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Having witnessed the dismal failure of conventional methods of economic development, we here in Crumm Mountain, have chosen to embark on a truly unique journey towards economic prosperity. All around us, cities are competing for industry and jobs, offering all kinds of tax incentives and giveaways to attract new businesses and keep existing ones. This model of growth has pitted cities against one another in an economically devestating race to the bottom.
The effects of these policy's are embarrassingly on display in upstate NY cities like Schenectady, Amsterdam, Hudson, and Newburgh, among many others. City governments grovel at the feet of business and industry leaders, sparing no effort to accomodate each and every demand they might come up with. Crumm Mountain takes the opposite approach. We are actually enacting policies designed to deter and drive out businesses. Insane! You must be thinking. Well, yes a little. But we actually believe we can make Crumm Mountain a better place to live for the people who live here, not just for the businesses and their absentee owners. Since the Social Democrats took control of the City Legislature and the Mayors office, we have raised city property taxes on all of our major industries, and are currently in the process of enacting a corporate profits tax. We want local corporations to know, that if there not willing to pay their proportionate share of taxes to the City of Crumm Mountain, then they're not welcome here. No backwards-bending inside these city borders. Already companies such as Schorex Chemicals, and Central Leatherstocking Industries have threatened to be reviewing location incentives from other cities. McDonalds and Wal-Mart two major chain franchises have threatened to shutdown operations after the city raised the minimum wage. And to this we say: Good. We'd love dearly to be rid of McDonalds, we'd much rather support an independantly-owned resturaunt, so that we could be keeping Crumm Mountains wealth in Crumm Mountain, and not sending it to McDonalds corporate headquarters so a boardroom ful of executives can ride around in yachts while actual restauraunt workers are paid the bare minimum of wages. No siree.
Instead we are cooperating in the transformation of selected industries into experimental workers-owned collectives. This involves a fundamental rearrangement of traditional business structures. Whereby traditional ownership and management positions would be dissolved, and all an entities profits would be enjoyed by the workers who created them. The basic premise is this: if Wal-Mart can make millions of dollars in discount retail. Why can't we operate such an outfit communally where all the workers would prosper collectively, instead of concentrating profits on the upper rungs of a corporate pyramid? This can work for virtually any type of industry. Food service, manufacturing, entertainment, etc. Granted, there are certain functions that workers might not be able to handle on their own. The intricate financial manuevering, the hours of paperwork. The corporate bureacracy. How can a bunch of workers replicate these skills? Well they don't have to. Theres no reason that these services can't be provided by the government as a civil service. And paid for by a small tax paid by each worker. We must remember, that without the exhorbitant salaries of directors, and the concept of company profit. There is so much more capital to go around. This allows for more government taxation for services such as healthcare coverage, city infrastructure, transportation, education, and other nescessary social services. Call this socialism if you will, it's just a good a description as any. But me, I prefer to see this as a democratization of the economy. And it's the centerpiece of Mayor Stan Grouke's agenda, whom the people of Crumm Mountain have proudly elected twice.
With such an arrangement gathering feasibility, we are poising ourselves to replace the cities present business community with these such worker-owned collectives. Our objective is to make our taxes so high, and our regulations so onerous, that businesses are compelled to flee the city. When this happens we can use the swelled tax revenue to invest in these collectives, that will move into the facilities of the departed companies. Clearly, there are sound alternatives to our present economic system. The people of Crumm Mountain have been awakened to this, and therefore it is the hopes of this administration, that others will be inspired by our success.
The City of Crumm Mountain is committed to a responsible, socially conscious model of economic growth that focuses on a radical democratization of assets and prosperity. The road to this goal is two-fold; Support for worker-run collectives on the one hand and independantly-run small businesses that are creative and envelope-pushing on the other. The latter of course, useful for attracting tourism interest. Crumm Mountain already has a reputation as a counter-cultural or bohemian hotbed. Augmenting this perception can only be beneficial to the city. And in not only an economic sense, but a social and cultural sense. As not only will our own citizens be enriched from the artistic, political, and musical innovation taking place, but visitors from all over the country and in fact the world will be enriched as well.
