It's a gas
This isn't working. I was never a fan of Pink Floyd. Let's try something else.
Dr. Lou Gottlieb, front man for the '60s folk trio The Limeliters, was a rather unique individual. Quite a philosopher in his own right, he was known to make some really weird comments from time to time. One of those was "Do you want to build a monument or accomplish a goal?" A guy with a PhD in Musicology and played a bass fiddle, he was known for spitting out rather common-sensical questions from time to time. Like many wise, and some not so wise, people he often phrased a comment in the form of a question, intended to cause people to think.
A friend I met over in Charlotte, North Carolina years ago, decades actually, lives by a similar philosophy. "My job is to make heroes of other people" is often the response when asked why his name is rarely attached to any of the projects he's worked on over the years.
"Fame is fleeting" he'll often comment. Then sometimes continue with such as, "We remember Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, just to name a few of our Presidents. How many people remember George Westinghouse invented the air brake system used on railroad cars today, or that he was the patron of a young Serbian engineer, Nikola Tesla, who invented the electric power system used world wide now? Who remembers that William Shockley, along with his accomplices John Bardeen and Walter Brattain, invented the transistor while working at AT&T's Bell Labs? Or that he was arguably the founder of what's now known as Silicon Valley? Who remembers other names such as Harold Black, inventor of the feedback amplifier, Michael Faraday whose magnetic field research lead to the invention of generators and motors and other magnetic devices we use every day, or The Woz? Who but a chemistry or physics student knows the name Avagadro, and remembers his constant, even though we should all understand that mass is a more accurate measure than weight?
"We all know Leonardo da Vinci was a painter but who remembers that he invented, at least in concept, the helicopter and submarine? How many people on the street know that Tesla invented the turbine engine but metallurgical science couldn't give him the materials to develop a commercial product? Who remembers Gogi Grant? Or that Fredrick Douglass once said 'knowledge is the pathway from slavery to freedom'?"
Sometimes he'll just grin and say "50, 100 years from now nobody will even know any of us existed much less remember what we've done. Pay me for what I do and I'll enjoy the fruit of my labor while I'm here." I often wonder who remembers those who've worked so diligently to generate 1,800+ patents related to women's b'assieres. Can anyone name even one of them?
Grab that cash with both hands
And make a stash
Maybe it does work... but I'm still not down with Pink Floyd.
Building monuments... 50 or 100 years from now nobody will remember our names... is it any wonder so many politicians, and others, are eager to spend the tax dollars of Joe and Jane Schmuckatelli to build their legacies, their monuments?
Take, for example, the VW plant in Chattanooga. Claude Ramsey, Senator Corker, Zach Wamp et al, all of those establishment Republican types, were willing to give up the store, it wasn't their money after all, under the guise of bringing jobs to Southeast Tennessee. They did this with no real concessions being made by VW, didn't they. They gave VW land, paid for site preparation, built them a fire hall and highway exits, gave tax benefits, set up school programs for management's children, subsidized training programs, a new Erlanger facility is located there, and all those other bennies that've never even been offered to Chattanooga Homies' businesses, the folks who've been supporting the community for decades. How many of those same homies were offered opportunities to become suppliers to VW while outside businesses were moved in?
To be sure, there have been many jobs created by VW moving into the area... but at what cost? To an outside, foreign-owned company? And the locals have to pick up the tab?
Is it any wonder there were so many looks of sheer panic on politicians' faces at the thought of one of those dastardly unions coming to town? Spending all those tax dollars, after confiscating them from us taxpayers and voters, only to have the UAW come in? Oh my.
Spent those years dreaming
But the dreams didn't last
Time is moving much too fast
Turn the radio on
John Cafferty, much better.
And then Senator Corker comes out with a statement that he has the inside scoop about a new production line, in conflict with what the local plant management states? That's sort of like the high school boy who kisses and tells, first, and then causing direct conflict with management, isn't it.
Turn the radio on
With every beat of the drum
Then go out in the streets
Hear the voice of America's sons
And daughters... and grandchildren... and great grandchildren... all of whom will be paying for this VW plant, presuming, because we should never be assuming, VW is still an occupant in 30 years. It's entirely likely those heirs will be paying for an empty building that can't be leased to anyone else because of its size.
But they, politicians, won't. We're mere working schlubs who can't walk and chew gum at the same time, and they have to rescue us from ourselves. Instead of making threats, why couldn't they have required any union organizing activities be balanced with equal opportunities for opposition information? It's a perfect example of that arrogance deal, they all know better than us, who are barely intelligent enough to fill out a ballot at election time, isn't it. Let us not forget those checks...
In his book "Where Have All the Leaders Gone?" Lee Iacocca wrote:
"Am I the only guy in this country who is fed up with what is happening? Where the [heck] is the outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering the ship of state right off the cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, 'Stay the course.'
"Stay the course? You've got to be kidding. This is America not the [darn] Titanic. I'll give you a sound bite, 'Throw the bums out!'
"Where are the voices who can inspire us to action and make us stand taller? What happened to the strong resolute party of Lincoln? What happened to the courageous populist party of FDR and Truman? There was a time in this country when great leaders lifted us up and made us want to do better."
Our establishment elite, elected officials assisted VW in digging into taxpayers' pockets, then got upset the UAW wants a piece of that action. They, establishment politicians, will provide PILOT, TIF, and SPIFF funds for about any Tom, Dick, or Harry who comes to them with a hand out. When do we do as Mr. Iacocca suggests?
When do we stop allowing, nay encouraging, our elected elite to build personal monuments to themselves instead of just governing? With our money...
I dislike running out of chocolate, truly I do.
Royce Burrage, Jr.
* * *
TIF bond issues and PILOTS adversely affect every aspect of our city and county government, and the delivery and funding of city services. While the city of Chattanooga touts a great bond rating, there is absolutely no relationship at all to the impact of bond issues on the city. A bond rating is a measure of an ability to borrow to incur more debt.
Just because a municipality can borrow, does it mean we should pay principal and interest for the benefit of private corporations?
The city of Chattanooga could have given tremendous raises and preserved benefits to employees for what the city has gifted to corporations through PILOTs and TIF.
There is a list of 53 of the largest corporation in the city of Chattanooga that realize property tax exemptions from paying their share of city services through PILOT, these exemptions reduces the tax revenue to the city and decrease the city’s ability to effectively fund services such as fire and police, public works, and general city operations.
The TIF bond issues actually divert city tax revenue from services and genuine need of the public to the pockets of groups of elite developers.
Unfortunately, we allow politicians and their buddies to cite bond ratings to deflect form the truly intrinsic impact that TIF and other bond issues incentives have on city government and the employees that operate services.
The city TIF bond issue and PILOT practices are directly reducing local government’s ability to fund services.
* * *
Excellent piece, Mr. Burrage. You've pulled out your hammer and hit the nail right on the head.
I would like to add a few thoughts of my own.
TIF Districts are a useful tool for redeveloping blighted areas. Unfortunately, we've gone from "use" to "abuse" right out of the gate. We'll pay for that.
PILOT and tax abatement agreements are also useful when carefully considered and used sparingly. Our elected officials hand them out as if they were M&M's on Halloween night. We'll pay for that, too.
It's a grand spectacle to witness politicians clap each other on the back, thank each other, and then turn and thank the Chamber. They do this each time they've mortgaged our tax base. I keep waiting for them to thank the taxpayer - and waiting and waiting and waiting.
Yes, I'm afraid they're building a monument. It will be in the form of a giant bag. In 10 or 20 years, the ones who are still around will place it gently in our laps - and tell us how lucky we are to be left holding it.