Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Opportunity You Say?

Between Nashville's aspiration to gentrify an entire city they are using every tool in the sleaze playbook to accommodate their desperation to rid themselves of every poor person and/or Black person they can as quickly as they can.  If they continue to underfund the Police the reality is that the Black Community will manage to accomplish this goal single handed with the violence that permeates their community. If they don't kill each other they will imprison the rest and in turn drive as many families of color from the region in a type of weird ass genocide.  Ah the South.

But the hilarity ensues when Nashville in its perpetual state of delusion believes Amazon is going to fill the coffers of the city with 5,000 jobs with an "average" salary of 150K. This is oddly the same figure that Alliance Bernstein stated and that the CEO who engineered said deal is now retiring I wonder what will actually transpire, new broom and all.  And I believe EY, the accounting firm, said the same, despite the fact that their own internal averages are nowhere near that for standard accounting gigs (56-72K according to Glassdoor).  And then we have Apple Music supposedly setting up shop which is odd as they are now transitioning into streaming music and why they need a specialized local office to do as such with a large crew is of course debatable as they have a significant outpost in Austin which could serve as the foundation for said endeavors.

The reality is that Nashville has no fucking clue what kind of city it wants to be - Med, Ed, Music, Tourist, White Collar, Government/Municipal or a jack of all trades and master of none?

Now this is from City Lab with regards to Amazon and the promises made and not kept.  They are already under fire for numerous issues about legitimacy of second sellers on the site and in turn their lack of oversight that has led people to be harmed, counterfitted items and also have books reprinted with information that could ultimately do harm and of course the violations of proper payments and royalties. 

 So really Nashville do you think they are going to do any of this shit because they leased some space?  Hey guess what they did that in Seattle and promptly sublet it. 

What is truly laughable is the hysteria surrounding the Opportunity Zones that have my apparent hood, Wedgewood Houston, declared one (good to know I was living in a ghetto, but why was my rent not cheaper?) and the Dickerson Pike now one with Champagne wishes and Caviar dreams to build out that area of town.  

Construction on the largest land development in decades on the east bank of the Cumberland River in Nashville is getting set to begin in several months.

Chicago-based Creek Lane Capital partnered with MRP Realty of Washington D.C. to buy 13 acres in East Nashville between Jefferson and Cowan streets for $42.5 million on Friday.

On Monday, the team announced that they will start building 600 apartments surrounded by offices and 50,000 square feet of retail shops called The Landings at River North early next year.

The project will include a new pedestrian bridge connecting Germantown to East Nashville, a waterfront public park, and a marina.
River North development site is the location for a 1.3 million square foot land acquisition on the east bank of the Cumberland, directly east of McFerrin Park, for large apartments, offices and shops, pictured Monday, July 1, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn.Buy Photo

River North development site is the location for a 1.3 million square foot land acquisition on the east bank of the Cumberland, directly east of McFerrin Park, for large apartments, offices and shops, pictured Monday, July 1, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo: Courtney Pedroza / The Tennessean )

Investors have been working on a vision for this site for years, and hope to eventually expand commercial riverfront redevelopment on the east side down to Interstate 65.

"We valued the opportunity to do waterfront development in the city, and that’s the draw," said MRP Principal Matthew Robinson. "We think growth here will outpace other areas."

The Landings at River North, which is likely to attract more investment around it, and on nearby Dickerson Pike, is expected to open about two years after dirt starts moving.
New bridge and park coming

Work on the park and pedestrian bridge connecting Germantown and East Nashville will begin at the same time as the commercial development.

The park will initially span 4 acres behind Topgolf, but is ultimately expected to stretch for one mile along the river.

Metro Council allocated $20 million from the capital funds budget, mostly financed by general obligation bonds, to help pay for the infrastructure improvements. The money will go toward street widening, new sidewalks and upgraded traffic signals along Jefferson and Cowan streets, as well as infrastructure throughout the development.

"I look at this project and see great opportunities for this city," Mayor David Briley said. "I live on the other side of the river and I look forward to the day when this is complete and we get Cleveland Street connected all the way over here so I can ride my bike to Shelby Park on a bike lane from downtown."

The Landings at River North will overhaul the squat industrial warehouses and vacant waterfront lots behind Topgolf Nashville into 7-story-tall multifamily residential buildings, offices and shops.
River North development site is the location for a 1.3 million square foot land acquisition on the east bank of the Cumberland, directly east of McFerrin Park, for large apartments, offices and shops, pictured Monday, July 1, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn.Buy Photo

River North development site is the location for a 1.3 million square foot land acquisition on the east bank of the Cumberland, directly east of McFerrin Park, for large apartments, offices and shops, pictured Monday, July 1, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo: Courtney Pedroza / The Tennessean )

"There will be a lot of food, beverage and entertainment uses," Robinson said. "We're not in a position to announce any tenants but it's going to be a destination location."
'Nashville's premier neighborhood'

The vision for River North began nearly 20 years ago, when Chicago-based Monroe

The firm has already secured entitlements on the lots so construction work can begin now.

"We've worked collaboratively with the city to develop the vision for River North that you see here today," said Don Allen, principal at Monroe. "Together with the city's investment in infrastructure, this will be the catalyst for development on the east bank and will make River North Nashville's premier neighborhood."

Allen hopes to expand the River North project to ultimately include 105 east bank waterfront acres.
This investment was spurred by a new federal tax break designed to boost economic development in distressed areas. The "Opportunity Zone" status allows investors to defer some tax payments for up to a decade.
"We were looking at this site before it was made an Opportunity Zone," Robinson said. "The Opportunity Zone helped it along but we were already interested."

Yeah sure.  Here is what Opportunity Zones really do.

One Trump Tax Cut Was Meant to Help the Poor. A Billionaire Ended Up Winning Big.

Opportunity zones are meant to spur new investment in poor areas. But Under Armour’s Kevin Plank is getting a tax break for investments that are not new and not in a poor tract. And Plank’s area was picked over neighborhoods that are actually poor.

Under a six-lane span of freeway leading into downtown Baltimore sit what may be the most valuable parking spaces in America.

Lying near a development project controlled by Under Armour’s billionaire CEO Kevin Plank, one of Maryland’s richest men, and Goldman Sachs, the little sliver of land will allow Plank and the other investors to claim what could amount to millions in tax breaks for the project, known as Port Covington.

They have President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax overhaul law to thank. The new law has a provision meant to spur investment into underdeveloped areas, called “opportunity zones.” The idea is to grant lucrative tax breaks to encourage new investment in poor areas around the country, carefully selected by each state’s governor.

But Port Covington, an ambitious development geared to millennials to feature offices, a hotel, apartments, and shopping, is not in a census tract that is poor. It’s not a new investment. And the census tract only became eligible to be an opportunity zone thanks to a mapping error.

As the selection process was underway, a deputy chief of staff to Maryland’s governor wrote in an email that “Port Covington does not qualify” as an opportunity zone.

Maryland’s governor chose the area for the program anyway — after his aides met with the lobbyists for Plank, who owns about 40% of the zone.

“This is a classic example of a windfall benefit,” said Robert Stoker, a George Washington University professor who has studied economic development in Baltimore for decades. “A major investment was already planned and now is in a zone where they are going to qualify for all kinds of beneficial tax treatment.”

In selecting Port Covington, the governor had to exclude another Maryland community from the opportunity zone program. In Baltimore, for example, the governor dropped part of a neighborhood that city officials recommended for the program — Brooklyn — with a median family income one-fifth that of Port Covington. Brooklyn sits just across the Patapsco river from Port Covington, in an area that suffers from one of the highest drug and alcohol death rates in Baltimore, which in turn has one of the highest drug fatality rates nationwide.

In a statement, Marc Weller, a developer who is Plank’s partner in the project, defended the opportunity zone designation. “Port Covington being part of an Opportunity Zone will attract more investors, foster more economic growth in a neglected area of the City, and directly benefit all of the surrounding communities for decades to come,” Weller said. Supporters say the Port Covington development could help several nearby struggling south Baltimore neighborhoods.

Developers say Port Covington will be a “city within a city” geared to millennials and featuring offices, residences and a hotel. (Matt Roth for ProPublica)

An official in the administration of Maryland’s Republican governor, Larry Hogan, said, “The success of that project is really going to go a long way to providing benefits for the whole city of Baltimore.” The official added: “The governor is a huge supporter of the development.”

A spokesperson for the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development, which was involved in the selection process, said that “due to the time limits of the federal tax incentive, the state of Maryland did purposefully select census tracts where projects were beginning to increase the odds of attracting additional private sector investment to Maryland’s opportunity zones in the near term.”

