There are still a few individuals left who still smirk at the CPA. They make remarks like, "It’s just a slush fund for special interest!", "It’s an unnecessary tax burden on the citizens.", and so on.
Let’s face it, we get taxed every day. Most of the money goes off to the water & sewer, the general fund of the City and of course, huge amounts go off to the regional black hole in Boston. When I hear people bad mouthing the CPA it reminds me of Judas Iscariot. He told Jesus, "Why wasn’t this money given to the poor?" As the Bible explained, "This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he…had the bag, and bare what was put therein." In otherwords, he had the control. Those influential on the political side like it when they have control where the taxes go. In CPA, the money is carefully distributed to applicants via a voluntary non-paying board and the money must be used in three areas: affordable housing, open space (including recreational) and historic preservation. Money can’t be used to pay salaries or pensions or overtime or for benefits or school books and it can’t be used for maintenance either.
Who lost out? The developers and the train of interested and invested parties that follow them. When a land speculator would convince a farmer that he could translate the farm land into a big housing development, the parties cheered. The farmer gets a big chunk and the developer gets a huge chunk and City Hall for a short time gets a big tax boost. Who looses out? The taxpayer. More buildings and infrastructure and city services and more pressure on the schools will, as national statistics show, will cause the municipality to generate as much as four times the initial tax. The historic farmland is lost forever and the city suffers for years. And how do you stop them? The city gets 120 days to purchase the land to prevent this onslaught. Most cities are poor and powerless. The developers and company just laugh heartily. "What you gonna do, cry?" they taunt.
Now CPA provides monies for the purchase of open space. It saved our Common Pasture, listed by the Commonwealth as one of the most important and threatened historic open spaces in the state. A potential watershed saved, future floods prevented and historic farmland protected and the taxpayer delivered from ever expanding tax increases.
I already put in an editorial on the gradual gentrification of our city. Our city prospers but there is a downside. We get very pricy in our real estate as more and more people compete to live here in such a desirable place. Developers come along and the train of interested and invested parties work hard for construction projects of upper-crust housing thrown into the historic neighborhoods and downtown. The poor and fixed-income and moderate-incomed residents cry out in protest. Most cities are poor and powerless hoping the Commonwealth (which is broke) will send some relief for those less endowed in town. The developers and company just laugh heartily, "We have a solution for you," they taunt, "Move out!"
Now CPA provides monies for the purchase and construction of affordable housing. Councilor Cameron has already taken what was a pipe dream before CPA and turned it into reality with the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. As the CPA matures in our city, the citizens are going to see more confident projects provided in the affordable housing arena. Again, the city is now in a position to assist and provide programs to alleviate the pressures of our success.
The CPA has also provided money for historic preservation. It used to be that the museums were just holding on in our city and developers were having a field day gutting and renovating and in some cases, demolishing historic homes. Now, CPA has become a powerful matching fund for many historic preservation projects and become the catalyst to making our history front and center. When the LHD comes into play, we can see NED in a more cooperative position rather than in a dictatng process. We will see developers not smirking and taking shortcuts for cheap profits but having a cooperative and respectful attitude. (We can only hope.)
We might even see a stop to taunting!