To the Journal editor:
Imagine a paper napkin held flat and lit in the center. Now watch the dark spot in the middle burn outward and think of the small downtowns who have relinquished their sales and staffs to the big boxes on the highway as they struggle to redefine themselves and survive.
We are the owners of three buildings in the commercial district of downtown Ishpeming and I am fighting hard to keep businesses in them and get them cash positive.
I pay taxes on double their cash value and I am not fighting the city on the tax rate because I live in Ishpeming and I know the economic nightmare the city contends with in trying to meet its obligations. All business owners in our downtown could likely win a fight on city valuations but neither the city nor the county could provide basic services if that battle was won.
As members of the community we choose to pay those obligations even if they are based on market values higher than what we could sell our buildings for. Our kids go to our schools and our streets are plowed by our city Department of Public Works.
There is plenty of evidence to show that we face these harsh economic realities downtown directly because of the transition to large corporate big box models of consumption and distribution over locally owned stores.
When these corporate entities came looking for zoning approval to level and pave large tracts of land beside the highway a strong part of their argument for approval was that they would provide tax revenue based on their investment. The profit from their investment is shipped elsewhere.
The principal owners of those corporations don’t send their kids to our schools and they don’t wake up to the unplowed roads that our towns couldn’t afford to service in a timely manner.
We think that the real question here is whether these big box stores should pay double the value of their buildings like the small business owners do in our town to help finance the reconstruction of the devastation they have left in their wake.