The old model of growth as established by Bill Walling and The Progress Committee in the mid 90's focused on attracting firms from outside the city, which would create only a few jobs, and little else but more contributions to Republican political coffers. They called this investment. And it was. Just not a very good one. Heres the deal; we lower taxes on business, endure cutbacks in city services. And sure, a few jobs are created. But these people will probably end up leaving Chlymidia Mountain because city taxes would have rised to offset the tax revenue not being paid by the municipal service- draining job creators. Sounds like a bad investment to me. Bill Walling and the Progress Committee's true, unspoken designs however were a lot more sinister then just some bad investent. Under their plan, once the city's poor could no longer handle the low wage jobs and the high property tax rates and left the city altogether. The old neighborhoods could be gentrified. People who are a little more well to do, could move in. Wealthy enough to withstand the higher tax rates, they would essentially foot the bill for local industry to produce their goods without paying taxes or decent wages to their employees who no longer live in the city. Eventually industry more suitable for the new upper class citizenry would begin to develop. Such as financial and legal services, and other white collar jobs. When this happens, the original industries, largely blue collar and manufacturing will no longer be catered to, as the people who work for them are no longer political constituents of city planners. They served their purpose, now they can go elsewhere. Thanks to a vigilant press, and a committed intellectual and artistic movement, the people of Chlymidia Mountain caught on quick to this insideous form of slash-and-burn capitalism. Hence the cities drastic turn towards socialism. This calculated process of gentrification and sterilization, was undertaken by a cabal of "insiders", economic planners and greedy developers. A complete cast of characters described below for your personal records.
Bill Walling-Republican mayor elected in 1994
Robert Merrick-Owner of Merrick Developing. A company that did commercial and residential development projects.
Lester Verenoff Inc. Another such developer
Harry Nelsen-Commissioner of Business and Development. Largely considered a patronage-oriented appointment. Harry Nelsen's brother Albert Nelsen, was Chairman of the APO-Bensen company. A city-based computer chip manufacturer. Harry Nelsen was later convicted on corruption charges, and is now working at Wal-Mart.
Doug Castleton-CEO of Klein Rollins Weaponry. Had a direct interest in perpetuating favorable citywide tax and regulatory treatment.
Kirsten Aasbo-CEO of Schorex Chemical Company, a CM-based chemical manufacturer. Had interests similar to Douglas Castleton
Michael Terrell-Bill Wallings Treasury Secretary, responsible for the implementation of the Progress Committee's designs.
Several years ago Terrell left city government to pursue his musical ambitions.
Adam Deemer-A prominent conservative attorney, a chief architect of much of the legal manuevers designed to harrass and intimidate local small businesses, and residents living in development-targeted zones.
Prior to 1993, The Progress Committee met in secret and refused to publicly acknowledge it's existence. It was probably founded sometime in the late 60's, by business and political leaders. We know that by the time the 80's came around Byron Slaughter and Doug Castleton had become members of the Progress Committee.
The result was a plan for gentrification and sterilization that would have irrevocably changed the very soul of Chlymidia Mountain, and even the city's name itself. The Grouke administration is opposed to this. It is our goal to enhance and augment the cities eccentric nature. By working cooperatively with the punk community and other local community organizations Mayor Grouke has fostered a form of growth that is friendly to the city and economically beneficial to the city as well.
Commissioner of The Department of Small
Business and economic development
Heavy manufacturing facilities, have always called Crumm Mountain home. From the early 1900's when Crumm Mountain reached it's peak as an industrial center, to the 1950's and 60's when city leaders tried to revive the cities old glories by inviting Halperin Moot. Today that goal of revitalizing Crumm Mountains industrial infrastructure has been realized. Although the city was hit hard by the loss of Thompson Manufacturing in 1997, the city remains a strong and virile economic entity. Businesses like KleinRollins employ over 3000 people, manufacturing firearms components. APO-Bensen employs about 1000 people, producing computer chips. Schorex Chemicals, with a massive facility in Gomorrha Heights, employs another 1000 people brewing up a nice hodgepodge of toxic chemicals. Devereaux and Whittaker, is a prestigious law firm, based in Pomegranate Valley. The firm, is well-known for it's wealthy clientele, which includes, most of the local businesses, and other wealthy individuals. Then theres Wal-Mart, who employs about 500 people, in the city in it's supercenter. Between it's Crumm Mountain supercenter, it's Cobleskill supercenter, and it's Sharon Springs distribution center, Wal-Mart employs a good 1500 people in Schoharie County. They also pay the crummiest wages in the county. Here in Crumm Mountain, workers are trying to do something about that. They're trying to organize into a union. The UFCW, would like to represent the workers, but it looks they're going with the more radical General Distribution Retail Workers Union, which is part of the IWW. Earlier this year, Guilford Mills, a textile manufacturer closed down in Cobleskill, putting about 500 people out of a job. Many of these people will find work in Crumm Mountain, many at Wal-Mart.
