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CONTENTS: (to return here just click the headline)
Jeff Smith of the Geonomy Society continues to connect people with Georgist ideas wherever he may be. Recently he traveled to New York and Australia. Here are a couple of sample quotes from his recent list of activities:
For a copy of Smith's full report, contact him directly at email@example.com
The following results of the recent Council of Georgist Organizations (CGO) elections were announced by Lindy Davies, Nominating Chair, at the CGO business meeting held on July 19th:
- Stewart Goldwater recommends this recent news article on the subject of who owns the seabed, from the New Zealand Herald: www.nzherald.co.nz/storyprint.cfm?storyID=3513943
- Bill Gentes sends in this story from the Sydney Morning Herald:
The report, to be released today by the Housing Industry Association (HIA), says that taxes on new house and land packages, including GST, stamp duty, approval processing fees, local government contributions and State Government levies to fund infrastructure in newly developed areas, have quadrupled over the last 10 years.
The $130,000 they are adding to the median house price will blow out to $150,000 if some current council and state funding proposals become normal practice, the association says.
Wayne Gersbach, the HIA's executive director for planning, said: "Government is using land as a vehicle to generate taxes that go to services for the whole of the city. These taxes are hidden - it's taxation by stealth." A political and business coalition is emerging to combat these hidden taxes, which are blamed for a crisis in housing affordability.
Federal Labor yesterday called for a local, state and federal government summit to examine housing taxes and levies, adding substance to the review of housing affordability mooted by the party's Treasury spokesman, Mark Latham. Labor's housing spokesman, Gavan O'Connor, blamed the Treasurer, Peter Costello, for the "double taxing" application of GST on top of other taxes already applied to new homes.
Labor remained under pressure on a related front yesterday. The Opposition Leader, Simon Crean, was forced to deny reports that a proposal to scrap negative gearing laws had been considered by a high-level Labor expenditure review committee.
Mr. Latham said last week that the laws could be reviewed, a statement rejected by Mr. Crean. A recent proposal by the NSW Government would result in buyers of new land plots at Baulkham Hills channelling $15,000 to the State Government's regional infrastructure pool, with no requirement that the money be used to provide services to the area in question.
In Liverpool, Camden council wants buyers to pay $50,000 to cover infrastructure, water, roads and sewerage costs. "That's the first time ever that there's been a surcharge of that magnitude," an HIA spokesman said.
The HIA report supports recent research by the Prime Minister's Home Ownership Taskforce blaming state and local governments for levies and land release regulations which "act as a burdensome tax on building". The levies add directly to house prices, while zoning and other council requirements indirectly boost prices by reducing the construction and supply of new housing.
But the NSW Minister for Planning, Craig Knowles, says local and state governments have been forced to charge new owners for regional infrastructure only because the Federal Government had failed to provide adequate infrastructure to cater for Sydney's high immigration intake.
A spokesman said the Treasurer, Peter Costello, would continue his campaign against the stamp duty being reaped by state governments."
URBAN UNIVERSITIES FINALLY SEE THE LINK BETWEEN THEIR ACTIONS AND THE QUALITY OF LIFE IN SURROUNDING COMMUNITIES
All across the U.S. in its cities, colleges and universities are finally getting past the decades of isolation from their surrounding, often poor, communities. Part of the motivation is survival: parents of potential students were becoming increasingly reluctant to send their children to schools where physical safety was a serious problem.
For many decades, the primary concern of the academic institutions was acquiring land for expansion - even if expansion was not yet on the drawing boards. The impact on surrounding communities was about the same as from any other land speculator or government- managed urban renewal project. Residents and small businesses were displaced, replaced by surface parking lots.
That pattern is now changing quickly. According to a recent report published in the Spring 2003 edition of Greater Philadelphia Regional Review, more than half of all colleges and universities in the U.S. are located in the urban core and had (based on 1996 data) aggregate spending of $136 billion. An overwhelming percentage of the revenue for this spending comes from non-local sources.
Among the best success stories of university-public-private partnerships are Howard University in Washington, D.C., the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University (NYC) and Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond).
It would be interesting to know if anyone is doing research to show to what extent the investments made under these collaborative efforts are (1) driving up land prices at rates greater than the median for the cities as a whole; (2) how quickly the land prices are coming up to match other city neighborhoods; (3) the degree of displacement of long-term residents occurring; and (4) the turnover of vacant and under-improved properties to speculators.
GN Comments: We are very suspicious of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) schemes. They enable a government to spend money today that it merely hopes to regain in later years. Often these schemes are used to give money to corporations that promise to hire local residents. And far too often, here is what happens: During the TIF, the corporations fail to fulfill their promises, they lobby against ever having to pay the money back, and finally, when the TIF expires, they simply move away from the region.