The Birth of a New Tax Break

In December 2017, Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, his signature legislative achievement. Much criticized as a giveaway to the rich, the law includes one headline provision that backers promised would help the poor: opportunity zones. (Listen to the “Trump, Inc.” episode where we travel to an opportunity zone where the Kushner Companies owns large tracts of property.)

Supporters of the program argued it would unleash economic development in otherwise overlooked communities. “Our goal is to rebuild homes, schools, businesses and communities that need it the most,“ Trump declared at a recent event, adding, “To revitalize these areas, we’ve lowered the capital gains tax for long-term investment in opportunity zones all the way down to a very big, fat, beautiful number of zero.”

The provision has bipartisan support. “These cities are gold mines,” New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, a 2020 presidential hopeful and main Democratic architect of the program, told real estate investors in October. “They’re domestic emerging markets that are more exciting than anything you’ll see overseas.”

Here’s how the program works. Say you’re a hedge fund manager, you purchased Google stock years ago, and are sitting on $1 billion in gains. If you sell, you’d send the IRS about $240 million, a lot less than ordinary income tax but still annoying. To avoid paying that much, you can sell the shares and put the $1 billion into an opportunity zone. That comes with three generous breaks. The first is that you defer that $240 million in capital gains tax, allowing you to invest more money up front. But if that’s not enough for you, you can hold the investment for several years and you’ll get a significant reduction in those taxes. What’s more, any additional gains from the new investment are tax-free after 10 years.

It’s impossible to predict how much the tax break will be worth to individual investors because it depends on several variables, not least whether the underlying project gains in value. But one investment pitch projected 10-year returns would jump to 91% from 29% on a hypothetical $1 million investment. That includes $284,000 in tax breaks — money the federal government would have collected from taxpayers with capital gains but for the program.

The tax code already favored real estate developers like Trump, and his overhaul made it even friendlier. Investors can put money into a range of projects in opportunity zones, but so far most of the publicly announced deals are in real estate. The tax break has led to a marketing boom, with Wall Street pitching investors to raise funds to invest in the zones. Critics argue that the program is flawed, pointing out that there’s no guarantee that the capital investment will help community residents, that the selection process was vulnerable to outside influence, and that it could be a giveaway for projects that were going to happen anyway. In a case in Chicago uncovered by the Real Deal, two tracts already slated for a major development project were selected by the governor as opportunity zones even though city officials hadn’t initially recommended them.

Under the new law, areas of the country deemed to be “low-income communities” would be eligible to be named opportunity zones. The Treasury Department determined which census tracts qualified. Then governors of each state could select one quarter of those tracts to get the tax benefit.

That governor prerogative turned out to be very useful to Kevin Plank.

Plank’s Dream

In 2012, Plank-connected entities quietly began buying up waterfront property on a largely vacant and isolated peninsula south of downtown Baltimore. Often using shell companies to shield the identity of the true buyer, they ultimately spent more than $100 million acquiring much of the peninsula. Plank’s privately held Sagamore Development now controls roughly 40% of the area that would later be named an opportunity zone.

In early 2015, more than two and a half years before Trump’s tax law passed, Plank revealed himself as the money behind the purchases. He planned a new development and headquarters for Under Armour, the sports apparel company he started after coming up with the idea as a University of Maryland football player. Today, Under Armour employs 15,000 people. Plank has a net worth of around $2 billion.

Though the Port Covington area was cut off from downtown by I-95, Plank said he likes the location because of the visibility. “When people drive through Baltimore [on I-95] I literally want them to drive through and go, ’There’s Baltimore on the right. There’s Under Armour on the left,’” he told The Baltimore Sun.

A year later, Plank’s firm took his vision to the general public, running TV and print ads touting the new project. One of the ads, reminiscent of the Democratic presidential primary spots airing at that time, was filled with a diverse cast sharing their dreams for a new city within a city.

“We will build it. Together,” the ad begins, before running through a glittering digital rendering of contemporary urban design features. Office towers, shops, transit, parks, jobs — all of it to be anchored by a new world headquarters of the city’s most visible brand name, Under Armour. Sagamore would spearhead the project and sell land to others who would build businesses and housing.

Even before qualifying for the opportunity zone break, taxpayers were going to subsidize the development. Days after the ads touting togetherness, Plank proposed that the city float $660 million in bonds to help build what the company has said would be a $5.5 billion development. Opponents contended Plank’s proposal amounted to corporate welfare that would exacerbate the city’s stark economic and racial divides. But the company agreed to provide millions of dollars to the city and a group of nearby low-income neighborhoods to gain support for the project, and the City Council passed the measure that fall.

As Under Armour’s stock plummeted in 2017 amid slowing sales growth, progress on the Port Covington project lagged. That September, Goldman Sachs stepped in to commit $233 million from its Urban Investment Group. Hogan, himself a real estate developer, personally spoke with the then-CEO of Goldman, Lloyd Blankfein, about the deal.

Meeting With the Governor’s Office

In the weeks after the 2017 federal tax overhaul passed, Plank’s team spotted an opportunity.

Nick Manis, a veteran Annapolis lobbyist who has also represented the Baltimore Ravens, reached out to Hogan’s chief of staff about Port Covington, according to emails obtained by ProPublica through a public records request. The developers and their lobbyists had given at least $24,000 to Hogan’s campaigns in recent years.

But the developers had a problem.

The Friday before the meeting, a deputy chief of staff to the governor wrote in an email that “Port Covington does not qualify” for the coveted tax breaks.

The Port Covington tract, which includes a gentrified corner of South Baltimore north of the largely empty peninsula, was too wealthy to be an opportunity zone. There is a second provision of the law for wealthier tracts: A tract can qualify if it is adjacent to a low-income area. But Port Covington failed that test, too. Its median family income — nearly 160% of Maryland’s — exceeded the income cap even for that provision.

Port Covington was out — unless the tract could somehow be considered low-income in its own right.

On Feb. 5, the Port Covington development team arrived at the second floor of the statehouse in the opulent governor’s reception room to meet with top Hogan aides. The agenda for the meeting included opportunity zones, as well as transit and infrastructure issues. The developer’s team requested that the Port Covington tract be made an opportunity zone. The state officials “acknowledged their interest in receiving that designation,” a Hogan administration official said.
Bank Error in Your Favor

Three days after that meeting, Plank and the Port Covington developers got bad news. The Treasury Department released a list of census tracts across the country that were sufficiently poor to be included in the program. Port Covington was not included in that list.

Three weeks later, however, things turned around. The Treasury Department issued a revised list. The agency said it had left out some tracts in error. The revised list included 168 new areas across the country defined by the agency as “low-income communities.”

This time, Port Covington made the cut.

It couldn’t have qualified because its residents were poor. It couldn’t qualify because it was next to some place that was poor. But the tract could qualify under yet another provision of the law. Some tracts could make the cut if they had fewer than 2,000 people and if they were “within” what’s known as an empowerment zone. That was a Clinton-era redevelopment initiative also aimed at low-income areas.

Port Covington wasn’t actually within an empowerment zone, but it is next to one. So how did it qualify? The area met the definition of “within” because the digital map files the Treasury Department used showed that Port Covington overlapped with a neighboring tract that was designated an empowerment zone, Treasury officials told ProPublica.

That overlap: the sliver of parking lot beneath I-395. That piece of the lot is about one one-thousandth of a square mile.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Red State Blue State Wage State

I lived in Seattle which was one of the few cities that jumped early on the bandwagon to raise minimum wage and little has been proven that it discourages customers from eating or using businesses that pay their workers more than the current minimum wage that in turn results in rising prices. In fact the current economy seems to be tied right now to consumer spending despite the fact that the tariffs may be causing some prices to increase.  That said overall spending is being I suspect fueled by credit thanks to the Fed Reserve not raising rates and in turn keeping credit costs lower than they were just a year ago and while overall hiring is up wages are still largely stagnant in many fields and that is again the food service one.

I live in Nashville where despite their histrionics over being an it city, the largest employer is Vanderbilt, then the Municipal Government followed by the Hospitality Industry.  And those together are the lowest paid gigs currently on offer.  To be competitive you have to offer a better than average wage packet but most of the workers are highly mobile and the revolving door is constantly in motion.  When they speak of jobs here they mean at the mall or the Subway, the sammy shop not mass transit. In fact our mass transit service is facing huge cuts due to the city seemingly failing to fill its budget coffers, so much for it I guess.

