Controlling Our City’s Destiny

Update 2-12-14
City of Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner announces her opposition to a OCIDA tax break for the Destiny USA hotel (and 18 year PILOT–and I’m sure the payments will go directly to defraying the costs of construction and access to the site–so absolutely no money will flow to the city or county in property taxes.)

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There is no better metaphor for the Destiny USA mall and its relations with local governments and taxpayers than the smashed-up, upside down, crashed house of Wonder Works featured inside the mall.

The most troubling aspect of the recent announcement that Bob Congel and the other parasites that control Destiny USA is planning to open a new hotel that will cater to shoppers who travel long distances to the mall, is the second part of the announcement: Destiny and its owner Bob Congel will seek tax breaks from the Onondaga County Industrial Development Agency for the project.

Yes, after running a classic burn on everyone involved with city of Syracuse tax breaks and getting 30 years of tax exemptions for both the original mall and the new expansion (while building none of the outlandish amenities promised in return for such unprecedented taxpayer largesse) Destiny USA knew it had worn out its welcome when Common Councilor (and outspoken Destiny opponent) Stephanie Miner was elected Mayor.

But when has tradition, custom or the common wisdom ever stopped Destiny USA in its voracious pursuit of tax deals? The best example was in 2006, as Destiny USA watched then-Mayor of Syracuse Matt Driscoll fire Teri Bright as the head of the city’s Law Department and from her seat on the local Syracuse industrial Development Agency (SIDA): on the very same morning when SIDA voted to approve Destiny tax breaks at an emergency meeting to which Ms. Bright had not been invited. Destiny USA plays hardball.

Now, Destiny USA is going across town to the Onondaga County industrial Development Agency (OCIDA) to get additional tax breaks for a hotel–one of the many amenities that was supposed to be covered by the tax deals it already received from the city.

The County and City have always had a tacit agreement to not have their Industrial Development Agencies fund projects in the other’s turf. Breaking this agreement means the city of Syracuse is now practically bereft of any ability to withstand the tremendous pressures placed by developers for tax breaks from the financially struggling city. If a company doesn’t get what it wants from one IDA, it can run across town and get it from the other–playing each like a fiddle. The only ones that get hurt are taxpayers already facing cuts to essential services like police, fire and schools, budget caps and overwhelming pressures to invest in any snake oil salesman that comes to town promising jobs and untold riches.

If these projects are going to be such profitable enterprises, why do they need tax breaks?

If these projects are going to provide jobs and untold benefits to local residents–why will no developer sign community benefit agreements to guarantee local hiring?

Bob Congel is rolling us again–playing off the city IDA controlled by the mayor and the county IDA controlled by the County Legislature. It seems that the city’s Destiny is to get fucked.

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