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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Suburb v. City Myth

NIZ proponents, from Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, to LV Partnership puppet Alan Jennings, have been perpetuating the myth that suburbs somehow owe Allentown a NIZ. Never mind that Bethlehem, one of the adversely affected communities, is sitting on a 1600-acre brownfield, the largest in the country. Never mind that it is trying to develop the vacant Martin Tower, which just happens to be the largest building in the Lehigh Valley. Never mind all the old boroughs, from Nazareth to Coplay, who will be helping pay to convert J.B. Reilly from millionaire to billionaire.

But what about those fancy suburbs? Do their residents have an obligation to prop up Allentown?

South Whitehall Township Manager Jon Hammer last week labelled the entire city v. suburb argument nonsense. He's right.

Let's look at subsidies, shall we?

How about Coca Cola Park? Locating the federal court house in downtown Allentown? Locating the lion's share of Lehigh County offices in Allentown? Establishing KOZs and KIZs in urban locations like Allentown? Underwriting mass transit like LANTA which primarily serves urban areas like Allentown?

How about direct subsidy programs like Section 8 housing vouchers, SNAP, CHPs, Medicaid, school lunch programs, subsidized senior housing? Federal and state aid to education? Federal aid to first responders?

If you do an honest - not ideologically and politically driven - assessment, you will discover that Allentown would be in far worse shape were it not for the financial support it receives from those who live outside the "City Without Limits."

This discussion is not about whether an economically stronger Allentown is better for the region. Practically everyone agrees that a stronger Allentown benefits the entire Valley. The discussion is about the most effective ways to make that happen. It should not be a "them v. us" issue.


Anonymous said...

The focus of the LVEDC and the counties has been the so called cities. This focus for programs and growth has been on the table for decades. Not sure why these cities are always crying about the suburbs. Do any of the burbs around here really show any type of prosperity to be envied?

Anonymous said...

Can't we all, just get along!

Anonymous said...

The solution is clear...Eliminate all City, Borough and Township Governments, have only County Government operations.

An elected County Executive would make all appointments, these appointments would then be rubber stamped by County Council.
This type of Government would eliminate competition.

Jon Geeting said...

First of all, you need to narrow your focus to development dollars, not the entire range of anti-poverty programs. What we're trying to zero in on is what affects the cost of living in suburbs vs. cities, and how the government tips that balance toward one or the other.

SNAP and such don't create an incentive to live in cities, and neither do Section 8 vouchers, etc.

Then, you actually have to look at the development subsidies on the suburban side. If you did an "honest assessment", you'd soon realize that suburban development is a Ponzi scheme. It never gets paid off. A 30-acre suburban subdivision takes about 40 years to pay off, and the highways and other infrastructure you need to build to even make the subdivision possible never get paid off. Those costs are shouldered by the federal government and states.

So the real comparison you need to be making on the suburban side is how much more expensive suburban housing and commercial retail would be without the state and federal highway money, the mortgage interest deduction, the local money to extend water and sewer out to those cornfields, etc.

It's not even close. Suburban development is massively subsidized by government, well beyond whatever help cities receive.

Anonymous said...


You missed the big one, the city gets millions in CDBG money every year. Suburbs get zero.

c said...

I disagree with the 4:09 post about regionalizing. Ask people who love in Virginia how they feel about county government.

c said...

Excuse me.....live.

Anonymous said...

Does Geeting know what he's talking about?? I don't understand what he means by a 30 acre subdivision taking 40 yrs to pay off. I thought the developers paid for the roads and water/sewer lines; etc. How is the federal goverment paying for these??

Bernie O'Hare said...

Jonathan Geeting, I do my best to ignore you bc, quite frankly, you are an idiot. You do not live here, do not attend meetings, know nothing about how thins area works, but set yourself up as an expert on ... well. everything. What you really are is a warped bastard who dances on the graves of people whose political view differ from yours.

You're nuts, too. You act as though cities like Allentown don't avail themselves of highway funding from he Federal and State governments.

In addition, the comment posted immediately after you mentions Community Development Block Grant Funding (CDBG). There's been almost 40 years of it in Allentown's case to the tune of around $3 to 4 million per year.

Getting back to highway funds, let's look at the American Parkway bridge or funding that Allentown got for "Transportation Enhancements" under Federal Highway and State Highway funding. Don't forget all the subsidized parking garages in the downtown funding through transportation dollars, too.

Basically, you're nuts.

Anonymous said...

Major cities are one-party cesspools. They've achieved almost every goal of the liberal legislative agenda. The politics of guilt never stop. Just as poorly behaved children are the fault of weak, enabling parents, the same is true of cities and the suburbs who continue to enable their irresponsibility.