The State legislature which is also in our backyard is another significant employer who seems to also have a turnstile affect when it comes to Government as the current speaker is leaving later or maybe sooner if the special session called to order comes to fruition and they kick his slimy ass out the door. He quit his pharmaceutical gig so he may be needing to hit up a fast food place for a quick meal or gig if he can't get a new one right away.  It will tide him over. Maybe he could clean the cans at Party Fowl where his assistant fucked some girl for 10 minutes once.  How hard are cum stains to get rid of?

Well enough about the local gossip machine.  Let's talk about wages shall we?  Here in the Volunteer State you might as well volunteer as despite efforts by the City Council to raise wages it was quickly overturned by the Legislature along with anything else progressive or of self rule as decided by the electorate who voted in these individuals to act upon their campaign promises. Fuck that shit!

Red states like their poverty as it enables racism and sexism and of course maintains the status quo of classicism which is the real bullshit here.   And their is a lot of bullshit here, I wear Hunters everyday in order to step through it.

Why nearly 350,000 workers in mostly red states aren’t seeing wage increases, even though their local lawmakers passed them

The Washington Post
By Tracy Jan
July 3

For most of her 13 years working the grill and cash register at McDonald’s, Bettie Douglas earned just over $7 an hour. Then in 2017, the St. Louis resident’s hourly pay rose to $10 after the city increased its minimum wage.

But the Missouri legislature soon invalidated the local wage ordinance following opposition from business groups, despite the state Supreme Court having already upheld the increase. Pay for tens of thousands of low-wage workers in St. Louis reverted to the state’s then-minimum of $7.70 an hour.

Missouri is among 25 states that expressly block local municipalities from adopting their own minimum-wage laws. State legislatures in Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky and Wisconsin have also invalidated local wage increases, costing nearly 350,000 workers a total of $1.5 billion per year, according to a study by the National Employment Law Project that quantifies for the first time the economic impact of prohibiting local wage increases.

State laws preempting or nullifying higher local wages perpetuate economic inequality in American cities, hurting women and minority workers who are disproportionately employed in low-wage jobs, researchers say. More than 60 percent of affected workers affected in St. Louis, Birmingham and Miami Beach are people of color, according to the study.

“Missouri was one of the most egregious examples of an overwhelmingly white legislature undoing the will of local communities,” said Laura Huizar, a senior staff attorney for NELP and co-author of the report. “Preemption has been used as a tool to undermine higher wages, protect corporate profits, and cancel the voices of blacks and Latinos.”

In addition to invalidating the local pay increases in St. Louis and Kansas City, the Missouri law blocked the introduction of new employment benefit requirements such as paid sick leave and health, disability and retirement benefits. The St. Louis minimum wage had been scheduled to rise to $11 an hour by 2018. Kansas City’s was supposed to go up to $13 by 2020.

On average, workers in the 12 municipalities where wage increases were overturned by state legislatures are losing almost $4,100 individually per year, the study found. Between 20 and 71 percent of the affected workers in these cities and counties live below the federal poverty line.

Despite the strong economy and historically low unemployment rates, real wages for the majority of workers have flatlined over the past decade. Since the “Fight for $15” minimum-wage movement began in 2012, more than 40 cities and counties have passed laws raising the local wage floor — leading to a corporate-fueled backlash in many legislatures, Huizar said. Minimum-wage increases in 20 municipalities, including the District of Columbia and two states, went into effect July 1.

Douglas, the McDonald’s worker in St. Louis, is the sole breadwinner in her family. At 61, she’s supporting her eldest son, who is recovering from a brain tumor; her youngest son, who has autism; and her brother, who is disabled. Each weekday morning, she catches two buses and a train to work because she cannot afford a car.

“Anybody who gets up and goes to work every day should be able to earn a living wage to take care of their families and pay their bills,” said Douglas, who began working at age 12 in her parents’ janitorial business. “I’m not asking for a handout. I’m saying just give me my due.”

Douglas said her boss at the fast-food restaurant allowed her to keep her $10 hourly wage as a recognition of her long service, but many of her colleagues lost their raises.

Still, she said she has no health insurance, no paid vacations or sick leave, and no retirement benefits. She said she hasn’t been to a doctor in the 18 years since she gave birth to her youngest son.

Missouri voters last fall approved a ballot measure to raise the state minimum wage from $8.60 to $12 an hour by 2023. Douglas says she’s fighting for $15, which still falls short of the $16.32 hourly wage required for a single adult in St. Louis to meet his or her basic needs — let alone the $18.99 required for a family of four.

“We are all just one paycheck away from being homeless,” Douglas said. “No one in America should live like that.”

New South/Old South

I live in the supposed "it" city of the South, Nashville. It was or still is Hotlanta but then again does "it" really matter? I mean it is still the South. The South where poor is a Noun,Verb, Adjective and Adverb and all in one sentence. Poor Man who lives there, he is so poor and doing so poorly but that is what being poor does to a man.

The distinction between that view is that in the South it is believed that all poverty is is an intrinsic state of mind versus one of extrinsic factors that have contributed to this style of life.  Sort of like being Gay in the South it is choice.  Sure. What. Ever.

I have challenges writing about living here as I am still in the middle of it, being evicted from my home due to the never ending greed push turning these dumps into Condos, while trying to complete my dental reconstruction and just trying to organize a major move at times seems overwhelming yet beneath it all I find it a relief and an end to a chapter that started on a bad note and may be leaving on less of one despite it all.

What fascinates me is the level of ignorance that dominates the dialog to the point I have finally given up trying to make sense of it and in turn frustrate myself, so I rely on nasty under the breath comments that enable me to simply push past and onto the next.   If you can't say something nice then don't!

Much of the issue here is the role of the Church. It is the the largest voice in the heads of these idiots and in turn they rely on the Pulpit for most of their views, followed by the chatter of Church ladies and men who rely on Social Media to share information and opinions gleaned from whatever facts they conjure in their head or that book that rests on their lap (or phones) to confirm their convoluted beliefs.

And when I read the below article this last week I felt relieved that I was not far from my mark in trying to understand, explain or simply ignore the endless bullshit that thrives here.  And yes folks they are racist here but it comes in a way that is subtle and vague that cleverly intertwines through religion and faith but is firmly in place through the Politics and the ways they circumvent voting and participation - largely through arresting every black person they can and taking away their voting rights, gerrymandering and my personal favorite - Education.   When I a resident of three years know more about the history and people of Nashville, particularly those faces of color that pretty much sums it up.  We gots problems, 99/100 percent of them from the lack of education.  As you read you will realize how pervasive it is regardless of race, poverty is the biggest problem and that white trash fear being lower on the ladder and that explains why Donald Trump is their savior they have no other. Wells Jesus but he seems to be busy and he wasn't a Racist, that we know of.   Was he Anti Semitic? I think yes, the money lenders and the Temple seems to come to mind. 

Southerners, Facing Big Odds, Believe in a Path Out of Poverty
The New York Times
By Patricia Cohen

July 4, 2019

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — A widening income gap and sagging social mobility have left dents in the American dream. But the belief that anyone with enough gumption and grit can clamber to the top remains central to the nation’s self-image.

And that could complicate Democratic efforts to frame the 2020 presidential election as a referendum on a broken economic system.

Americans, who tend to link rewards to individual effort, routinely overestimate the ease of moving up the income ranks, while Europeans — citing an unfair system, inherited wealth and sticky social classes — consistently underestimate it, surveys have found.

For moving from the bottom of the income ladder to the top, the South offers the worst odds in the United States. But it’s also the region where people are most optimistic about the prospects.
Subscribe to With Interest

“Fifteen to 20 percent?” guessed Vicki Winters, a retired contract specialist at the Defense Department who lives with her husband, George, in a predominantly white Huntsville suburb.

The actual chances of making that climb in Alabama are a shade above 5 percent. Nationwide, they are less than 8 percent. And in Madison County, where the Winterses live, the odds that a child will escape poverty are among the lowest in the nation.

The county’s dismal ranking is in some ways surprising given Huntsville’s reputation as a dynamic and growing technology hub centered on NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and the Army Aviation and Missile Command. It has an unemployment rate below 3 percent, is close to a string of colleges and universities and has a business-friendly profile.

“There are a lot of jobs in Huntsville,” said Gregory G. Parker, who presides over the front desk at the Optimist Recreation Center, named for the service club that helped create it. On a recent morning, he was checking in the regular pickleball players. “People just have to have the drive to strive.”

“There are a lot of jobs in Huntsville,” said Gregory G. Parker, who works at the Optimist Recreation Center. “People just have to have the drive to strive.”

But Madison County also shares several characteristics with other areas that researchers have mapped as poverty traps. Those include steep income inequality, a high proportion of single-parent families and deep segregation.

