Will Weatherly is a contributor to RI Future and a senior editor at the College Hill Independent. He lives in Providence, RI. You can follow him on Twitter @willbweatherly.

6 responses to “Jewelry District garage gets public funding for private parking spaces”

  1. cailin rua

    I don’t recall anyone who writes about transportation here complaining about tax giveaways to real estate investment trust companies whether they masquerade as “science and technological innovation” companies, or not. As I recall the “New Urbanists” were all very enthusiastic about the Wexford real estate company coming in, as well as all the other tax rebate subsidized “infill” development in the 195 nuovo free enterprise zone. I don’t recall any of them complaining about the public subsidization for huge corporate interests. McDonald’s? Cool, very, just as long as they remove their drive thru plans and move the storefront to the inside edge of the sidewalk . . . . mmmmm, yummy.

    A parking garage is not a surface lot, by the way, at least not the lower levels, although the rooftop level involves the impervious surface problems all “infill” development does.

    As I recall, there was a proposal by James Kennedy to extract parking fees around Providence so the revenue could be given over to the local merchants. Where would the money go? CVS, Starbucks, the Brown Bookstore, Dunkin’ Doughnuts, Bank of America, Teas and Javas, Alex and Ani until they leave in the middle of the night . . . ? How is that different than having Providence and R I citizens rendered as customers of a neoliberal city that exists to support the mutual fund portfolios of the the almost upper half of the population and the corporate interests who have no responsibility to anyone else, particularly Mitt Romney’s lower “47%” who disproportionately fund these welfare for the wealthy projects? Seems to me all the “stakeholders” have always been on the same page re: subsidies for the “winners” in life at the expense of the “losers”.

    Otherwise, thanks for the reporting on this. If I were in Casablanca, however, under the Vichy regime and approached by the Nazis about all the gambling taking place, I would have to express my utter shock and dismay. The house always wins, doesn’t it, though? Lincoln Steffens turns like a lathe . . . Up the Fane! Now!!! Enforce Zoning Laws!!! Until someone with enough money and power is available to have them changed!

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  2. cailin rua

    Upon further reflection I have to admit that James Kennedy’s proposal, when a tax on surface parking lots is abstracted from other parts of it, might have the intended outcome he suggests, “might” being the operative word. From my recollections, however, Kennedy’s proposal was much broader – citywide land use taxes, where improvements to property, in general, would NOT be taxed. Only the land underneath it would be. It seems like such a Calvinistic idea – only the monied, successful elite – the “good man” an expression such people are fond of using – would have enough capital to provide Kennedy’s idea of doing “justice” to the valuable land under which buildings sit, not just surface parking lots. Those with less liquidity would be pressured to sell their valuable property at reduced rates to the deep pocketed under such a system. How drastic the devalorization of of current real estate values resulting would be a function of how high the taxes would be under such a system. And, where would the tax revenues from taxing under land use tax schemes go? To more developers looking for TSAs and to TIF districts, or worse? “Market based solutions” to environmental problems just drive us further into the hands of mega corporations and wealth preservation non-profits which erodes any real kind of grass roots democracy and any kind of programs to distribute wealth more equally.

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  3. Barry Schiller

    We need James Kennedy to come back to RI!
    The auto culture that subsidies for parking encourage is a good example of “tragedy of the commons” in that maximizing personal convenience by driving everywhere, because almost everybody else also does it, ruins the “commons” for all, leaving the world uglier, more polluted, more congested, and risking even more rapid climate change with declining cities and too many overweight obese people.
    For Providence, no matter how many subsidized garages there is never enough free at the door parking to compete with the suburbs and strip malls, yet there is too much parking for real street life, or for transit to succeed. Yet there are those who can’t or don’t drive so we still need transit even though its not successful in really helping the city thrive.
    So in a way in central Providence we have the worst of both worlds, inadequate parking and inadequate transit.

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  4. cailin rua

    John Work, in his book, What Is and What Isn’t, takes up the issue of the logical fallacy known as ‘The Good Man Argument’:

    “When correct principles have been adopted, and the elections do not involve any question of principle, but merely involve the selection of the fittest person to fill the various positions, the good man theory will become logical. But, so long as there are great principles involved in the elections, the good man theory is entirely illogical . . . “, without even getting into the inherent sexism involved. So, I choose not to reply to whether a person is of ‘good character’, or not but, rather, analyze policy proposals.”

    There is a fallacy that seems to be related to the ad hominem fallacy called the Star Power fallacy. I call it the Cult of Personality Fallacy.

    My first question relates to whether revenue obtained under a land use tax scheme would actually go toward ‘affordable housing’. Where on any of the 195 parcels is ‘affordable housing’ going up? Does housing for Johnson & Wales students count? Would Paolino’s and Granoff’s micro lofts count if they were within the district? How will and does the population housed in such developments change the voting demographic in Providence? How transient is the population? How much concern is there among any for the school system here, long term infrastructure, etc.?

    I don’t think the real question of the parking garage has much to do with transportation. The real issue is public support for private enterprise for not only the parking garage but for all the TSA projects in Providence and TIF districts being established not only in Providence but in places like Bristol. The bicycle lobby elides the fact that while there is no public revenue for improvements in mass transit and bike lanes, there is plenty for private developers and focuses on regressive taxation to accomplish their goals. 

