Our aim is to be completely transparent, because we believe that a full examination of the facts will lead fair-minded people to urge the New Haven Board of Aldermen to hold the city to its word and fix the tax assessment for 360 State Street so that it is consistent with the projections that both the owner and the Board of Aldermen relied upon when they decided to move forward with the project.
So writes Alderman Doug Hausladen, of New Haven’s seventh ward, in the welcome message of the 360 State Tax Problem website. Of course, “fair-minded people”, or at least the constituents of New Haven’s working class, will not prevail, regardless of the outcome. Certainly, I would have a hard time arguing that the City of New Haven has acted fairly toward the Multi-Employer Property Trust (MEPT), given what I have heard about the situation. But, what does that matter when both parties are just fighting over how much each gets to extract from the product of 360 State’s tenants’ labor? It doesn’t, so proponents of a special reassessment shouldn’t pretend that the fates of the tenants are really at stake. The city is just trying to eat the MEPT’s lunch. Hausladen’s site argues that not modifying the assessment will harm the labor union pensions that the MEPT manages. But, what business do labor unions have playing landlords‽ Such behavior perpetuates the class system that labor unions are supposed to help dissolve. Effectively, 360 State’s high assessment will harm scabs, so maybe it’s a good thing in that regard. I realize that most union membership has disturbingly little control over the unions they constitute, so that was a bit harsh of me. My point is that union labor should make investments that will help, not exploit, other workers. So, that argument won’t sway me. The last major argument Hausladen puts forth states that not modifying the assessment will scare away other investors from New Haven. Perhaps that is true, but even if the city does modify the assessment, its leaders have already damaged its reputation. Furthermore, such investment hurts New Haven. Sure, 360 State is pretty and I enjoy many of the businesses to which it rents, but all that rent money leaves the city. Instead, the city needs to somehow attract investment that will keep ownership local, preferably with the residents and businesses who occupy such spaces. If the “tax problem” deters landlord investors, like MEPT, hopefully that will make room for more wholesome investors.
Anyway, those are my reasons why, as a working-class New Haven resident, and a member-owner of the Elm City Market, I don’t see the situation as a serious controversy. Please, don’t construe these words as an endorsement for a particular outcome. Pragmatically, I would prefer that the city honor its original assessment and I do view these events as another unfortunate example of the city’s leaders’ myopia, but I just wanted to address the issue from an underrepresented perspective.