Instead of corporate welfare TIFs, local communities should use site value taxation as a way of giving an economic incentive to everyone, not just to a privileged few. The economic incentives of site value taxation need never expire and need not cost the taxpayers one cent.
Ed Dodson sends in this recent summary of information about corporate welfare TIFs. It is very biased in favor of them, but we think you should see it so that you will know how the pro-TIF forces look at the issues:
"TAX INCREMENT FINANCING MAKES SENSE"
While many cities rely on general tax revenues to fund improvements, tax increment financing (TIF) is an increasingly viable solution to providing needed infrastructure, say researchers Jen Melby and Joshua C. Hall (Buckeye Institute).
Tax increment financing funds infrastructure improvements through a partnership between local government and a private developer or company. Here's how it works:
Source: Jen Melby and Joshua C. Hall, "Tax Increment Financing: An Infrastructure Financing Solution," Buckeye Institute, July 11, 2003
GN Comments: That rosy summary ignores the reality of corruption and misuse that has plagued TIFs. Fatcat politicians and corporate welfare recipients might like TIFs, but average citizens deserve much better.
GN Comments: We think that land speculators should be contributing more, not less, to the public revenue. But many communities have "open space preservation" programs that are so unsophisticated they simply give money out to land speculators in return for very little. Here is a recent news item on the subject, sent in by Georgist News reader Ed Dodson:
"Voters Fund Open-Space Programs, But Land Sometimes Tough to Buy"
Associated Press (06/06/03, by Maryclaire Dale)
The 2004 CGO Conference will be held July 21-25, 2004 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Watch this space for further info. Start practicing how to spell 'Albuquerque.'
The Twenty-Third Annual E. F. Schumacher Lecture will take place on October 25, 2003. This year's theme is "The Commons and the Rights of All Beings" and the keynote addresses will be presented by Thomas Berry and Peter Barnes, with panelists Andrew Kimbrell and Susan Witt.
Location: First Congregational Church of Stockbridge, Main Street Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The event will run from 10 AM to 5 PM and the cost is $25.
Register in advance or find out more, by visiting www.smallisbeautiful.org or telephoning 413-528-1737.
GN Comments: Also please note that copies of Alanna Hartzok's 2001 Schumacher Lecture, "Democracy, Earth Rights, and the Next Economy," are now available for $5. Send your check to E.F. Schumacher Society, 140 Jug End Rd, Gt. Barrington, MA 01230.
The Water of Life: Peril & Promise in the 21st Century The 3rd Annual Century of the Environment Conference September 4-7, 2003 Omega Institute, Rhinebeck, New York
The conference will include: Robert Kennedy, Jr. - Ralph Nader - Vandana Shiva - Winona LaDuke - Satish Kumar - Anita Roddick - John Todd - Tony Clarke - Maude Barlow - Kirkpatrick Sale - David Rothenberg - Susan Witt.
Political and social activists, teachers, business leaders, health-care professionals, scientists, religious leaders, and anyone else concerned with environmental issues, are invited to attend.
The United Nations has proclaimed the year 2003 as the International Year of Freshwater, encouraging governments, businesses, and activists to increase awareness of the vital importance of sustainable freshwater management, protection, and use.
The International Conference on Globalization and National Environmental Policy will take place in Veldhoven, The Netherlands, September 22-24, 2003.
The Conference gathers prominent speakers from supranational organizations, government, academia, business, and non-governmental organizations. They will share their views on the ways in which increasingly global spheres of influence hamper and foster the environmental policy of national government. Plenary speeches on broad developments (like international financial flows, national environmental regimes, global environmental governance and global industrial networks) will be alternated with interactive parallel sessions on specific topics (such as national energy policies, illegal logging, free trade in agricultural products and competing regional environmental regimes).
The Conference is relevant for governmental policymakers, academics, supranational organizations, corporate environmental managers, trade associations, and non-governmental organizations. You may actively participate through poster presentation and discussion with presenters.
The complete program is available on-line: www.uvt.nl/globalizationconference
For further information, contact: Mrs. Ilse van Eck, Globus, Tilburg University, P.O. Box 90153, 5000 LE Tilburg, the Netherlands; phone: 31-13-4668015; fax: 31-13-4668018; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
"You want a better, more fraternal, more just world? Well then, start
building it: Who is stopping you? Build it inside yourself and around
you, build it with those who want it. Build it small, and it will grow."
- Lanza del Vasto
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