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Yes We Can Coalition Criticizes City Tax Abatements As 'Pay-To-Play'

Eric Fredericks

Columbus's leading progressive political group is not happy with the tax incentive policy the city announced Monday.

Yes We Can Columbus says the city's amended tax abatement policy is a step in the right direction, but it does not go far enough.

Organizer Will Petrik says average median income should be localized by zip code. Right now, the city uses a number from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that encompasses a larger area.

“If you look at the median income of a zip code in the Hilltop, it’s probably gonna be a lot different than the median income in say the Short North or Clintonville,” Petrik says.

Petrik says he also wants to know how tax abatements will impact Columbus City Schools.

“These tax giveaways to developers also has an impact on our city schools budget," Petrik says. "That's something I think in terms of overall development goals. We would love to see a goal that says, 'Let's make sure new development strengthens our city schools.'"

In a statement, Yes We Can Columbus spokesperson Madeline Stocker says the developers profiting from these new projects make significant campaign contributions to city hall.

“Thousands of residents spoke up about the need for a development strategy that supports diverse, mixed-income neighborhoods, affordable housing and good quality jobs,” Stocker says. “While Yes We Can is pleased that the city’s new direction for development reflects those goals, this proposal does nothing to change the pay-to-play culture at City Hall. We need to end kickbacks to politicians who continue to provide tax giveaways to developers and collect massive campaign contributions in return.”  

The city says the new tax incentive policy will build mixed-income neighborhoods, raise wages and increase transparency.