To the editor:
The editorial appearing in Friday’s Salem News is right when it said that unneeded drama has been created by Mayor Bill Scanlon’s decision to veto the Rantoul Street Residential Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District terms passed unanimously by the Beverly City Council.
The editorial is even more right when it said that the mayor’s action is a slap in the face of the council.
However, its recommendation that the council let the veto stand is wrong.
The City Council should overturn the mayor’s veto and insist that terms for the Residential TIF in the Rantoul Street district be set at a uniform level, with this mayor or future mayors having the ability to negotiate more generous terms than the standard only with final approval from the council. The latter would provide the flexibility sought by the mayor, and this framework has been a cornerstone of the proposal from its outset in order to eliminate the potential for favoritism — real or perceived.
The insistence that the TIF be structured in this way stems from the differences between the commercial TIFs previously utilized by the city, where flexibility in negotiation of the terms is important and necessary, and this specific residential TIF program.
The fundamental difference is that commercial TIFs are first negotiated by the mayor and then approved by the council. The council retains a position of oversight and can evaluate the agreement reached, the assumptions and process used to reach it, and serve as a safeguard against “sweetheart” deals.
That would not be the case with the Rantoul Street TIF program if the council includes the “up to” language sought by the mayor. This language was considered and rejected by the council for good reason.
Such a change would give this mayor or future mayors the ability to negotiate the TIF deals associated with the district with no criteria stated in advance to determine what level of incentive is given to a project and why. It would also eliminate the council from serving in an important oversight role.