A BILLION HERE, A BILLION THERE . . .
Dan Doctoroff‘s Olympic dog-and-pony show returned to New York last week, and while this time the deputy mayor managed to refrain from swooping down the City Hall steps on a luge, there was still plenty of high-concept hoopla on display for visiting USOC members: giant banners on city buildings, welcome messages on the Times Square Jumbotron—everything short of a tattoo of the Olympic logo on Jason Giambi‘s biceps. (The four remaining cities will be winnowed to two in September, with the final U.S. candidate to host the 2012 Games to be announced November 3.)
But while the pitch by NYC 2012 (the local Olympic lobbying group formed by Doctoroff way before he joined City Hall) was long on Mylar, it remained short on details of paying the Games’ multibillion-dollar tab. Though Mayor Bloomberg insisted that “all of the development that we are going to do for the Olympics is going to be done with private money,” in fact much of the infrastructure necessary for the Games—the multibillion-dollar westward extension of the No. 7 train, for one—would be publicly funded via “tax increment financing” (TIF), an accounting trick in which increased property tax revenues in the area of a construction project are earmarked to pay for the project’s costs. The idea is that because these taxes would not have been collected without the development, this “increment” is free money to the city.
In practice, though, TIFs often work out very differently. Chicago is littered with 121 separate TIF districts, most instituted over the past few years by Mayor Richard Daley the Younger. Concerned that tax money was being drained off to subsidize projects in pricey neighborhoods that would have been built anyway, the grassroots Neighborhood Capital Budget Group in Chicago studied 36 districts’ property-tax growth rates before and after TIF. Their findings: Of the $1.6 billion in “incremental taxes” redirected to TIF projects, $1.3 billion would have gone into city coffers even without the special tax districts. As a result of this, the NCBG calculated, Chicago public schools had lost more than $600 million.
And that’s without even accounting for development being siphoned off from other parts of the city. Notes Terry Devine of the city’s Independent Budget Office, which is studying the use of TIFs in New York, “If development is just relocated to the area, there will not be any net gain, and there could be a net loss,” thanks to sinking property values in the areas that companies are abandoning. Asked by the Voice for financial details on the TIF plan at City Hall, Doctoroff replied only that “we have done very extensive studies” and “it would generate substantial excess revenues.” Told of this, the NCBG’s Patricia Nolan was unimpressed: “They say that all the time. They sell it as ‘cost free.’ But there’s always a tradeoff, and that’s what they’re not going to talk about.” —Neil deMause
SCRIBBLES FROM A SHORTSTOP
From a mole deep inside the Yankee organization, we recently obtained the following excerpts from Derek Jeter‘s secret diary:
June 26: A sad day for the Jeterator. (Reminder: Think of better nickname for self.) Today is my 28th birthday—at this rate I’ll soon be as old as Zim. I picture myself sitting on the bench (but not looking like the Great Pumpkin, natch), dispensing pearls of wisdom to eager rookies. I guess it’s not that bad being 28. So far no one’s noticed how my numbers have been dropping off, or how all I hit anymore are singles. It’s not my fault! After all, those statheads claim a player’s production historically declines after his 28th year. Sigh. But then I say, Bill James can go kiss my bubblicious butt—he is obviously unfamiliar with Locke‘s writings on the fallacy of cause and effect. Speaking of which, it’s getting harder every season to hide my erudition from the team. It was so much easier when Tino was around! I could just nod and smile at his inane chatter. Actually, that’s pretty much how I handle Giambi.
June 30: Hi-ho, Jeteronimo! I made the All-Star team—again! Take that, Nomar!! (Oops—he made it, too.) Wow! My fifth time as an All-Star. My fifth time being picked by Mr. Torre. (Question: Does that make me his “bitch”?) Why doesn’t anyone ever vote for me? Is it because I am bowlegged?
July 4: Ouch! My knee. Hurts. —J. Yeh
WHERE HAVE YOU GONE, MELVIN MORA?
Having spent the winter playing rotisserie baseball, the Mets also purged themselves of a lot of their personality. Gone are Tsuyoshi Shinjo, Benny Agbayani, and Desi Relaford, as worthy a trio of scrubs as the Mets have ever had. They pumped blood into the team, which now has become certifiably monotonous. And the way that’s happened is exasperating. Look how the Mets dealt with Melvin Mora, who made the team in ’99 after seven years in the minors and sparkled in the playoffs, gunning out runners at the plate and hitting .429 in the NLCS. The Mets repaid this supreme effort in 2000 by shipping him to Baltimore for the execrable Mike Bordick. He had none of Mora’s élan or case-hardened nerve. Rooting for Mora was easy. How the fuck are you supposed to root for an inert entity like Bordick? For that matter, how are we supposed to celebrate this season’s faded-marquee imports, Alomar, Burnitz, and Vaughn? If you want to root for marquee names, that’s what the Yankees are here for. —Sinclair Rankin