See here for an MP3 of the meeting. Something went a little screwy with the recording, so there are occasional “Max Headroom” artifacts, but it’s not too obnoxious.
I’m not nearly as good at taking notes at meetings as Brenda is, so my notes aren’t as good, and it’s possible that I’ve completely misconstrued someone’s position. Please check the audio recording to confirm anything you quote from this.
On a broad stroke, it’d be nice if the Common Council and the Mayor’s Office got their act together and worked together on this – we seem to be on course for two TIF committees. I think we can do better than that.
Start: Ed Clarke retired but is back on behalf of MATC for community matters. MATC does not have a position on TIF policies one way or the other.
First speaker: Kevin Little, Madison Chamber of Commerce
Really glad this is being looked at, recommended to be reviewed regularly. Glad that Mayor chose EDC for this, TIF is a primary tool for municipalities to use. Compliments staff for all the work they did to put together information. Looking at this issue now, can the city use TIF more competitively, Chamber thinks yes. Biggest thing they’d like to see is reform equity participation, it’s “loathed”. 50% rule should also be looked at. When you go into the process, you want to be able to look at risk, but not sure that 50% is necessary to do that. Will be back at future meetings, going to outreach to Chamber members to get more information. Generally speaking, support looking at this policy, making sure it’s competitive
Next up was me. I started off by chastising them for scheduling a meeting in the middle of the day.
My first point was to ask them to move slower, or at least with more purpose. I’d like to see them move in two phases, with two reports. The first is a data gathering/options report, that they’d issue on their own or the EDC’s authority and would serve as an agreed upon context/background/framing. Before you write a novel, for example, it’s common to write a “backstory” for your environment that you can refer to as you’re writing your actual novel. Then, with that backstory report, the EDC could create recommendations that other committees and ultimately the Common Council could accept. In the background report, I’d like to see a ‘collect comments’ process, with staff review of the comments to try to verify any claims – think ‘Politifact’ on whatever Smart Growth Madison or Capitol Neighborhoods tries to tell the committee – or to highlight where the facts aren’t settled.
I think we’ll get a better result if we separate the “What are the options” portion into something we look at before the “What should we do”.
I didn’t mention this is my testimony, but this approach makes even more sense if there are two TIF committees, one from the EDC and one from the Common Council. Having staff work two committees, especially in the information gathering stage, seems dumb. The EDC and the Common Council committees might have different goals, and if so that’s fine, but the start of their work will be much the same, so let’s formally leverage that.
What this gets to is a question of the urgency of the process. The Mayor has been very vocal about Madison’s upcoming “Fiscal Cliff” of rising debt service, and the challenges they will present on the operating budgets for the rest of the decade. A good portion of Aaron Olver’s presentation dealt with what-if scenarios if the growth curves had been different in recent years, and how if Net New Construction rates had matched surrounding suburbs we’d be in a better position.
How much of the TIF policy review is being driven by a desire to see more Net New Construction in the city over the next few years, and possibly movement on the Levy Limit? Does the Mayor hope that a revised TIF policy will make a difference in the city’s budgets in the second half of the decade/early next decade? At the most basic level, if we can make TIF changes to (likely) lead to more Net New Construction, but given that that increment is locked into a TIF district for many many years, (even with Madison’s aggressive schedules) it seems that TIF directly won’t help our budget struggles out in the foreseeable future. (I could be misunderstanding how Net New Construction in a TIF district affects the overall Levy Limit growth). If direct effect of the Levy Limit from TIF-created Net New Construction is not a goal, how important is any growth from externalities created by TIF, either from some second-order Net New Construction growth or from accomplishing some other TIF goal, like job creation or better land use?
All of that is probably a long way of asking, “Is the goal to get more shovels in the ground in 2013 so the budget back in 2018 is smaller?” or “over the next 20 years do we need to make sure the curve looks more the same for Madison and Dane County?”
Joe put a few questions to me, but the one I wanted to highlight was when he asked “had we fallen behind our neighbors” in growth. I told him that I agreed with Aaron’s numbers, but not the premise. Yes, Verona and Middleton are growing fast – 6% is a great number. But it doesn’t make any sense to ask “how much better would Madison be if we were growing at that rate?” If I had been faster on my feet, I would have answered with “compare the 2002-2012 growth rate of District 19 (Mark Clear’s more established neighborhoods on the west side) to District 1 (Lisa Subeck’s very new neighborhoods out towards Fitchburg and Verona)”. A 6% growth rate implies that every 11 years, we double. Through Net New Construction, we’re not going add another 20 billion dollars of projects in Madison by 2023 no matter what we do. I think everyone knows that, and getting to 6% growth isn’t anyone’s goal, but it’s a little frustrating to see us keep going back to the suburb’s numbers.