Just this weekend, Easton's Panto said a lack of jobs is the cause of the nearly daily shootings in his town. This was followed by another shooting just a few hours later. He actually thinks that being poor turns people criminal. I guess he never heard of Bernie Madoff.

It's time to show cities tough love in order to make them clean up their acts. Throwing more money at them is just poor parenting and will result in Reading, PA.

Anonymous said...

This is class warfare run amuck. People in the suburbs are also paying property taxes, school taxes etc. that are higher or as high as a minimum wage job for the city worker who is then getting some form of help.Most have higher paying jobs so they pay more again. If you live in the city it is because you can not afford to get out, don't want to, or just prefer city life. The rest move on and then they pay through the nose. So to say the suburbs basically is costly well while it may be, but they end up with the lion's share of the bills too. Because they are getting tired of having their paychecks shrink or worrying that their children who will most likely pay through the nose you shouldl'n wonder why the push back. Did you ever give anyone something and then see it not cared for or about? When there is no form of pride you cannot mandate it or force it. I am a true believer it helping, by choice those who help them selves. A handup is appreciated while a handout is not. It becomes expected and for little or no return. There isn't enough for everyone as you can see by the financial situation American is in. It way past time for us to tighten our belts and to make better choices for our dollars. We are looking more and more like Greece as it is. Only the true worker and giver can appreciate this.

Anonymous said...

Geeting 7:54

You really need to get a clue. You needto check public records and see who funds developments in the suburbs.

You have your head so far up where the sun doesn't shine it's crazy.

May I ask, where do you live?

Doc Rock said...

Geeting, Boy Genius, said,

"SNAP and such don't create an incentive to live in cities, and neither do Section 8 vouchers, etc."

Oh, yeah, what would the population of Allentown be without Section 8 vouchers?

Also, Boy Wonder, why don't you spend 5 minutes researching the costs borne by developers. Every municipality has a SALDO (for you, Geeting, that's a Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance - guess we add that to the massive list of things you don't know).

You'll discover, if your ADHD permits, that developers are responsible for putting in roads, sewers, water lines, curbs and gutters, and so forth. On their dime, not the taxpayers'. In addition, they are most often required to pay "tapping fees" to connect to existing sewer and water lines (because you love government so much, note well that private utilities like electric, gas, phone and cable charge the developer nothing). Some municipalities also charge a "recreation fee" to support parks.

Want to argue subsidies? Quit being lazy. Put some hard dollar figures behind your undocumented blather. From some people who know what they are talking about.

I guess that fancy school where you got educated never requires its students to cite authoritative sources in research papers.

I am ashamed that my tax dollars went into the education you didn't get. I was ripped off!

Anonymous said...

Geeting does't live in Allentown. He is just a know it all who clearly knows nothing. i own a business downtown and will tell you most people do not understand the city or the people who live here.
Like most politicians, these fools are simply selling us out for their own gain. This illegal EIT grab and stealing of private property makes a mockery of our city. History will not judge Senator Browne and the other corrupt politicians well. i wouldnt be suprised if all these lawsuits uncover proof of bribery. its only a metter of time before the REAL truth emerges.

Anonymous said...

Oh and by the way section 8 vouchers absolutely do create an incentive to move to Allentown. I hear it every day with my customers who moved from New York.

Anonymous said...

Fantasyland, like ALL Progressive Liberal Democrats!


Untouched Takeaway said...

Am I missing something, or does Jon Geeting rarely (ok...never) respond to any of the responses to his posts here? It would be nice to be able to try to take his thoughts into the general analysis of things, but the "squat, post and run" method doesn't make that possible.

Bernie O'Hare said...

UT, He does not debate. He preaches. I have a negative view of him bc he actually was happy to hear of the death of someone whose views differ from his, and he makes no effort to do anything original. His motive here, by his own admission, is political, too. Instead of being legitimately interested in redeveloping our urban cores, he wants to pack them so they'll all vote D. He has said that himself. This is not economic development, but politics.

Anonymous said...

Bernie -

I'm glad that the myth has been exposed.

Because of the facts you cite, the argument should no longer about who has gotten more (clearly the cities have gotten much, much more), but what has been the effects of all these dollars spent to "help".

The undeniable conclusion has to be that the dollars funneled into the cities have not only NOT helped, but they have also made the problems worse. Government subsidies and intervention are not the answer.

Until we start realizing that, and voting accordingly, nothing will change for the better. All we're doing is funding the corruption.

AMOrlando said...

