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May 19, 2009

Mayor Richard M. Daley


Mayor Richard M. Daley, originally uploaded by Lindsay Beyerstein.

MANHATTAN, NY.

Mayor Daley of Chicago at DMI's Marketplace of Ideas symposium on green roofs, yesterday.

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Ya know, once upon a time, he didn't look so much like his dad.

Still, despite his bizarre need to sell off every public-owned revenue stream in Chicago (toll roads, parking meters, failed attempts with Midway), his apparent enthusiasm* for green projects is a real plus. It would be nice if more aggressive encouragement of green roofs spread to NYC.

*Not evident in photo

mds: actually, Chicago made a lot of money on these sells. For example, the failed attempt with Midway came because the winning bid, Citigroup, couldn't come up with the capital, so the airport stayed in city hands; however, it was still contractually obliged to put down some money, so the city ended up walking out with $126 million. Indiana's selling of its toll road was even better: it was able to extract twice the market value from the buyers. If New York had been as successful, instead of handing off assets to developers for half the market value, it would've been in much better shape now.

"Indiana's selling of its toll road was even better: it was able to extract twice the market value from the buyers."

Who are now facing lawsuits from their backers for complete failure of their fiduciary responsibilities? Unless the buyers completely fumbled their present value calculation, or are complete altruists, or the state completely blew its "market value" calculation, the owners are going to have to drastically raise tolls or cut back on maintenance. See, Indiana is also a collection of people, many of whom drive on toll roads, not just some abstracted entity composed of Mitch Daniels and his rich fuckbuddies. Likewise, the people of Chicago now get to pay more for parking all over the place, in order to enrich a private concern willing to give the city coffers a piece of the action for ten years. Check into the Roman Empire's "tax farming" sometime; that worked out great for everyone.

"If New York had been as successful, instead of handing off assets to developers for half the market value, it would've been in much better shape now."

Here's an alternative approach: stop handing off public assets to private interests willy-nilly. Atlas Shrugged was a work of fiction.

Any more information on green roofs?

I was always fascinated by the cnocept, from years ago. If 25% of the many flat roofs in NYC were grassed over, I bet that it would have a significant cooling effect. And it would look cool from the air!

You're right that it's not ideal. Ideally, the government would raise tolls and parking fares on its own. However, until that's politically feasible, extracting money from the private sector so that it has the privilege of doing the same is the best option.

And criticizing privatization by mocking Ayn Rand is like criticizing evolution by mocking The Bell Curve.

"And criticizing privatization by mocking Ayn Rand is like criticizing evolution by mocking The Bell Curve."

Replace evolution by "creationism" and I'll concede the analogy. :-P

And it's not that it's not ideal, it's that it could make things worse. The for-profit approach doesn't always automatically increase the general welfare. I honestly hadn't seen the latest DMI blog post by John Petro at dmiblog.com when I composed my jeremiad, but fortunately no one has yet privatized the synchronicity highway.

"And it would look cool from the air!"

Indeed. The aesthetic component is not to be overlooked. I'm not sure if the fact that Oak Park, IL has flowers growing on its strollable library roof is the most efficient implementation, but it sure is awesome.

No, the analogy still works. Mainstream economics is neo-liberal, challenged politically by the left. Against the left there's a segment of libertarians who worship Ayn Rand and Ludwig vos Mises and adhere to Austrian economics, a fringe idea that mainstream economics disregards but that claims to be the only true expression of capitalism. However, because both libertarians and neo-liberals are in some sense capitalists, and because there's a bit of overlap (for example, Alan Greenspan), the left confuses the two, and likes to attack neo-liberalism by mocking Ayn Rand.

The analogy here is that mainstream biology is evolutionist, challenged politically by creationism. Against creationism there are scientific racists, as exemplified by The Bell Curve and the eugenics movement, whose believers think is the natural conclusion of evolution but who most biologists denigrate. However, because both the eugenicists and the mainstream biologists are evolutionists, and because there's a bit of overlap (for example, Arthur Jensen), creationists confuse the two, and like to attack evolution by mocking eugenics.

As for the for-profit approach, when the city makes money not selling anything, or selling overvalued pieces of infrastructure, that doesn't count as making things worse.

"Unless the buyers completely fumbled their present value calculation, or are complete altruists, or the state completely blew its "market value" calculation, the owners are going to have to drastically raise tolls or cut back on maintenance. "

So the price of conducting an activity that's environmentally disadvantageous will be increased and, at the same time, public revenue will grow. Awfully progressive for Indiana.

"...and, at the same time, public revenue will grow."

?

Er, the state took a single upfront payment for the 75-year term. All of the profit from higher tolls goes to the Australian and Spanish investors. And I hadn't heard that Indiana is pumping the bulk of the lump sum payment into a mass transit fund. I assure you that people will continue to use Interstates 80 & 90 in large numbers for quite some time yet.

It doesn't matter what the money gets spent on - it's revenue that will help Indiana get through the recession without raising taxes or cutting spending. Essentially, it's a form of statewide deficit spending, where the interest takes the form of money the state won't be able to collect in revenue. Besides, any kind of tax or toll on driving discourages car use - as long as it's not spent on building more roads as in the US.

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