Remarks to Ithaca Downtown Businesswomen 2003


by Paul Glover

Ithacans can celebrate the strength of what I call Ithaca's mutual enterprise system-- entrepreneurial spirit at the service of community. Hundreds of local companies donate time, skills, facilities, tools and goods to benefit the town that provides most of their customers.

When a business is locally-owned, hires local people, pays livable wages (or while it grows, wages as livable as they're able), hires diverse ages, genders, sexual preferences and races, reinvests profit into the community, enhances local identity and pays more in sales and/or property tax than it requires in city services, then it's a good business.

When I'm mayor, Ithaca will be open for good business.

The City of Ithaca would provide such businesses the basic services they need to thrive-- streets, water, fire and police protection. Traditionally, though, mayors have relied on imported capital, particularly chain retailers, to maintain services and stabilize taxes, thereby merely building bigger tax treadmills.

If skyscrapers, highways and shopping malls enriched citizens faster than bureaucracies, then living in Los Angeles would be free. The direct route to local wealth and success is instead through capture for local benefit of all money earned and spent here.

I'll insert here a heresy. Urgent concern has been raised that, without more and bigger big boxes, Ithacans will shop out of town and pay their sales taxes elsewhere. But many Ithacans will shop elsewhere anyway, just as Elmirans shop here.

To keep this issue in perspective, retail spending is one among many leaks of money from our local economy. Trying to plug this leak w/chain retail just makes the hole bigger, as new sales tax income is flushed away by losses for maintaining larger sewer, water, police, fire department, road building and repair, traffic control. This is confirmed by independent studies.

The bigger leaks are from wasted fuels, absentee landlords, mortgage payments, gasoline purchases, from health insurance, supermarkets, sewerage and solid waste. Plugging leaks fully requires us to invent a new kind of American city-- taking full control of our local economy with maximum energy efficiency, expanded regional food production and processing, urban limited-equity co-housing, owning our own nonprofit mutual aid associations and buying clubs to meet all basic needs.

Businesswomen have needs in common with their customers. Businesses need customers with discretionary income. They thus need customers who enjoy something better than merely livable wages. Businesses and their customers need lower prices for basic goods, housing and services.

Therefore, for its part, City Hall needs to serve businesses by addressing issues of retail rental rates, fuel prices, homebased business, code & enforcement, signage, culture of respect for enterprise, and downtown access.

As mayor I'd appoint to boards and commissions Ithacans who enjoy challenges-- who like to explore new ways to meet needs. I'd appoint those who say "let's try it" rather than "it can't be done."

Here are some examples of programs and legislation I'd encourage:

* Venture capital via WISE, which expands the definition of capital and profit, to promote ecodevelopment
* We should negotiate a lower cost City employee health plan by inviting residents into the coverage pool, while shifting reliance incrementally to the Ithaca Health Fund.
* Property and buildings held by the city should be developed by local nonprofit groups to create limited-equity housing, particularly for seniors, young families, low-income residents and the disabled. We should remove rental housing from the speculative market for these purposes.
* An import replacement center would maintain a database of local tools and skills providing linkages for flexible manufacturing networks.
* A local option gasoline tax-- penny per gallon-- could fund TCAT & the revived fixed-rail trolley
* Fuel & insulation buying clubs will reduce the price of reducing fuel bills.
* City Hall's acceptance of local currency for part of tax payment, and reliance on interest-free HOUR loans will break the spirals of layoffs and bond interest payment.
* Tax credits to local property owners for superwindow installation is the foundation of economic development.
* Edible parks, full of fruits, nuts, berries and perennials like asparagus will reduce the costs of mowing while providing free food for those needing it.
* I'd revisit the feasibility of municipalization and district heating
* To flush Cayuga lake, we can permit experimental urban waterless aerated toilets, with annual inspection, to reduce the load on water/sewer treatment and separate human wastes from industrial wastes.
* Bike lanes will be a powerful contribution to downtown access and to the safety of children who are expected to pedal in the street after age 13.
* The City should prefer and permit building disassembly instead of demolition. Old building materials are not trash.
* The Student Re-Use Project has proven that precycling of clothes and housewares will enable Ithacans to meet their needs at low cost. Those who do so can then enjoy locally-produced goods and services. The City should partner in establishing a warehouse for such recycling and sales.

I believe that our future is as bright as this list is endless.