Presently, these facilities are all privately owned. There have been several occasions were members of the socialist movement have called for the city to confiscate these facilities and run them for the benefit of the public and the working class. Support for such proposals is hard to come by, especially in a City that was run by Republicans up until 1998. However, since Stan Grouke, a social democrat, was elected mayor in 1998, and the social democrat coalition took control over the city legislature in 2001, proposals such as these have been given serious consideration. One such proposal that is being worked on by a joint effort of both the City Legislature and the Small Business and Socio-Economic Development Commission headed by Pauline Sorensen, is the purchase of the Thompson Industrials site which has sat vacant since 1997. A plan being worked on presently calls for the plant to be re-opened by the city.
Under this plan, if the plant is successful it will primarily benefit the workers and the city. The investment will come from the public, and the return will go to the public. This wouldn't come at any extra cost for the taxpayers, because the public ordinarily provides the initial investment for these kinds of projects anyway, only now the public would see a much more fruitful return on their investment.
Steve Tunnel is a collaborater on a new book titled Capitalism In Crisis to be released by Bad Press
Having lived in the forsaken heap of post-industrial rubble, known as Amsterdam, NY, I can personally speak of experiences with what is without doubt the most ill-named policy of all time; Economic development. I used to tell people that we had to drop a bomb on this city, so we could start off fresh. Until, people began to tell me that it looked as though someone had already dropped a bomb on us. Mangled iron rods poking out of crumbling buildings, abandoned, rundown, deteriorating plants, filthy streets lined with empty houses. Every time I look around this city and remember that response, I say to myself; good point. Now, I know most cities in upstate NY are experiencing hard times, but Amsterdam is absolutely disgusting. Theres no excuse for this. No excuse. Whether it's the selfishness of regional industry, or the complete ineptitude of city and state economic planning officials, or a little bit of both thats responsible, it is up to us, the citizens to right these wrongs. In the course of this writing I and my collaborator Len Pratt shall attempt to outline a rescue plan for upstate NY's cities.
We'll begin by asking the question, what is economic development? Such is a term used to describe governmental policies designed to attract businesses and industry and it's accompanying jobs to a particular city, region, or neighborhood. These designs usually come in the form of making favorable accomodations to business and industry considering your location. These accomodations come as relaxed regulatory treatment, tax abatements, or in some cases, direct government allocations of capital. For too long this has been the prevailing prescription for what ails upstate NY's economy. Methods that deviate from this recipe, are rarely entertained, and far less often implemented.
There is a monolothic conventional wisdom in this country that the only way to cultivate economic growth and prosperity is to reduce taxes for big business. If this were a good idea, it would have borne fruit decades ago. The problem is, that once businesses are wooed to an area, via tax reductions and other incentives, these companies then become an onerous burden on the local infrastructure. While business facilities enjoy police and fire protection, water and sewerage services, road maintanance service, and a large variety of other nescessary, and costly municipal services, they are benefitting from these services for free. That doesn't mean, however that nobody is paying for them. When a municipal entity provides a service without being compensated in the form of tax revenue, the result is that they are financially strained. There are several ways for local governments to offset this problem. One, they can ask the state or federal government for assistance under the banner of economic development, or by raising taxes on residents in that particular city or town. Either course, will eventually end up driving up the tax rates for lower income and middle class families. When tax rates are raised directly on city residents to pay for a newly established freeloading company, pressure is put on residents to relocate. The same thing that would happen if taxes were raised for large businesses. Only nobody is going to bend over backwards with tax breaks and zoning variances to keep the Taylor's in town. And so the Taylors will move away seeking a more favorable economic climate. Leaving local governments with a larger gap between revenue that is available and that which is needed.
Proponents of tax relief however consider it an initial investment in the economy. Theoretically if a business recieves subsidies and is attracted to an area, the benefits will be well worth the costs of those subsidies. The benefits as in jobs, stimulation of the local economy, and future tax revenue. However, it is usually the case, that as more and more cities compete for jobs, workers and ordinary people find themselves on the losing end of the investment. Workers have to accept less benefits and less pay, city residents have to accept higher taxes and/or cutbacks in services, and local governments tremble at the thought of taking action, otherwise that firm will simply relocate once again, and the viscious downward cycle will repeat itself.