Huntsville was one of the first racially integrated cities in the South as a result of civil rights sit-in campaigns in the early 1960s. But the legacy of Jim Crow and redlining persists in the city as it does elsewhere in the region, with concentrated pockets of poverty.

One of those can be found at the city’s office for social services and food stamps, a low-slung, blocklong building flanked by a pawnshop and a Salvation Army thrift store. On a steamy weekday, public-assistance recipients and applicants waited for a bus under a shady tree.

“You’ve got to work hard, but it can happen,” said Edward Stokes, adding that he had often found himself one paycheck away from homelessness. He had just come from signing up for a program at the city’s career center.

Why inequity and disadvantage produce such hopefulness is not as unusual as it might initially seem. In the most economically stricken areas, residents understand that “nobody is going to help you,” said Roland Bénabou, an economics and public affairs professor at Princeton University.

So the only way to retain hope and motivate your children is to “think that if you just work hard or study hard, you will make it,” he said. “Otherwise there is no hope and no incentive to work, and then for sure you’ll remain poor.”

Mr. Bénabou also noted that whether you believe people get what they deserve in terms of rewards and punishments often varies widely by country.
Income Mobility Charts for Girls, Asian-Americans and Other Groups. Or Make Your Own.

Watch men and women of any race grow up in the United States.

Americans are strong believers in what psychologists call a “just world,” one where people get what they deserve and deserve what they get, he said. “If you’re poor, you must have not worked hard or are lazy, and if you are rich, it must be due to your own merits, efforts and talents,” he said. “Europeans think it’s much more due to luck.”

Those perceptions were confirmed by Harvard University researchers after conducting broad surveys in Europe and the United States, published last year. They asked people in five countries to estimate a child’s chances of moving from the bottom fifth of the income distribution to the top fifth.
Economic Mobility: Reality and Perception

Recent research by a Harvard University team found a disparity between the perceived and actual odds that a child born into the bottom fifth of the income ladder in the United States could move to the top fifth. Optimism about mobility is highest in states that, in reality, offer some of the worst prospects.

The kind of audacious hope they uncovered could hinder the Democratic case that fundamental changes are needed to enhance economic opportunity.

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts announced her presidential campaign with an indictment of a “rigged system that props up the rich and powerful and kicks dirt on everyone else.” Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has rallied crowds with attacks on the “rigged economy.” And former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has talked of the “rigged labor market.”

They, and other Democratic contenders, have proposed ambitious programs for easing the upward trek confronting children from poor families, like free college, universal health care and childhood savings accounts or bonds.

Yet views about the government’s ability to even the playing field are tangled up with attitudes about the system’s fundamental fairness.

“If people think opportunity is equal, they will tolerate more unequal outcomes,” said Stefanie Stantcheva, an economics professor at Harvard who was part of the university’s research team.

Oddly, segregation does not dampen America’s unique brand of optimism, but augments it. “We find that perceptions are more optimistic when there is more racial segregation,” the Harvard researchers sai

Whether people think opportunity is equally available, though, often depends on their political viewpoint.

Liberals are generally more pessimistic than conservatives about the ability of poorer Americans to hoist themselves up economically, and they are more inclined to support government programs meant to ease the route. Tell them that social mobility from one generation to the next is less than they thought, and their support for public assistance increases.

For conservatives, none of that is true. Learning that they have overestimated the odds does not increase their support for government intervention, but causes it to drop even further.

“We didn’t expect this very stark polarization,” Ms. Stantcheva said. It is not that conservatives do not consider flagging social mobility to be a serious issue, but rather that they think government will make the problem worse.

The political split may also help explain the South’s particular optimism. The region has leaned conservative for decades. Alabama, like most of its neighbors, has not voted for a Democrat in a presidential election since 1976.

Ms. Winters is one of those dedicated Republicans. Her husband described himself as a lifelong Democrat.

Mr. Winters figured the odds that poor people could work their way up were slim. For him, that is evidence that the government needs to do more.

For Ms. Winters, hearing that the odds of moving up the income ladder are actually much lower than she had guessed did not change her opinion that government assistance was wasteful.

“There are too many handouts to collect from the government,” Ms. Winters said, “instead of going out there and trying to work, and putting your money in a savings account.”

Friday, June 21, 2019

Crashing Waves

The economy is now at the past ten year mark of high waves with some small crashes that while have been in response to the ever changing climate of Washington and that of Trump's bizarre feuds and antics we have not seen anything akin to the crash of 2008 that brought the rich to their knees (okay maybe one as they clearly don't fall ever fully to their knees) and the poor flat on their backs.  That said I am beginning to wonder where and when the next Katrina meets Sandy will fall.

I do think we are at "full" employment but there are still great schools of fish under/unemployed - the faces of color, the older workforce that never found jobs that were akin to their pre 2008 incomes and since then have aged out of the market due to the lack of education or the skill set match up that is used to supposedly deny jobs.  Interesting that you have a degree, a work history and are clearly mentally competent but to the powers that be that are often well into their own dotage they seem to think you must be stupid to be fired/laid off or out of work.  Right that whole intrinsic, up by your boot straps bullshit that is used to blame and deny the reality that for the working classes you were born that way.   We all can't be born to the rich.

That is the truth, we are born to families whose SES determine our faith.  For some the crawl, the fight and the climb up the ladder is possible but that is fewer and farther in reality for most.  Shocking, no not really, that children born into wealth have better access and in availability to find education and work that will compensate them securely for life.   They can be even stupid and not attain the academic success of their poorer counterpoint and still thanks to those family ties manage to find jobs, keep said jobs and be secure in their lineage. It explains also why these same individuals seemingly go off the deep end when any demand for change, including taxes, funding education, mass transit or social justice is met with stone cold silence. Preservation of the status and the quo matter bitches!

I see it here more in the South and likely this is the same in the more conservative climates where weather is just a statement of fact and not one man made.  Keep to your own kind and we will ride out our storm in a fine Mercedes SUV on the way out of town, you poors just keep your head down. Aspiration begins with ass and this class has a lot of it.

I laughed when my neighborhood suddenly was proclaimed an Opportunity Zone and I realized the opportunity was about how rich people can buy a bunch of property, defer the taxes and gains for over ten years regardless of what the build does for the neighborhood.  Fancy commercial structures that sit largely empty and in turn add to traffic and other infrastructure issues not a problem when you don't live there.   If the moron who owned this apartment building waited just a few weeks he would have learned about this tax break and sold the lot for millions more than he did by converting it to condos.   Like many of the apartments here, such as this one, or this one, or this one.  He would have had an amazing cash windfall none of the headaches of selling it piece by piece and retaining and setting up an interest to continue to pay taxes and upkeep on what will become an expensive property when Nashville gets it shit together to raise property taxes to pay for operating the city.  But stupid here is redefined here in the push for greed.  As for the morons who actually bought these units most are unoccupied full time and the rest are idiots for doing so. Good luck with that!

Nashville is house rich but cash poor.  The reality is that we now have a surplus of housing and the costs to buy and in turn maintain said homes are not sustainable.  That may explain why the largest growth push of new builds is for multi family housing as this city is a place for transients who have migrated here for school or for low wage work largely in the hospitality industry.  The new South is the Old South, largely working class, lowly educated and coming from once established union or working class jobs that were well compensated in urban areas that enabled them to be house rich, bu as we know with regards to wages, cash poor,  and they in turn sold their homes and moved South for cheaper cost of living as they were now cash rich but house poor.  So they bought cheap houses and with that turned a dump into a mini mansion.  And then irony on top of irony that led to a raise in the cost of living and they priced out those just like them and the rung on the ladder they resided got very crowded.

Right now  Davidson County where Nashville sits has the lowest property taxes in the region and it does so because of the push to get white rich people to move here and they have, well not the rich part.  Anyone highly educated and employed will set up a house here and then benefit from having a primary residence in a no income tax state where a a real mansion costs little to upkeep and then fly out when the heat gets sticky and the stupid sticks to you like the cum stained floors of Party Fowl.  But the politics of the red are those that they cannot deny are the ones that keep the quo and the status of their class and lineage well established so being socially liberal in the South means you call your Servants, Jesus, in every sense of the word and avoid all the whole black white issue. And the Budget shortfall once again leaves the working class and poor fucked while Municipal employees, including Police/Fire Fighters/Teachers/et al at subsistence wages that prices them right out of the city they serve.  Keep it coming and we will all be going.

