Council President Skariah Mayor Kramer
Millbourne Pennsylvania, is one of oursmaller but gutsier LVT towns.
It is strategically placed just outside Philadelphia city limits in Delaware County PA, along a vital road and commuter rail corridor. This article sets up a podcast (below) describing the town's struggles of being in the grips of one large vacant lot, an intransigent owner, and its hopes for the future.
We are happy to present a new integrated diary/blog brought
to you by the Center for the Study of Economics, using our street name
“UrbanTools.” That’s where we spend most
of our time: traveling, meeting with communities, doing outreach, performing
research and overall presenting an alternative way of looking at political
economy in the real world.
The best place to start? Most likely CSE’s annual meeting of
the Board of Directors[i]
on November 19, 2015. With attendees in person at our physical HQ at the
friends service Center at 1501 Cherry St.
Revisiting the land value tax in Lancaster
For some years, the visionary Mayor ofLancaster
has worked tirelessly with his team to return one of the oldest and most distinguished of American cities to its rightful place as a muscular economic and cultural hub of Lancaster County and Amish country.
Mayor Rick Gray: I've got an Idea.
Mayor Gray has also been a firm advocate of land value tax, yet peculiar valuations imposed on the city by Lancaster County have been a political barrier.
Doctor Herbert Barry, professor emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh, is always looking for a better way. Joining thinkers like Joseph Stiglitz and James Galbraith, here is a recent submission by Doctor Barry into the marketplace of ideas, from the Pittsburgh post-Gazette:
Friday, March 27, 2015
March 19 article described a proposal by Gov. Tom Wolf to increase
revenues for the Pennsylvania government to support early education (“Wolf:
Billions in Revenue From Proposed Sales Tax”).
Pennsylvania even after decades of heavy lifting by the taxpayers is still
lurching from crisis to crisis, with the root cause based in fiscal
uncertainty. Philadelphia and its nearly
insolvent school district still has not discovered a true “fit for purpose”
revenue source that will provided - at the very least - revenue stability. Poor, working and middle-class people pay a
larger share of their incomes on tax than in nearly any other American
city. Turning to those who can least
afford to pay ought to be the last choice, but ironically in Philadelphia it’s
nearly always the first choice.
Altoona's Future Includes a land value based policy.
The September 24, 2014 edition of the Financial Times features an article on a subject not often covered by the mainstream media: land value taxation. Interest in LVT has been highlighted in the past several years in the UK by such respected columnists as Martin Wolf.
The article concentrates on one of the cities that implements a version of land value taxation:
Aproposed land bank
in the city of Pittsburgh has been introduced by councilpersonDeb Gross
, and a couldn't come soon enough. Pittsburgh has an oversupply of city-owned blighted buildings and lots that suck up revenue, and produce none for the city. Once the land bank comes into operation, one existential question arises: what is the purpose of a bank?
If we take away the word "land", then we know the purpose of a bank is to dispense of assets in order to create a return for both the bank and – in this case – the community.
Three Cheers for Pennsylvania Land Value Tax Cities
Because UrbanTools is in Pennsylvania, it should be no surprise that land value tax is most prevalent in the Keystone state. We work all over the country in the world, but Pennsylvania is still "home." We've been proud to work with these communities, and are grateful that the outcomes have had positive effects and have helped people through hard economic times.
2013 heralds something considered cataclysmic in
Philadelphia but is routine in the rest of the world: a new assessment for
property tax purposes. From Podunk to
Portland (Oregon or Maine), assessment officers and departments apply land and
building values to each property, the community figures out how much revenue it
needs and divides it by those values. Voilà, you get a property tax rate, and then
send out a bill.
