published Friday, March 7th, 2014

Pam's Points: We want 'the real thing,' pollution fines that bite and no more Nashville nonsense

Chattanooga's Coca-Cola Co. hopes to increase its presence in town with a proposed $62 million expansion.
Chattanooga's Coca-Cola Co. hopes to increase its presence in town with a proposed $62 million expansion.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Everything's better with Coke

Will Coca-Cola Bottling Co. United's proposed $62 million expansion for Chattanooga be the real thing?

We hope so. It would add 43 jobs to the 487 Coca-Cola Bottling Co. employees in Chattanooga on Amnicola Highway. The catch is that there is very little vacant industrial land left in the city.

Coke is hoping to work out a deal to build a 290,000-square-foot distribution and sales facility on the former Olan Mills plant site on Highway 153, but that plan would require the rezoning of two plats of land next door. The rezoning proposal passed a City Council committee this week and goes to the full council next week.

It will be an important vote, as Coca-Cola officials have said that while they hope to stay in Chattanooga, they will put the expansion elsewhere -- perhaps in another state -- if their needs can't be met here. That could mean fewer Chattanooga jobs, as all but 203 of the present 487 workers, along with 43 new hires, would move to the new facility.

Let's make this real thing a sure thing, council.

The price of power

One of the largest coal producers in the nation has agreed to pay the largest fine ever for water pollution in five Appalachian states including Tennessee.

Alpha Natural Resources, a conglomerate with 66 subsidiaries based in Bristol, Va., will pay $27 million in fines and spend another $200 million to clean up its toxic discharges from more than 6,000 violations. Those violations are for exceeding the amount of pollution company mining operations are allowed to legally dump under 300 state-issued permits. The violations involve hundreds of streams, tributaries and rivers, 79 active coal mines and 25 coal processing plants where coal is washed before it's shipped.

Court documents and interviews indicate the company had budgeted for the fines. Company officials told an AP reporter the civil penalty would not result in any layoffs.

Does that sound as though polluting and paying the penalty is cheaper than not polluting in the first place?

The clowns in Nashville

Our laughable lawmakers in Nashville are at it again. They're threatening to withhold funding from the University of Tennessee if the university doesn't pull the plug on "Sex week." (Hint, solons: College students are old enough to debate sexual issues and certainly could benefit from frank discussions about things like date rape, safe sex, etc.)

Meanwhile, our daring lawmakers are once again strapping on their National Rifle Association gun T-shirts. This time, a proposal to strip local government control over prohibiting people with handgun carry permits to be armed at parks, playgrounds and sports fields has cleared its first legislative hurdle in the House.

That's right: It would be OK to tote guns and chance a shootout at a UT football game, but not to talk about sex.

Who elected these people?

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aae1049 said...

Coke Cola will leave unless we give them $6 in local tax incentives to create a whopping 43 new jobs.

The cumulative impact of PILOT is impoverishing Chattanooga.

For instance, the total list of PILOT recipients are about 56 of the largest corporations in Chattanooga that pay no or reduced property taxes. Each time a PILOT is issued to a corporation in Chattanooga, the rest of us peasants get a mandated property tax increase to fund the rich corporations share of city and county services.

The real problem is the city and county issuing PILOTs in a first come first serve method, and not examining the cumulative impact of this growing list of 56 not paying their share of property taxes. It is the cumulative list of this corporate welfare giving that is making out city more impoverished by diverting the tax base off the richest corporations onto a diminished working class tax base. Then, the municipalities must delivery government services without additional revenue, who pays for services?

Stop looking at these PILOTS as individual exemptions, and examine the impact of 56 PILOT exemptions.

Also, the application of PILOTs is so biased to large corporations. The Chamber of Commerce has the PILOTs rigged so only a corporation with a $5 million plus investment, with 59 new job creations can access the PILOT property tax exemptions. As a result, small and mid size business is being mandated to subsidize rich big business.

The most troubling aspect of PILOT are the exemptions issued by River City Company, where they used a PILOT for popcorn job creation for the downtown movie theatre they brokered. Every other movie theatre in Chattanooga was required to pay property taxes, but the movie theatre downtown. Really, teenager bagging popcorn was job creation.

The truth of the matter is the PILOT is a corrupt system of picking the corporate winners. If our government is going to deem some businesses as more worthy than others to be exempt from paying property taxes, the job growth should be great, and 43 new jobs does not even meet the Chamber of Commerce PILOT guidelines.

What we are doing with Coke Cola is being held hostage to paying their share of taxes or they will leave. Frankly, I would rather put $6 million into a new school, and call Coke Cola's bluff on leaving.

In any event, if the public is going to be mandated to pay rich corporations share of property taxes, there needs to be claw back provisions placed in the PILOT agreements, and the cumulative impact to the municipal tax based examined, rather than a first come first serve, individual perspective.

A complete over haul of PILOT is needed for tax equity.

The problem of excluding small business, then the city and county do not even follow the program guidelines of job creation.We all want a property tax exemption.

March 7, 2014 at 10:09 a.m.
John_Proctor said...

How dare you compare genuine clowns to the political clowns that currently infest the TN legislature? The real clowns are highly insulted at your comparison. After all, they have never confused a mop sink for a Muslim foot bath.

March 7, 2014 at 12:13 p.m.
librul said...

Corporatism is destroying our government ... in ALL its branches. Democracy is threatened with becoming a lost dream, defeated by predatory capitalism and greed.

March 8, 2014 at 1:41 p.m.
soakya said...

"It will be an important vote, as Coca-Cola officials have said that while they hope to stay in Chattanooga, they will put the expansion elsewhere -- perhaps in another state -- if their needs can't be met here."

is this not a threat to the taxpayers? where are the complaints? why is it ok to threaten taxpayers?

March 12, 2014 at 8:34 p.m.
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