Nashville once again has proven to be a farce when it comes to it.  The fake charity, the fake monies being earned comes to truth when it came to the NFL Draft.   The recent article about how local Chefs/Restaurant Owners saw little of the "billions" that supposedly poured in like the cheap draft they serve at the nearby Honky Tonks, many of them closed and rented by the NFL so they had no problem with their income that weekend.   This coupled with the reality that it appears that the average visitor spends just under a $100/per person when here.  This is a white trash paradise and what does one buy when they are drunk most of the time.  We had a Scooter death a couple of weeks ago and of course he was drunk. Gosh what a shock! No, not really.

There are endless stories of rapes, pick pockets and other thefts in the varying bars that align Broadway and in reality some of the behavior and demeanor of the varying clientele warrant a barring or two as it is dangerous for anyone who crosses the street by foot or car.  It is a parade that frankly is best unseen.  But crime overall here is a massive problem with three homicides over a 24 hour period this week.  And if you are black your life does not matter.

And speaking of Pride the annual festival culminates this week on the shadows of more angry crazy rhetoric from varying Ministers and Police and of course the Legislature on break has made their views crystal clear, so while Cracker Barrel may be all inclusive that is the exception to this rule here in the land of the baby Jesus.  Such as this District Attorney or how about Executioner Cop.

All of this could be resolved if people actually read, were informed and in turn voted. Ah hell no there are other cool things we have to do in this the city of shiny keys.

 And the waves will come crashing down as all this commercial build and crane counts may be counting down.   

And the reality is that real estate in the residential sector is not improving as this article states many are being priced out of the market.  And Atlanta which had the designation of HOTlanta for awhile it was tagged as it is finding itself too successful for its own good.  And today the New York Times discusses the role of professional flippers that make Chip and Joanna seem amateur. And today I shopped for the last time at Lazzoli the Italian market that made amazing fresh pasta and mozzarella.  Their building sold to turn into more expensive housing.  Who will buy and live in it? I have no clue the wages and the cost of living here are in a collision course.

Nashville is imploding and I for one am out before the next wave hits.


Friday, June 7, 2019

Sharks are Circling

I wrote this piece to submit to Barcopa Literary Review. I just saw the rejection today nearly a month after I submitted it with the day after an email submitted in which it was promptly rejected. 

 I knew the piece was dark and frankly a negative if not accurate portrayal of what it is like living in the South.  Had I done my homework and actually researched this Journal I would have noticed it was from Gainesville, Florida, not exactly a bastion of liberal journalistic esteem.  Whoops. First rule of writing: Know Your Audience.

I share this with you and welcome feedback:

Swimming in the Deep Red Sea

When one has spent the bulk of one’s life swimming in the cool blue waters of the Pacific Northwest you find comfort in its brisk rush.  These are the waters that house the dangerous catch and volcanic ranges of mountains that align the city that erupted from the sky of Boeing and the tools of Microsoft.  A working class city, now a tech city, and the skyline has changed but the water has remained as blue and clear only richer for it.  All cities have their own contradictions and their ways of process but little prepared me for when I decided to take a deep dive into waters less familiar.  

It was June of 2016 when I and many others with our bags made of carpet arrived into the city of “it,” “Music City,” a city on the rise, a city with history that was less lumberjack but no less checkered when it comes to the composition of its music.  That was the only thing these two cities shared when I decided to dive in deep into the warm red waters of Nashville, Tennessee.

I thought I was a strong swimmer and could handle rough waters but that was not what I found. These waters were calm and warm but what lay beneath the surface was a coldness that I did not feel until I dove deep.  When I finally emerged I found myself choking on blood, sweat and tears that made me question every thing I knew and believed about myself and what I knew about those whom I shared a country but not an identity.

When I finally came ashore to take a respite from the endless churn and burn of the water I landed in a place that I did not understand and yet we shared the same language, however, not the same history. And that would be my first marker to know I was already in the deep with no rescue in sight. Well, that is if you do not include the barges that pass by, the taverns on pedals, the carts where the golf clubs are missing, the buses, the horses and carriages that pass by full of passengers oblivious to what is happening beyond the shore.  They cannot lend a hand as theirs hands are already full with the fuel used to keep these vehicles afloat. < The water in Nashville is neither clear nor blue and like the people equally deceptive.  What appears calm upon the surface is anything but as it possess a strong undertow that pulls you away from the shore, away the watchful eye of Batman as his vision is blocked by the endless cranes that arise upon the shore to take their place alongside this landmark.

They say this is a land of opportunity and the water is zoned for the Captains to take a cut but will they share it with those who built this city of it or will they take it to another port of call and find another “it” city in which to vest?

Water is a powerful symbol of faith and rebirth yet this same water only a few years ago tried to drown this city in a Baptism of its own making. And here in the Bible Belt there are endless blessings of heart and with it a dismissal, a warning that serves to remind you that only fools go where you are now treading water.  There is no Savior, only self-reliance and a strong backstroke that allows you to hold up those bootstraps that are in turn held by the belt and the buckle that shines upon it.

This is the belt that fuels the vessel of myths, of the stories told and sung in the choirs and stages that align the shore. I see the lighthouses on the horizon and they are alight and winking at me as if to remind me that the doors are not open for those like me and so keep swimming as I will not be saved.

The water is like the air, hot and sticky, yet it tastes sweet like the endless cups of tea that are tossed from the boats that pass by onto the way they call Broad to the tonks that honk, places that are less about worship and more about the real industry of this little big town by this river.  The siren call here is less about a warning of rocks ahead but more of a reminder to come in and leave the same way or in this case with a “Just Married” sign attached to the backside of your vessel.

Around me I see Sharks but their fins are Bibles and they are circling for blood but whose? Is it the blood of Christ or mine?  Is there a difference? Only a heretic would know and I know heresy when I hear it. Or is that hypocrisy?

Poverty is a blessing but it is one in disguise. For the words they read seem to be in direct contradiction to what is preached and there is no greater message than being rich in faith for it is that which gives one the shiny object that sits on the bow of the Yachts that align the piers of worship.

While an invitation is presented to come aboard one it was extended like the welcome mat upon arrival but was withdrawn once upon deck. For I did not have what the passengers needed to enable me to know their stories, their secrets, for if they were to share it was not to me.

It was here the prosperity pulpit rose and that the obsession with money is to remind those that regardless of the past it will not just be the river that will rise again.  Avarice is a sin but that does not apply to this the city on the rise with gleaming towers, mansions, to tall and skinny or minis like the new coffees for five dollars that are good to the last drop. Without them it would mean all that they prayed for would come to an end and that is not how this story is going to.  It is forever lasting like a resurrection that parallels its endless faith and promises that we already know are lies.

Truth is the enemy and much like the fish tales you hear as it serves to remind one that this is the land of the storyteller.  The stories are churned out like chum and in turn fed to the hungry fish below who eat their fill and become bloated and like cream they rise to the top where they are skimmed off and promptly flushed for they served their purpose.   And it is that lectern, that pulpit, where all speech arises.  It explains why so few do speak to you but instead at you.  They use that time to remand you, remind you, to lecture you when they choose to no longer ignore you. And while their words seem friendly the message is clear: You are not our kind and you are not of us and these are not the waters from where you came.   But it is the markers that align the shore that tell of the history of this place serving less as a reminder but more as a warning to all those who come now as to what happened to those who came before.

I think of the most infamous of the tales from the book of rule that and it was its most miraculous - the one the fishes and loaves; Here in this water we have many fish and we have the bread, only of another kind. But we also have bait and like shade it is tossed and neither offer relief.  Here the fish are more like sheep, no like lamb, only this one is not for purity its is for sacrifice and being led to the slaughter.  They will crowd you, push you, provoke you, tease and taunt you all followed by a denial of its intent.   There is no honor among thieves and here is where the honor code runs deep.   They never stop churning it, burning it or bringing it to the surface, as scores must be settled.   For this is a their sport, shooting fish in a barrel and they never seem to hit enough targets to feed the hungry.

Wages and earnings make a man but in Nashville they will break you. The sea is rising but the lifeboats are full.  The Captains of these industries feel that fighting for wages makes you a stronger swimmer; no it just makes you bait.  Minimum wage for maximum work is why we have lifesavers to stay afloat while awaiting rescue, but not here, for it is only sink or swim. So I keep swimming and the horizon seems further away.  Rest is for the wicked. Am I not wicked enough?   Prayer, as I have been told repeatedly, is the way to find salvation so instead I just keep swimming.

