Monday, March 06, 2006

Houston makes the cover story of Governing magazine, exposing questionable TIRZ practices


Yep, that is the Fourth Ward with the Continental building behind it. When the magazine came in my mail, I did a double-take when I saw it, thinking those skyscrapers looked awfully familiar.

The story is quite long but absolutely worth reading (and don't miss the photo essay near the top). It talks about State Representative Garnet Coleman's efforts to stop gentrification of the Third Ward, what happened in the Fourth Ward, the pro-gentrification case from developer Larry Davis, Mayor White's program, former Mayor Lanier's take, and, most interestingly, what the TIRZ's are up to in Midtown and the Third Ward with "land banking".

First, the obligatory excerpts:
Gentrification, a phenomenon normally associated with coastal cities such as New York and San Francisco, is now heading inland, transforming inner-city neighborhoods from Milwaukee to Raleigh-Durham to Albuquerque. It’s even come to Houston, the three-beltway city that loves to sprawl. Since 2003, the number of Houston-area suburbanites “very interested” in moving into the city has doubled, according to sociologist Stephen Klineberg, who regularly surveys regional attitudes toward the city. Homebuilders are responding by blanketing neighborhoods close to downtown with three-story town homes and lofts.

Such development is no accident. In the past decade, the public sector has invested upwards of $8 billion in the central area Houstonians call “the Inner Loop,” much of it geared toward making the city more enticing to affluent suburbanites. There’s an eight-mile light rail line, new football and baseball stadiums, a museum district that’s doubled in size, new downtown parks and fresh landscaping. Yet now that suburbanites are moving in, it’s not just Garnet Coleman who’s sounding the alarm. So are Houston’s mayor, Bill White, and many members of the city council — particularly those who represent predominantly African-American and Hispanic districts.

...

What concerns both White and Coleman and most critics of gentrification is the prospect of Third Ward residents getting priced out of their own neighborhood. Recent research, however, suggests that worry is overblown. Studying gentrification’s impact in Boston, Duke University economist Jacob Vigdor found that an influx of affluent newcomers had, if anything, merely contributed to Boston’s socioeconomic integration. “There is no evidence to suggest that gentrification increases the probability that low-status households exit their housing unit,” Vigdor concluded. Columbia University economist Lance Freeman found the same thing last year in a study of New York. In fact, Freeman found that residents of gentrifying neighborhoods were less likely to move than residents of non-gentrifying neighborhoods.

Those studies haven’t tempered fears that the Third Ward is on the brink of upheaval and the perception among policy makers that something must be done to tame it. What Houston is discovering, however, is how slippery an issue gentrification can be. The Third Ward today is awash with developers, politicians, neighborhood activists and longtime residents. Each possesses a financial, political or personal stake in what the Third Ward is to become. And each, in distinct ways, is working at cross-purposes. Not only do they disagree on how to solve the Third Ward’s gentrification problem; they can’t even agree on what the problem is.

Is gentrification, despite what the academics say, really a problem of displacement? Is it a natural and unavoidable consequence of market forces, or does it result from specific policies? Is it a problem of low wages or one of high-priced real estate? Does it require government intervention? That such a debate is playing out in Houston — a city famous for its lack of zoning and its developer-friendly ethos — is a testament to the passions and confusion that gentrification arouses. What really seems to be at stake is something quite nebulous: the character of a neighborhood. And in Houston, as in many cities, that is inextricably linked to questions of political power and race.

Now, back to that TIRZ stuff which is very concerning:

The key to Coleman’s approach is money — money to buy land and take it out of circulation. To get it, Coleman is utilizing a quasi-governmental authority, deploying tactics that would make the legendary highway and bridge builder Robert Moses proud. If Moses manipulated the back channels of power in New York for the cause of promoting development, however, Coleman is doing the same in Houston in order to impede it.

Coleman’s vehicle is an urban investment tool known to most cities that use it as “tax increment financing.” In Houston, the arrangement goes by a different name — “tax increment reinvestment zone” or TIRZ. The idea is that as a depressed area redevelops, the resulting increase in property taxes pays for more improvements in the neighborhood. Houston’s city council has designated 22 such TIRZs in different neighborhoods, each with its own governing board. Typically, their goal is to spruce up sidewalks, lighting and landscaping, in hopes of attracting even more development.

