Tuesday, December 20, 2011

There are TIFs, and then there are TIFs.

Not that Ostrich editors can tell the difference!

In a fit of editorial pique, The Ostrich recently ran this editorial:

Peter Anastos of Yarmouth, a partner in the firm that operates hotels in Bath and Brunswick, believes the Brunswick Town Council erred in agreeing to a tax-increment financing (TIF) deal with the developer of the Inn at Brunswick Station.

Anastos has made his displeasure known in court cases, at Town Council meetings and in letters to the editor.

He certainly has a right to voice his opinion, but it’s time for Anastos to end his long-running tantrum.

In agreeing to the downtown TIF, Brunswick’s town councilors simply followed through on a commitment made by their predecessors. Their predecessors included the TIF, a common economic development practice, in a plan that successfully achieved development of a contaminated, decades-old eyesore in the heart of Brunswick.

While Bath city government used a different form of TIF during development of the hotel that Anastos’ group built in that city in 2009, his firm gained a $387,000 contract to design sidewalks and streetscapes around the hotel. That’s a very similar government-aided competitive advantage to the one for which Anastos lambastes Brunswick officials.

It’s disingenous (sic) for Anastos to blame the Brunswick TIF for hard times at local inns while ignoring the Bath deal. He would be better served by devoting his energy to touting his own properties.

An angry innkeeper alienates guests.

Turns out the editors had done their usual quarter-inch deep research on the subject, and a ‘clarification’ was published a few days later.  Even that was not fully accurate.

We submitted a letter on the subject, and didn’t even bother to hold the editor to account for his spelling gaffe.  It read thusly:

To the Editor:

On a visit to your web site, I read the item “Hostility trumps hospitality,” published December 12th.

It addresses hotelier Peter Anastos and the City of Bath, and alludes to ‘a different form of TIF,’ without explaining further.

There are, as you point out, different forms of TIF. For example, some require no application or approval; only the benign neglect or tolerant benevolence of current town councilors and their predecessors.

For a case in point, one prominent Brunswick business, known well to you and your readers, owes more than $220,000 in property taxes, dating back to 2009. This business did nothing to qualify for this ‘tax increment financing,’ other than fail to pay their taxes on time. While not a common form, this ‘TIF’ has benefits similar to other types, in that it defers tax obligations that the rest of us are required to meet.

Others might suggest that the holder of this form of ‘TIF’ is engaged in a quid pro quo with town officials - an exchange for amiable and non-critical reporting on Brunswick town governance. This notion is unseemly, to say the least, so I will not make this claim.

If I did, I’d have to counsel you that editorial hypocrisy alienates readership and advertisers, which could easily lead to declining revenues and the dreaded consequences one might expect.

And even worse, my doing so might cause you to throw a tantrum. Goodness knows Brunswick doesn’t need or want that.

Apparently, the letter got lost in the mail, because we got no response to the initial submission, nor a subsequent inquiry on the letter’s disposition.   Must be they’re overwhelmed with reader submissions, or the new web site thingy is driving them bonkers.

(Note: if you can guess who the ‘prominent Brunswick business’ is that owes the $220,000 plus in taxes, you’ll be entered in our drawing for a free one year subscription to Other Side.  Losers will be referred to The Ostrich to sign up for a paid one year subscription, in hopes it will help them pay their delinquent taxes.)

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