State Audit, Mutual of Omaha, and the "Rail Car"
Property Taxes Going Up in a Digital Economy?
Omaha City Council member Brinker Harding was interviewed by Ian Swanson of KFAB about the Mutual of Omaha project and “rail car”. You can catch the interview at either link below:
The interview was horrendously lacking in facts and rested heavily on empty platitudes and Omaha cheer leading. There were also numerous curious points raised without any answers. If you read my newsletter enough, you know I am very sour on the project. However, I am even more stunned by the economics the advocates keep pushing as they sound like optimistic speculators selling a scam. Most of the research being presented to the City is based on a pre-COVID economy and pre-COVID numbers. Much has changed as the pandemic boosted the growth of the digital economy.
For example, Uber is widely used, not just for transporting people but food as well. This reduces the utility of a streetcar or even owning a car. Go check your local restaurants and see how many Uber deliveries they have. Ask people if they ever used Uber. Most people have used Uber and it has changed Omaha's economy. The digital economy has moved away from factories towards cottage industries. More people work from home and have home businesses. This is how a digital economy works and mobile smart phones have made it convenient. There is no physical core for such an economy. I am trying to explain to OPPD the importance of reducing power outages as such outages negatively impact the Omaha economy which is heavily digital. Omaha needs reliable energy sources, not a "rail car". You can track outages at https://stormandoutage.com
Furthermore, the national economy has many problems. Supply chain issues, labor shortages and inflation are not being factored into the costs of the project. I seriously doubt a streetcar could be built without going way over budget and not being completed for several years. I doubt Mutual of Omaha will be able to build a skyscraper over 30 stories without running into substantial problems. There is also no stated plans for the existing Mutual of Omaha buildings. Without any potential users for such buildings on the horizon, these buildings are likely to be town down.
The TIF being used for the project will force property taxes to go up. The very large TIF, over 300 million dollars, for this project will impact Omaha Public School (OPS) district for up to 20 years. They will be put into a budget crunch and forced to raise property taxes. This will result in a cascade of tax liens, and force many families out of the district. In a digital economy, the exodus will be easy.
The advocates assume the skyscraper will add revenue but that is years down the road. Also, we still do not really know how big it will be. I have good reason to believe their numbers are overly optimistic. Also, since OPS is the largest educator of racial minorities, and the TIF will negatively impact their education, the project is tainted by racism. In addition, this very large TIF will negatively affect Douglas County whose revenues are nearly exclusively property taxes. Since both OPS and Douglas County are also losing funds because of the results of a state audit, they are going to be in a crunch and and very likely to raise property taxes. (https://www.ketv.com/article/nebraska-state-audit-douglas-county-treasurer-over-under-paid-school-districts-city-by-millions/40090480)
I encourage everyone in the County to contact Commissioners and start asking questions about this project and the audit:
If you are in Omaha, also contact your City Council members:
And if you are in the Omaha Public School district, contact them as well: