dual tax rate ("lowest residential"), Worcester is losing not just tax revenue, but the multiplier effect of jobs, higher home values, and fiscal budget sustainability that small and large businesses create. Without jobs (provided by private business), how can individuals afford to buy homes with the bonus side effect of increasing home prices/equity.
I'm the president of the Osgood Bradley Building at 18 Grafton St. I'm sick of watching my tax rate increase, while my tenants (unable to afford increases in rent to offset the increase in tax), go out of business. My building is now 80% empty. My tax bill is about $50,000. This is ridiculous on a building that loses about $75,000 a year. I have no spare money for maintenance or upgrades. There are few companies looking to move to Worcester, when they get a better lease rate in other towns.
I'm starting to examine selling my building, and non-profits seem to be able to pay the most. I wonder if it is because they will save $50,000 a year in taxes. How many vacant buildings and non-profits (not paying property taxes) do you want in the city?
Yes - you have a revenue problem in the City of Worcester, but the current dual rates compounds the problem, and doesn't lead towards a sustainable solution. As a elected official, you often have tough choices.
I would recommend a stepped program towards a single rate, and paying for it through complete wage/salary freezes for city workers (no cola, raises, or steps!), until the single rate is fully adopted. Also - I'd recommend rather than needing political favors, and time spent filling out paperwork for TIF's, that across the board, for all commercial property, that any improvements made in 2010-2012 will NOT increase taxable value of the property for 20 years. This would immediately spur investment, and start to restore jobs and prosperity in the city.
Your decision today on the Tax Rate, will help make my decision to shut down my building, sell to a non-profit, or explore investing in the property to land new tenants and businesses.
President Osgood Bradley Building Corporation
I think it is safe to say, after not winning a road game all year, the Pats are now in the 2nd tier of good teams. The Colts, the Saints and the Vikings are the top teams. Not saying the Pats can not pull this out, but they are going to have to improve alot and get lucky.