The Flaws in Joe Van Dyk’s Plan

by Gary Free Press
28 July 2016

[ed. note – Joe Van Dyk is the Gary Redevelopment Commission Executive Director]

So he stated over and over that every year there are 12,000 Gary properties on the tax sale. He repeatedly said that one in every five properties is on the tax sale every year.

So here’s a little math:

In total, there are approximately 55,000 parcels that comprise Gary. To start with, the Lake County Auditor lists around 17,000 in a tax-exempt status. (a great percentage of this 17,000 number are owned by some government entity, mostly some entity of the City of Gary. Also, the City of Gary has been acquiring 300-500 parcels per year through various methods, so this 17,000 number is certainly higher by now as the information from the Auditor’s office was received over 5 years ago.) So this leaves 38,000 to comprise Gary’s tax base.
So if as Mr. Van Dyk claims there are 12,000 Gary parcels on the tax sale every year, then instead of one in every five parcels that comprise Gary’s tax base being in tax delinquent status, it is more like one in every three parcels!

So what is Mr. Van Dyk’s solution? What is the MaiaCo plan? What is the Freeman-Wilson Administration’s master plan? To in its first year acquire 5000 more parcels and shift them to a tax-exempt status–indefinitely!
If MaiaCo does what they say in their proposal and acquires 5000 more parcels, then the total number of parcels in the city in a tax-exempt status will soar to 22,000. And surely they plan to continue acquiring in their second, third, fourth years and so on. But for now, let’s just concentrate on the numbers they stated in their proposal, the 5000. So then, out of the 55,000 total parcels, 22,000 will be in a tax-exempt status–not tax delinquent, tax-exempt–with no possible chance of producing taxes.

So assuming the 5000 will lower the 12,000 from the tax sale number to 7000 (unless tax default continues to climb) the number of properties which will comprise the city’s tax base will be around 26,000. The number of parcels in the city which will not be contributing to the city’s tax base will be about 29,000.

So what he does not tell you is that his plan–the MaiaCo plan, the Daley plan–depends on eviscerating an already severely depleted tax base. And what he doesn’t say outright, but certainly can easily be gleaned from anyone listening to one of his dog and pony shows is that this “plan” will take many years to bear fruit. In fact, he implies that it may take ten years or more to come to pass. (they even say that part of the plan will involve planting trees on vacant lots to be harvested once they mature 15 years down the road)

So as his team voraciously acquires property from the private sector, and as they do, instantly transfer it to a tax-exempt status, the burden shifts to the remaining taxpayers to shoulder the burden of costs to operate the city. So in numbers, less than half of the owners of property will be paying the freight for the more than half that pays nothing whatsoever–nor is required to.

So gutting the city’s tax base is not just some unintended consequence, it is the key component of their plan. And they don’t see any problem with it. They don’t worry about not being able to provide the services residents desperately need to survive. They could literally not care less about that. If they did, the city would not look the way it does. The pools would be open. The parks would be usable. The police cars wouldn’t be falling apart. The fire trucks wouldn’t be running on bald tires. The sewers wouldn’t be collapsing from one end of the city to the other. The sidewalks would be walkable. The streets would not be crumbling. The streetlights wouldn’t be burned out or knocked down. In short, if they cared a bit about the residents of the city, it would not be disintegrating before everyone’s eyes.

So this “innovative” proposal to further destroy the city’s anemic tax base has no plan contained within it to provide these sorely needed services. Nowhere have they even been mentioned. How are Gary’s residents supposed to live while this plan takes shape? And what if it doesn’t take shape? What if it fails? What if it turns out to just be another scam like GUEA was? After all, it is really just a grown-up version of the GUEA plan. (If anyone doesn’t not remember how that turned out, take a stroll through the Emerson neighborhood!) It was the same thing: aggressive property acquisition; promised redevelopment; all the same buzzwords; but what did we get? A thoroughly destroyed neighborhood with massive blight and abandonment. And 15 years after the implementation of the GUEA plan in Emerson, it is virtually a ghost town. Occupancy of that neighborhood is probably down to 25% (When GUEA stated their “plan” it was approximately 75% occupied.)

But while this administration knows full well about how flawed their plan is, they will attempt to spoon-feed everyone the same pap about development this and development that; but what they won’t tell you is that even if they were able to attract some development, any new development of any scale will be requesting a tax abatement. And in most every case a large development would be eligible to receive one; and anyone that has been watching city council meetings knows, is that the city council hands these out like penny candy. Typical tax abatements are for 10 years, meaning they increase 10% per year until they pay 100%. In effect, the petitioner gets 5 years tax free over the course of the tax abatement.

This is not an innovate solution. This is not creative thinking outside the box. This is the resurrection of a plan that has already failed miserably.

An innovative solution would include detailed plans on how to rebuild the city’s withered tax base. And it should not require its further destruction by the city!

Any plan should be able to tell residents how they will be provided for while Joe Van Dyk and Daley and his team work their magic. Being told everything will be all right and not to worry does not count as a plan.

Worry people! This horribly flawed plan puts the nail in the coffin. But that’s really what the goal is. The more unlivable the city is, the more abandonment; the more foreclosures; the more tax defaults; the more prey for MaiaCo to swoop down on.

Because their plan revolves entirely around property acquisition. If any development happens to occur, it is a byproduct. If they really had developers on the hook, why don’t they march them in now? Why don’t these developers just acquire the property themselves? Wouldn’t it be faster and easier to just buy it from the people that own it now? Or will these developers only come if MaiaCo is in control of everything?
More than anything, Joe Van Dyk’s sideshow leaves everyone with questions. But he has no real answers. And it is hard not to miss the irony of listening to him drone on about how to redevelop the city when he, has never developed anything in his life. He has never even been directly involved in any development. To him, demolition is development. To him, government agencies are development partners.

His plan leads residents not just down some bumpy road on their way to salvation, it leads residents on a road straight to perdition.

And finally, Daley should be ashamed of himself. He came to Gary, according to Freeman-Wilson, at her request. He came under the guise of altruism. That he has a thing in his heart for the city. But now, it seems painfully obvious that he has been making plans to feather his own nest all along. And oh how all of those starry-eyed University of Chicago students got used to set this selfish plan into motion. There is no altruism here, more likely sheer avarice. This plan is not based on charity or compassion as we were earlier led to believe, profits alone are what is its driving force. This probably will not come as a huge to surprise to anyone.

So Gary citizens beware. Because one day you may wake up and the city you now call home may no longer feel like home.

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