Saturday, December 26, 2009

2010: Time for a Change!

Transplanted Midwesterner said...

I don't feel like the amount of property tax is really the issue here. The value and return those dollars fail to generate should be the focus of our ire, not the actual dollar amounts. I did a little research and found that the Mississippi Delta counties containing larger towns (Washington, Bolivar, Coahoma, Sunflower, and Leflore) do tend to have higher tax rates in comparison to other Mississippi counties. Tunica County is the exception, but I think we all know why. Yazoo County is a little lower as well, and I haven't quite figured that one out.
Nevertheless, the "high" tax rates in these Mississippi Delta counties pale in comparison to many across the country. I checked my native county in the Midwest, and its tax rate is just shy of double that of Washington County. However, they have usable roads, storm sewers that function, an effective police force and sheriff's deputies, and a variety of city and county services that bring value into the equation.

Herein lies the problem with property taxes in Greenville and Washington County, the value proposition is just not there. The tax issues are most certainly enhanced by the ineptitude of our local leaders and a huge disparity of wealth found in the county, and I really don't have a hard line solution for these problems. As has been discussed in this forum ad nauseum, the entitlement masses far outweigh the taxpaying minority when it comes to the polls.
I don't have a smooth segue into this next point but here goes. In my mind, the major problem in Greenville can be summarized into a relatively simple statement. Greenville is a micropolitan area with metropolitan problems. Based on Greenville's small size and rural nature, we have a limited ability to generate the funds needed to offset the costs of the more traditionally urban problems and programs that are needed to provide for all of its residents. Granted, the state and federal governments provide the lion's share of the funds required to support the personal needs our impoverished masses, but there is still a sizeable load to bear for the local government.
Think about the cost of infrastructure maintenance alone for those areas of Greenville that do not generate or generate a minimum number of tax dollars.

Obviously, the lack of industry in Greenville is at the root of the issue for generating tax dollars. Individuals and retail businesses can only be taxed to a certain point before they flee or close their doors, respectively. We have read many times on the Delta Scoop about people pining for our local officials to "bring in" industry. In my mind, this is no different than the welfare mentality criticized by those same individuals that want an industry "brought in."

What we need to do is build industry in Greenville. We need to utilize what resources we have, however minimal, to their fullest potential. The biggest example of this, likely, is the port of Greenville. Hopefully, the forthcoming expansions of the port are a step in the right direction for the port and Greenville.

I often hear people in Greenville state that the biggest problem in Greenville is a lack of jobs. I have to disagree. Gone are the days of unskilled and semi-skilled labor in the United States being overcompensated for their toils. Unskilled and semi-skilled labor is largely what Greenville can provide, as can China, Mexico, India, and a host of other Asian and Central American countries. We simply cannot be competitive in the global marketplace due to our higher cost of living and their willingness to use suspect governmental and business tactics.

The problem for Greenville, in my mind, is a lack of businesses and/or industry that can generate tax dollars for Greenville’s coffers. These businesses do not have to employ scores of people to generate the dollars needed to make progress toward the ultimate goal of a better Greenville. As far as I’m concerned, there are few basic tenets that can be applied to building industry in Greenville:

1. Scalability – We need to be building businesses that can employ 3-5 people, then maybe 30-50, and ultimately 300-500.
2. Independence – We need an industry not connected to those already prevalent in the Delta. Specifically, we are talking about businesses not solely dependent on agriculture, aquaculture, or forestry. These types of industry are already present in the Delta and would easily be transplanted into Greenville as other industry begins to take a foothold.

3. Minimal start-up cost – The matter of fact is that it’s a lot easier to get someone or some entity to invest $500,000 in an enterprise than $5,000,000.Of course, the best laid plans can be thrown out the window when personal responsibility is replaced with entitlement, and that is the first major hurdle we must overcome. If we can find a way to eliminate gettin’ by on the government dole for a large number of our residents, without being called racists, then many other things can fall in place. Any suggestions?

"Transplanted" makes some very valid points about Greenville. Compared to other similar sized communities throughout the country, our taxes are relatively low... but as he also points out, these communities get certain services for their tax dollars, such as roads, sewers, police, garbage pick-up, and education. Here is where Greenville differs. All of these services are "substandard" at best in Greevillie and yet our taxes continue to rise.

Why? Well, in the past 20 years, Greenville has shrunk from a population of almost 55,000 to its current 42,000, and with them went the tax base.

Most residents have lost hope and trust in our leaders! In one fell swoop, Heather broke through the age, gender and race "glass ceilings"; however, today, we are none the better for her pioneering efforts. Have we learned anything from this experience?

"Gettin' by" on the government dole is a way of life in the Delta, proudly transferred from one generation to another. The stereo-typical image of a welfare recipient as being poor, starving and destitute, simply doesn't exist here. The system works to their advantage and they know how to work it well!

We are losing the battle of "Entitlement v. Work" by mere numbers. We all agree that there is corruption and waste at every level of government... so why don't WE do something about it?

How about a bill that limits the number of illegitimate children a person can have that the state will support? How about mandatory monthly drug screens for all public welfare and Medicaid recipients? How about mandatory prison sentences for first time drug and weapon convictions?

Why have we not demanded any of these things? Because, as "Transplanted" states above, we would all be called "racists". We continue to "fold" every time the race card is played, so there is no way we will ever win the game. Until we change the laws that support and promote "Gettin' by" we will continue to pay the price as taxpayers.

Greenville doesn't need another city election. It needs a revolution!


Monday, December 14, 2009

Hope for Downtown Greenville

Just take a look at paducah, ky, startkville, ms. oxford, ms. thomasville, ga., several small cities in North Carolina and many many more small cities I have traveled through have made a big turn around by shutting down building more and more strip malls.

G'ville must stop the movement to the south if we want to begin to grow the downtown area. The city needs to call or visit these places or ones like the cities mentioned above. It works and they can help us to jumpstart our city by learning from them.

It's not by steadily fleeing south but improving the downtown area. Whatever it takes it must be done to save G'ville. The downtown committee and the chamber of commerce need to work together along with the commercial real estate people. They are the first to know who is looking for a place to open a business. They should recommend the downtown area first and foremost. Then have grants and incentives for them so good it would be impossible for them to turn down.

The writer speaks the truth... for most small communities, but the one thing lacking for Greenville is hope. Most residents have totally given up on the belief that our downtown will ever come back. Much of that belief has to do with our downtown's proximity to major crime, drug dealers and the poverty that surrounds it.

Casinos only made it worse by attracting alcoholics and drug users to their "domain". The few establishments that remain are churches, banks, Jim's Cafe and Mr. Nelkin's Greenville Museum, which is a wonderful treasure... that most Greenvillians have probably never seen.

When the Greenville Mall closes, and it will soon, perhaps we will reconsider that we have failed as a "metropolis", but may have hope to once again become a charming community. If it takes three guards on every block of Main and Washington, it will still be cheaper than Mall rent!

Greenville is on life-support... but to abandon the downtown area as our future is simply pulling the plug on our last hope.