One TIRZ, in a neighborhood known as Midtown, is acting a little differently. Midtown is a once run-down area of commercial warehouses just east of the Third Ward. It’s now transformed into a thriving neighborhood of apartments, shops, restaurants and nightclubs. The board of the Midtown TIRZ is divided between Coleman loyalists and appointees of Mayor White. The board has chosen to use almost all of its revenues — $10 million in the past five years — to purchase and then “bank” land in the Third Ward. “If you look at Midtown, that was all publicly induced — ain’t none of it affordable,” says Coleman. “Why can’t we do the same thing for people who need an affordable place to live?”

It’s a decidedly unorthodox arrangement, one whose very existence seems to be something of a secret. Coleman declines to say how much land the Midtown TIRZ has banked in the Third Ward. He’ll say only that he wants the land to be used for low-income rental housing, with deeds held by local churches and CDCs that could borrow against the value of the land in order to build more affordable housing. “Low-density rental is the only way for it to be affordable,” Coleman argues. “You keep the character of the neighborhood while providing affordable housing.”

In order to save the Third Ward, Coleman seems intent on freezing its current character and demographics in place. An essential part of his plan is to attach restrictive deeds to the rental properties to ensure that they are never sold to private developers or converted to condos. But is it really possible for a neighborhood to resist change? Fifty years ago, much of the area that Coleman now sees as his patrimony was a largely Jewish neighborhood. Only in the 1960s did the area become predominantly black. What Coleman is trying to do is keep it that way. He seems to enjoy the challenge. “Everyone said it couldn’t be done,” he crows, with obvious relish. “I said, ’Watch me.’ ”

A public entity hiding what it's doing? A TIRZ that, instead of investing in improving a district, is using its money to actually impede improvement? I have to say, it all sound sort of fishy to me - something I'd love to see the Chronicle do a little investigative reporting on (not to mention City Council). Are we really sure this is what we want our TIRZs doing? For years I've noticed all these little improvements in Downtown and Uptown (sidewalks, signage, landscaping, etc.), but nothing in Midtown, and wondered why. Well, now I know: the Midtown TIRZ is using its funds for "land banking" instead of making district improvements. Is this really a good use of what are essentially public taxpayer resources?

Let's look at this from a purely economic perspective for a minute. There are some relatively small areas of land that could potentially gain a lot of value and add substantially to the tax rolls. There are plenty of poor areas of town that are not valuable, not going to be anytime soon, and could use lots of investment. Wouldn't it be wiser to let developers increase the value of the small area, and direct the incremental tax revenues to helping other, more run-down and less desirable neighborhoods (inc. more affordable housing)? Wouldn't that help a lot more people than locking the small areas of potential gain into low-value uses? To me, this seems like the worst kind of NIMBYism: "screw the needs of the rest of the city, I'm preserving my neighborhood at all costs." If Rep. Coleman's broader constituent base truly understood how much they were potentially giving up by freezing this land in time (money for schools, parks, libraries, community centers, clinics, sidewalks, lighting, affordable housing - the list goes on and on), I think they wouldn't be so happy.

33 Comments:

At 8:49 AM, March 07, 2006, Anonymous RJ said...

I had heard something to the effect that one of the impediments to development in Midtown is that some of the parcels have been subdivided into such small or odd pieces that it makes redevelopment more difficult and potentially unattractive for developers. So the Midtown TIRZ has played a role in helping to assemble these pieces into larger, more marketable tracts. Assuming that this is indeed the case, I find no problem with a TIRZ playing that role.

More importantly, the state of Texas finds this to be a legitimate use of a TIRZ. The enabling legislation for a TIRZ is Chaper 311 of the state tax code, and 311.005 spells out the criteria for a TIRZ, including (1)(b) "the predominance of defective or inadequate sidewalk or street layout; (C) faulty lot layout in relation to size, adequacy, accessibility, or usefulness;"... and (2) "...obsolete platting..."

I've of course made some assumptions here, stated above, but if what I've heard about the reasons for assembling land are correct, then this is entirely legal.

 
At 12:58 PM, March 07, 2006, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Assembling parcels is one thing, but then requiring that they remain low-income rentals in perpetuity is another.