For what is on offer is much like what is on tap, you must pay to be served.    Come to Nashville where humble bragging is a sport, an avocation and a belief.  The endless declarations of the city’s placement on lists that tell of how the city tops one after another, yet they also neglect to mention the same lists that have a top also have a bottom of which they sit as well.  And like much plastic they are tossed and promptly choke the fish.    Here the true bosses of the city sit along the shore like Lifeguards only instead of watching for danger they watch for the swimmers to crash in around them. Just another day along the Cumberland, a river that circles the city like a snake, a symbol not lost here in this city of faith.   But what kind of faith depends on whom you ask.  So I jump back in looking for another place to find the respite I seek.< I am shark bait, like jail bait, I am fresh blood and that is another irony as the home to all private prisons just lay on the right side of the shore.  But that is the point there is only a right side in these red waters.

Ask and you shall not be forgiven for that is not an option on the menu at the Capitan’s Table. For every question there is another answer, another story, another version of the truth.  Don’t ask don’t tell in this city of faith that begets hate with each law they attempt to pass time and time again.  In this city of faith tolerance is a race and it is one not run but lived.  Tolerance is an act, given in exchange for the price one pays for admission and it is not cheap.   The rules of the maritime don’t apply here and they come from one book and that book is carried in hand and sits in every drawer, desk, and place of learning be it public or private for that is the book of laws.   It is a place of rage and where laws are made of hate, the better to rid the city of the interlopers/the non-believers.  This is a city of transients, seekers of gold, like those that once came West who have now moved South.  That which is old is not new, it is rebranded to make someone believe and belief is not just an act it is a necessity.

For every action is designed to cause a reaction, a lesson learned in school, as that is from a book of science and that is not where this is gleaned. For in these schools they have an order and a place in the ecosystem that is defined by their species.  They have magnets and charter boats and private Yachts to distinguish the Guppies from those that are gold.  The same book that writes the laws divides the waters in ways only Moses could have accomplished.  The book is what ensures that the quo remains the status and that only the biggest predators survive.  It is no coincidence that the team that skates on the ice here shares that name as the ice is not the only coldness in this little big town.  Perhaps it is why my tea tastes bitter not sweet as here a may be what puts the spit in hospitality.   Meat and threes are on offer for the plate but the plate has not been passed until the offering has been made. Exchange comes at a price and that is a high price one pays to belong.

These waters possess a calm that belies the storm.  The shade comes not from the trees as the axes fall when a big name game comes to town.   The Hurricane warnings ring and yet none appear on the horizon, for what or whom they toll makes one ask is that for me?  Perhaps the water is rising as it was due to the tears of those whose names and sprits align the shores and the hills that exist in Nashville, for it was they who built the fort of defense and the mansions of the Meade that filled the river to the point it overflowed with them nearly drowning this city only a decade ago like a Baptismal fount washes away the sins.

The land I came from seems so distant so far away but it too has faced a river that brought new fish to the waters of the sound, Piranhas. These are fish that eat flesh but this is a place that passes the bread as the body of Christ so no skin is lost in this game.    For the Amazon is full of riches and the plate has to be passed to make the offer to secure a new Lord whose name is as odd as the ones that fill the book of stories.The South shall rise again and flood the land with riches that all can see but not all can touch.

For one vested in the now it means history is like a reflection, it is simply looking back.  I was a fish out of water and for now this fish is shoaling, for I have no school in which to blend, to hide and wait in which to escape the lines that are tossed daily in my direction.  Fear is the mantra, the motivator and the threat.  It keeps us all moving.  For this water being fresh it is oddly salty, perhaps better to keep all that attempt to dive in afloat.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

What the Opp?

I have never laughed so hard since my mixed use neighborhood already well underway with regards to Gentrification was declared an Opportunity Zone. Really?  Was there some impetus that led to this as we have a James Beard award winning restaurant behind my building or the supposed SoHo Hotel being constructed on the corner? Or the tearing down of a former stadium to build a park?  All of these were well underway before this and then in turn the games began.

Now just a few hundred feet away an abandoned warehouse is now scheduled to be a high end commercial space. But the area has long been undergoing development with the first Track One which I live adjacent.  But now with the idea of a ten year tax break I expect more to follow and the interesting mixed use area is now just going to be bizarre combos of commercial properties with few tenants as Nashville is at peak growth and the reality is that the people relocating here are not entrepreneurs or creatives or whatever one thinks that rich educated folks that permeate the coasts will suddenly decide to dive into the red sea.  Nope.

Opportunity Zones are about the rich and them finding more ways to dodge taxes while professing to do good.  What.ever.

This article from The Washington Post debates the value behind these tax incentives while this discusses that the long term benefits are not as expected.   That was something I warned my neighbors about that if there was an uptick it would be short lived and that in turn the costs of rent and the commute will not change in reflection to that however.  What comes up does not come down

The “ridiculous loophole” that promises to improve low-income areas while benefiting the wealthy.  A federal program’s critics say it provides questionable benefits for low-income communities and hastens gentrification—while awarding large tax breaks to the wealthiest.

By Jessica Goodheart Fast Company
Capital & Main is an award-winning publication that reports from California on economic, political, and social issues.

New York City investor Morris Pearl made a tidy $47,000 by selling Facebook stock this year. Then, looking for ways to reinvest his capital gains and diversify his portfolio, he learned about a real estate deal he couldn’t pass up.

What caught his attention was not so much the fundamentals of the mixed-use project near downtown Los Angeles. Rather, it was what he described as the “ridiculous loophole” that would allow him to forgo paying a capital gains tax on his Facebook stock sale for as many as 10 years and avoid paying any taxes on what he earned from the $50,000 in total he planned to invest in the deal.

That “ridiculous loophole” is otherwise known as the opportunity zone program, a part of the federal 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act that received bipartisan support because it incentivizes the private sector to invest in high-poverty parts of the country.

Supporters, like U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Cory Booker (D-NJ) see opportunity zones as a way to attract investment to struggling communities that might otherwise be overlooked. “This is probably the biggest economic development tool that local government leaders have to attract capital and investment into their communities to create jobs and economic opportunity,” Booker said at a discussion hosted by the National Association of Counties last spring.

But critics say the program is merely a warmed-up version of a decades-old program that provides questionable benefits for low-income communities and hastens gentrification, while awarding large tax breaks to the wealthiest among us. Even some supporters are unsatisfied with the law as it currently stands, because it lacks adequate reporting requirements and accountability measures.

To date, the federal government has created more than 8,700 opportunity zones in states across the country and in five U.S. territories. Nearly 35 million Americans, more than 10% of the country’s population, live in areas designated as opportunity zones.

Pearl put his money in the redevelopment of land located at the industrial periphery of a reviving downtown Los Angeles. The project’s trajectory thus far highlights how little leverage city officials have to negotiate community benefits from opportunity zone investments. States nominate the zones for designation, with input from local governments, but the funds are managed by private real estate companies.

The $119 million mixed-use project is located at 400 North Avenue 19 on a gritty three-acre vacant, industrial parcel that abuts the concrete-lined Los Angeles River. It is slated to include housing, office, and retail space. The developer is Miami-based Fifteen Group, which is partnering with Lincoln Property Company, an international real estate firm based in Dallas.

Selling points include rising rents, rising home values and the expectation that affluent residents will continue to move into the greater downtown area, according to a memo that the New York-based real estate firm Cadre provided to investors. While the project promises to offer rents lower than those found in some of the surrounding neighborhoods, that differential should narrow as “the location becomes more core,” according to the memo. Cadre is expected to inject $57 million in equity into the project, and its investors are expected to yield two-and-half times the after-tax profits they would have gotten from a similar investment not located in an opportunity zone–or an additional $32 million.

Morris Pearl said he was not even aware his investment was supposed to have a social impact. “I don’t think the [tax] law had anything to do with promoting this building other than the fact that it made it more economical,” he said. “I assume that the intended beneficiaries are the real estate development industry.”

Among the beneficiaries could be President Donald Trump’s son-in-law. Jared Kushner is a passive investor and cofounder of Cadre, the firm that is managing the opportunity zone fund for the Los Angeles project. The Associated Press reported Kushner’s connection to Cadre in December, as well as the fact that he and spouse Ivanka Trump have been supporters of the opportunity zone program.
Targeted for eviction

Across the 5 freeway from the 400 North Avenue 19 project is the working-class neighborhood of Lincoln Heights, the city’s oldest suburb and a target for investors looking for the next up-and-coming walkable neighborhood. That has meant eviction notices for some longtime residents, as the Los Angeles Times reported last year.

Lincoln Heights residents facing gentrification pressures will not find much affordable housing over at 400 North Avenue 19, however. The vast majority of the 300 apartment units that are anticipated to be created will be market rate, according to Jay Cortez, a spokesperson for Councilman Gil Cedillo, who represents the area and chairs the city’s housing committee.

