June 7, 2007

Confer's Hypocrisy Exceeds Even Rivera

On January 22, 2007, Bob Confer wrote the following article in the Lockport Union Sun:

CONFER: IDAs do more harm than good
By Bob Confer / Editorial ContributorLockport Union-Sun & Journal

— As we’ve so painfully discovered over the past few months, industrial development agencies do much more harm than good. It was “our” IDA that took the act of taxation without representation to the extreme and gave one corporate entity — AES’s Somerset facility — unprecedented preferential treatment that included a behemoth Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) granted without the standard obligations of required job growth and investment. This odd deal that was purposely and deviously devised in contrary to the norm was also ironed-out in near-secrecy and its end results will be detrimental to all of Niagara County’s taxpayers…citizens and corporations alike.

As was made so readily apparent here, IDAs tend to abuse their power to offer tax cuts. Realize, though, that the problem is so much deeper than the symptoms allude to. In the bigger picture of all things governed this power is improperly granted in the first place: It truly is taxation without representation. A board of individuals is appointed (typically upon cronyism) by elected officials who then sever their ability to regulate taxation by granting to this board the ability to say who receives tax cuts and how big these tax cuts should be. The powers afforded by the legal structure of IDAs gives them an ability to do as they see fit with absolutely no accountability to the governments who empowered them or to all of the taxpayers affected by their decisions.

When all is said and done, it’s these unfortunate taxpayers who then have to shoulder an unwelcome and unfair burden when properties come off the tax rolls because the IDAs allow it. This ability to (un)tax at will is just one example of what’s wrong with IDAs. Their problems are many and far reaching. Two of the biggest flaws of IDAs are their negative impact on tax bases due to job flows and their ability to mask what’s wrong with local and state governments. It has been a normal occurrence over the past couple of decades to watch companies and jobs flow from one state to another. They move from depressed places like New York to areas that they consider Lands of Promise, such as “business-friendly” states like South Carolina or Texas.

In the past, most companies typically never would have made such moves, but they do so quite often now thanks to the pervasiveness of IDA’s and economic development agencies. These IDA’s are now anywhere and everywhere as each locality, even towns themselves, seem to have one. With a cornucopia of taxpayer-funded giveaways (which can fund a move) and less-taxed or tax-free properties available at their disposal, the IDAs bait the profit-hungry companies into their lands. Therefore, any “victories” claimed by an IDA are errant boasts, for they typically cause a huge loss in taxes and jobs someplace else, maybe some state far away, or maybe even in the neighboring municipality.

Somebody someplace is getting hurt by an IDA.These competitive packages offered by IDAs also do a favor for the governments who empowered them. The packages end up being Band-Aids, having the subliminal ability to mask what’s wrong with government (namely high taxes) and eliminate political accountability. New York’s economic development circles perfectly exemplify this effect. We are the highest taxed state in the nation yet still have decent amounts of new development in certain locales because IDA packages take away — at least for that company — the competitive disadvantage that New York has. If IDA packages were not offered, New York’s tragic business environment would be made apparent and development would not occur here.

This psychological tool shows why IDA’s tend to remain so popular with many politicians: it offers them a crutch that can save face and allow them to continue with their lack of fiscal prudence and high spending habits. In the end, it’s easy to see that IDAs are more of a drain on an economy than they are economic saviors. This truth is best exemplified locally by the AES giveaway, which in the whole scheme of things represents only the tip of the dirty IDA iceberg. Sadly, it’s this sort of iceberg that may one day sink the veritable Titanic known as the US economy.

Bob Confer is a Gasport resident and vice president of Confer Plastics Inc. in North Tonawanda

Ironically, Confer also sent the following letter to the Niagara County IDA, which you may view by clicking on the letter:


Mr. Pink said...

Typical. So long as I get mine, I'm OK, but nobody else should be able to have the same benefits.

Pirate's Code said...

Every time I read one of Confer's opinion pieces, I think that it was five minutes of my life I'll never get back. An informed opinion is a fine thing, but I'm wondering who appointed this guy the moral and economic compass of the region.

