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Do companies keep their promises when they get Boston tax breaks? Councilors want to find out

Boston city councilors agreed yesterday to take a look at how to ensure local companies that get tax breaks actually hire all the people or help fund community programs they promised to when receiving city tax breaks.

Councilor Michelle Wu (at large), who proposed a hearing on the issue, says maybe companies are keeping their word but maybe they're not - there's no current way to know for sure. Just ask the Jamaica Plain teenagers who discovered the owners of Boston Garden had never held any of the fundraisers for local athletics it promised in 1993 in exchange for getting permission for building a new arena.

Wu wants the city to monitor companies that get at least $25,000 n city tax breaks - which can include grants, tax abatements and low-cost transfers of city land - and to post data on their promise compliance on a Web site. She pointed to all the hullabaloo over Amazon's so-called HQ2 process as an example of how important this should be.

Councilor Lydia Edwards (Charlestown, North End, East Boston) said she would go even further: She wants to look at requiring companies that receive any sort of city permission for large projects to pay for a "neighborhood advocate" to watch over their projects and ensure the on-site day-care or other promised benefits are actually carried out.

The next step is for a council committee to hold a public hearing on Wu's proposal and to consider any possible fine tuning before sending it back to the council for a vote.

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Comments

Looked at this a few years ago. All kinds of loopholes they used - for example get credits on one location say in the financial district - and then fire people in another location (say in the Seaport) and transfer the remainder to the new location and count them as net new hires - which they technically were for that location.

Or - simply buy a company and count all of these people as net new jobs - again - technically yes for that company - but it does nothing for adding new jobs to the city.

Bottom line - these programs are usually not necessary - just good political points at the public's expense and a race to the bottom when you pit neighboring cities like Boston and Cambridge and Quincy against each other.

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Voting closed 24

It's nice to see things I proposed 15 years ago are finally coming around to getting done. Good for Michelle Wu for proposing this.

There should be a website for all the PROPOSED tax breaks, that also monitors the tax breaks that are given so that interested citizens like those intrepid kids can follow up on things. That way citizens can see what is coming and what happened.

I'll get really excited when the City council votes to eliminate the BRA and take responsibility for planning and zoning on its own. Democratically elected Citizen power over their own communities...what a concept.

Sort of like no taxation without representation.

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Voting closed 26

you didn't run for office as a literal clown......

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Since the BPDA is behind many of these agreements I think the council will find out they have no authority to question THE AUTHORITY.

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Someone's building a platform for 2021, and I'm on board.

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Is NEVER going to be mayor of Boston. FACT!

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A) She's no socialist. That you're calling her one shows you have no idea what that word means.

B) I bet that last year at this time you were harrumphing that no woman from Chicago was ever going to get elected to Congress around here by defeating a long-sitting incumbent. You probably even ended your assertion with "FACT!" Which suggests you have no idea what that word means, either.

No, I have no idea if she's going to run for mayor, let alone whether she could win. But it's not 1985 anymore and Bostonians are not quite as parochial as they used to be. Sorry if that disturbs you.

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Bostonians aren't as parochial because the cost of living has driven most of them out of the city in favor of wealthy transients.

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There goes smug white boy Adam the Englishman again!

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Get it right. I'm of hearty Eastern European stock. Guaranteed 100% no English corpuscles in my blood.

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Yor blood type is chicken noodle soup!. And that's delicious..

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government giving corporations money = not socialist, not welfare

Questioning whether said corporations held their end of the deal: OMG SOSHULLLEST!!!1!!!!11!!!

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This is one of those things where it seems so obvious it's actually kind of frightening that it wasn't already built into these tax breaks. Of course we should be monitoring and assessing these agreements to make sure they're having the desired effect, especially before we give out any more of them!

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Voting closed 35

since most of these involve state money also, the state is also doing it (I think the auditor is in charge of these). But it doesn't get done all that often and as I note above - there are all kinds of loopholes.

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Oooo but maybe we could do one last really big one for Amazon first

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As of this morning they will be looking for a new HQ2 site as they are abandoning NY (although apparently nothing they will do urgently).

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With Amazon not coming to the city, life is going to be hard in NYC. The dim hope of a Amazon HQ is the only thing which kept that struggling city alive. All 8,000,000 people will go hungry without Amazon bringing a few thousand "good" jobs to the impoverished metropolis. In a few years "New York City" will only be remembered by an aging few.

Thankfully, Boston didn't make the same mistake. The sole reason why Boston is able to survive is the fact GE has its headquarters here. If it wasn't for GE, Boston would be doomed.

Edit: OMG! GE is giving up their new HQ! Just like NYC, we're doomed!

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That's why GE is giving the money back.
Wu is grandstanding.

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I’ll tell you what. Let’s meet up at the observatory on the top of the John Hancock Tower and discuss this. You know, the observatory that was promised.

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the answer is no.

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Maybe hearings are just how these things get done, but who would oppose it?

Yes we need to monitor.

As for monitoring being tricky due to gamesmanship, it seems like the report card should be based on social media relationship status. For each promise:

A. Company fulfilled promise.
B. Company failed to uphold promises.
C. It's complicated. For example, company hired 30 in location B, but layed off 28 in location C or whatever.

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Voting closed 5

A councilor proposes something and the rest of the council agrees (pretty much all the time) to send it to a hearing - where relevant experts/officials are requested to testify and members of the public can speak as well. Then, the committee either votes to send the original proposal back to the council for a vote or to hold working sessions to refine the proposed ordinance/home rule petition, etc.

Who would oppose this?

I know we have a newer kinder BPDA now instead of the BRA, but let's not kid ourselves - up there on the ninth floor of City Hall, they hate it when the councilors down on the fifth try to get involved in their work - and most of these deals involve the BPDA.

We're talking about an agency that, despite repeatedly losing in court over several years, continues to fight to stick a restaurant at the tip of Long Wharf (the seeming end came after a couple of retired National Park Service employees found a copy of the map proving the BRA was wrong after the BRA had somehow lost the original map - in what I like to think a giant Indiana Jones-style warehouse that also stores the agreement for a public observation deck at the Hancock building, Curley's desk and, of course, the Ark of the Covenant).

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Voting closed 19

Hancock Observation Deck.

Bring it back.

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Amazon ditches its plan for Long Island City, and GE plans to back out of building the new 12-story HQ building in Fort Point and will forfeit its incentive package.

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Zoning variances and project approvals often include an array of commitments from the developer. Who monitors and enforces those? At this point, the city doesn't even make sure the landscaping that appears in all those renderings gets planted, even if it is specified in the approval.

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How about we just don't give out tax breaks?

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