 
At 1:09 PM, March 07, 2006, Blogger Owen said...

I really don't see the point of this at all. Why should the character of a poor, high-crime neighborhood be something worth protecting to the exclusion of improving local infrastructure? Why should it be a goal at all?

The article seems to indicate that racial politics are afoot. I wouldn't be surprised.

 
At 1:29 PM, March 07, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Assembling parcels is one thing, but then requiring that they remain low-income rentals in perpetuity is another.

Still legal and intended.

Chapter 311 includes such language as "at least one-third of the tax increment of the zone be used to provide affordable housing during
the term of the zone" for zones within counties above 3.3 M in population. Further, tax increment revenue can be used "to pay the costs of providing affordable housing or areas of public assembly in or out of the zone."

And yes, the TIRZ Board and municipality can impose covenants, conditions, and restrictions that run with the land.

Why should the character of a poor, high-crime neighborhood be something worth protecting

...one could draw the conclusion from this that you're only interested in preserving rich, low-crime neighborhoods...

 
At 1:30 PM, March 07, 2006, Anonymous RJ said...

oops, that was me above

 
At 1:37 PM, March 07, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Almost two years ago, I wrote on the subject of TIRZ abuses; that time it was the Upper Kirby Management District. Put the UKMD's tactics together with Coleman's strategy, and the recent Kelo decision, and the combination is truly frightning.


--Ubu Roi

 
At 4:56 PM, March 07, 2006, Blogger Owen said...

rj,

...one could draw the conclusion from this that you're only interested in preserving rich, low-crime neighborhoods...

That's not what I said. I'm not interested in "preserving" any neighborhoods. If people are willingly selling and buying in a market system, I fail to see the problem. Original residents leave as their properties sell for a greater price, and they can afford newer, better homes elsewhere (the Chronicle had an article on this phenomenon a while back). If a rich neighborhood becomes lower income due to market forces, I have little problem with that either.

But it makes far less sense to me to preserve a dysfunctional neighborhood full of crime, drugs, and blighted homes. It makes little sense to encourage poor people to rent, since even if the homes are renovated as an initial matter, the fact that they aren't owned by the residents or by a wealthy business entity will often tend to encourage the blight to reemerge. It just strikes me as the most wrong-headed strategy ever concocted, driven by intolerance -- just listen to Coleman talking derisively about young yuppies walking their dogs. There's something seriously wrong with the man.

 
At 2:00 AM, March 08, 2006, Blogger MichaelMcLees said...

I thought that big white building was the Fulbright Tower. Am I going to nuts?

 
At 2:03 AM, March 08, 2006, Blogger MichaelMcLees said...

Nevermind. Good eye.

 
At 6:08 AM, March 08, 2006, Anonymous RJ said...

It just strikes me as the most wrong-headed strategy ever concocted

hyperbole...

 
At 7:54 AM, March 08, 2006, Blogger Owen said...

rj,

Ok, perhaps invading Russia in the winter was a worse strategy, but this ranks up there. It's about the worst urban planning strategy I've ever heard of, as it doesn't even strike me as well-intentioned.

 
At 11:07 AM, March 08, 2006, Blogger David said...

It isn't clear in the article or in these comments that this land banking is not going on in Midtown, but east of it in the Third Ward. I assume it's all legal, so "theft" is an inappropriate word, but it strikes me as being truly bad public policy. The effect of a TIRZ being able to do this is to ensure that no low-income people will live inside its borders, and to perpetuate low-income clustering in places that already have a lot of low-income residents. It will be interesting to watch who gets this land in order to develop it.

 
At 11:18 AM, March 08, 2006, Anonymous RJ said...

Ok, perhaps invading Russia in the winter was a worse strategy, but this ranks up there.

Preserving the 3rd Ward ranks up with invading Russia in winter? Definite hyperbole.

 
At 12:58 PM, March 08, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to say that I was also struck by the dog-walker comment. My wife and I often walk our dog at night in the "gentrified" part of the Fourth Ward. Years ago, before I was married, or had a dog, or owned a house, I would sometimes walk through the same area on the way downtown. I stopped because every time I did, I got hassled by drug dealers, and I didn't like it. I doubt their non-drug-dealing neighbors liked it either, so I'm a little surprised that my own state representative speaks of *me* with "dismay".

