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Re: SG-W:/ Tax cost of residential development

----- Original Message -----
From: John O Bingamon <jobber@umich.edu>
Subject: Re: SG-W:/ Tax cost of residential development

> Out of curiosity, Ken: just what WOULD you consider to be curmudgeonly or
> disrespectful? From both Barry's original message as well as his reply to
> you, it seemed clear to me that there were limits to what could be
> inferred from the studies he mentioned, AND that he was aware of and
> recognized the importance of those limitations. You appear to believe
> that these points were not clear, or indeed not true, which is fine; there
> are (respectful) ways to clarify such points.
> To me, these ways are focused strictly on the issue being discussed,
> and include clarifying what assumptions are being made, and/or noting
> where those assumptions are not valid. These ways do not include
> questioning the quality of thought exhibited by another person.  You use
> words like "asserting", "acknowledging", and "back you up", words which
> focus on the PERSON making a statement, rather than on the statement
> itself. IF your purpose was to enlighten the rest of us participating in
> this forum about a smart-growth issue (which I assume, since you cc'd to
> all of us), would it not have been more helpful to point out what you saw
> as the weaknesses or limitations in the STUDIES cited, or the CONCLUSIONS
> being made based on those studies, rather than a perceived weakness of
> argument displayed by an individual person?  Personally, I consider the
> latter to be off-topic.
> John Bingamon

John, how, precisely, do you expect me to provide critique for a study that
isn't cited in making a statement?  Phil provided a study, I checked it out
and provided critique for the study.  The other messages I believe you're
referring to stated that there was a study, that didn't quite match the
subject.  When I pointed out the likely problems with that study (the author
pointed out problems as well), the author responded with assertions that
didn't appear to be based on that, or any other stated, study.

My actual sentences that you are referring to:
Me: If you haven't seen a study that looks at urban development, how can you
         say anything about it with that much certainty?
BL:  Perhaps you missed the word "generally" in my response.  Sorry if you
        interpreted it as gospel.
Me:  Ok, so you're asserting that it's "generally" true without a study to
         back  you up.  Same difference.

Me:  Do you know of a study that says that commercial and industrial
         facilities are a net gain?
BL:  Only the cost of community services studies I referenced, which do
        endeavor to account for road and infrastructure costs to the degree
        possible. Those studies are for one fiscal year, however, and some
        costs of that nature may not be on the screen during that period.
        They also do not consider the impacts that commercial and industrial
        facilities cause, namely increased residential development.  In the
        term, commercial/industrial is a net gain in the taxes v. cost
analysis, but
        increased residential development will eat up that surplus
        Scio is a case in point; their margins are getting smaller even
taking out
        the school cost, for which they don't govern but do influence.
Me: So again, you're asserting that while acknowledging that the studies
        you've seen missed details, particularly the induced residential
        Note that the future and present environmental costs question you're
        leaving unanswered.  What exactly does "to the degree possible" mean
        terms of cost of infrastructure calculations?

An assertion is simply a statement.  To say that someone is "asserting"
something only says that they are saying something.  That's hardly a value
judgement.  In this case BL stated "In the short term, commercial/industrial
is a net gain in the taxes v. cost analysis".  This is a pretty sweeping
statement, since it isn't qualified by the type of the development or the
location of the development.  Since the study the author cited doesn't cover
all of the possibilities for locations and types of commercial/development,
and the author hasn't presented another study that considers all
I said that it was an assertion without a study to "back you up".  That
simply states the fact that the author made a sweeping statement that
doesn't appear to be backed up by the study cited.  That's not a value
judgement either.  BL appears to have concluded that this study covers the
general statement that was made, and I pointed out that that doesn't appear
to be correct.  This is exactly what you suggest I do.

Acknowledging something simply means stating that something is true.  BL
stated "Those studies are for one fiscal year, however, and some costs of
that nature may not be on the screen during that period.  They also do not
consider the impacts that commercial and industrial facilities cause, namely
increased residential development."  Thereby agreeing that the study may
missed details pertinent to deciding the question of whether it's true that
"In the
short term, commercial/industrial is a net gain in the taxes v. cost
analysis".  It's
not a value judgement to say that someone agreed with something.

What would I consider to curmudgeonly?  If I were to say that you will never
be able to do a study that determines whether urban residential development
is a tax drag, and therefore there's no point to doing that study, and
anyone who does is wasting time and money, you could call me a curmudgeon.
I've already acknowledged that there are studies that convincingly point out
that *suburban* residential development does not on average pay its way in
taxes.  I don't think it would be impossible to produce a convincing study
that concludes that certain types of urban residential do or do not pay
their way in property taxes.  I don't think it would be a waste of time or
money to study it, either.

I am a bicycle advocate.  I've been bicycling for transportation for about
15 years, I have read thoroughly the most relevant texts on the subject,
I've discussed it with some of the most widely acknowledged experts in the
field, and I've been working on making Ann Arbor better for utility cyclists
for over 4 years now, one of those as chair of the Bicycle Coordinating
Committee.  If someone were to say that I have little understanding of
utility cycling, I would consider that to be disrespectful.

If I were to say that shared use paths are of no use for utility cyclists,
and someone pointed out that in some cases they are of value for utility
cyclists, I wouldn't consider that to be disrespectful.  I would have been
understating the value of shared use paths for cyclists, would have to
acknowledge that I wasn't correct, and would have some respect for the
person who correctly pointed out that I was making an invalid
understatement.  The correct statement would be that shared use paths,
except in situations where no roadway is reasonably available, are generally
considered to be of limited value for utility cyclists.  If pressed further
I could point out at least two relevant documents that agree.

Ken Clark

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