Anon 9:18 AM: Mr. Geeting does not live anywhere in the Valley. He pontificates his views of an urban socialist utopia from atop his lofty perch - in New York City.

Anonymous said...

Big Government is the only answer for Fairness and Justice.


(vote as many times as you like, if someone asks to see identification --- charge them with being Racist and every thing will work out fine)

Ron Beitler said...

Someone above mentioned developers paying for road improvements ect.

The 700 greenfield Jaindl development in LMT is is a great case to use as an example. As part of the agreement between the township and Jaindl, (The memorandum of understanding) many of the standard traffic impact fees were waived in addition to traffic studies ect. ect. Further even if they werent waived fees like the traffic impact are ONE TIME. These one time fees are really just feathers in the cap of local officials anyway.

Ditto with the initial upgrades. Once the developer leaves town and heads to the next greenfield the community is left to pay for the maintenance and continued upgrades. Do not underestimate these unfunded liabilities. Sprawl is incredibly inefficient. Once there are no more greenfields then prepare for major and sudden tax increases. This is the ponzi scheme. (I LOVE THAT ANALOGY)

There are two parts to roads/sewers/infrustucture ect ect. The initial build AND more important the ongoing liability. It's the ongoing liability that creates the issues for a community/taxpayers. When greenfield development doesn't produce enough revenue to cover the liabilities it creates (as is almost always the case).... thats the ponzi scheme.

Ron Beitler said...

To tie it in with this blogpost... I just want to see more regionalization of planning. PERIOD. Many states have this. Our MPC doesnt.

Take warehouses in the suburbs. Projects like these will cost taxpayers in the end. Thats a fact. This blog mentions the brownfield cache in Bethlehem. This is an example of a location, that if we had a regional planning body I would think they dictate the warehouses should go. Existing infrastructure. Jobs needed. Access to highway. Access to intermodel. ect ect

Now I would disagree with geeting here as he would prefer (guessing) a much more dense new urbanist type of development in a brownfield. But warehouses are a reality. They need to go somewhere. In the suburbs, specifically greenfields makes NO sense.

Another point.... How this type of development hurts the taxpayer....

LANTA wants to beef up routes to fogelsville to accomodate those working at the warehouses/distribution centers who live in Allentown. I would guess this represents the majority of those who work in these centers are coming from. Areas closer to the core and commuting outwards.. So now the taxpayer loses again. We're going to build EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE transit systems further and further and further outward and away from the core b/c we are inneficiently building in greenfields because it benefits a couple wealthy landowners.

Build where the jobs are needed. As close as you can. Esp in the case where the jobs service those who rely on public transportation. This is smart growth 101.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Look, gobbling a cornfield is no justification for cramming an EIT tax diversion down the throats of an unsuspecting municipality. A KOX, TIF or LERTA all require the affected municipality to agree. It also fails to answer why the urban centers, which already receive a mass infusion of subsidies funded by the suburbs, are doing so shitty. It also fails to provide a justification for creating an uneven playing field that will just enable JB Reilly to become a billionaire. And finaly, you seem to forget that there's a 1600-acre brownfield in Bethlehem that is getting screwed. No cornfield there.

Anonymous said...

The brownfield in Bethlehem is getting developed just fine with what it is best suited for, wharehouses.

The small area around ArtsQuest will do just fine gaining tourism related deveopment.

Doc Rock said...

"Squat, dump, and run" is Geeting's MO.

Most cities (including Allentown) have pooper scooper ordinances that make this behavior illegal.

Maybe that's why he lives in NYC.

Bernie O'Hare said...

3:19, Hate to burst your bubble, but much of that brownfield is intended for office space.

Ron Beitler said...

I'm not saying the EIT is right or wrong. I support the goal of it (stronger core) but I question the way it came to be. Absolutely. I do understand why the municipalities are upset in that respect.

I'm saying the suburbs have been subsidized for a long time. Though not IMO in a traditional way by a gov't entity.

It's in the way this growth scheme has been forced on an unsuspecting community for 2 decades using LMT as an example.

The community has been unwillingly subsidizing development and unfunded infrastructure mandates on greenfield projects that don't add value to the community. This is as big a time bomb IMO as the states pension issues.

IMO it does have something to do with Allentown. Why? Because greenfield growth has been subsidized for so long by the taxpayer. This HAS hurt Allentown. No doubt about it.

And I agree to agree that the Bethlehem brownfield I think is being cited above (majestic?) is a GREAT trend. It is being developed with warehouses. This is definitely a good thing.


Bernie O'Hare said...

According to its Mayor and DCED Director, it is also being developed as office space. Why do some people keep forgettng to mention that?

