Op-Ed: From a business owner’s perspective, CARA program encourages growth

2012-10-12T07:45:00Z Op-Ed: From a business owner’s perspective, CARA program encourages growthBy DAVE BAKER Albany Democrat Herald
October 12, 2012 7:45 am  • 

I am the managing owner of the company that owns the building at Third and Lyon where the Albany Visitors Association now resides. Over the past year we have spent about $50,000 upgrading the building, and we have several more upgrades planned for the next couple of years. This money has gone to local companies and Albany residents. Although we have never received CARA funds of any kind, we support the CARA program and believe it to be a valuable tool for urban renewal in Albany

Private companies like ours cannot afford to invest in Albany if the properties around us are falling apart and losing value.

When I was a kid in the 70’s, we would travel periodically to Albany to visit family, usually during the holidays. Albany was a standing joke in the Willamette Valley. The city was blighted – the downtown was falling apart and it was an eyesore. Downtown had been left solely in the hands of the private sector for 40 years prior to CARA. Apparently the private sector found nothing of value in downtown Albany, and chose to let it rot away. This is what free markets do – they invest in things they find valuable, and ignore things they don’t. I know this because it’s what I do every day.

Our community is not, however, strictly a free market. We place value on many things that we don’t leave to the private sector. Our biking and walking trails, city parks, community swimming pools, schools, public transportation, police, and firefighters – just to name a few. These are things that define us as a community. We take care of each other. Left to the private sector alone, many of our community features would not exist, because there is no profit to be had. And when you run a company, the profit margin is the bottom line.

CARA produces tangible results and augments the private sector. I personally know people who are employed downtown only because of a CARA project. Most of the downtown business owners likely will be hesitant to comment to anyone about CARA, in support or against, for fear of alienating one side or the other and driving away business. It is difficult to blame them when the citizenry has been told many things with little in the way of facts to back it up.

Local programs like CARA are easy to administer and oversee. If the public wants to see how the money has been spent, it is a simple task to go to City Hall and ask for that information. It is equally simple to get a meeting with the mayor or a City Council member to discuss concerns. We can all see what is going on, if we choose to do so. The information is accessible. Contrast this with the black holes that are our federal and state tax systems. Local programs like CARA will always be the most affordable, efficient, and transparent.

If the CARA program is done away with, I believe that Albany will slowly but surely fade into obscurity as the ugly stepchild between Lebanon and Corvallis. History is clear on this – without a community steward to oversee the maintenance of the downtown infrastructure, the city will deteriorate and fade away. CARA doesn’t displace or discourage the private sector’s involvement – CARA encourages it. And my company is proof positive of that fact.

Dave Baker is a software engineer and managing owner of DevMecca.com, an Albany software development company specializing in business efficiency solutions.

Copyright 2016 Albany Democrat Herald. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(23) Comments

  1. Libertarian
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    Libertarian - October 14, 2012 4:36 pm
    I hit the abuse button a couple of hours ago, but to no avail so far. Perhaps libertarians are not considered worthy.

    Look, I keep the text of my comments in many cases (and now I know why!), so I ran a Windows search for “shot,” and lo and behold I recovered the infamous comment in question. The exact text:

    “I think we need to identify Nic’s history teachers and have them shot. Nic obviously knows nothing about the first century-and-a-half of the United States, when everything ran pretty much according to libertarian principles that allowed citizens to experience the joy of true freedom. Progressives didn’t like this at all, so they have worked feverishly, and all too successfully, to destroy the freedom our people once enjoyed.”

    Now, if you can get anyone else to support your claim that it’s not apparent that this was a JOKE, I will give you the apology you have demanded. Good luck with that. No one will want to appear to be as stupid as you. And if I’m wrong, I’ll also print this thread and eat it.

    You have made a federal case out of something that was absolutely trivial. You have done it solely to defame me because you hate everything I stand for. It is you who would be the one to actually have someone shot if it were within your power, and I’m probably the first on your list. Your mindset is that of the classic power-mad statist who would stop at NOTHING to wield your power over others. That’s what I think, anyway.
  2. FocusOnFacts
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    FocusOnFacts - October 14, 2012 12:22 pm
    No matter how you try and Romney your way out of it, you called for a teached "to be taken out and shot." Absolute truth. No question about it. Nothimng inaccurate about it at all.
  3. Libertarian
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    Libertarian - October 13, 2012 4:32 pm
    FOF, read this to see why your representations about the Constitution are so pathetically lame:

    Constitution Day – Walter E. Williams:
    http://www.thefreemanonline.org/columns/the-pursuit-of-happiness-constitution-day/
  4. Libertarian
    Report Abuse
    Libertarian - October 13, 2012 3:51 pm
    FOF, that’s about the eighth time you have used inaccurate and out-of-context “quotes” to falsely represent that I seriously wanted to have a teacher shot at some point. You do it each time you lose a debate with me, which is each time you have a debate with me. I have never resorted to using the abuse button, but in the future I will use it each and every time you seek to falsely besmirch my character in this manner. I have a right to speak my mind here without having to endure these deceiptful attacks.