This never-ending quest to attract capital, and to cater to business, has had quite a disastrous effect on the upstate NY economy over the last several years. Area urban centers find themselves in a downward race to reduce taxes and regulations in order to create the ideal business climate. It's not that this is inherently a bad thing, it's just that reducing regulations and taxes, comes with a wide variety of negative economic and social ramifications. For a better understanding of which, visit any number of upstate NY cities, like Amsterdam, Hudson, Newburgh, Utica, Schenectady, or Rome. You'll find a sad museum of crumbling post-industrial ruins. These cities, like so many others not just in NY but throughout the United States, must compete with one another to attract businesses that will end up simply driving up taxes, and excaserbating existing crises.
Many will be quick to point out that many cities aren't faring so poorly. Oneonta or Poughkeepsie or Syracuse for example. And these are good examples of how communities immunize themselves from race-to-the-bottom economic development schemes by taking advantage of institutions of higher education. Oneonta is the home of two universities. Hartwick University, and SUNY Oneonta. Poughkeepsie is also home to two major schools. Vassar and Marist. Syracuse of course is home to the University of Syracuse, another major school. With these huge job-providing behemoths, these communities need not rely desperately upon the whims of foundering industries. Theres one city however, that comes to mind, that stands out in stark contrast to accepted economic orthodoxy. And that city is Crumm Mountain, NY. Known, by it's hipper inhabitants as Chlymidia Mountain. While other cities pull their hair out making sure their city is as favorable as possible to business, Chlymidia Mountain does just the opposite. Mayor Stanley Grouke,a product of the Democratic-Socialist Coalition, a fusion party created when the Democratic party merged with local left wing political coalition, has nullified the generous tax breaks of previous administrations, implemented robust environmental and worker safety regulations, raised employee's wages, and empowered unions. And as a result, the cities business community has not been pleased. In fact, it has been reported that Klein-Rollins Firearms, the cities largest employer has been considering relocation. To this Mayor Grouke blithely explains what he has planned for the factory where Klein-Rollins produces it's goods. "First I'll Invoke the right of eminent domain, I will expropriate the facility, and subsequently establish an employee-owned and operated co-operative, whereby a certain good will be produced and those who produce it will profit from it's sale."
For more information on such employee-run collectives, visit the official Chlymidia Mountain website at; www.fortunecity.com/tatooine/mothership/355/index.htm
Downtown Chlymidia Mountain is also gaining quite a degree of notoriety around these parts, as it's proprietors are hailing it as a "spoof on capitalism". With an eclectic assortment of novelty businesses like McJesus's, Kentucky Fried Fetus's, and Martial Law's, quite a statement is being made, and it doesn't bode very well for those who support traditional, race-to-the-bottom economic development schemes.
Of course only time will provide the verdict on whether or not this plan is workable or if it really is as insane as it sounds. As for the rest of upstate NY, maybe they should follow Chlymidia Mountain's lead a little. So what if it's socialism. Whats the big deal?
Clearly we don't have many appealing alternatives. Of course theres always by original proposal that we just bomb it all to hell and start over fresh. But with much of upstate NY, looking quite bombed to hell already, perhaps simply starting off fresh will do.
Here are some small businesses supported by the agency
Not all upstate towns are in such bad shape. No, it's true. Kingston, has a vibrant and lively waterfront commercial area, and a well-kept residential zone. Oneonta, home to two colleges, has a jumping main street, and a productive citizenry. True, these cities don't rely on manufacturing industries for their economy. Oneonta, has two colleges, and the college students and their families, allow city merchants to make a decent living. And Kingston, it has an historic waterfront district. And much of local commerce comes from tourism. But their are cities like Gloversville, and Johnstown, and Utica that are heavily industrial, yet economically viable.
Central Leatherstocking Company
Plassert Industries: A shale mining outfit
that employees 189 people
Light firearms manufacturer, employs up to 700 people
A computer parts manufacturer
employs up to a hundred people
Schorex Chemical Company
Produces all kinds of chemicals for a variety of household and industrial products
employs 400 people
enhance Chlymidia Mountains image as a wacky, counter-cultural hub and a bastion of free thought and individuality. This will augment Chlymidia Mountains prospects as a tourist attraction. While fueling a form of economic growth that doesn't threaten to undermine the city's character or sense of self.