Public money for private greed. This is the true mission of the Community Redevelopment Agency or CRA. The result is a massive redistribution of resources from people at the bottom of the economic ladder to those at the top.
It is as if to say that the people in Frenchtown and South City have too much while those in Golden Eagle and Bobbin Brook have too little.
The stated mission of the Tallahassee CRA is to “seek projects that help reduce or eliminate the development and spread of physical blight.” Areas designated for redevelopment in Tallahassee include Frenchtown/Southside and Downtown. The CRA Board of Directors, under the auspices of the Florida Legislature, is comprised of the five elected officials of the City Commission as well as four elected officials from the County Commission.
Money to fuel the CRA is generated from property taxes. When added to the sales tax, these regressive taxes exact a financial penalty from anyone who is unfortunate enough to be of low or modest income.
How is the money that flows to the CRA being spent? It is spent in any way the politicians want to spend it. With minimal oversight and no rational standards, CRA has degenerated into a slush fund to assuage the rich and the politically well connected. CRA staff reports to a CRA board that is totally exclusive of any member that is not a politician.
Some of the most egregious CRA expenditures are as follows:
- $8,489 to enhance the office building of Ron Sachs Communications on 114 S. Duval Street. Is this a blighted area? Can’t Sachs afford to improve his own building without taxpayer support?
- $350,000 for Seminole Boosters, Inc.
- $1,447,661 invested in KaiserKane (Retail and Office) on the corner of Tennessee and Monroe. Is this a blighted area? The building houses Walgreens Pharmacy which continues to sell tobacco products. Tobacco kills more than 440,000 people each year.
- $500,000 invested in the Marriot Residence Inn. Why does our taxpayer dollars end up in the coffers of the Marriot?
- $5,616,000 invested in District Joint Ventures, LLC (Residential and Commercial). How many more upscale apartments do we need, and why should local government fork over the money for them?
What is the opportunity cost of this taxpayer largesse to private business? Could these millions of dollars have been better spent for the public good if they had not been siphoned away by CRA?
There is no objective evidence that these giveaways to private business either through CRA or Chamber of Commerce driven Economic Development expenditures is doing any good for the people at the bottom. It means that less money is spent on healthcare, education, or other vital services on which people depend.
Despite 47,000 people in Leon County with no health insurance, the entire county budget for primary health care in is only 1.7 million dollars. It is not nearly enough.
If these CRA giveaways were successful, why is the overall poverty rate in Leon County 22.8 percent which is considerably higher than the state poverty rate of 15.6 percent? Why is the black poverty rate in Leon County 40 percent? Why is the recent unemployment rate in Leon County increasing rather than decreasing?
If CRA were to disappear tomorrow, people struggling just to get by would barely notice the difference. There has to be a better way to assist those projects truly deserving of taxpayer support.