Coolish, cloudyish, sort of an -ish day. But a good one. I spent it in shorts and a T-shirt, watching the SCOTUS reaction and reading about sexual assault at the University of Michigan. Among other things. Stirring the noodles, planning the rest of the summer.
Marquette has been hit hard by a tactic that the country’s biggest retailers are using to slash their property taxes. Known as the “dark store” method, it exemplifies the systematic way that these chains extract money from local governments. It’s also the latest example of the way that, even as local governments across the country continue to bend over backwards to attract and accommodate big-box development, these stores are consistently a terrible deal for the towns and cities where they locate.
Marquette is one of the countless places that has bought into big-box economic development. Over the years, the township in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan spent millions extending water mains, law enforcement, and other infrastructure and services to its big-box commercial corridor along U.S. 41. When the Lowe’s opened there in 2008, local officials including the mayor turned out for a “board-cutting” ceremony—the home improvement center version of a ribbon-cutting.
Then, less than two years later, Lowe’s flipped the script. The mega-retailer, which reports annual net sales of about $50 billion, went to tax court to appeal its property tax assessment. Marquette had pegged the taxable value of the store, which had just been built for $10 million, at $5.2 million. In front of the Michigan Tax Tribunal, an administrative court whose members are appointed by the state governor, Lowe’s won assessments that were, instead, $2.4 million in 2010, $2 million in 2011, and $1.5 million in 2012.
It goes on. It gets more infuriating. Read, because it’s probably happening where you are.
Reading stories that should be news, but aren’t anymore: The Romeo Observer, a weekly newspaper, is folding. Tragedy, right? I learned about this via the Facebook page of a Republican consultant I connected with when I wrote a different story. His take:
I have never rejoiced at the demise of a newspaper, until today. Good riddance to the flea-bitten Romeo Observer and its cranky luddite Editor and Publisher Melvin Bleich. In the article proclaiming its own demise, the Observer attributed its downfall to “the internet.” Bleich hated technology. He refused my press releases releases sent via fax, and then later by email. He once told me, in the most caustic possible way, that he would only accept press releases via the postal service or by hand. So, thank you internet for righteously claiming this most worthy of victims in your relentless drive to actually inform people in a timely fashion!
There are Luddites, and there are Luddites. Hilarious. We once had a stringer in Fort Wayne, a man in his 80s, who would send in his dispatches typed on onionskin paper, in envelopes with RUSH written on them in a shaky hand. On the other hand, when there was a propane explosion down in Berne, he got out of bed, pulled on his pants and dictated a few grafs to the desk on deadline. God bless Simon Schwartz, who I assume has gone to be with the God he believed in so fiercely. (After the propane explosion, in which some victims were burned, he wrote a chatty note to an editor speculating on whether their pain might be equal to the fires of hell.)
Bristol Palin is pregnant. No comment. (She doesn’t want any lectures.)
And so we lurch into the weekend. Happy weekend to you.