Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Columbus - Full Employment?

Seventy seven years ago today The Wizard of Oz had it's global premier  - IN Oconomowoc!!

That's right, Oconomowoc.  It seems MGM was so down on this movie and pretty sure it would fail at the box office that they decided Oconomowoc was their best choice. A soft opening.


Just me personal opinion.  At least y'all know where I stand.

I received a phone call yesterday on my voice mail (I was in the basement) and I agree and I don't agree but I truly do appreciate the phone call.   

The dispute is my claim that City Council did our job and Mr. Eisenga did not do his. Perhaps I was a little harsh but I was frustrated at the problems Anytime Fitness is having with communication with the developer and the caller said "we" the City Council dragged our feet and we, are to blame for the debacle.  

Let's look at the facts. The first problem comes from the planning commission because his plans are a total wreak and there are 35 questions that need to be answered.  Then he builds a non-conforming building against city regulations and expects the city council to just OK it when what he has done really screws the city by making ALL zones conform to his zone.  We can't very well tear down ShopKo and build it right so the "new" council has to hit the ground running.

So I will freely admit that before the "new" council came to order the "old" council said "wait, lets not just rubber stamp this and screw the city for the future".   Plus, his plans were NOT OK in the first place by the planning commission.  The exact words are "Prior to conditional use approval being issues, the following comments will need to be addressed or additional information needs to be provided per the following letter".

So since the paperwork was incomplete we needed to wait for this correction which is 2 more weeks.

Then, knowing that there were 3 brand new council members he feels he needs to rush rush us into a quick decision. This ALL could have been taken care of 6 months earlier when there was zero rush at all and the old city council could have just done what they do and rubber stamp this without ever reading the ordinances or thinking about the future of Columbus.  Unless you want to have more beautiful strip malls with low paying jobs anywhere in Columbus.

He KNOWS this takes time and city government is freakishly slow (he was Mayor wasn't he? he knows how longs things take - good grief) we could have looked at things without any pressure or faux deadlines at all and he could have had his Sentry built way way earlier.  But for some reason he stalled and then had the gall to not only come after the new city council through three newspaper articles saying WE are inept but through attacks in our personal email.

REALLY?  Is that how you work with a new city council? email attacks? Is that really wise?  And you wonder why I'm not a big fan? How about working together for the common good of all. He created a huge problem for us and then gives us the finger because we are slow?

He promised Anytime Fitness an August 1st opening and assures Council that if we pass our vote everything will be up and running on time.

To be honest he is freakishly lucky he got my vote in the first place. I had many more calls saying vote NO, in fact I had more NO then YES calls. And because I need to be politically correct here, the NO votes were not against having a store. 

I know there are hold ups but I would think a developer knows this and factors that into his equation on how long things take.  Yet then he blames everyone except himself.  That is fine, that is how some developers seem to like to work and we all knew this might happen and I have to think there is more blame coming down the road.

But lets talk about that area.

Growth for the sake of growth is not good growth financially for the city.  Oh, it makes politicians look good because Columbus is growing and it LOOKS like a good thing because we are gaining more poor paying jobs and developers make a lot of money, but bottom line it hurts Columbus. This TIF is a boondoggle that will bite Columbus in the butt in 20-30 years when the infrastructure needs repairing and the property tax that NORMALLY accrues for 20 years and is used to fix aging infrastructure are now being used instead, to BUILD the infrastructure, not to keep it running.  A classic example of a poor way to have a TIF. Growth for the sake of Growth.

BUT - he will be long gone, I will be long gone and my children will end up paying for the infrastructure for empty buildings in empty strip-malls.  I HOPE I am wrong but I'm not a fan of urban sprawl that take away jobs from the city and moves them into country.

Corn fields and weeds are actually more cost efficient then business unless that business has high paying jobs and brings outside money IN. That is the key. Columbus will not make any money in that area at all because typical property tax does not offset the cost of infrastructure maintenance, police protection, snow plowing and so forth over the lifetime of that infrastructure. A corn field has no inherent cost BUT, we still get property tax.  What you say?  Business is bad?  No - bad business is bad.

Why is this theory all of a sudden coming out?

Because America did not start urban sprawl until the 50s when the automobile started to change cities. Now we are having our 3rd generation of infrastructure failures that city's need to pay for and we are seeing that city's cannot PAY for sprawl unless that area is bringing in money with real property tax. The only way a city can pay for sprawl is with more sprawl. It's like a ponzi scheme.  As long as we can keep sprawling to pay for the last sprawl we are fine.

What are good companies?  Enerpac - they bring outside money INTO the town. They make stuff, sell it to other places and we keep the change.  Sentry will take OUR money and then send that money OUT of town after paying employees slightly above minimum wage.     

We get no sales tax, and that building will not help create that many jobs from Columbus residents. Our unemployment in Columbus is 5.8% which is really close to "full employment" (which is 3 to 4%**, economist William T. Dickens says that full employment is 5.5%) so it's not like Columbus is begging for more low paying jobs!

I truly hope he builds lots of cool little shops in his strip-mall area and I hope he proves me wrong.I will be the first to say I was wrong and apologize, it's not like I've never done THAT before.

Sorry - I got on a rant but I have to believe that Mr Eisenga who is a seasoned developer and a one time mayor knows how things work, knows that things take time and has planned in unforeseen problems.

And too the caller - I do appreciate the call, honestly. I'm glad people are paying attention to what is going on in the city. I wish more people would.  Thank you. 

**   You really do not want full employment because that would cause inflation because workers would have more disposable income which would drive up prices.  Right now there is a good amount of frictional unemployment, workers who are in between jobs, but are still in the labor force. So you need to take into account frictional unemployment because not all unemployment is involuntary.

In fact looking at numbers that just came out today 42% of respondents in small business are saying there are "few or no qualified applicants" for jobs.  21% of small business are raising compensation to get more applicants.  This is suggesting that our economy is shifting from weak demand to tight supply.  WHICH - will raise wages WHICH will lead to higher inflation WHICH will start to raise interest rates.   


In other news.

Paul Scharf is leaving The Columbus Journal and while I did not always agree with the news he decided to print I ALWAYS appreciated his work ethic and I liked the guy. Thank You Paul for your years of service.
Disc Golf is coming to Columbus . . . still. I heard through the grapevine that they are ready to install the baskets. . . . . sometime.

Watching the Brewers last night.  DUDE - is that a whole 16 inch pizza?


I don't know why that caught my eye.  With HD you see a lot of weird things happening behind batters.

OH - the PGA Championship  -  Rory Mcllroy is in Nicklaus/Woods territory as he has won 4 majors before age 25. Only Woods and Nicklaus have done that.  Plus he has won four majors in a span of 15 tournaments.  Not saying Rory is the next Tiger but it IS a WOW thing.  

New sun screen research is interesting.  I had a malignant melanoma about 25 years ago so I'm not a sun worshiper for sure. But now it seems sunscreen is causing harm by blocking essential vitamins from entering your body which is causing problems in the elderly.  At least that is what I found in an article that I skimmed a majority of at least half of it. 

All right - I'm outta here.

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