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Dissolve Northampton BID and start again

To the editor:

Northampton’s Business Improvement District as it stands is an expensive boondoggle. And the financial formulas are grossly unfair. An example: Why should apartment renters end up paying an increase in rent while residential condo owners are exempt?

In their desperate haste to implement the BID, its cheerleaders came in with a slick brochure and PowerPoint presentation and a hard sell. They gerrymandered the BID boundaries to exclude certain non-supporters.

They pegged the contribution rate at the highest possible rate. I could go on.

Sure, the downtown looks nicer. But at what cost? (And whatever happened to storeowners sweeping their own walks?) The BID as it stands will raise hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from property owners, many of whom have no way to pass the cost on to their tenants. And we are not talking about chump change. In a variation on NIMBY, many entities have a vote in the BID but pay nothing. (“Sure, I’m for it, as long as I don’t have to pay for it.”)

I am not against having a modest BID in Northampton if its cost could be reduced by 80 or 90 percent. As it stands, the BID as set up by the state, and the implementation of it in Northampton, is unfair, arbitrary, unnecessary and disproportionately expensive.

It has set up a mini-empire that is controlled by — whom? Who really benefits? Now that the rules of participation have been changed, I urge the BID to somehow allow all affected property owners to vote based on all the facts. The only fair way I can see that happening is to dissolve the current BID and start over.

Francis A. Johnson

Northampton

Unfortunately, dissolving the BID voluntarily is not an option for this problem. When any taxing authority has the ability to extract approximately $1.0M annually from about five hundred property owners so the taxing authority doesn't have to increase the tax rate for the other 29,500 taxpayers who voted to keep Mayor and City Councilors in their jobs, it's a given that the only way to eliminate the Northampton BID is through the legal process. This is a costly and slow way to achieve fairness, but, I fear that there is no other option. Jeff Dwyer

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