Average rents at the project are expected to be $2,212, according to the investor memo. That’s more than twice the median rent Lincoln Heights residents pay, according to the most recent census data. Cortez said that about 15 units, or 5%, are expected to be accessible to very-low-income residents. The very-low-income threshold depends on family size, and, in Los Angeles County, applies to families of four earning below $48,450.

“Overall, [that’s] not necessarily the percentage that we seek,” said Cortez, who added that it is difficult to negotiate a higher percentage when “things are privately funded.” Typically, he said, the Council would attempt to negotiate deals in which the developer sets aside 10 to 15 percent of the housing units as very affordable.

Nor will the units be large enough to allow families to double up. They are expected to be less than 700 square feet on average, according to Cadre’s memo to investors.

The back of a Los Angeles opportunity zone project. [Photo: Flickr user Laurie Avocado]
Nonetheless, Cortez says the project will provide economic benefits to the community, including jobs. “It’s a largely industrial area that’s blighted and they’re looking to really change the landscape and make it more of a hub economically and for residential living,” said Cortez. Cortez, who had spoken to the Fifteen Group in the last month, said he was unaware that the developer was pursuing opportunity zone funds for the 400 North Avenue 19 project.

He adds that the project is a part of a larger complex, the redevelopment of the former Lincoln Heights jail across the street. That project is still undergoing environmental review and will likely be subject to more extensive negotiations with the city council office, according to Cortez. Together, they are expected to comprise the “Lincoln Heights Makers District,” a combination of commercial and manufacturing spaces, retail, office space and live-work housing, as well as an amphitheater with green space, according to a report in 2017 in the Real Deal.

Fifteen Group, which came under fire for evicting artists from lofts in a live-work arts’ colony in the Arts District last year, did not respond to requests for comment.
Lacking the guardrails to ensure investments help solve inequity

The inability of the Opportunity Zone program to guarantee benefits for those it is intended to help has not gone unnoticed. Last month, the Rockefeller Foundation announced the creation of $5.5 million in grants to six cities to help local governments track capital coming into their region through the opportunity zone program and promote community involvement in projects. “While the spirit of the legislation is correct, it lacks the guardrails to ensure investments made in distressed areas directly help to solve some of the historic inequity within communities,” a representative of the foundation wrote in response to questions from Capital & Main.

Opportunity zones have a long lineage dating back at least to the 1980s, when Margaret Thatcher offered tax breaks and regulatory relief to British businesses willing to set up in blighted areas designated as “enterprise zones.” Soon, U.S. states began setting up enterprise zones, and in the 1990s, the Clinton administration’s plans to create federal empowerment zones, a related program, gained steam in the aftermath of the 1992 civil unrest in Los Angeles.

There is weak evidence that enterprise zones foster economic growth and job creation, according to a number of studies including one from the General Accounting Office. That’s because tax incentives–unless they are truly large–are not usually the main influence on a business’s decision to grow or expand.

“In growing places, enterprise zones may do little more than reinforce growth trends, but in distressed places, they are seldom likely to be large enough to make a huge difference,” University of Iowa researchers Alan Peters and Peter Fisher wrote in their 2002 study on the topic.

Another problem is the type of investment they promote, says Samantha Jacoby, an analyst with the D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “The incentive isn’t necessarily to invest in things that might have the biggest benefit for low-income communities like affordable housing or health facilities or grocery stores and food deserts. Those aren’t the things that have huge potential to go way up in value,” says Jacoby.

Another issue raised by critics like Jacoby is how to evaluate the benefits of the program. The Internal Revenue Service requires only bare bones reporting on the opportunity zone, she says. Booker and U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), champions of the opportunity zone program, have co-sponsored a bill to strengthen reporting requirements for opportunity zones that were left out when it was hastily added to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

If the benefits to those living in the zones remain uncharted, the tax benefits that opportunity zones provide to investors are clear. Pearl, for example, will be able to defer taxes on his $50,000 in capital gains for years. If his $50,000 remains invested in the opportunity zone for five years, he will get a 10% break on the gains; after seven years, the tax break rises to 15%.

If he holds his investment in the Los Angeles opportunity zone for at least a decade, he will get a permanent capital gains tax exemption for all of the gains he realizes on that investments through 2047. There are few restrictions on what an opportunity zone fund can invest in. (However, massage parlors and liquor stores are considered “sin businesses” and are off-limits to opportunity zone investors.)

It should be said that Pearl is not your ordinary investor. The former BlackRock executive is chairman of the Patriotic Millionaires, a group of self-declared “class traitors” that came together in 2010 to demand an end to the Bush tax cuts for wealthy individuals. Members include Abigail Disney, who made waves earlier this year when she criticized the Walt Disney Company’s pay practices.

Pearl, whose entire income derives from long-term capital gains, puts his tax rate “in the teens,” a situation he tries to remedy with advocacy. Asked how he feels about benefiting from tax breaks for wealthy investors, even as he objects to them, he says, “That’s my whole point. The tax system is unfair in favor of people in my situation.”
discusses the history behind these types of programs and how little they do to benefit the community they are intended to serve.

Fast Company finds fault with much of the concept of this tax deferment and there are even questions whether this is a good investment strategy.

The Null of a Jury

 Yes the system is rigged. From the way we charge and process criminals we have a system set up to fail.  Once in you will never leave.

A jury's knowing and deliberate rejection of the evidence or refusal to apply the law either because the jury wants to send a message about some social issue that is larger than the case itself, or because the result dictated by law is contrary to the jury's sense of justice, morality, or fairness.
Jury nullification is a discretionary act, and is not a legally sanctioned function of the jury.  It is considered to be inconsistent with the jury's duty to return a verdict based solely on the law and the facts of the case.  The jury does not have a right to nullification, and counsel is not permitted to present the concept of jury nullification to the jury.  However, jury verdicts of acquittal are unassailable even where the verdict is inconsistent with the weight of the evidence and instruction of the law.

There is much being discussed about reforms across the criminal justice system.  Many Prosecutors are taking to emphatic arm waving to stop this and of course the varying Victim Lobby groups will be up and into the business of business that is about establishing a permanent victim class - see MADD for example.  

Read the below essays and ask yourself which side do you want to be on? 

I Was a Juror on a Murder Trial, And I Still Can’t Let It Go
“I felt an overwhelming sense of injustice. How did this happen?”
By Audrey Pischl

Being a juror had never been something I was familiar with—very far from it, actually. I had grown up in Paris, France, and my interests had always been in fashion and the music industry.

I lived in both Europe and the U.S., traveling back and forth, and worked for a high-profile entertainer for a number of years. For the most part, all I was concerned about was the brand of handbag or shoes that I would be buying next, and where I’d go on my next holiday.
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But then I got that jury-duty notice in the post, or “by mail,” as you guys say. So many times, I’d heard people complaining about being called for jury duty—the inconvenience, the missing out on work and income, and then the advice on how to get out of it should you be so unlucky to be selected. I also knew that many potential jurors are dismissed before even making it to the courtroom.

Well, I did get called in, and I had to fill out a long personal questionnaire about my criminal history, if I knew anyone in law enforcement or any lawyers, and my views on guns, gangs, etc.

When I walked in, there were 80-plus other people waiting in movie theater-like seats (except they didn’t recline). Two defendants were present, along with a bailiff maintaining security.

Then, the judge informed us that this was a criminal trial: a murder case.

The questioning of us potential jurors from both the prosecution and the defense took a long time—many people wanted to have their moment to discuss their feelings about law and their past life events. When they got to me, they asked if I had any feelings about tattoos, and if I understood an aiding-and-abetting situation, and if I could be impartial.

Not really, yes, and yes, I said.

I was picked. And without a doubt, what happened next altered my life forever.

Here’s what the case was about: A group of five men were drinking beers in a driveway when someone, or multiple people, came running down the street toward them, shooting a gun. It was early in the evening. One guy was hit in the head and died instantly.

Surveillance videos showed two people running, with hoodies on, in the dark. The district attorney said this was an intentional, premeditated murder, carried out on behalf of a gang.

My first impressions of the two defendants were neutral: James, the taller one, sat up straight and seemed confident but not overly so, while Robert* was hunched down and, to me, looked like a “deer in headlights,” as the expression goes.

I felt immediately as if I could almost hear his thoughts. How did I end up here? How did this all happen to me? At times, he would gently pull his sleeves down over his hands’ tattoos.

James, meanwhile, looked more at ease with the attention and notoriety of a murder trial.

The main thing the district attorney kept returning to over and over again was the fact that Robert had gang tattoos, across his arms and hands. The prosecutor kept asking character witnesses if they knew the meaning of these images. The defense said he'd gotten them to look tougher—not because he'd “earned” them.

