January 03, 2013They say that misery loves company and it certain appears to be true. Mayor Robbie Perkins, after working downtown for over 30 years, recently could no longer afford the expense and inconvenience of a downtown office and moved his company to State Street. Now it appears that Perkins is working hard to make sure the downtown is too expensive and inconvenient for others.
Perkins says that he is trying to encourage downtown development, but his actions betray him. When the city wants to attract a business it often reduces the taxes that business will have to pay for a time period; it's called an economic incentive but what it amounts to is a tax reduction. The city will also often bend a few rules so that the business can get up and running quicker and cheaper.
In short, lower taxes and less regulation are used to attract economic development.
Look at what the Greensboro City Council is doing for the downtown. It increased property taxes for downtown properties by over 8 cents. Imagine the hue and cry if the city went up over 8 cents on all property taxes. But downtown property owners have to pay the extra money even though more and more property owners are questioning what they get for the extra taxes.
Now Perkins wants to increase regulations, not on how buildings operate or how safe they are, but simply on how they look – esthetics. Peeling paint or a cracked window could result in a fine. If the city doesn't approve of the way your building looks, the city could fix it up and then send you the bill. The city currently does this for overgrown yards and charges $450 or $500 to cut a lawn. Imagine what the city would charge to replace a window or paint a building.
Perkins, as has been reported, is about to go into foreclosure on the home that he owns in Irving Park, so he should know that often when a window is cracked or paint is peeling it is because the property owner finds themselves in tough economic times. If the property owner is upside down on the property, about all he can do is wait it out and hope that the economy improves.
This is really about a couple of pieces of property. It really annoys Perkins and his crowd that people can own property downtown and don't have to keep it up to the standards that Perkins would like to see.
It is also about implementing the Downtown Design and Compatibility Manual, which downtown property owners defeated several years ago. The problem is that downtown property owners have real jobs and can't spend all their time watching the city to see what devilment it is up to. In this case it is an attempt to pass piecemeal what it could not pass in one fell swoop. It is much more difficult to get organized opposition to each piece of the design manual, and talk about a waste of time.
Perkins is also talking about having the city spend more money to spruce up Elm Street, as if Elm Street is the only street in downtown Greensboro. On Market Street, the main east-west street in Greensboro, the city hasn't installed fancy fake brick sidewalks, hanging baskets, fancy street lights, planters, trees or anything else. Why is it that Elm Street is getting all the attention?
One reason might be that Perkins lives in a condo on Elm Street, but certainly there must be a different reason.