May 23, 2016

SPECIAL EDITION: Arena Ruled Tax Exempt

Ultimately, in his 23-page decision, Reichley deemed that the arena, parking and even the Hamilton street restaurants were in keeping with ANIZDA's tax exempt mission to revitalize Allentown.  The Morning Call
Judge Reichley has ruled against the Allentown School District in its suit against the ANIZDA to tax the arena.  Was Reichley correct, and should he have recused himself from the case,  having voted for the district as a state representative?

As I have recently posted, I don't believe that the NIZ really ever intended to revitalize Allentown, but was a ruse to subsidize J.B. Reilly.   Lets be blunt, the intentions and credibility of whole Allentown affair is tainted.  J.B. Reilly, according to reports published in The Morning Call,  was preparing to contribute $50,000 to Pawlowski's campaign,  just prior to the FBI raid last July.  I would doubt that Reilly was making this donation because he thought that Pawlowski would better serve us in the senate than Pat Toomey.  The Allentown NIZ was a scheme spawned in deception,  from sending out straw buyers to intimidate the former merchants,  to including the Morning Call property,  to squash scrutiny from the press.  The arena complex was broken down into condominium units,  with certain area's deemed public, and other area's privately owned by J.B. Reilly.  In addition to the taxing issues raised by the school district,  which fox in the henhouse did the assessment prorations,  assigning value to the different portions for this hybrid project?

ADDENDUM: The Morning Call article has a definite spin that the lawsuit threatened the continued revitalization of Allentown. This spin has been indicative of all Morning Call articles on the NIZ, especially by this reporter, Matt Assad.   In reality,  real revitalization of Allentown will only occur with improvement to the school district, which the ruling hampers.

photo by Harry Fisher / The Morning Call


George Ruth said...

Of all your points (I agree with them all) I find the NIZ link to the Morning Call property the most disturbing. It was an blatant subtle bribe to assure favorable news coverage for decades to come. It reminds me of the New York Times taking funds collected to revive New York City after 9-11 for the construction of its new office tower across from the Port Authority Building. All those first responders and families are still suffering while that left-wing rag plays in its new digs in Times Square. It seems that 'write for play' is a variation of 'play for pay.'

Jamie Kelton said...

The complex is essentially one large building. It's divided up into desperate areas, however none of it are government offices, school classrooms, churches, or other public spaces. It's all commercial real estate. This contrived ruling means that depending on its commercial use, there are taxable areas of the building and non-taxable areas. Even though every part of the building is a private, profit-making part.

In other words, it's how it is USED which determines the taxiblity or not.

That's bullshit.

This contrived ruling gives a precedent which means its possible to consider that certain rooms in homes are tax-free, while others are taxed.

I hope this ruling is appealed with mention to the conflict of interest the ruling judge had who made this nonsense up.

michael molovinsky said...

george@3:53, write to play is well said. i have accused the morning call of cheerleading since the NIZ began. some of the writers there are offended by my assertions, and all i can do is then write about that.

michael molovinsky said...

jamie@4:23, although you wrote desperate instead of separate, soon enough both words will apply

Jamie Kelton said...

Mr Ruth @3:53pm

The Morning Call's news stories about the NIZ go far beyond the "Truth Well Told" principle that I used when I wrote advertising copy. It's promotional material disquized by reporters who present it a news story, and a lot of it has nothing to do with the "truth" at all. It's made up fluff to promote the NIZ in the eyes of the public.

George Ruth said...

Jamie. You are correct about 'truth well told'. I've been known to write some copy over the years, too. Slanted news is something we conservatives (I'll speak for myself here) have been witnessing since the post-war years....and before. Slanted copy is one thing, but consistently and religiously including the PR sign-off paragraph about the NIZ in nearly every MC story is beyond belief.
Don't ya just wish we could all start a MOA secret coffee society to talk about this stuff in person? lol

Geoff said...

In fairness to the judge--he was asked to rule on what the law says. Expecting a county judge to overturn a law is a bit outside reasonable expectation. Even if he voted on it.

The law is poor public policy and worse tax policy. It was passed with many people claiming misleadingly (and confusingly) that the presence of the NIZ would help the school district. It is not outside the absurd norms accompanying many publicly-funded arenas around the country. It combines overemphasis on sport with confusing cause-effect logic.

More likely, the stadium was the stalking horse to allow the demolition of the block for "public purpose" and the construction of taxable property in the "air rights" above. Again, nothing new there, unfortunately.

That said--the real question is "what does Act 50 (and its amendments) say?" Pennsylvania has poor legislative traditions. But we're still bound by them.

Monkey Momma said...

OK, you know I agree with you on all your points, MM. But one question...

What good does it do the Morning Call to be within the NIZ, other than the potential sale of their building? In fact, it's a major PIA to be located in the NIZ for established businesses that don't plan any major construction costs. You have to fill out state and local forms, in addition to already existing tax filings. And these aren't exactly easy forms to fill out - each employee needs to be documented, one by one. Other than the additional paperwork, and possible (???) increase in value in the MC land, I really do not see what the benefit is. Maybe they're hoping to decrease the Call's footprint by half or more and lease the building to another entity? I don't know...but being in the NIZ in and of itself is not really a boon for existing companies. I don't see why the Call is so beholden to promoting it.

Even if the MCall was outside of the NIZ boundaries, it would still benefit from the paid ads generated by NIZ businesses. (There are of course paid ads, in addition to the fluffy ad pieces Assad writes.)

The judge should have recused himself. It is the ultimate demonstration of corruption in PA when a judge who helped vote a law into existence then gets to rule on its ramifications as a judge. Why am I not surprised.

michael molovinsky said...

momma@4:49, a large section, including the lobby and most of the first floor, of the morning call building has been for lease for the last few years. in addition to the staff being reduced, most of the business functions are done elsewhere. the presses are directed by computer from another newspaper in the tribune chain. both the advertising and billing departments are also out of town. i was told already years ago that it would take an enormous investment to once again direct the presses on site, if the paper was spun off. why the building was included in the NIZ zone would certainly make a revealing article, if the paper was so inclined.