Gentrification is a tricky issue. One the one hand, I'm all in favor of letting property-owners do what they want with their land, including selling it to Perry Homes. On the other hand, for decades, the city didn't fix the potholes or the sewers in that part of town. Lots of intersections didn't even have street signs. It's pretty crappy to tell the existing residents of an area that you are finally going to start maintaining what you should have been all along, but too bad they won't be able to enjoy it because they are just renters.

So I can support using some public money to develop or preserve affordable housing, ideally for people who already live in the affected area. (TIRZs themselves are a whole different issue.) As usual with government action, though, a lot depends on the real intentions (and the tone) of those doing the governing. I'll have to tell my (dog-walking) neighbor with the Coleman sign in his yard what his rep really thinks of him...

jt

 
At 2:24 PM, March 08, 2006, Blogger Owen said...

rj,

It's not hyperbole at all. Trying to shield a blighted area from true economic revitalization is a stupid strategy. Misguided anger at young whites for moving into black neighborhoods is also stupid. Monumentally stupid. "Let's invade Russia in the winter" stupid.

If you disagree, by all means explain how. Don't just say this use of TIRZ's is legal -- nobody disputes that. Explain why it isn't absurd.

 
At 2:30 PM, March 08, 2006, Blogger Owen said...

jt,

[F]or decades, the city didn't fix the potholes or the sewers in that part of town. Lots of intersections didn't even have street signs. It's pretty crappy to tell the existing residents of an area that you are finally going to start maintaining what you should have been all along, but too bad they won't be able to enjoy it because they are just renters.

This can be true of affluent areas as well (before they repaved Greenbriar recently, it was like a third-world street). Really, though -- I don't think the City of Houston was engaged in some concerted effort to allow the infrastructure in bad neighborhoods to fail.

So I can support using some public money to develop or preserve affordable housing, ideally for people who already live in the affected area.

Eh... I'd prefer if we're going to go that route, why not just provide poorer residents with housing vouchers and let market decide? If they want to use the money to live somewhere else, so be it. Neighborhoods change, and there's no point in distorting the housing market.

 
At 6:43 PM, March 08, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

owen: "Really, though -- I don't think the City of Houston was engaged in some concerted effort to allow the infrastructure in bad neighborhoods to fail."

I'd say the city's sins have been more those of ommission than commission, at least in the post-Jim Crow era. But even now you can't drive around the city and not notice a relationship between infrastructure quality and income. The Lanier/Brown/White(?) neighborhood revitalization stuff has helped a lot, but that was just getting going back when the whole Fourth Ward TIRZ/redevelopment was starting.

owen: "Eh... I'd prefer if we're going to go that route, why not just provide poorer residents with housing vouchers and let market decide? If they want to use the money to live somewhere else, so be it. Neighborhoods change, and there's no point in distorting the housing market."

I can also certainly support housing vouchers, and I agree that they are more efficient than other government interventions. But most cities' real-estate markets, even Houston's, are pretty far from "free". The TIRZs themselves are pretty massive distortions. And "efficient" isn't "fair" anyway. If the city is going to give a tax break to a developer in the form of a promise to spend his property tax "increment" only on stuff near his development, I don't see why it can't also try to accomodate some of the people who are being displaced.

It's just too bad that Fourth Ward case wound up being an affordable "housing" plan that involved little actual housing. The whole "dog walker" comment from the article that drew me into this thread makes me a little pessimistic about Coleman's true intentions for Midtown/Third Ward too. But I'm not opposed on principle, given all of the other market distortions going on.

jt

 
At 8:19 PM, March 08, 2006, Anonymous RJ said...

Owen,

The case of neighborhood preservation being "'Let's invade Russia in the winter' stupid" is thrown out for not establishing prima facie obviousness.

 
At 8:52 PM, March 08, 2006, Blogger Owen said...

rj,

The case of neighborhood preservation being "'Let's invade Russia in the winter' stupid" is thrown out for not establishing prima facie obviousness.

I explained myself in an extended post, arguing that preserving a blighted neighborhood against regular, voluntary market changes towards revitalization was silly. You're preventing a neighborhood from improving, and landowners from cashing out.