    It is a given that progressives fight dirty because their entire philosophy is a dirty, thuggish affair that glorifies the “collective” and despises the concept of individual rights.
  5. Ray Kopczynski
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    Ray Kopczynski - October 13, 2012 8:54 am
    Mr G-
    "Interesting. You seem to now support a process that you fought against tooth and nail (the petitions) as your basis for distinguishing 'good' from 'bad government.' (??)...Why couldn't you maintain some credibility from the beginning by encouraging the initiative process?"

    I have *always* supported the LEGAL process. PERIOD! That does include doing everything I can legally -to derail what I believe to be a fundamentally dangerous ballot measure. No more, no less. You imply that I do not have the right to do so. If so, you're living in a very different country than I am...

    "If the people pass these measures will you finally accept the will of the people? Of course not. You will fight tooth and nail once again to stifle the will of the people through the legal system."

    Until/if/when it passes, it is a moot discussion. If it does pass, then it does need to be able to withstand any *legal* challenge. There are two sides to every issue. That is NO different than Mr. Cordier pursuing the same remedy.

    "You're open loop on this issue, Ray. It appears you're making it up as you go along. Quit listening to your lawyer, listen to your heart. "

    No loop at all. I am very straight-single-minded on this issue. My heart beats strong on this issue, and I sleep very well at night. :-)

  6. FocusOnFacts
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    FocusOnFacts - October 13, 2012 6:35 am
    "FOF believes subsidization of businesses is just fine when it’s authorized by the “democratically elected representatives of the people.” I completely disagree, and I believe the founders of our nation would completely disagree. They gave us a Constitution that limited the powers of government."

    The founders did set up check and balances, and the courts have repeatedly held that urban renewal is legal. You may certainly be disagreeable, but the courts settled the argument, folowing the process laid down by the founders. You reject the constitution because it doesn't fit with what YOU want.

    "FOF’s logic could be used to justify the public flogging of atheists, Methodists and Pastafarians if the “representatives” authorize it"

    Bull patootie. Never said that. And you're the idiot who called for a teacher "to be taken out and shot". You're the one who threatens folks who don't agree with you.

  7. Libertarian
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    Libertarian - October 13, 2012 6:00 am
    FOF refers to “spewing” and “lunacy” while offering prime demonstrations. FOF spews many words in an attempt to obscure the fundamental issue, which is that FOF believes subsidization of businesses is just fine when it’s authorized by the “democratically elected representatives of the people.” I completely disagree, and I believe the founders of our nation would completely disagree. They gave us a Constitution that limited the powers of government.

    FOF’s logic could be used to justify the public flogging of atheists, Methodists and Pastafarians if the “representatives” authorize it. It could similarly be used to justify making people whose last names begin with vowels carry the full tax load for all other citizens. Treating a class of citizens unfairly, or otherwise doing harm to them, is unjustified regardless of who has “authorized” it.

    What fraction of the people believe they are being treated unfairly when they are required to pay for national defense or roads? One in a thousand? Now, what fraction of the people believe they are being taken advantage of when they are required to pay for the subsidization of businesses? In an earlier era when people had more sense, the answer would have been 99 out of 100. Now that people have been thoroughly indoctrinated with the progressive/collectivist ideology, it may not be nearly that high, but hope it would still be a majority if people have both sides of the issue clearly explained to them.
  8. FocusOnFacts
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    FocusOnFacts - October 12, 2012 9:07 pm
    "I hope my thoughts still have some value."

    Oh Lord, lunatic fringe code that silliness is about to spew.

    "The lofty sounding arguments for such largesse invariably ignore the hidden damage that is done whenever government takes from some to give to others."

    Every action by government, of any kind, results in that happening. Income taxes are taken and paid to folks who serve in the military and to those who sell products to the military. Gas taxes are taken and are paid to engineers and asphalt companies to make roads. Activities of government universally result in the expenditure of funds for some purpose or another. One can only surmise from such a simplistic, and ridiculous, argument of yours that you are an anarchist, oposed to government in any form, because that's the ONLY way you can avoid taxation.

