The People’s Business (for people who are developers)

If you’re a normal businessperson who actually believes in private enterprise and you have a dream of, say, building an extremely minor league baseball stadium in Loudoun County, Virginia, here’s what you do:

• go to a bank or other investors and get a couple of hundred million dollars to build it

• when hordes of eager baseball-starved fans come, pay back your investors the principal and interest you owe them using a portion of your handsome proceeds

If, however, you can‘t get investors or banks interested in your dream, because it’s a lousy one, here’s what you do:

• give $20,000 in campaign contributions to buy yourself an in with the new Board of Supervisors, the chairman especially

• get the Board, the chairman especially, to arrange for an $80 million taxpayer-guaranteed loan so you can build a road you promised to build (as a condition for your special zoning exception in the first place), with the principal and interest to be paid back by a special property tax district imposed on residents who buy property in your baseball-stadium mecca development in the future, assuming it’s a success

• get the Board, especially the chairman, to get a new state law passed allowing the county to finance your stadium by issuing county guaranteed bonds, with the principal and interest to be paid back by a special tax or by diverting the entire sales tax stream from the stadium to the purpose, assuming it’s a success — while you keep the profits and don’t have to worry about that pesky problem of how you’ll pay for the stadium

• and, if just by some remote chance if it’s not a success, then walk away and leave the taxpayers holding the bag!

Talk about your win-win situations: if that’s not shrewd business, what is?

As mentioned yesterday, Chairman Scott York (R-Kincora) will be proposing a motion at next Wednesday’s business meeting of the Board to seek legislation in Richmond allowing Loudoun to allocate sales tax revenue or a new admission tax from “a” minor league baseball stadium for the purpose of financing “a” minor league baseball stadium. Wonder which one he has in mind?

There’s a small argument one can make that government once in a while is justified in issuing taxpayer-backed bonds for private purposes, if it’s a spur to revitalization in a blighted area, for example, where banks or other lenders aren’t willing to risk their capital. But otherwise it’s simply crony capitalism at best, outright corruption at its worst. Government assumes all the risks in such deals, and reaps none of the benefits.

At least York, though, is proposing legislation that has some logical connection to his aims. Also on the list of proposed items to add to this year’s legislative agenda are a whole series of laws Supervisor “Ken” Reid (R-Leesburg) wants to have passed in Richmond that once again show his nimble and wide-ranging mind at work. “Ken” is proposing that Loudoun be exempted from the state requirements on how many guidance counselors its schools must have, that the occupancy tax collected on hotel rooms be taken away from its state-mandated purpose of promoting tourism and be allocated instead to building roads (“Ken” is a self-proclaimed expert on speeding the flow of vehicular traffic, and has the arrest record to prove it), and that a new gas taxbe imposed to pay for more roads (Loudoun Republican Party Deep Principle: taxes are always very bad, except when employed directly to aid developers and other campaign contributors).


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