At the very least, I've made a semblance of an argument. You have not done so. You noted that TIRZ's are legal and left it at that. And to my arguments, you've responded with inane and rude one-word posts. So please, put up or shut-up.

 
At 9:07 PM, March 08, 2006, Blogger Owen said...

jt,

I'd say the city's sins have been more those of ommission than commission, at least in the post-Jim Crow era. But even now you can't drive around the city and not notice a relationship between infrastructure quality and income.

That may mostly be due to the fact that blighted neighborhoods also tend be old -- and thus the infrastructure is aged. Also, blighted neighborhoods may not have the organization needed to petition the city government to repave roads. I really don't think that Houston city hall purposely ignores poor neighborhoods -- I just think factors drive poor infrastructure in poor neighborhoods.

That's not universal, though. The roads in the Heights, which is still largely sketchy, have virtually all been repaved. The infrastructure there is supurb. On the other hand, many of the streets in Braeswood -- which is very wealthy -- are still of Fourth-Ward quality. It doesn't always line up so clearly.

I can also certainly support housing vouchers, and I agree that they are more efficient than other government interventions. But most cities' real-estate markets, even Houston's, are pretty far from "free". The TIRZs themselves are pretty massive distortions.

Here I disagree. TIRZs benefit existing landowners because their values go up. For those who rent, vouchers help them relocate if their rents go up, and without creating a further market distortion. So long as the residents make it out ok, I don't see why there should be an independent goal of keeping them inside the neighborhood. These are neighborhoods that have changed multiple times over the years, and it should be allowed to happen again. After all, while they are market distortions, TIRZs wouldn't function if there wasn't already demand.

Besides, as far as people being taxed out, appraisal caps are the surest solution to that. And rents can go up all the time for people -- low rent in an up-and-coming neighborhood is hardly a right.

 
At 9:19 PM, March 08, 2006, Anonymous RJ said...

Owen -

All I've done is

1) provided Tory with guidance on the enabling legislation for TIRZs, because it appeared from his post that he was unclear about what powers a TIRZ was granted by the state legislature,

and 2) observed that your continued comments that neighborhood preservation is ""'Let's invade Russia in the winter' stupid" are hyperbole.

I've not staked out a position here on TIRZs and the specifics of their powers, and I don't intend to. I've also not staked out a postion on what I think about neighborhood preservation, and I don't intend to.

But I do intend to identify hyperbole when I see it. You continue to insist that neighborhood preservation is on par with invading Russia in the winter... so Napolean invades Russia in the winter of 1812 with 614,000 men, and only 50,000 survive, and in your mind that is a rough equivalent in stupidity to neighborhood preservation. No sir, you lose that case for failing to establish prima facie obviousness!

 
At 11:22 PM, March 08, 2006, Blogger Owen said...

rj,

All I've done is 1) provided Tory with guidance on the enabling legislation for TIRZs, because it appeared from his post that he was unclear about what powers a TIRZ was granted by the state legislature..

No it didn't. Nothing he did suggested that he was inviting your input as to legality of TIRZ measures. It came out of nowhere. Tory's argument was purely policy-oriented.

I've not staked out a position here on TIRZs and the specifics of their powers, and I don't intend to. I've also not staked out a postion on what I think about neighborhood preservation, and I don't intend to.

Cowardly.

But I do intend to identify hyperbole when I see it. You continue to insist that neighborhood preservation is on par with invading Russia in the winter... so Napolean invades Russia in the winter of 1812 with 614,000 men, and only 50,000 survive, and in your mind that is a rough equivalent in stupidity to neighborhood preservation. No sir, you lose that case for failing to establish prima facie obviousness!

I was thinking more of Germany during WWII. But in any case, I do believe that attempts to preserve a blighted slum, full largely of vacant and near-uninhabitable homes, and with rampant crime problems, against the revitalization that comes with wealthier residents trying to move into the city, is stupid to a similar degree of trying to invade Russia in the Winter. If you disagree, explain why. Otherwise, put up or shut up.

Oh, and by the way -- Describing my position as equating "neighborhood preservation" with invading Russia in the Winter was a strawman. I was focused on this specific case, not neighborhood preservation generally. So you are guilty of hyperbole as well. You know what they say about people in glass houses!

 
At 6:16 AM, March 09, 2006, Anonymous RJ said...

