by John Andrews, Co-chair, Green-Rainbow Party of Massachusetts
There is a deep and growing awakening in America to the fact that our government is not serving the people. It's evident all across the political spectrum. On the left, it manifests itself in the Occupy movement with their call to reject the rule of the 1%. On the right, it's evident in the Tea Party which declares that government itself is the enemy. And in between, it's evident in poll numbers that show decreasing confidence in elected officials.
There is almost no segment of society that expresses confidence in those who currently hold power. Even before the current government shutdown fiasco, 78% of Americans disapproved of the way Congress is handling its job. Some recent polls have found Congressional approval ratings as low as 5%.
In fact, Congress is less popular than cockroaches. Literally. In a survey taken in January, one question was "What do you have a higher opinion of: Congress or cockroaches?". Congress lost 43% to 45%.
I often hear the criticism that the Green-Rainbow Party, or the Green Party anywhere in the USA for that matter, should focus on local campaigns, and should prove that its members can govern. Well, folks, that's been happening for a while.
Check out the awesome work of Joyce Palmer Fortune: Joyce Palmer-Fortune was re-elected this June, 2012, to the town of Whately MA's Select Board. (Whately has a New England town meeting form of government, with a select board and town administrator). This is the start of her 2nd three-year term. During this last year, Joyce has served as Chair. The position rotates each year.
During her first term, Joyce strongly supported passing a solar by-law, and was instrumental in negotiating recurring payments to the town from a large commercial solar installations under the terms of the bylaw, setting a model for the state. She and Whately’s other board members also successfully achieved, through local legislative and legal action, personal property tax payments from a multinational corporation that recently purchased a local manufacturing firm. “We insisted they pay their fair share of local taxes in support of our community, saving our town from serious budget cuts, layoffs, and property tax overrides," notes Joyce.
Joyce was interviewed at the 2012 Green Party National Convention in Baltimore:
Looking for another $46.5 million for state and city services? Mayor Menino and the Boston City Council have granted Liberty Mutual Insurance Company $24 million in property tax relief in a so-called Tax Increment Financing (TIF) agreement to build a new Boston office tower for its employees just around the corner from its existing Boston building. As part of the TIF, Governor Deval Patrick has given Liberty Mutual an additional $22.5 million in state subsidies. These subsidies are being granted to a corporation so wealthy that it is on the Forbes 100 list, earning over a billion dollars a year in profit, and testified to City Council that it did not even need to take out a construction loan, but could simply build the $300 million tower with cash on hand.
This subsidy money is being taken from our city and state services – even as the funding for schools, libraries, parks, transit, community centers, youth jobs, and other essential services is being slashed.
Liberty Mutual’s project site, in the Back Bay, was falsely declared “blighted” to qualify for this subsidy. However, Back Bay real estate is among the most valuable in the region; no area could be less “blighted.” Further, this site has already been developed in the past, without subsidy, proving that there are no physical obstacles requiring public assistance, as the Liberty Mutual claimed. What's more, the Boston Redevelopment Authority has permitted development of this tower at triple the legal zoning height, vastly increasing the value of this property for Liberty Mutual.
Liberty Mutual would have not have built this tower elsewhere if they had not received this subsidy. This is the centennial celebration tower for Liberty Mutual, built in the city that helped it become a world-wide success. The threat that the company would have built this 300’ signature tower in the hamlet of Dover, New Hampshire, or any place other than its headquarters city, is not credible. The company has over the years assembled a large block of property near its office building, in planning for this project. It was not considering any other place. The company testified at a public, video-recorded City Council hearing that they never had any intention of pulling up their hundred-year roots and leaving Boston.
Ask the city and state revoke these unnecessary subsidies to Liberty Mutual. Sign our petition!
After Fidelity and Evergreen Solar cut jobs despite huge state job creation subsides and and the City of Boston got slammed in its loan to the soon-to-be bankrupt W Hotel, you would think that corporations sniffing at the public trough would be sent packing. But no, it’s business as usual - and worse!
The latest boondoggle involves Big Pharma, a big developer, and a new kind of subsidy that plays games with taxpayer money Fidelity and Evergreen Solar didn't dream of.
Vertex Pharmaceuticals, with facilities scattered around Cambridge, just got a new drug approved and decided to consolidate and expand their buildings. The Boston Waterfront offers the most suitable location for its needs, so Vertex decided to move its entire operation, with its current workforce of 1,240 employees, into two Fan Pier buildings. The buildings will be constructed by Joe Fallon, mega-developer friend of Mayor Thomas Menino.
Fallon’s waterfront developments have all been subsidized with huge tax breaks, and he hit an even bigger jackpot here.
Governor Deval Patrick, lesson apparently not learned from past experience with Mass Life Sciences Center’s the poor job-creation record, forked over a $10 million Life Sciences tax credit.
Based on the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s declaration that the project area, which the Globe calls a "luxurious new neighborhood," is officially "blighted," Menino granted the project a $12 million property tax waiver. As revealed at the project’s City Council hearing on May 20, Vertex didn’t want to pay rent on both Cambridge and Boston leases while it was moving over -- so this tax break is being given to cover Fallon’s transition-period rent.
Most important, Patrick and Menino teamed up to offer Fallon $50 million dollars via an as-yet-untested and little-understood type of subsidy: the state Infrastructure Investment Incentive (or I-Cubed) program. I-Cubed was Menino’s 2006 legislative initiative that allowed the city to shift more of the costs of development subsidies to the state.
Under I-Cubed, the state issues bonds that pay for project infrastructure. To pay off that loan, the state uses future income tax revenues from new project employees; the state also uses project-related state sales taxes. So instead of those taxes going to the general fund for schools, roads, libraries, etc., they go to paying off a developer’s loan. However, if a project fails to generate enough state tax revenues to pay back the loan, I-Cubed then requires the city to provide the money. The city can demand that the developer keep a two-year reserve fund, and after that an assessment can be placed on the property for reimbursement
But if the project fails, the developer is unlikely to pony up the money, and a lien is not a timely or dependable recovery mechanism. In the end, the state can hold the city responsible by withholding local aid to cover the debt. In this first I-Cubed project to be implemented with Vertex, though, Menino and Patrick have colluded to shift the funding risk from the taxpayers of Boston to the taxpayers of Massachusetts. Here's how and why:
The Green-Rainbow Party is the Massachusetts affiliate of the Green Party of the United States. It was founded in 2002 through the union of the Massachusetts Green Party and the Rainbow Coalition Party.