    "CARA is what is known as a “collectivist” program.That’s because it forces some citizens to act in ways that do not serve their interests "

    Absurd. You have no idea what collectivism means. It doesn't force "some citizens" to do anything. It merely spends lawfully collected taxes on lawfully constructed programs.

    "You have a favored group with power forcing a disfavored group with less power to support a program against their will."

    That 'favored group' of yous are the called lawfully and democratically elected representatives of the people. Since you reject that principle you stand forsquare against the Constitution of the Unites States.

    "CARA is drawn from the same cloth as a centrally planned economy."

    More lies. You should go to Cuba or China and really see what a centrally planned economy is like, before you cast such obvious and unsupported lies.

    "There is absolutely, categorically no way to improve upon free markets."

    Got any proof? Want to point to a "free market" somewhere in the world? Mitt Romney doesn't even try to sell that. He specifically talked about the necessity for market regulation. As did Adam Smith, the father of free market theory.

    You live in an intellectual fantasy land reminiscent of Orwell.
  9. Tentoes
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    Tentoes - October 12, 2012 6:56 pm
    Ray Kopczynski - 1 hour ago
    Mr G-
    "According to your own words a person who refrains from expressing disapproval gives their "tacit approval" to bad government?"

    Yes.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    "The only thing necessary for evil to prevail is for good people to remain silent."


    Yep, we covered that one back in the sixties......
  10. Libertarian
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    Libertarian - October 12, 2012 6:24 pm
    I greatly appreciate the efforts of Tom Cordier, Mr. G., et al, to tame this beast called CARA. I am not a wonk like Mr. G, but I hope my thoughts still have some value.

    I am opposed to all government largesse bestowed on specific businesses. The lofty sounding arguments for such largesse invariably ignore the hidden damage that is done whenever government takes from some to give to others. Obviously, if you throw money at an area, you’re likely to get some results you can tout. But pity the hapless taxpayer who has to support this largesse. I also resent the usage of Tax Increment Financing, because its effect (probably intentional) is to make it less apparent to taxpayers that they are being fleeced.

    CARA is what is known as a “collectivist” program. That’s because it forces some citizens to act in ways that do not serve their interests. You have a favored group with power forcing a disfavored group with less power to support a program against their will. In a free and moral society, this would not be allowed. Instead, those who favor the goal would step up and take care of the matter themselves without bullying their fellow citizens who wish to be left alone. The great thing about free markets is that no one is forced to act against their own interests.

    CARA is drawn from the same cloth as a centrally planned economy. There is no credible economist who will argue that a centrally planned economy is a good idea. Central planning leads to poor economic decisions that are based upon politics and power. There is absolutely, categorically no way to improve upon free markets. People want to be free. Free people know what they want and they vote with their dollars. If they’re not buying what you’re selling, that’s your problem. Stop trying to make it someone else’s problem.
  11. Mr G
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    Mr G - October 12, 2012 5:59 pm
    Interesting. You seem to now support a process that you fought against tooth and nail (the petitions) as your basis for distinguishing "good" from "bad government." (??)

    Why couldn't you maintain some credibility from the beginning by encouraging the initiative process? If the people pass these measures will you finally accept the will of the people? Of course not. You will fight tooth and nail once again to stifle the will of the people through the legal system.

    You're open loop on this issue, Ray. It appears you're making it up as you go along. Quit listening to your lawyer, listen to your heart.





  12. Ray Kopczynski
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    Ray Kopczynski - October 12, 2012 5:10 pm
    Mr G-
    "According to your own words a person who refrains from expressing disapproval gives their "tacit approval" to bad government?"

    Yes.

    #1. Who determines if it is "bad government?"

    #2. Absent disapproval, I have *every* right to presume the course of action take is correct.

    And - A handful of folks disapproving does not change the correctness or validity of the position. Go back to #1 -- That's what the ballot measure will help determine. We just 100% fundamentally disagree as to the correctness -- and the outcome of that election...
  13. Mr G
    Report Abuse
    Mr G - October 12, 2012 4:31 pm
    Ray: According to your own words a person who refrains from expressing disapproval gives their "tacit approval" to bad government? God help Ward II residents if you think this way.
  14. Ray Kopczynski
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    Ray Kopczynski - October 12, 2012 2:47 pm
    Mr G -
    "Ray previously mentioned that the URD plan was "signed off" by the other taxing districts. "Signed off" means "approval" in my lexicon."

    No place have I read that any of the taxing districts formally opposed the creation of the URD. I infer that to mean "signed off" or tacit approval.

