In a commentary first published by the Connecticut Post, two-time mayoral candidate City Councilman Enrique Torres writes, “If we lower taxes, businesses will come. Jobs will come. Crime will come down. Children will stop shooting each other.” From Enrique:
David Kooris, Bridgeport’s economic development director, recently switched hats and became a cheerleader by penning a lengthy Op-Ed in the Connecticut Post.
Mr. Kooris failed to mention economic development in Bridgeport is done at a massive cost to the taxpayers of this city and of the entire state. Every single ounce of dirt moved in Bridgeport is paid for by taxpayers. We are the chump partners in every economic development deal the city brokers.
In the last two Common Council meetings, we have approved a tax abatement of nearly 75 percent and 66 percent for two projects. Do you think the beneficiaries might donate to Mayor Finch’s campaign? This month’s meeting approved another 10-year abatement to a Black Rock developer. Mr. Kooris gives millions to millionaires. I am the last guy in the world to delve into class warfare, but this is truly crony-capitalism.
Democrats, I have heard, are dead set against crony-capitalism. Democrats are all about the little guy, not the millionaires, right? Well I guess, at least in Bridgeport, these axioms are false. Mr. Kooris’ team doles out our money to any millionaire who puts the squeeze on Bridgeport. The notion of lowering taxes across the board never crosses their mind.
If it makes sense to abate taxes to get developers to come, and it makes sense for states like New York and now Connecticut to promise low or no taxation for 10 years to lure companies, then clearly there is a correlation between low taxes/reduced regulation and a robust economy across the board, right? Why not apply this logic of low taxation to both lure new economic development and help existing businesses (large and small) that have already set up shop in Bridgeport?
I suspect Mr. Kooris’ letter provides, in part, the answer. Government leaders suffer from a little thing I call “Smartest Person in the Room” (SPITR) syndrome. Mr. Kooris, Mayor Finch and Gov. Malloy are three SPITRs. They need to have their hands in the pot to take credit for economic development. However when deals go sour, no one mentions it in any letter. Do you remember Derecktor Shipyards? In this case, the state and city lost millions and no one was fired.
Mr. Kooris is right to suggest economic development of all kinds is the solution for Bridgeport’s ills. However what Mr. Kooris, most politicians and practically all bureaucrats don’t understand is economic development, when done right, is an organic process. It does not need the fertilizing hand of government to take root or the pesticide can to prevent competition. The less government does the more likely we are to see healthy, fruitful, self-sufficient and organic outcomes. Without government’s “help” we can expect unexpected brilliance. Sometimes bad ideas crop up as well, but taxpayers lose nothing. Companies like Apple, Facebook and Instagram are examples.
When Mr. Kooris abates taxes for his favorite projects, it remedies one problem while aggravating others. Businesses that pay less taxes have an advantage over those paying full taxes.
In Bridgeport, the death knell tolls each time we top some “highest taxed in the country” list. But like Lazarus, we can rise again. Bridgeport must raise a flag of lowering taxes and wave it high. Here’s how:
1. Establish a hiring freeze for city workers. Replace only those absolutely necessary to operate the city and absolutely stop hiring friends.
2. Eliminate useless political patronage departments. Once, when Bridgeport was thriving, we operated the city with many less offices.
3. Dedicate all new revenue from increased economic activity for the purpose of continuing to lower taxes.
4. Eliminate the 999 Broad Street City Hall. This building is one of the most energy inefficient buildings in the city. The few people that work there can easily be relocated to other city buildings. This waste can be converted to lowering taxes. The proceeds of its sale should go to retire debt.
5. Stop building new parks. We have beautiful parks in this city. Parks are equivalent to the icing on a completed cake. We need to work on our baking skills.
6. Stop tearing down old schools. There is nothing wrong with an old school. Yale is over 315 years old. Should we tear it down?
These ideas and countless others will lower taxes. Bridgeport must prove it is dedicated to lowering taxes. If we lower taxes, businesses will come. Jobs will come. Crime will come down. Children will stop shooting each other.