His boss even came in as a character witness for him, and praised him as a good person and a hard worker who often took on extra shifts. We also learned that he spent his weekends and free time going to the movies with his little sister.

My opinion was clear: Robert was not guilty, under the law as it was read to us at the end of the trial. If you have reasonable doubt, you have to vote not guilty.

Then deliberation time.

It was just like high school: the jurors got to know each other, had lunch together, shared some laughs during recess. During the six-week trial, things could get frustrating, too: Each of us had our own beliefs and ideas—and prejudices. Mix that in with the people who were in a rush to get back to work or tired of jury duty, and we got a dead end.

It ended in a mistrial: 7-5 guilty for James, 7-5 not guilty for Robert.

This could have been the end of it. I would go on with my fashionable life, return to my husband and being a mother. Surely I’d forget all of this rapidly, as most people do after jury duty.

But something happened for me. I found out after the trial that at the re-trial, the district attorney was seeking life-without-the-possibility-of-parole sentences for both James and Robert.

Life-without-parole. It was such an awful, confusing, impossible notion to me.

So I kept in touch with both attorneys. James followed his counsel’s advice and took a plea deal a few weeks later, taking responsibility for the crime with a 25-year sentence. Robert did not, and listened to his lawyer’s belief that he would be found not guilty at a second trial.

Less than four months later, in October, it began — and without James beside him, all eyes were on Robert, tattoos and all.
Case in Point
An examination of a single case that sheds light on the criminal justice system

Another juror from the first trial, Jill, and myself decided to attend this new trial. She felt the same way that I did about Robert’s innocence. At the opening arguments, he saw us, and, I think, recognized us, giving a small nod in our direction. It was clear we’d come to support him.

I observed the new set of jurors, seated as we had been, listening to all of the same pieces of evidence. They mostly seemed older, some a bit stone-faced, which gave me a strange feeling.

Then they too were off to deliberation.

I was so anxious for Robert. Later on that day, I heard from his attorney that the jurors had asked to review some evidence, which gave me a surge of confidence. Less than 24 hours later, I got a text saying there was already a verdict.

I contacted Jill and off we raced, back to the court house.

When we got there an hour later, we sat down, the jurors came in, and none of them looked towards the seating area—except the last one. And when she looked, it was toward the victim’s family. My heart sunk.

Guilty … Murder one, plus four counts of attempted murder.

I was floored. Robert’s family members were seated one row in front of me, and started to discreetly cry heavy tears.

In the elevator afterward, his mother broke down completely. I could almost touch her pain.

I felt an overwhelming sense of injustice. No new evidence was shown. How did this happen?

As soon as I got home, I knew that I couldn’t let Robert’s story go, and would find a way to try to help him somehow. I called the judge’s clerk and asked if it would be allowed to send a letter asking for leniency at sentencing—at least a chance, at some point in his life, for parole.

Then I started to call every lawyer I could in California, then other states, getting to know the law and how sentences work. I also gave my number to Robert’s family, in case he might want to speak to me someday.

The following week, he actually called me. I wasn’t expecting it, really, but within seconds he thanked me and asked me to pass along his gratitude to the other jurors for believing in him, and that he appreciated us coming to the second trial to support him. He sounded so young.

It was difficult to speak freely, as every few minutes I was reminded by an automatic voice that the call could be listened to and recorded.

We had another call few weeks later, and he seemed a bit more cheerful. He explained that he’d had a very good visit from his family the day before, and that he found out that he could take classes and have a job in prison.

Sentencing came a few days shy of Christmas. Life without parole: a death sentence with a different sticker on it.

It was never proven that Robert was the shooter in this crime, and he was shown to be a contributing U.S. citizen with a long-standing job and no prior run-ins with the law. No matter.

Robert’s case has made me engage with the world in ways I never thought I would. I keep in touch with four of my fellow jurors, and we meet up once in awhile.

I’m also getting involved with an organization that works on new state criminal-justice reform bills, including one that would remove life-without-parole as a possible sentence for someone who has not directly committed a murder.

Where has our humanity gone? Why do we care so little about people being sent to prison for their entire human lives, and what happens to them?

I have been told how unusual it is for a juror to become so involved in the case after-the-fact. But I find it sad that it could ever be unusual to know about what happens to people like Robert and care.

The Day I Didn’t Serve on a Jury in a Sex Assault Case
“As I left the courthouse it dawned on me that the judge had assumed the role of therapist.”
By Andrew Cohen

The first thing that struck me inside the courtroom was the palpable anger that some of my fellow prospective jurors emitted when they found out that the defendant in the case we had been called to serve was accused of sexually assaulting a minor. I would call the mood smoldering. One elderly women in the first row, with a grouchy disposition to begin with, immediately told the judge that she thought the defendant was guilty even though she knew nothing about the evidence. I mean, her arm shot into the air so quickly to make her point to the startled judge and the rest of us that I thought it would soar off her shoulder.

A handful of others also raised their hands, over and over again, to let the earnest judge and the prosecutor and the cop sitting next to her and the defense attorneys and the defendant himself know that there was no presumption of innocence when it came to sexual assault on a child. The candor was both disappointing and refreshing. It was disappointing that for so many people the nature of a crime itself transcends all of the ways in which the law has been crafted to protect the rights of defendants. It was refreshing because these jurors were all disqualifying themselves without forcing anyone to uncover their prejudice.
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The second thing that struck me was how many women in our group of about 60 prospective jurors said in open court that they were unsure they could fairly judge the defendant because they had experienced some form of sexual abuse in their own lives or knew people who had. The judge was not surprised by these urgent responses; clearly he had heard it before in such cases, and so he quickly tried to reassure these prospective jurors that they would not be put on trial during the jury selection process; that they would not be asked by the lawyers to recount their own experiences.

But that didn’t mean the trial itself wouldn’t bring up memories that some jurors clearly wanted to repress. One juror said just that: that she wasn’t sure what the evidence would be, but that she feared it would force her to confront experiences in her past that she did not wish to confront. She didn’t say that she couldn’t fairly judge the case, she told all of us, she just wanted the judge and the lawyers to know how she felt. At this point, all we knew about the case—all I know about it now as I write this—is that the defendant faced one charge stemming from conduct between 2006 and 2009.

During all these exchanges I tried to watch the defendant from my vantage point in the jury box. He is a small man, and relatively thin, and looked to be in his 50s or 60s. The two defense attorneys, both women, both clearly younger than their client, had wisely placed him as far from the jury box as possible. I did not see him speak to his attorneys or interact with them in any way. I did not see him wince or otherwise react when he was adjudged guilty before the first witness had been heard, by the people called to give him a fair trial.

Some people in the jury pool were desperate not to serve. One said she had an elderly parent to take care of. Another said he had business travel he couldn’t miss. One man told us that he suffered from panic attacks and took Xanax several times throughout the day. One woman let us know she has Crohn’s disease and would need to go to the bathroom many times during the course of testimony. An elderly man said the same thing on account of his diabetes. The nice man sitting next to me couldn’t hear the judge even with his hearing aids turned up, so he was given a set of headphones (which he said didn’t work very well).

And then there were jurors, I would say the vast majority, who said they weren’t sure they could give the defendant a fair trial but were willing to keep an open mind. And those were the jurors the lawyers would fight over for the rest of the day. The jurors whose views about crime and punishment and law and order would be probed. The jurors who finally would hear the story of the crime and ultimately render their verdict about whether the man against the wall on the far side of the room was guilty or not.

I did not get selected. I never do. I never can get past the question the judges always ask about weighing a case based solely on the evidence and law presented in court. I agree such an admonition is essential, and too often ignored by jurors, but I cannot unlearn or forget what I have learned as a lawyer and after nearly a quarter of a century of work as a journalist covering criminal justice. In the span of the jury questioning I witnessed I already was wondering why the charges had come so many years after the alleged assault, and whether there were any plea negotiations before the start of the trial, and whether the defense planned to use expert witnesses to testify about the reliability of survivor testimony.

As I left the courthouse it dawned on me that the judge had assumed the role of therapist. That simply didn’t happen when I first started covering jury selections. We are having a different kind of national discussion these days about sexual assault, and how the law ought to handle it, and the echoes of that new dialogue permeated the courtroom even before the first witness was sworn in.

Senior Editor Andrew Cohen, a lawyer and legal analyst, edits The Marshall Project’s daily newsletter, Opening Statement. The defendant in the case, Ralph Ramon Lujan, was found guilty on March 12 of sexual assault on a minor child under the age of 15 by a person in a position of trust, a Class 3 felony in Colorado. He is being held without bond until his scheduled sentencing on May 20.