I do believe that attempts to preserve... is stupid to a similar degree of trying to invade Russia in the Winter.

I've made a semblance of an argument

sigh...

 
At 7:05 AM, March 09, 2006, Blogger Owen said...

rj,

Selective quoting does not an argument make. I've engaged the issue and backed up my views with argument, while you give rude, terse responses (I don't know if you saw the irony, but I threw it back at you by calling this tactic "Cowardly").

It's quite clear to me that you're behaving like a pompous jerk, and are therefore not worth anyone's time.

 
At 7:36 AM, March 09, 2006, Anonymous RJ said...

Tory, forgive me for continuing this thread.

Owen, you've put forward your position of why you think preserving the 3rd ward is a stupid decision. Your task here is to show how that decision is proportional in stupidity to one that caused the loss of millions of lives, the fall of an army, and the radical change in the course of world history. You haven't done that yet, despite making the repeated claim that they are proportional.

I will be the first to congratulate you if you can make a persuasive case. Otherwise, the tag of hyperbole remains affixed to your argument.

 
At 8:19 AM, March 09, 2006, Blogger Owen said...

rj,

Owen, you've put forward your position of why you think preserving the 3rd ward is a stupid decision. Your task here is to show how that decision is proportional in stupidity to one that caused the loss of millions of lives, the fall of an army, and the radical change in the course of world history. You haven't done that yet, despite making the repeated claim that they are proportional.

That's a consequentialist viewpoint, for starters. Simply because a course of action has bad consequences, doesn't necessarily mean that it is more or less stupid. Moreover, the proportionality here is impossible to measure objectively, so you'll always remain unconvinced. I can't attach a number value to either. Suffice it to say that I view preserving a slum and expecting good results as being just as misguided as invading Russia during the Winter and expecting good results. By raising this specific comparison I was just trying to be a bit amusing by raising such a clear example of stupidity -- but stupidity is stupidity, even if the consequences are more localized and not as historically relevant.

So ultimately, you'll smugly give one word responses in response to my views on this matter, refuse to give any opinions of your own, and make hyperbolic and wrongheaded statements, i.e. when you implied that I was invoking neighborhood preservation generally, and when you erroneously tried to debate Tory on the legality of TIRZs, an issue which was never raised in his post (despite your claims to the contrary).

You're the sole reason this discussion has degenerated as it had. Yes, you do owe Tory an apology for being rude and wasting everyone's time. I also owe Tory an apology for feeding the trolls, which is something I swore I'd never do.

 
At 8:35 AM, March 09, 2006, Anonymous RJ said...

when you erroneously tried to debate Tory on the legality of TIRZs

I had no intention of "debating" Tory... I just wanted to add to the discussion by pointing out that land banking is a legal activity of a TIRZ, and in response to his comment about requiring some parcels to remain "low income rentals in perpetuity," I again cited the enabling legislation. That doesn't mean that it's right, just legal.

You just said that my discussion with Tory included hyperbole on my part. Please identify it for me.

You're calling me rude? You've called me all sorts of names on this thread...

 
At 9:18 AM, March 09, 2006, Blogger Owen said...

rj,

I had no intention of "debating" Tory... I just wanted to add to the discussion by pointing out that land banking is a legal activity of a TIRZ..

Nobody disputed that -- it wasn't relevant to Tory's point. Nor is it true from the post, as you asserted, that "it appeared from his post that he was unclear about what powers a TIRZ was granted by the state legislature."

You just said that my discussion with Tory included hyperbole on my part. Please identify it for me.

I didn't quite say that -- I said you have made hyperbolic and wrongheaded statements. Your statement that Tory seemed unclear on the legality of this use of TIRZs was wrongheaded. Your characterization about my comparison involving neighborhood preservation generally was hyperbolic. You were exaggerating my position.

You're calling me rude? You've called me all sorts of names on this thread...

Actually, I haven't called you any names. I did at one point say that you've been "behaving like a pompous jerk," which isn't the same as coming straight out and calling you one (for all I know you've been having a bad week and were thus acting badly -- picking fights regarding subjective comparisons by giving one-word responses clearly designed to inflame). Even if that counts, it's only one, and came after a huge amount of rudeness on your part.

