Mark W. Schumann
Dan, thank you for that reply.
First off, I apologize for the Bond Fairy nomenclature.
The tax-free nature of the bonds is a subsidy to the company on whose behalf they're issued. It has to be, because a) why else would they bother? and b) the tax break is exactly why wealthy investors are willing to accept lower interest rates on these bonds compared to ordinary corporate bonds. The tax-free, um, thing? Cuts your borrowing costs significantly. It's a handout to Eaton and others similarly situated.
I'm not questioning the Port Authority's license to issue bonds. As you say, that's a state decision. What I'm questioning is why we need an extra flap of government here to do "economic development" when state, county, and city governments already have "economic development" departments--especially given that extraordinary bond-issuing power in the hands of an unelected board. We have ways to make those deals if we need to. Why have this one?
The topic of this conversation was: "What can the Port [Authority] do to keep or earn your support?" My answer is: "To begin with, they can explain to me why the Port Authority should even exist as a separate entity." I'm really not seeing the need for an extra, free-floating, unaccountable flap of government dedicated to "economic development" here. (It's a "flap" because it doesn't really consititute a layer but it's kind of in the stack there somewhere.)
You are right, NOACA is a fantastic example of what we're talking about. You weren't here yet, Dan, when that scandal hit. Like the Port Authority, NOACA had (and has) a board that's one step removed from elected accountability and an Executive Director thus two steps removed. It didn't go well.
Making the Port a function of county government would:
- preserve all existing Port investments
- enhance accountability
- remove an extra flap of government
- bring Port governance into public view through the normal County Council committee process
- bring Port finances (and auditing) into the County Fiscal Officer's realm
I'm not seeing the downside in folding the existing Port Authority into a new Cuyahoga County Division of Port Control. So absent a compelling reason to maintain an entirely separate institution, no, I don't support the Port Authority.
I would be really interested in reasons why we need a standalone Port Authority. I can't think of any.
Posted Dec 11, 2012