Monday, August 03, 2009

Taxing and Regulating the Neighborhoods to Death

In continuing with the commentary on the Mike Bloomberg warning that we need to be on the look out for more Albany taxes-a classic misdirection if there ever was one-we refer you to an article on traffic enforcement agents in today's NY Times: "New York City’s surge in parking summonses may be costing motorists, but it has been a boon to traffic enforcement agents, at least a third of whom have substantially increased their pay with hefty overtime earnings, city records show. More than 700 agents increased their wages by 20 percent with overtime in the 2008 fiscal year. Some raised their pay by 50 percent or more. One agent even managed to double his income."

The Times goes on to point out that this is one government agency whose over time figures don't send fiscal watchdogs into fits: "But even fiscal watchdogs, who generally fault overtime as evidence of poor management, say they can understand the city’s penchant for it because spending on overtime may make more economic sense than filling new positions."

Except that, when it comes to the agent work force, this observation simply ain't so: "While this is not true for the ticket-writing force, which has grown dramatically to reach a head count of 2,332 this summer, up from 1,559 in 2002, in other departments overtime may be used to compensate for a depleted staff."

So the traffic enforcement bureau, even though it is racking up big overtime from its work force, is still, at the same time, another example of how Bloomberg has further grown government. And, in this case, to what end? Just ask motorists: "In all, the city doled out $13 million in overtime pay, on top of $68 million in regular pay to its traffic agents. But in terms of pure economics, it has been a worthy investment: Ticket agents generated $578.6 million in revenues for the city in fiscal 2008, up from $366.6 million in 2002. “It’s very tough parking in the city,” said Radek Jaskolski, who frequently drives into Manhattan from Queens for Fox Plumbing. “We get more tickets than before, that I know. Maybe that’s why.”

What does this all mean? It is another example of how the current administration uses regulations to punish tax paying neighborhood car owners and small businesses at the same time-since so much of this enforcement effort takes place on neighborhood shopping strips where business is already hurting badly.

So Mike Bloomberg really needs to watch out who he points to when it comes to matters of fiscal prudence. His tenure has been an unending panoply of taxes and regulations that have rendered business in the city's neighborhoods moribund-a fact that somehow is conveniently overlooked when his hilariously fictional, "five borough economic plan," commercials run incessantly on both radio and television.

And one other point while we're at it. In many cases, when the mayor or Rob Walsh, the city's small business commissioner, want to trumpet neighborhood business success, they point to the creation of yet another Business Improvement District (BID). These BIDS, however, as the NY Post highlights today, are actually symptomatic-not of success-but of the way that the city surreptitiously increases local taxes by other means: "BIDs are, in effect, mini-municipalities with the power to levy taxes and provide services within their geographic limits. Back in the bad old (that is, pre-Giuliani) days -- when the city could neither clean the streets nor keep them safe -- BIDs were a novel way to finance vital municipal functions without siphoning tax dollars from bloated social-service programs or a spectacularly dysfunctional school system. Business owners within the BID got no break on their regular taxes and levies, of course -- the BID takeaways were, and remain, in addition to everything else."

And, of course, the store owners get another rent hike in their monthly nut-as the BID costs are passed through to the retail renters. So, Mr. Thompson, more examples of how the Bloombergistas have waged war against neighborhood businesses and residents; if the ticket agent doesn't get you, the BID taxes-on top of the city's regular levies-will. All part of the mayor's five borough plan which, as we have said ad infinitum, has led to the closing of stores in all five boroughs.