Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Worcester City Council approves tax deals for 2 hotels

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Worcester City Council approves tax deals for 2 hotels

This TIF deal was rushed through the Council with dizzying haste, without a full public hearing, without the 30-day window for public scrutiny and consideration of its terms that most of the Councilors publicly committed to just a few short weeks ago.  And it utterly fails to meet the terms they committed to for tax giveaways. 

If there is a case that the tax relief is financially necessary to build this or a similar project, that was not made public. 

The broader community benefits would reach to a few downtown merchants and the hoped-for new downtown tenants, but a case was not made that it would benefit anyone else. 

The developer has a long history of hiring sub-contractors who commit outrageous health, safety, wage-theft, record-keeping and shoddy work violations, with no controls put in place to hold them to a higher standard. 

Little provision was included to monitor compliance, and no "clawback" clause to recover tax money if the terms of the agreement are violated. 

Despite the constant refrain on Monday of "Good Jobs for Worcester", there is no requirement or likelihood that the permanent jobs created be any such thing. 

It was rushed to a vote one day after the Economic Development Committee heard it, then rushed to a special Finance Committee meet and vote so it could be brought back to the Council and passed in the same session! 

This rush to judgment was apparently so urgent that they all met on a night when no sane person would be on the road. The audience section was nearly empty. 

A few weeks ago Konni Lukes demonstrated her power to slow down a process she disagreed with - the Foreclosure Mediation Bill (which had been before the Council for over a year) by exercising her absolute privilege to hold it for another week without a reason. Neither she nor anyone else saw fit (or dared?) to use that tool to slow down this disgraceful rush to give away almost $5 million in City tax revenue before the public could react. 

This needs a serious looking at. 
Is any job a good job? Are there jobs not worth putting up public money to bring to Worcester? 

This past week the Transitional Assistance offices in Worcester and around the state have been jammed with desperate Food Stamp recipients whose cards were deactivated due to a systems failure. Many are terrified of facing the holidays with no food for their families. 

Most heartbreaking were the ones who had to walk away from the long wait to get their card problem straightened out - because they would lose their job if they waited! Collecting public assistance and dealing with the bureaucracy and paperwork of all the different systems can be a full-time job. Collecting while holding a job can be nearly impossible. 

Now before all you knee-jerk welfare-haters take off on this, let me get to my point. 

Which is that these people at the welfare office making the gut-wrenching choice between the job that pays the rent and the card that puts food on the table have precisely the kind of jobs this TIF giveaway will get us more of! 

Without an agreement on wage standards, most of the jobs we just bought will be standard hotel-staff jobs. Which is to say, at or near minimum wage, with no security, no respect, little or no benefits, often part time, temporary and irregular hours, and for most no hope of a future. Jobs that are notorious for their rapid turnover due to a pace that wears workers out in 5 years. 

Worse than WalMart jobs! 

Our City Council just put up almost $5 million of city tax revenue to get more of them! 

Speakers from the audience talked about this, but I heard no sign from the councillors that they understood or cared. No one challenged the stuffed suits repeating the mantra "Good Jobs for Worcester!" 

I have never felt so disgusted or ashamed of our Council. What a disgraceful display of servility and bad faith with the people! But at least they gave City Manager Mike O'Brien a final gift as he leaves us for his new life swimming openly among the sharks!
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