A very little history
Nothing is ever quite that simple in the city that
Story One - Take a Peep at This
Our perceptive friends atKeystone Politics
, haveposted an observation
about the latest embarrassment on the Philadelphia land-use front. Long story short, for years a patch of Market Street has been infested (literally and figuratively) by some low-rise, low-rent, low class buildings housing one of the few porno "palaces" left in Philadelphia. The anchor of the Keystone post isan article
in the Philadelphia Inquirer by the redoubtable
Council member Keith Bromley marked the difficulty of the achievement by highlighting the trouble so many other cities run into trying to pass a balanced budget, saying,"You look at other communities. They haven't been able to do this. It's a significant thing for us." December 2012
Since 1991, the city of Titusville Pennsylvania, the city of the third class in the northwest corner of the state has used land value tax as its primary source of municipal revenue. So far, through two recessions and a general innervation of the Northeast states, Titusville has achieved what some might think is boring, but any municipal government would love: stable revenues with no need for tax increases.
Three Cheers for Clairton
UrbanTools' parent, the Center for the Study of Economics is happy to make the theoretical, as well as the empirical case that land value tax helps communities directly to rebound and recohere.
Spreading Like Kudzu
Historic reality: in 1950, Cleveland Ohio had a population
. It had a tax base that
was compact and served all sectors of the city well. Great fortunes were made, along with the success
of the working and middle classes. From the 1900s to the 1950s,great civic
became possible with this wealth.
John Rockefeller was only the largest source of foundations and gifts that
made Cleveland not only a gritty industrial hub, but a place where one could
become a more educated, cultured and involved citizen.
The Point Breeze Garbage Lot/Museum is still a live story that may end up biting someone. The City Controller
has rebuked the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority for treating a good citizen likedirt
, as we reported a few days ago.
Now, the builder- Ori Feibush - has respondet as the PRA has wished (putting the trash back and removing the amenities) but by starting his ownweb site as a platform
for the coming battle. Even the hacker ANONYMOUS is getting into the actas Jon Geeting reports.
An item that has been making Front Page news lately has been the mess into which Scranton, PA has sunk. Wecommented
, and got lots of response. The nicest was fromDavid Madeira
, a talk show host for 94.3 FM. He asked UT director Joshua Vincent to come on and make sense of the fiscal and economic history behind Scranton's woes and our proposal to let Scranton return to fiscal sanity by using a tool it already, but barely uses: the land value tax.
Try to pay the bills when half the house doesn't contribute.
UrbanTools Highlights Harrisburg's Resilience During Unprecedented Fiscal Challenge
Last week, the parent organization of UrbanTools – the Center
for the Study of Economics (CSE) – assisted theCouncil of Georgist Organizations
to illustrate the real-life positive impact that land value taxation can have
even on the most distressed of urban areas.
CSE Director Josh Vincent guides tour of Harrisburg's mix of public and private places.
As of this writing (July 23, 2012), the city of Scranton Pennsylvania has been makingfront-page news
in the same company as Stockton and San Bernardino California. Scranton isnearly broke.
To understand why, one would have to trace the history of the city from the end of the second world war until today' here is an attempt:
First, the coal left, then the railroads that carry the coal left and then the industries that powered America for the South and then overseas. The population slumped, and as the non-residential tax base disappeared, taxes – particularly school taxes – became onerous in the form of
Philadelphia Pennsylvania like most cities, counties and states have had to deal with tight budgets for nearly half a decade. For many reasons, not least of which are legacy expenses, revenue requirements will be increasing even as economies at the local and regional level still react sluggishly as the great recession of 2008 begins its ebb tide.
A complicating factor in Philadelphia's fiscal struggle is the reality that it's tax system is nearly unique in United States as the
Independence? From what exactly?
active and conservative member of the Republican Party in central Pennsylvania
sent UrbanTools a copy of something called the"Property
Tax Independence Act"
with the interesting subtitle of "Liberty Equality and
Prosperity". The legislation – more
accurately a proposal for a constitutional amendment in the state of
Pennsylvania – Is given a seemingly official sobriquet of “House
As yet, this is not an
actual bill however.
Dr. Herbert Barry of Pittsburgh
, an UrbanTools Director has shown his adeptness in outreach to all forms of media, including print and now radio. Please call in to the radio show on Friday March 30, to participate in this broadcast.
I will be interviewed on a radio show, on Friday 30 March 2012, 10:00 to 10:30 AM (Eastern time). Listeners can access it at the phone number 1-424-220-1873. The title I chose for the program is"How to remedy our maladaptive sources of government revenue.