|From:||"Peter B. Meyer" <email@example.com>|
|Date:||27 Oct 2006 11:34:15 -0000|
|Subject:||Re: [CPEO-BIF] Subsidies|
Having worked in local economic development for some 30 years and
brownfields for over a decade, I have to agree fully with Barry Trilling
on the ideal for determining what subsidies are appropriate. But I still
disagree with him completely on the real possibility of the calculation
being seriously undertaken at the local level. Thus some sort of ex-post
monitoring, holding recipients responsible for what they promise, is needed.|
Sharon Barr accurately points out that, "... it is very hard to come up with a perfect formula that also works in the dirty nitty-gritty world of political influence and decisionmaking. One cannot underestimate the role of politics in this arena ..." This is the reality. Her observations echo academic research and informal narratives about economic development practice that have been around for decades. The public sector generally has to rely on the applicants for financial support for the data it needs to assess their applications ... and it is not realistic to assume that there will be no distortion of the information provided in order to increase the chance of getitng funding.
The political pressures on local officials are actually more acute in the case of brownfields than in 'normal' economic development. Efforts to influence decisions come not merely from developers interested in potential profits from brownfields, but also from neighborhoods and community based organizations concerned for pollution abate and human and environmental health risk reduction.
The possibility of deriving a single allocation formula for brownfield support is further confounded relative to the grant of support for traditional economic development efforts due to multiple objectives As Sharon noted, traditional economic development has focused on jobs, incomes, and property value increases, while brownfield redevelopment efforts include additional objectives, including housing provision, protection of human health, preservation of environmental conditions.
In light of these concerns, it is inappropriate for public policy to be grounded wholly in a belief in the possibility of objectivity in subsidy provision, or in calculations of public rates of return. Barry, and others who have agrred with him, are correct that any retrospective look back and imposition of accountability might discourage some developers from engaging in some brownfield projects.
However, the increased efficiency and effectiveness of public spending on brownfields that such accountability could generate must also be considered. Any subsidy funds provided that are not needed to make a project economically viable are funds not available for other possible subsidies that could actually increase the number of brownfields redeveloped. The issue is not one of "subsidize or not" but rather of the allocation of public funds to maximize attainment of public objectives through that spending.
We can all agree that we want to see the limited brownfield funds available have the greatest possible impact on the rate of site mitigation and redevelopment. We may all also agree that we would prefer to see more public funds available. To the extent that additional appropriations depend on demonstrated effectiveness in utilization of current funds, increased accountability can lead directly to future expansion of public funding for the reclamation of contaminated lands,
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