Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Wanderers 2011.02.09

Today's presentation by Kris Nelson is about applying Henry George style economics to boost "station area" communities within municipalities.

We were mainly imagining single or double line train stations, like along the Max line (Portland's light rail system). Victoria Station in London would be a whole different ball game, yet similar principles might apply (as above, so below).

Transit oriented development aims to bootstrap development along transit lines. Our presenter is working on a legislated tool that could be tested in various communities (LR 1632).

A Transit Benefit District (TBD) is defined as the real estate within say a quarter mile radius of a planned transit facility.

As property values increase, usually in two stages (once when the plans are unveiled, again when the station is installed), bond issues might be made against an increase in the taxes.

The public investments are of direct benefit to the speculators, who are then not taxed or taxed less on the improvements they make to their individual properties.

The ultimate blueprint might involve a two-tier taxation structure, weighted in favor of taxing rising land values versus privately funded improvements. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania took this approach of splitting the property tax awhile back and reportedly turned its economy around as a result.

The general goal is to return more of the benefits of public development to the public, in such a way as to still benefit property owners. Kris reports bipartisan interest in the idea. Lawmakers are sniffing around such schemes given the general collapse in public funding and the flat-lining of many sectors of the economy.

The talk was quite technical in its terms. The general idea is to give the public sector more leverage when it comes to developing mixed-use subdomains, including schools, parks, plazas and so forth.

Bill was interested in the question of pole shifts. A newspaper in Salem is reporting an accelerating rate of change in the position of the magnetic north pole and predicting dire consequences as a result. Is this a harbinger of a pole flip and perhaps the onset of a next ice age? Other sources point out that the poles wander and field strength fluctuates all the time, so these cannot be construed as evidence of any immanent flip.

We were honored to have Steve Holden with us this morning.