    "I stop short of calling Ray a liar on this issue because I do know his intent in making his statement."

    I refrain from doing same in your direction for similar reasons. :-)

    "Ray implies URDs are just fine because everyone is doing it."

    Not at all. It *does* strongly imply that because it works, it is an effective tool that can be used by any government organization in the state (& USA).

    "What Ray conveniently leaves out is that many URDs received voter approval."

    Yes - Some do.

    "And some URDs are not financed with debt, they are funded pay-as-you-go."

    Yes, some are.

    "You see there is a right way and wrong way to do a URD. Albany is doing it the wrong way in multiple ways."

    Because of the two previous comments, you cannot, in any way, logically make that leap of faith & extrapolation. But you do...

    "Ray thinks since we elect representatives we have a direct say over URDs like CARA."

    Yes -- Just as you have the same "control" over the multiple elected city/district leaders who have changed over the past 10 years. They've all drunk the same kool-aid??

    "For the first time local voters will have a direct say on two important issues currently monopolized by the city council - debt and URDs."

    Again -- Have you taken even a cursory glance at the city budget over the past couple of years?? I know you have - so it is nonsensical for you to state Albany is on the wrong path...

  15. Mr G
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    Mr G - October 12, 2012 2:20 pm
    GetBiddler: You are correct. And for a complete listing of how much CARA takes from the other taxing districts look at Table 4e of the SAL 2012-2013 report.

    http://www.co.linn.or.us/assessorshomep/docs/2012/SALDocs.htm

    To summarize the report, CARA will siphon $2,213,766 from the taxing districts this fiscal year ALONE.

    For example:

    Did you vote for the city to take $110,475 from the police/fire levy? I didn't.

    Did you vote for the city to take $188,157 from the GAPS bond? I didn't.

    Did you vote for the city to take $318, 492 from the county safety levy? I didn't.

    CARA is literally taking money away from essential services and facilities and giving the money to "downtown" private interests.

    They do so without voter approval and without taxing district permission. And the result? Even after millions and millions of "investment" the downtown area's assessed value has grown at a fraction of the rate experienced by the rest of Albany. You'd think with millions of our tax money that "downtown" assessed growth would be far ahead of the non-subsidized parts of town.

    Is there any doubt that our city government has abused its fiscal power?

  16. GidBiddler
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    GidBiddler - October 12, 2012 1:30 pm
    I like a beautiful city too! Let's charge everyone in Albany $2000 this year, and redo the grocery stores, YEAH! Idiots. CARA funnels money directly from schools, police, and fire. It is a fact. Ray will try to spin it, but look it up. Somehow, many readers on this site don't seem to make the connection between CARA and the Police and Fire Levies (renewed this year). They probably wouldn't need that levy if they didn't have CARA. Also, take a look at how many schools have closed in Albany over the last years... huh. Get your priorities straight Albany. Fixing up downtown is not a top priority (not that gov't should be in the remodel business anyway). You are skrewing your kids and future families in this community for your own stupid vanity.
  17. Tentoes
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    Tentoes - October 12, 2012 12:59 pm
    Seems to me that conflating "trails, walking paths, parks, swimming pools, schools, cops, firefighters..et al" with handing out borrowed money (or favorable tax breaks, or loan guarantees .. or whatever) to selected property owners is just a bit disingenuous.

    As far as “investing in things they find valuable” by business and investors…..isn’t there a bit of a difference between actual authentic value and artificially propped up value? And isn’t one of the marks of a smart businessman is the ability to tell the difference?

    It seems to me that if “downtown” Albany (I love it when they use that term) EVER has to carry it’s share of the property tax burden around here …. EVER again. Then we gonna find out what real value actually is … real quick..

    It amazes me how much of other people’s money folks are willing to spend in order to remain in denial around how the world has changed and cling to all that’s long gone by.

    Emotional attachment is usually the expensive realm of collectors, hobbyists and re-furbishers of old cars, among other things, but it has never been the mark of a smart businessman, in my experience.
  18. Mr G
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    Mr G - October 12, 2012 12:47 pm
    MarkAz: Thanks for posting the link to ORS 457. I wish more people would read this law to get a better grasp of how Albany is abusing its URD power.

    Note specifically ORS 457.085(5). Ray previously mentioned that the URD plan was "signed off" by the other taxing districts. "Signed off" means "approval" in my lexicon. The law requires the city to "consult and confer" with each taxing district. The city has chosen to retain the sole power of approval, rejection, and modification. The taxing districts have no power to "sign off" or approve. I stop short of calling Ray a liar on this issue because I do know his intent in making his statement. But he's certainly misleading the reader with his comment on "signed off."

