Longtime Chattanooga NAACP leader James Mapp said Thursday that industrial development boards "should not be rubber stamps."
He questioned deals through the City IDB for the Black Creek group and Volkswagen.
Mr. Mapp said, "Throughout our nation's history, the lack of representative government has always been a point of contention for Americans, and a chief cornerstone of this belief is consent of the governed.This can only be fulfilled by carrying out the will of the people.
"The ways that our local governments have engaged into the granting of PILOT agreements is undermining this grand pillar of democracy. The common tendency between the Black Creek Atena Mountain case, new Enterprise South expansion, and Miller Park Plaza Proposal is the granting of Payment in Lieu of Ad Valorem Taxes.
"These tax agreements and abatement's are granted by Industrial Development and Bond Boards and are to be done so in accordance with the Tennessee State Constitution; many subsequent legal statutes in the Tennessee Annotated Code regulate these boards: (T.C.A. § 7-53-101, T.C.A. § 7-53-301, 7-53-302, 7-53-306 T.C.A. § 13-16-201 et. seq., T.C.A. Title IV, chapter 21 et. seq. (which includes T.C.A. 4-21-101 to 4-21-1004), T.C.A. § 8-44-101 et. Seq., and T.C.A. § 10-7-101, T.C.A. § 13-16-201through 206).
"After carefully reviewing these and other regulatory acts, including federal laws such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 1968 (Fair Housing Act), before the granting of any PILOT agreements or tax abatement's the Industrial Development Boards should be able to answer three major questions(1) What is the Public Purpose? (2) What is the Public Benefit?(3) What will be Public Cost? Similarly, education is generally the only area that still receives funding despite such agreements. Nonetheless, there are many problems with the way our local governments and IDB boards operate and manage such agreements.
"First, the public purpose, public benefit and public cost aren't properly discerned because these agreements are missing the most essential element which protects the integrity of such processes, public scrutiny. For the most part, the public does not know who serves on these boards, their qualifications for serving, when meetings will occur, or the outcome of such meetings until agreements are announced. In these areas the laws of the state of Tennessee are clear, meetings should be open to the public. Likewise, reports of such agreements are required to be submitted to the state of Tennessee, including the Comptrollers' office.
"Transparency of these processes is a second area of concern. There is no easily accessible or centralized area in which the public can obtain information about such agreements. What type of information is included in such agreements? When we attempted to get minority and demographic information from local governments in 2011, we were told to retrieve this information from the businesses and entities in question. We questioned who is ensuring that these agreements are in full compliance with the law? Who is doing municipal reviews and follow-ups? How have the cost-benefits analysis been adjusted over time? Are diversity standards and regulations being followed?
"Our greatest concern is the complete realignment of African-American and minority neighborhoods by practices such as these. These agreements have caused Gentrification and Social Stratification to rise, are made without the best interests of the citizens and residents of those localities in mind, aren't mindful of the active stakeholders of these communities, have caused mass displacement which is leading to increased crime and homelessness, and is causing widespread Minority Vote Dilution which is a clear violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
"Industrial Development Boards are not merely rubber-stamp committees and should not be used merely to bypass federal and state law. Their chief function is to be able to recommend to local government the answers to the three aforementioned questions, namely, 'What is the public purpose? What is the public benefit? What is the public cost.' It is essential for this information to be easily accessible to the public. Communities and active stakeholders of the areas that will be most effected should be participants in that discussion. A periodic compliance review should also be made available to the public. Perhaps, most profoundly, there needs to be a public discussion on gentrification because the realigning of black, minority and poor communities is endangering the future welfare, sustainability and voting integrity of such areas. We look forward to participating in such a discussion."