More a Press Release; Less a Letter

RECEIVED Fri., Nov. 21, 2003

   By owning the large Mueller tract that's soon to be developed, our city itself is definitely in the winner's circle – right along with all those developers it wanted off the aquifer! Some developers make money buying and selling land as land values rise, but a city that sells has to depend on taxes for yearly income. Other developers like to lease land, if not buildings, for the steady income year after year. That could really work for the landowning city. The reason is simple. Yearly income from leasing land at market rates would easily exceed income from land taxes. Otherwise landowners who lease would go broke fast.
   So should the city act like a landowner? Maybe, but it has to have a chance at the outset to compare incomes from leasing and from selling Mueller, a chance the City Council won't get unless it authorizes the comparison, ideally a peer-reviewed, professional determination.
   The fun has already started. At the last Mueller commission meeting, the pro-sale strategy was to push for a "workshop" to settle the all-lease versus sale issue, and settle independently of city staff and council! No kidding. Earlier, Catellus did agree to provide figures for a lower level of reward and risk it could accept. However, over the next three months it made excuses for not providing them, and then announced in the Statesman that negotiations for sale of Mueller were well under way.
   The last thing the anti-lease forces want is an initial comparison between yearly all-lease revenue and land tax revenue. If they prevail in the City Council, watch for more quiet deals selling off chunks of the city's land a little at a time, for prices kept secret like the Seton purchase.
Mary Lehmann
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