    Also note that the city has options in carrying out it's urban renewal plan.

    They have the option to get voter approval. Unlike many other Oregon cities, Albany has never obtained voter approval.

    They have the option to pay-as-you-go instead of saddling us with millions of debt (currently ~$9,000,000). Albany chose the debt route.

    They have the power to terminate the plan when "blight" has been removed and the need for a plan no longer exists. But they can only terminate after paying off the debt. Another opportunity missed because we now have a large debt and the need for CARA is questionable at best - they've essentially been inactive ever since the sidewalk issue blew up in the Mayor's face. Where is the urgency to eliminate "blight"? It doesn't exist because downtown is not "blighted."

    But the biggest reason to terminate is based on moral grounds - the city simply should not take money from their neighbors (the other taxing districts) without their permission. The law doesn't preclude the city from getting permission. Why don't they? It's never too late to do the right thing. This is an egregious abuse of power.
  19. MarkAz
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    MarkAz - October 12, 2012 11:44 am
    It is important that the discussion about the details of urban renewal districts (URDs) uses factual rather than purported facts or opinions.

    Chapter 457 is the Oregon State law which defines and governs URDs in Oregon.

    Here is the link to ORS Chapter 457:
    http://www.leg.state.or.us/ors/457.html

    BTW-Ray is correct in stating that URDs are common in Oregon (a fact). As of 2007 there were 85 URDs set up in 55 Cities or Counties in Oregon. http://www.oregon.gov/dor/ptd/Pages/ic_504_623.aspx


  20. Mr G
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    Mr G - October 12, 2012 11:01 am
    Notice how Ray tries to manipulate the reader...

    - Ray implies URDs are just fine because everyone is doing it. Uh, huh, sure. What Ray conveniently leaves out is that many URDs received voter approval. And some URDs are not financed with debt, they are funded pay-as-you-go. You see there is a right way and wrong way to do a URD. Albany is doing it the wrong way in multiple ways.

    - Ray borders on lying with his assertion that the taxing districts "signed off" on CARA. Nonsense. The law is clear on this matter. The taxing districts must be "consulted", they are never asked to "approve" or "sign off." The city manipulates this their advantage. The city essentially does what we individuals don't - take money from neighbors without their permission.

    - Ray thinks since we elect representatives we have a direct say over URDs like CARA. Uh, huh, sure. That may be true for single issue voters, but most and probably all of us voters consider multiple issues before casting a ballot. This is why the initiative next spring is so important. For the first time local voters will have a direct say on two important issues currently monopolized by the city council - debt and URDs.

    Power to the people.
  21. Ray Kopczynski
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    Ray Kopczynski - October 12, 2012 10:43 am
    Of course Mr G very coinveniently leaves out other very salient facts:

    1. URDs are used very successfully across the width & length of the US -- and have been for more than a generation. A *huge* number are also being used in Oregon.

    2. WITH THEIR PERMISSION, the affected taxing districts signed off on the URD when it was created.

    3. Taxpayers very definitely DO have a "direct say" in the process. It's called elections. If you don't happen to "like" the process, elect someone who will bend to your will.

    4. It is a very legal process outlined by the Strate of Oregon.
  22. Mr G
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    Mr G - October 12, 2012 9:18 am
    But Mr. Baker leaves out a few inconvenient facts.....

    To get money to pay off its debts CARA siphons off property taxes from the taxing districts. Over its lifetime CARA has taken over $11 million in this manner. This is money that would have paid for essential services (e.g. police, jail operations, school facilities, and fire protection). Instead, most of this money was handed out to private property owners in the CARA area. After the money changes hands the local politicians and their water carriers then take credit for creating “new jobs in Albany.” They only look at part of the equation – what happens to jobs when CARA puts UNEARNED money into the coffers of local cronies.

    What can't be ignored is what happens to essential public jobs and services when millions are siphoned away from the taxing districts, without their permission, and given to CARA.

    What can't be ignored is local taxpayers have no direct say when the city decides to create an urban renewal district. (This can be rectified by supporting the initiative that requires voter approval of new URDs and any substantial change to the existing URD called CARA.)

    Tell you what, Mr. Baker. I applaud private property owners like you who spend their own money to fix up their own properties. But don't force local taxpayers to sacrifice essential public services in the process.
  23. Ray Kopczynski
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    Ray Kopczynski - October 12, 2012 8:34 am
    Thank you Mr. Baker!

    Another very good *common sense* articulation...
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