From the Editor: July 2016

From the Editor: July 2016

The distrust Americans have in institutions — government, business, law enforcement and, yes, the news media — hasn’t been this acute, it seems, since it became necessary for us to dissolve the political bands that connected us to Great Britain some 240 years ago.

From armed standoffs on federal land to Occupy Wall Street to the Black Lives Matter movement, Americans across the political spectrum are registering their dissatisfaction — if not their disgust — with the performance and behavior of those in positions of political, economic or legal power.

The endless presidential campaign has provided an ongoing soapbox for these grievances. From one side we hear of the incompetence or illegitimacy of officials, and from the other we hear of the desire to simply “burn it all down.”

Much of that is truly sincere. Much of it is calculated political theater. None of it, of course, gets the potholes filled, and all of it can be disheartening.

So it’s nice to be able to offer, in this month’s issue, a bit of a tonic that may help ease the political dyspepsia.

Our cover story, by correspondent Patrick O’Grady, documents the 20-year history of Claremont’s River Road Tax Increment Finance District — a government (!) tax program (!) that appears to have worked more or less as it was intended to. While not without its misfires, the TIF district, which expired June 30, has helped bring hundreds of good-paying jobs to a city that has been struggling for decades to find its economic footing. It has also contributed to an increase in the assessed value of properties in the district, which has resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in new tax revenue.

“River Road is exactly what you want a TIF district to do,” the city’s planning and economic development director, Nancy Merrill, told O’Grady. “You put in the infrastructure then add to the tax base.”

Across the river, contributor Sarwar Kashmeri continues the Power Lunch series by talking with Bob Flint, director of the Springfield (Vt.) Regional Development Corp. Flint’s region, which includes Springfield and Windsor, used to be a machine-tool powerhouse but has taken its share of economic lumps over the years. Today, with the help of the private, nonprofit development corporation, there are real signs of recovery — from Windsor’s appealing Artisans Park to Springfield’s 100 River St., the former Fellows Gear Shaper factory now home to commercial tenants, a public art space and a “History Corner” that honors the building’s industrial past.

“These aren’t machine-tool businesses, but that is OK,” Flint told Kashmeri. “They are value-added jobs, leveraging production in a different way that is viable in this state.”

I feel better already. Happy birthday, America.

Ernie Kohlsaat

Author: Ernie Kohlsaat

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