Anonymous said...

I think what is being forgotten here is freedom to choose. The suburbs have grown because many people dont WANT to live in a city or even visit one. Even though I work downtown, there is no amount of development that would convince me to move there. I LIKE the suburbs, as do my neighbors. Thats why we chose to move there.

And did those in the city get to chose the Arena project? I know many of them no longer have a pharmacy to go to since Rite Aid was kicked out. Where is their voice? I guess the do-gooders and politicians know whats best for the rest of us.

And for those of you who want to only blame the Democrats, Senator Browne is a Republican last tme I checked.

Anonymous said...

The "fat lady" is about to sing on the NIZ. The Phantoms will stay in Glen Falls for 2 more seasons. They will move into Sands Arena and Convention Center for the 2014-2015 season. Ed Pawlowski will (and all ready has) turn into Abe Atiyeh suing EVERYONE to get his way.

Obviously the Mayor has never taken an effective negotiating class. Never threaten with a hammer with q-tip negotiations going on.

Kenny Rogers had it right,"you've got to know when to fold." Mr. Mayor it's time to fold and have JB develop the hole with his own money.

Anonymous said...

To Ron beiter
I disagree with your comments about the community paying for the maintenance/upgrades once a developer leaves---The people in these developments pay taxes and sewer/water fees to their municipalities which pay for any upgrades and maintenance of their developments. if i am mis-reading what your intent is or how you believe it goes beyond that-Kindly explain what you mean in more detail.

Ron Beitler said...

@anonymous its Due to the way sprawl is Built out. Incredibly inefficiently. almost never produces the revenue to pay for itself. Here is the best (of many examples, but this is the most clear cut and concise) take the sprawl design staple "the cul de sac"....So here in typical subdevelopment sprawl you have a bran new road bran new sewer line bran new electric service providing acess/water/sewer/electric to a cul de sac that services a grand total of 5 houses. I can walk within a 5 minute radius of my house and see 5 examples of this.(LMT). On this small scale those 5 houses will not produce the tax revenue to pay for the services it gets.

Its developing open lands with public funds to benefit primarily private landowners. Taxpayers subsidize these unfunded infrusructure mandates.

Another LMT example... Take storm water basins. Every new development has at least one. Ok the developer yes normally installs these. We have a couple in the township that currently need re-lining. Conservatively this costs 100,000 dollars each. These low density developments do not generate the revenue to pay for the above mentioned roads/sewer infrastructure. Now add major capital expenses like this every 20 years. Math doesnt work.

Lastly, I live in the township. I love the suburbs... My property is in the village of east Texas. It's an old line/old home stock/not connected to public sewer lot. I fish I love the outdoors I like where I live. Im not a hypocrit im not interested in living in the city. But guess what? Whose gonna get absolutely creamed when the piper comes calling for all the inefficient sprawling development? ME and my neighbors who have been here decades. The interesting thing is people who moved here 5 / 10 years ago are now in the same situation if we don't change the way we think right now. So isnt an us vs them thing. We're all in this together now to find the solution.

I hope that makes sense. If I'm wrong tell me why.

Am I totally against growth in the suburbs? No. We need it now. We need to diversify (not just simply grow) the tax base to make up for two decades of poor planning. What do I support? Infill and Mixed use in old line neighborhoods and mixed use buffer Ones. These are revenue winners. NO MORE greenfield development. This is a revenue loser.

I have many more examples of greenfield development not paying for itself as well.

Doc Rock said...

Beitler said,

"Am I totally against growth in the suburbs? No. We need it now. We need to diversify (not just simply grow) the tax base to make up for two decades of poor planning. What do I support? Infill and Mixed use in old line neighborhoods and mixed use buffer Ones. These are revenue winners. NO MORE greenfield development. This is a revenue loser."

Lots of words. Here's the only four needed to summarize your opinion:

"Not in my backyard."

Ron Beitler said...

@Doc Rock ....
Not at all. Not that simple. This is a dollars and cents issue. This is a tax issue and a sustainable development issue. It's a philosophy of what allows development to occur without putting strain on the taxpayers to subsidize infrastructure for projects that benefit very few (wealthy landowners) but cost us all. (taxpayers)

To say its a NIMBY is over-simplifying it. And also just not relavent.

NIMBLY applies to say... someone doesnt want a wal-mart near them. Or to say when Jaindl threatens a turkey farm or quarry to get what he really wants. Thats NIMBY.

What I advocate for is re-evaluating the whole philosophy to make development more sustainable so it does not always depend on constantly growing the tax base eating up more and more greenfield development over and over and over.