Some readers may assume that I know the inner workings of City Hall. Others assume that I hobnob with political heads and soak up all the ‘under the table’ and ‘behind the smoke-fillled room’ news.
Nah, most of what I learn comes from what you are doing, ‘reading’ and what most of us should all be doing, ‘listening’. The first part is a little time-consuming unless you are one of the lucky few who can speed read. The second part is very time-consuming – sitting in long meetings.
But by and large, I am an outsider.
So when I saw one of the financially-depressed streets getting its sidewalks prepped, I got excited. This street is one of the few places in town that have suffered from foreclosures. They desperately need a boost.
As I have indicated before, the Internal Revenue Service through some high-profile court cases, determined that historic brick sidewalks in an historic district can raise the property values of that neighborhood from 10% to 30%. Since it was established via the Justice Department, it, in effect, becomes a legal fact.
“How do you know?” you may ask. Our highly capable city auditor got it into his mind to ‘help’ the city. He may have been the former Mayor of Gloucester, but he really loves Newburyport. If we could get the word out that redoing the sidewalks in front of your home would not only benefit the city, raise your equity in your home AND allow you to take a tax-deduction – WOW, COULD NEWBURYPORT SHINE!
Now I had a couple of lawyer friends who cautioned me to check this idea out. I contacted the IRS in Andover and put in the query – just to make sure. I had already read FORM 706 that would allow everyone in town to do this. I waited with breathless anticipation for a call from Andover.
The next week, I got a call to my house and it wasn’t from Andover. It was from Boulder, Colorado. A rather stern voice barked, “This is the Internal Revenue Service.”
I took a hard swallow.
The gentleman called all the way from Boulder, Colorado and was from the division that takes taxpayers to court over tax issues!
He laid out that many in the some 4400 historic districts (of which 1700 are local historic districts) had been deducting their sidewalk donations. The IRS determined that the boost from the historic district tied to the historic brick made any such deduction void in that NO HARDSHIP WAS FOUND.
SO, I AM SCARED TO DEATH THAT A BUNCH OF SHORT-SIGHTED DPS DEPARTMENT HEADS AND THE MAYOR AND THE PLANNING OFFICE ARE GOING TO DESTROY AN OPPORTUNTIY FOR AN ENTIRE STREET TO BE RAISED FROM LOW PROPERTY VALUES BY PUTTING DOWN CONCRETE.
I can see the reasoning: “It’s cheaper if we use concrete.”* Yeah, we could use blacktop – it’s even cheaper*.
Like I say, I am looking from the outside in, and obviously, whatever plans have been made are set in stone through the bidding process. They could be putting in brick in which I will be very happy for the neighbors and very pleased.
But knowing the Cannibal City mindset* in Newburyport, I have a sick feeling of what we will get. At least with our crumbled mess of sidewalks there was hope for improvement!
* Who was the sick bastard who authorized the Sullivan Building’s Stalinist architecture? I can see what their argument was, “The Feds are paying most of the money so we have to adopt their building plans.” Now we are stuck with an ugly scar on our historic seaport.