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Where politics and faith dance in the shadow of the windmill.

Standing up for free enterprise and slums

It can be challenging standing up for free enterprise today, especially when it involves real estate. But somehow, Kent County commissioners Shana Shroll, Dan Koorndyk, Harold Voorhees, and Mike Wawee found that courage. As Jim Harger reports, theirs were the only votes against the purchase of property by the Kent County Land Bank.

On one hand the complaints are understandable: if the Land Bank steps to the head of the line for certain properties, doesn’t that create disincentives for other speculators? Notwithstanding that more than 300 properties are being offered up at the County auction.

One can understand the Voorhees vote, and even that of Wawee — both come from the far west side, and reflect that sort of economic conservative (aka Tea Party) sensibilities. Fine. But Koorndyk and Shroll? They both live close enough to see the impact of abandoned properties in neighborhoods, or the impact of absent land lord. Their support for the flippers and slumlords is hardly appetizing, and  certainly not the mark of civic leadership.

As David Allen explained earlier on Urban Planet, it is not even clear how many of these speculators now crying foul, will actually perform any renovations let alone pay taxes. To date, that has not been the dominant strategy from the playbook.

While the properties are not in their district, their vote places them on the side with the economic radicals — a position broadly out of favor in both districts (and certainly in East Grand Rapids, one third of Shroll’s new seat.  With redrawn districts, the commissioners have gone and handed their opposition a prime issue, one that Democrats will gladly say, “thank you.”

Is the support for slum lords overblown? Below the fold, Allen explains how the Kent County Land Bank purchases work, and more importantly how the speculative flipping damages neighborhoods and city revenue. Read the rest of this entry »

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