As for this particular piece -- it would be great if we didn't need IDAs, but blaming them for the woes of government is like blaming the aspirin because you have a headache.

Doing away with IDAs will do nothing to correct the problems he claim are masked by the IDA activity. Fix the fundamental problems, and the need for IDAs diminishes.

hcdem said...

So Mr. Confer acknowledges that the IDA can help him create jobs and bring needed revenue to Niagara County, but the IDA should limit its development assistance to his company??

Mr. Pink said...

Pirate's Code is right on the money. While Confer is welcome to write a letter to the editor like the rest of us, what special insight, talent, life experience etc. warrants the paper making him a regular columnist?

He's become the in-print version of the six nuts who show up to every County Legislature meeting.

I wonder if Confer meets them at Friendly's for milkshakes?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Confer is certainly more qualified then the voices posting here. He aded jobs and increaed tax value. Mr. Pink your IDA added ZERO and gave the IDA and the County the biggest loss in IDA and county history.( AES PILOT)

I would hate to find out that staff from the IDA was writng this dribble.

How did a color copy of Confer plastics original letter get posted on the web??

Anytime I have seen a FOIL from the IDA it was a Black & white photo copy not color. Inside job???

If Sail Away works in the IDA office - perhaps we will soon wave bye-bye. for improper use of confidential files.

Mr. Pink calls the community that talks at the Legisaltive meetings "the six nuts" if this is the view of some in the back of the room, perhaps they should start looking for a new job as well.

Presenting and Selling Niagara County to CEO's to bring business to Niagara County does not mean selling out or giving away the store.

Sell the benefits and features with responsible Economic development and promotion not reckless deviated PILOTS that allow AES Pirates to raid our County Treasury.

Perhaps Pirate Code is one of those AES Pirates who support raiding small towns of fair and honest assessed valuations and Fair Taxation for all citizens in favor of unelected, uninformed board members who obviouly think the same way this circle group does.

Mr. Pink said...

I respect the views of anonymous, but having gone to a few legislative meetings in my day, it's always the same people with their own agendas saying the same thing over and over. The Legislators seem to take this to be popular public opinion when in many cases it clearly isn't.

The Mount View issue was a perfect example. There's no doubt the vast majority of the public wants to be done subsidizing this but you wouldn't know that from the speaker's podium at the Legislature.

pirate's code said...

Sorry, anonymous, but your effort to make this about the people posting here won't wash. For the record, I don't work AES -- never have. I don't understand the AES deal through the IDA, but I'm trying to. I'm gonna take a wild-ass guess, though, that the truth is somewhere in the gray area between the two ends of this debate.

I also don't work for Maziarz, Wojtazek, Rivera, Confer or anyone else mentioned on this site. I've never run for elected office, but might someday.

I congratulate Mr. Confer on his apparently successful business. How that makes him "more qualifed" to pontificate on all manner of topics on a seemingly weekly basis escapes me. I find some of his writing interesting, but I can't get past his incessant whining about something, anything -- without offering a cure or solution.

How, exactly, does his apprently successful business qualify him to expound on bad parenting (are you a parent, Bob)? Or gun control? Race in America? Or any of the other drivel he describes as "defending truth, justice and the American way." I sure hope that Niagara Newspapers isn't paying for this tripe.

A quick Google search tells me that Bob is shopping his opinions in lots of places. Good for hims, but quantity doesn't always mean quality. Thanks, Bob, but I'll take my counsel from elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous (Merrill Bender), you are running for an elected office. Come out from behind your computer screen and meet the issues up front and in the open. Integrity is not a switch that is turned on and off or a coat that is left at the door. Be accountable and don't resort to name calling and simpleton nickname word association games to make political folly over important issues. ....Seeing your new allegiance to Dan Rivera and the Democratic party, maybe you have an inroad to ally yourself with Gov. Spitzer and his medicinal marijuana initiative but please don't get too carried away and burn the place down in the process...