Next up was Gary Peterson, representing himself. DMI has a subcommittee on it, but isn’t representing it today. Would like to have an extended conversation on this issue to come back at a future date. Two things: One, policy has to convey a positive attitude. Current policy doesn’t do that, even with the proposed changes it doesn’t do that. Second thing is there are way too many regulations. Should start with state law. Joe asks, “should we start over” Gary says yes. Lots of communities work with just state law, we’re special but not that special. Third thing: Put Joint Review Board into proper perspective. It’s been given way too much power – power that it doesn’t get from statutes. Our board talks about things that it has no business providing – cites Edgewater and the discussion the board had over public access to Lake Mendota.
Joe wants to know if as part of the extended information process, would you be willing to provide written comments?
Vicky Selkowe: Can you explain what you mean by positive attitude in policy?
Gary: Understands that there are some developers out there that would screw us if they can, but shouldn’t treat everyone that way. [It was kind of a rambling answer and I wasn’t really sure]
Vicky would like more examples. There’s a distinction between what we’re trying to accomplish and how that is conveyed.
Gary: 50/50 rule. Take Mansion Hill as an example. Mansion Hill without question is blighted, but has extensive potential. If you just fixed up Mansion Hill it would increase assessed value. With some public improvements it would improve assessments. Not referring to Edgewater. If a potential generator comes along but doesn’t by itself provide enough value, we wouldn’t do it, even if over the entire district it would make a difference.
Joe: Sometimes, it can be an effect of accumulative growth in the rules – can you look at that in your written comments?
Mark Clear: Can you elaborate on the Joint Review Board? The City doesn’t control it.
Gary: It does all sorts of things it can’t do and nobody calls them on it. They’re there for one narrow thing. Suggests that we give them too much information, and numbers they don’t need. There’s no question that in early days TIF was abused – drew gerrymandered districts to tie projects on one side of town to the other. Thinks WI might be the only state with one.
Carol Schafer of Smart Growth Madison and Susan Schmitz arrived late. Neither register to speak. Joel Gromacki is also there, and has been since the start of the meeting.
Joe starts with my question: Should we review more than just the suggestions from staff, or should we back up and review the whole premise.
Vicky: There’s a middle ground, shouldn’t just limit this to the five things. Don’t know what we need months and months (note: I really just wanted a two part process, and be willing to take longer if necessary)
Ed: I agree, I’ve got more than just my top five – would like to look at TIF budgets. [Really missed a lot of his stuff]
Aaron: Three buckets that we might want to look at: What kind of background/research do you want to do, how can staff help you. What sort of experts do you want to get information from, and how can we do it? Third, what sort of process do you want to use to engage people who may not be experts, but have ideas how they’d like to see process engage.
Mark: Joins Ed and wants to examine budget. Thinks that we need to start at Goals and Objective section before we approach anything else, and be creative and not iterative.
Aaron starts talking about how they might move forward and compiling information, how might the committee identify what they want
Joe: Doesn’t think there should be a TIF budget. Mark says that probably means they should talk about it. Doesn’t want staff to walk us through existing TIF policy, can do that ourselves.
Vicky: Lots of things that she’d like to have staff compile – housing, job creation. Those are existing policy goals – how are we doing?
Joe wants to know more about best practices from surrounding communities
Aaron points out that the goals can be conflicting/are in tension – encouraging development and minimizing risks
Ed: Doesn’t want to limit us to just surrounding communities, wants to look nationally. Surely Madison can’t be the first community to try to do that.
Mark: Is there sufficient similarity in TIF laws in other states that will make comparisons outside of WI even valid?
Aaron: Can research that with Joel Gromacki – we’re part of a national association. Michigan does a lot of infrastructure construction out of TIF – things that would otherwise be assessed.
Vicky: Would like to know if there are innovative ideas in specific areas of our policy goals. Need to narrow what we send staff off to search for.
Joe: Job creation is the result of proper infrastructure. We get the infrastructure right and jobs are a result.
Jill Johnson agrees
Vicky: We should have that conversation, not everyone might agree. There are experts at UW, Milwaukee, who might have ideas on how TIF can more directly be used as part of job creation.
Matt Younkle: Would like to see things stay simple
Joe: Suggest Wednesday, 3:30. Vicky speaks up for later meetings. People will get more information to Peggy about what they’d like to focus on, and the conversation will be more about Goals and Objectives of TIF policy, and what should they be.
Ed: What’s our homework?
Joe starts with suggesting come up with three topics, but seems to settle into admitting the focus on the committee will be Goals and Objective
Agenda starting to take shape:
1. What are the goals and objective of the TIF policy?
2. What are staff’s objectives in measuring what our current goals?
3. Are we starting over or revising the current policy?
Vicky: Are there people we want to invite to discuss this with at the next meeting?
Joe: Mayor’s office? Anne Monks, Joel Gromaki.
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