Perhaps you're used to being called "all sorts of names" because you don't display any courtesy when commenting, and mistook somebody else's name-calling for mine. But I have tried my best to be civil in the face of this.

 
At 9:48 AM, March 09, 2006, Anonymous RJ said...

But I have tried my best to be civil

some examples:

inane

rude

shut-up

Cowardly

pompous jerk

not worth anyone's time

wasting everyone's time

troll

Perhaps you're used to being called "all sorts of names"

you don't display any courtesy

And this is your best shot at civility? Goodness!

 
At 10:07 AM, March 09, 2006, Blogger Owen said...

rj,

this is your best shot at civility? Goodness!

Given your conduct, yes. From the outset, you have indeed behaved very rudely. It wasn't long before I was bound to point that out -- not by name-calling, as you claim, but by describing your behavior.

Here's how events went:

1. I posted my response to Coleman's TIRZ plan.

2. You responded that my words implied that I only wanted to preserve rich neighborhoods.

3. I respond that that wasn't my intention in a two-paragraph post, and say at the end that I believe that the TIRZ plan is "most wrong-headed strategy ever concocted."

4. You respond with one word: "Hyperbole."

Note that this is where the rudeness began. Before we were discussing things courteously. But you had to come in with a rude, one-word comment clearly designed to anger. If you're not trolling, you're certainly doing a decent impression of a troll.

5. I try to shake it off with a bit of levity, saying "Ok, perhaps invading Russia in the winter was a worse strategy, but this ranks up there."

6. You respond glibly, saying "Preserving the 3rd Ward ranks up with invading Russia in winter? Definite hyperbole."

7. I respond, trying to explain my reasoning and saying "If you disagree, by all means explain how. Don't just say this use of TIRZ's is legal -- nobody disputes that. Explain why it isn't absurd."

8. Rather than explaining yourself, you simply repeat yourself: "The case of neighborhood preservation being "'Let's invade Russia in the winter' stupid" is thrown out for not establishing prima facie obviousness."

Again, clearly trolling. You make an assertion that what I said was hyperbolic in a one word post, and then act like it's my job to refute you. What gall. I ask you to actually offer an explanation, and what do I get? A broken record.

9. Finally, I respond again, trying to explain myself further, and closing by saying that, "to my arguments, you've responded with inane and rude one-word posts. So please, put up or shut-up."

That's when I had it and started describing your rudeness. So come now, RJ -- can you really put the blame for this on me? I made an effort to civil, while you made no such effort. The record speaks for itself. Stop trolling.

 
At 10:26 AM, March 09, 2006, Anonymous RJ said...

Owen -

As I mentioned before, I take no position about your comments about 3rd Ward... you made it clear that you hold the free market position, and that's fine.

But when someone refers to a TIRZ plan as the "most wrong-headed strategy ever concocted"... c'mon! And you continue to hold to these extreme, exaggerated claims. Why should anyone take such a position seriously? If you approach 1,000 people and ask them what the most wrong-headed strategy ever concocted was, I guarantee that not a single one would respond "Oh, have you heard about what's going on in the Midtown TIRZ in Houston?" So please, enough with the wild claims. If you stay away from hyperbole, I'll stay away from calling you out on it. Can we leave it at that?

 
At 10:42 AM, March 09, 2006, Blogger Owen said...

rj,

I still don't understand is why my statement bothered you. I already took back the initial comment to which you refer, but tried to emphasize that I still thought it that the TIRZ strategy was a very stupid plan (via an extreme analogy with invading Russia in the Winter, but not necessarily a wrong one). That wasn't enough for you.

It's clear that you don't think the TIRZ plan is all that dumb, but you won't debate the issue even though its the subject of the post and the substance of Tory's comments. I obviously think the plan really is pretty ridiculous, on the level of other ridiculous ideas that are a bit more notorious. I'm sorry if trotting out such comparisons bothers you, but I shouldn't have to use pedestrian comparisons to avoid getting into debates with someone over what's hyperbolic or what isn't.

 
At 9:22 PM, March 09, 2006, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Truce? Please? You guys are warping my hit counter stats ;-) (hits w/o new readers). I won't insist or shut off comments, because that would be showing favortism to the last one to get a post in, but this might be a good opportunity to pause, relax, step back, and move on. Thanks.

 

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