Opinion: Ypsilanti's budget mess is the City Council's problem to fix
Some 10 to 12 years ago, the City of Ypsilanti decided to embark on the Water Street Project. Specifically, the socialist commissars at City Hall grossly overstepped their Constitutional authority when they forced taxpaying, private property owners and small businesses to give up their property in favor of a “vision” promoted by a set of bureaucrats, who’ve never had to meet a payroll.
Here we are 10 years later and there sits Water Street, completely empty with a huge red IOU dangling above the property to the tune of about $30 million. Can you say Karma? Yes, indeed, the chickens are coming home to roost.
All of the advocates (some of which saw the writing on the wall and blew town) will of course blame this on the unforeseen collapse in the real estate market and other factors that they claim were unexpected. However, this was a gamble that was made and should have never been made with taxpayers’ money.
Although the ball cannot move along fast enough at this point, the city could help matters by completely getting out of the way and sell the Water Street property or portions of it to anyone that shows a serious interest in purchasing. But in order to do that, at this point, the city must relinquish its control (planning and zoning requirements) and allow free market capitalism to work at its best.
There are few candidates willing to invest hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in a business venture in which the investor has relatively little or no say in what type of operation is allowed and how it will be built. Only free market capitalism will create jobs, tax revenue and increased long-term growth in the area. Not government; only capitalists with private capital to invest.
Burger King wanted to move into Water Street because they knew it would be profitable and they had private capital to invest. But the mayor said that Burger King was a “poor tone setter” and the city said no thanks.
So now, the city is looking at possible options on how to get the same $400,000-plus the annual property tax revenue that Burger King would have provided from the city residents in the form of some new tax. One thing is for sure and has proven to be true over and over again - if government, at any level, is allowed to get more money from the people, then they will surely never learn from the sins of the past and will inevitably repeat the problem over and over again.
Approximately 5 years ago, the City Council said the sky was falling and the only solution was an income tax. Ironically, the leader of the anti-tax-movement, and now City Council Member Pete Murdock said to me on his front porch during the anti-tax campaign -- “the budget problem is their problem and it’s their job to fix it, not ours (the residents).”.
It is still their problem, not ours.
Mike Eller is an Ypsilanti resident and a member of the Democratic Populist Caucus (www.democraticpopulistcaucus.org).