Richmond Anti-Poverty Commission Report
The Anti-Poverty Commission report was released yesterday. The Commission’s recommendations are:
1. Expand workforce development (training)
2. Improve public education
3. Secure job creation
4. Improve public transit, and expand that transit out of the city center
5. De-centralize public housing to disperse poverty, but in such a way that residents are not involuntarily displaced or dropped from public housing.
Full report available in PDF format through the title link.
3:53 pm • 19 January 2013 • 3 notes
Update: the Redskins training camp is fiscally problematic at absolute best.
I’ll make it pretty later, but here’s what I’ve got so far. First, the situation:
The city is planning to build a summer training camp for the Washington Redskins behind the Virginia Science Museum. They are doing so out of pocket, with no contribution from the team, under the assumption that the publicity generated by the yearly camp will bring in revenue more than sufficient to cover the cost of building and maintaining the camp, and paying the Redskins half a million dollars per year for the next eight years.
So far, the city government has arranged a deal with Bon Secours in order to secure $8 to $10 million dollars (reports conflict) in funding for the project. In exchange for this contribution, the city leased them a piece of land worth appraised at $7 million for $5,000 a year for sixty years. This article alleges that the property actually could have fetched closer to $30 million on the open market.
Additionally, it appears that the outgoing school board is preparing to surplus several properties (of varying worth and use to the public school system) to the city government, that the city may likewise use those properties to secure more contributions to the camp.
The city is making such a breakneck effort to secure the camp based on an economic impact study performed by Chmura Economics and Analytics, which states that the camp will bring in at least $8 million a year for the Richmond economy, mostly through the 100,000 visitors per year that they expect the camp to attract. The full impact study is not available to the public without paying a hefty fee at their website- I couldn’t afford to purchase access to the whole thing, so I’m using the number cited in this Richmond Times-Dispatch article regarding the deal with Bon Secours.
First, however, Chmura Economics and Analytics themselves:
An associate (feraleconomist, though he doesn’t post much) has reviewed the firm’s website, and by cursory review, discovered that they’re basically supply-side, growth model economists (or, their two head guys are). Their website actually asserts that the recession ended, that we’ll be back at pre-recession employment levels within two years, and predicts only a 5% chance of falling back into one, under the current circumstances.
That’s pretty plainly not true. Though they relate to macroeconomic philosophy, while the report in question is much more specific, I think those claims are enough to call their report’s passingly odd numbers into further question.
So, here are the numbers:
The firm predicts that the camp will receive an average of 100,000 visitors per year- not counting employees, just visitors- which would be an influx of people equivalent to half of the population of Richmond, every year. This is where they expect the majority of the revenue to come from, spending from those 100,000 visitors. This number is hence the most important to interrogate.
Spaced over a year, that number seems appropriate- however, during 2012, there were only 13 days during which practices at the Redskins camp were open to the public. This appears to be standard practice, by the many reports I’ve read regarding the camp at its various locations, and summer NFL camps in general. Unless the management of the camp were to change drastically from the industry standard, that would be about 7,700 people influxing every day of the camp.
When the camp was hosted in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, it drew an average of 800 spectators on weekdays, a little over 1,000 on average for each practice, and a total of 25,000 per year (citation). At their year-round facility in Loudon County, they get about 20,000 visitors a year (citation). Keep in mind that the year-round facility is open to the public for more than two weeks every year.
Carlisle is a much smaller area than Richmond- its Mass Statistical Area reports a population of about 500,000 in 2010, whereas Richmond’s MSA has double that, at about a million. I thought that this might account for the discrepancy- maybe Chmura was just multiplying based on the population and accessibility of the area near the camp. Richmond is a bigger city, and right off of both I-95 and 64. I did some comparisons to see what happened.
To make sure I was selecting comparable teams, I consulted this Forbes list of most profitable franchises, checked around to eliminate franchises that were profitable not for ticket sales or merchandise because of sweetheart deals for their facilities (the Buffalo Bills popped up, but I wasn’t going to compare them anyway), and selected one higher on the list than the Redskins (#3), and one lower. So, comparing the numbers for the New England Patriots (#2) and the New York Giants (#4), here’s what came up:
The New York Giants held their training camps in Albany for fifteen years, and attracted an average of 33,000 visitors per year, with a record 46,960 in 2009 (citation). Albany is a city of 97,000 in 2010, and its MSA reported 870,000, on a bit smaller than half the population of Richmond’s MSA. A city half the size yielded half the projected visitors, but only in a record-breaking year; otherwise it rode at about a third of the numbers projected in the Redskins analysis, for a city half the size and a general population area nearly as large.
The New England Patriots hold summer practice at their year-round facility, and once received 14,000 visitors in a single day… But their facility is in Boston, a city three times the size of Richmond, with a metro area population of 7.6 million, or, seven times larger than Richmond’s population. I was unable to find average daily visitor numbers for the Patriots.
