DDA is not eager to lose a ‘Big Biscuit’

National elections often influence and energize local politics, and the government-by-defiance model now coming from Washington is a dangerous precedent. Local politicians have been energized by the rise of the all-knowing bureaucrat and have been reminded again that the lubricant for power is taxes. No stone can be left unturned to find them and nothing can be excluded from them.

Consider as an example, the Grand Junction Downtown Development Authority and its war with Pufferbelly Station, home of the Big Biscuit.

Development authorities are usually created when a portion of a municipality, usually the downtown area, feels itself going into something of a slump and merchants in the area want a bit of a sprucing up of the surroundings to help business. That’s all well and good, but some will inevitably feel it’s not enough to sit around a table and throw money in the hat to do a few improvements themselves. They want street and storm sewer improvements.

So they decide to ask for assistance in creating a government overlay to deal with the area, and they give it the power to tax, to ensure it has revenue and allow it to issue bonds or borrow money based on its collections.

This is the danger zone, because they have now invited a player to the table that has the power of government coercion, which, like the western gambler who pulls his pistol and puts it on the table, changes the dynamics of the game.

The family-owned Pufferbelly is a restaurant that lies at the fringe of the downtown area and would seldom be seen to belong with the rest of the Main Street crowd. Yet, it is included for taxing purposes within the DDA.

The owners of the restaurant have made a strong case that the taxes they pay to this authority for downtown events and Main Street improvements do nothing to enhance their business. In fact, Main Street actually competes with their business. When they asked to be excluded from this taxing district, which does little to bring them customers, they were denied and now wait to appeal their case to the City Council.

Were this governmental entity to be subject to the same rules of economics as businesses, its funding would be dependent upon the success of its improvements and actions it takes on behalf of the merchants. But since its revenue is derived from the property itself, it is not bound by the dusty laws of commerce.

To release a business from its taxes is to lose revenue. If Pufferbelly is allowed to leave, what of other businesses on the fringes that might be receiving little or no benefit from their taxes? Will they also want out?

In the real world, successful businesses attract investors who wish to be associated with them. With government, once you’re in, lack of performance by that government seldom allows you to opt out and the logic of your participation is often measured against the survival of the bureaucracy.

What can we learn from this cautionary tale? It’s simple really: When bureaucracies believe they must preserve themselves and their policies in spite of the governed and the search for revenue trumps the needs of the producers, we inevitably see the rise of the bureaucrat and the fall of the producer.

As for our friends at Pufferbelly, they must soldier on and hope that at the Grand Junction City Council meeting, somebody will remember to hold governmental bodies to the purposes for which they were originally enacted.

As for me, my comment is biblical: Let our biscuit go!


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