Three quarters of the parking spaces are going toward a subsidy for the Wexford real estate company. That’s another 30+ million dollar subsidy for the real estate investment trust. Another 200 spaces will also be allocated to visitors and employees at the Garrahy Judicial Complex on Dorrance street. Who would those visitors be??? People who will soon be in debt to the state in the way of fines, or incarcerated soon, people who will also probably will saddled with huge lawyer fees. So, out of 1250 parking spaces, 150 will be reserved for others. How many of those will be tourists in rental cars or Zip Cars who pay no local taxes? What does any of this have to do with ‘car culture’?

 How much does the state pay for the basketball coach whose team plays in an arena, paid for with funds also provided by R I taxpayers, named after the person who was one of the greatest proponents of tax cuts for his class and whose baseball team is now being subsidized by the same aforementioned taxpayers? And yet the blame is put on those who are also forking over the dough to pay for a 43 million dollar parking garage built to maximize a real estate investment trust’s profits that will find further workarounds to avoid their fair share of the tax burden and send all the revenue captured far out of our state economy?

    Land use taxes are not some bright and shiny new idea. They are as old as Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. Progressives and socialists became disillusioned with the ideas which were promoted by Henry George over a century ago.

    Contrast the following remarks. From Lisa Schweitzer, associate professor of urban planning at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy, where she teaches classes in city life and structure, >>>’justice in public policy’<<<, and public transit:

    “How do we keep from taxing single-family homeowners out of their homes with land value assessments . . . ?

‘The answer is, in the long-term, we don’t. Guys, I don’t know how to say this any more clearly: having single-family housing by transit stations is a terrible idea.

    ‘We may feel sorry for individuals who are caught in the whipsaw of prior generations of bad policy decisions . . . Over the long term, cities need those single-family homes by transit to become something else. Sorry.’”


From Michael Hudson’s ‘Henry Georges Political Critics’:



“George's refusal to deal with the debt problem alienated some of his strongest supporters. Michael Flürscheim, a leader of the European land reform movement, expressed his impatience with George's focus on the land to the exclusion of all other rentier revenues:

    Henry George, his predecessors and disciples, have rendered an invaluable service to the world by clearly demonstrating the part played by land in the process of distribution. They have gone too far, however, in making the monopolization of land solely responsible for the miscarriage of economic progress . . . Not only have they left out of sight the important role performed by Money in the human tragedy, but they have not even dreamt of the possibility that this despised Money might, after all, play the part of the principal villain.23”



    “George was edged out by the Tammany Hall candidate, and after some internal feuding he proceeded to form his own political party. As he became more sectarian, 12 criticisms of his political strategy became paramount:

    * 1 George's refusal to join with other reformers to link his proposals with theirs, or to absorb theirs into his own campaign;

    * 2 his singular focus on ground rent to the exclusion of other forms of exploitation;

    * 3 his almost unconditional support of capital, even against labor;

    * 4 his economic individualism rejecting a regulatory or planning role for government;

    * 5 his opposition to public ownership of resources and enterprises;
    * 6 his refusal to acknowledge interest as the twin form of rentier income alongside ground rent;

    * 7 the scant emphasis he placed on urban and owner‐occupied land;

    * 8 his endorsement of the Democratic Party's free‐trade platform;

    * 9 his rejection of an academic platform to elaborate rent theory;

    * 10 the narrowness of his theorizing beyond the land question;

    * 11 the alliance of his followers with the right wing of the political spectrum; and

    * 12 the hope that full taxation of ground rent could be enacted gradually rather than requiring a radical confrontation to shift control of government.

    "Rather than being intrinsic to the Single Tax, these positions reflected George's personal views. They effectively ended the dialogue between his followers and other reformers of his day. By 1888, George's most important political ally, Father McGlynn—who had been excommunicated from the Catholic Church for his support of George—felt obliged to expel him from the United Labor Party, of which George was the original leader in the aftermath of his 1886 New York City campaign. The party soon fell apart.3”

    The big question is why there is so much enthusiasm for reviving old dead policy proposals that date back to the Gilded Age. I think the answer lies in Hudson’s analysis of George, particularly where Hudson asserts George was actually aligned with free market libertarians and as averse to challenging Big Finance hegemony over the economy as today’s descendants of the ’80’s yuppies, the New Urbanists, are today.

The New Urbanists represent the so called “radical center” and the attitudes seem to reflect the mean spiritedness contained in Lisa Schweitzer’s comments from her own blog.

    The New Urbanists seem hell bent on expropriating the property of the middle class, not to distribute wealth more equally but to favor well financed big developers while dispossessing the small property owner and sending them into bankruptcy. It’s a curious hybrid – Marxian Capitalism.

    Lisa Schweitzer says "we should all remember our Riccardo." Really?

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  5. cailin rua

    I’ll try that link to ‘Georges Political Critics’ again:


    If it doesn’t work here it can be copied and pasted into your browser. It works for me. Bonne chance!

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  6. leftyrite

    Nine hundred publicly funded parking spaces, for private use

    in an undistinguished parking garage containing space for 1250.

    Sounds like the usual bullshit deal.

    The Democratic Party, held together by bondo.

    We need gravitas.

    We need tenacity.

    We need kindness.

    We, most of all, need to celebrate diversity and a positive attitude towards



    We need a HAPPY WARRIOR.

    We need Aaron Regunberg to, someday, lead the Democratic Party in Rhode Island.

    So, let’s elect him and really start him down a major road.

    This kid is special.

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