Given these discrepancies in numbers, I don’t think it’s realistic to try to examine the proposed economic impact without first getting a closer look at how the visitor projections came about, and then tackling the whole other problem of the infrastructure costs related to putting that volume of people into one place for two weeks. It’d be a lot easier to plumb the methodology here if the report weren’t behind a paywall, but here’s what we have so far.
From what I can tell with the information I’ve seen, Richmond is getting screwed on this one.
6:10 pm • 13 November 2012 • 5 notes
Turns out that the construction of the Redskins training camp is happening the same way all major Richmond projects happen.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports on the controversy surrounding the construction of the Washington Redskins’ summer training camp, which is being paid for in part by Bon Secours.
This contribution (a little over six million dollars) was secured by the city through a deal where it essentially gave Bon Secours some real estate worth around seven million. The Redskins are not contributing any money to the construction of the camp; essentially, Richmond is giving them a gift- plus yearly payments- in return for eight years of their presence, which proponents argue will create revenue from tourism.
The Richmond model of urban planning appears to work something like this: build stuff to attract suburbanites, pay for it with money from city residents, ignore those residents (“Sorry, we just don’t have the money to fully fund Richmond Public Schools!”), hope the numbers work out in the end. The whole system has to do with courting possible spenders who don’t live here, and using public money to do it- in economic jargon, this is called ‘cannibalizing a revenue stream’.
Colloquially, it’s called ‘a mode of urban planning that was discredited before WWII, but a really convenient fallback for politicians who want to do favors to the wealthy and influential under the guise of savvy management.’
12:24 am • 28 October 2012 • 6 notes
Reminder: City Council will discuss a proposed “Citizen Advisory Commission on Alternatives to Incarceration” tonight.
City Council is tonight, at 6:00pm, at City Hall (900 East Broad Street). The Council will be discussing:
“Commission shall make recommendations to City Council and Mayor concerning:
- The impact of the policies and practices of the city’s criminal justice system on the incarceration rate at the Justice Center.
- The development of resources that are designed to benefit residents of the Justice Center and persons reentering the community after incarceration.
- The development of private business enterprises to provide employment to the residents of the Justice Center and persons reentering the community after incarceration.
- Policies of the city’s criminal justice system that affect the community.”
See more, including full text, here. If you miss it, Silver Persinger will be filming.
9:17 am • 22 October 2012
Carytown Fresh Market refuses food stamp/food assistance payments
Style Weekly reports that the new Carytown Fresh Market refuses both WIC and SNAP food assistance payments. The two prevailing theories are that either the store lacks the system to accommodate those types of payments but will implement them eventually, or the company doesn’t wish to serve people receiving food assistance.
The article doesn’t actually provide much information, but it’s something to keep an eye on. More egregious are the many, many comments that the article got, most of them comprised of some variation of “poor people don’t deserve nice food anyway”, “government assistance is a privilege”, and “it’s nobody’s business if a company doesn’t like poor people!”
Mayor Jones will supposedly be intervening on behalf of food-assistance users.
10:24 pm • 20 September 2012 • 11 notes
Overcoming Richmond's Racial Divide: Standing Together to End Poverty
Thursday, October 9th at 7pm, at the First Unitarian Universalist Church (1000 Blanton Avenue) the Richmond Peace Education Center will be holding a forum, titled “Ending Richmond’s Racial Divide: Standing Together to End Poverty”. Speakers include David Hicks, Duron Chavis, Sookyung Oh, and Thad Williamson.
The forum is timed to coincide with the release of the Mayor’s Anti-Poverty Commission report.
RSVP through the title link.
1:43 pm • 19 September 2012 • 4 notes
Why this is happening: City Council, education funding, and poisonous schools
Mayor Dwight Jones and the Council want to make Richmond a tier one city- they want fancy attractions and beautiful buildings and huge, prestigious projects, to draw in the tourists and make the Downtown cityscape look shiny and metropolitan.
To facilitate these construction and renovation projects, they passed the Prepared Meals Tax, which brought in $24 million last year alone. When the tax was passed, its proponents promised that it would go to fund education.
It did not.
This year, the Landmark theater is getting a $14 million dollar renovation, on the basis of some very poorly-reasoned profit projections from the Richmond CenterStage. This same year, the Richmond City Council voted against filling the Richmond Public Schools budget gap, which amounted to somewhere between $10 million and $16 million.
We’re seeing the consequences of that funding gap now. The School Board has decided to reopen Norrell Elementary, the toxic school built on a landfill that public pressure shut down six years ago, to host a preschool program. I promise that they’re doing this for money reasons- it costs money to bus Barton Heights kids to the East End, and it costs money to maintain an empty building. Now they’re so short on money that they’re planning on sending 250 toddlers to a school full of poison gasses and mold.
The City Council’s budget decisions give money to multi-million dollar projects like the mostly-unused Convention Center, or the unprofitable Landmark Theatre, at the expense of children in public schools. They spend all the tax money on building a pretty facade, but underneath the gloss of beautiful culture centers and expansive sports venues there is immense lack and deprivation, and they are shrugging their shoulders and refusing to lift a finger for the poor.
9:41 pm • 2 September 2012 • 9 notes