It's a good thing there's someone in town to keep an eye on the daily fish wrap.
While perusing facebook the other day I ran across a discussion at the Waco Trib page about the cancellation of the Christmas parade due to lack of financial support. One commenter made the argument that maybe there would be money to pay for something like that had the city not given $35 million to Baylor for their new stadium (the point here is not on the merits of that argument and there were other local agencies who had a say in the matter and did not oppose tax money for the stadium, so it wasn't just the city of Waco).
But here was the Trib's response:
A common misconception? So the Trib is playing a game of semantics here by claiming the city didn't "give" money to Baylor and that TIF money can't be used for other stuff. Huh.
Here are some headlines from the Trib's own coverage of the TIF votes earlier this year:
Hmm. The TIF board is set to vote on "giving" a boatload of money to the Baylor stadium. And that last story includes this first sentence: "Waco City Council voted 6-0 on Tuesday to award $35 million in Tax Increment Financing Zone funds to Baylor University’s proposed new football stadium..."
Okay, fine. They "awarded" the money to the stadium. Or there was a contribution. Or, as the first headline states, they're going to give the money to the stadium. And since you can't give money to an inanimate object like a stadium it's understandable readers would come away with the view that Baylor was getting the money. Or at the very least, the $35 million in TIF funds will go to pay for projects that Baylor won't have to pay for. And that's just a fancy, roundabout way of a government giving Baylor money.
But the Trib's little game of semantics here ignores the larger point: the city did give $35 million to Baylor and the Trib, Baylor and others know a lot of people in the area weren't happy about it. So now the Trib is defending the project by putting out intentionally misleading information.
TIF money comes from a partial diversion of revenue of property taxes paid by property owners in certain districts. If that money is not set aside for the Baylor stadium or any other TIF projects then it would necessarily go to some other use or pot of money in the city and McLennan County (or perhaps the unthinkable: a reduction in property taxes).
TIF money is money that is being diverted from government coffers to be given to private developments. Period. You may think that is or is not a wise plan. But, again, that's not the issue. The issue is the "news" paper's intentionally misleading description of a major use of taxpayer money.
And this is the bunch we rely on for our local news?