"Our goal is to make sure that we get something from these developers that we would not otherwise get just as they go and do their own thing," she said. "It's leverage. It's a tool to bring them to the table."The "tool" that Ma is speaking of is a state program called a 380 agreement. This program, according to the paper, "allows the city to grant or loan local tax revenue for economic development purposes." In this particular case, the city proposes to reimburse the developer for the cost of improving city property:
If the agreement is approved, developer Ainbinder Co. would widen and repave streets surrounding the project, refurbish bridges near the site, develop a bike and pedestrian trail along a stretch of Heights Boulevard south of I-10 and improve underground drainage, among other upgrades.The money to pay the developer would come from increased property taxes from nearby properties. Which means, the developer will be "encouraged" to invest his money to improve city infrastructure, and if those improvements meet with the city's approval, money will be stolen from neighbors to reimburse the developer.
While Ma considers the 380 agreement her "tool", the implement that gives her "leverage" is a gun. It is her ability to use government coercion against both the developer and nearby property owners that brings anyone to the table. It is the government's coercive power that residents of The Heights have been hoping to use to halt the project. Instead, it appears that the city is trying to through crumbs--infrastructure improvements--to the residents as a consolation prize.
If the city government were limited to its proper function--the protection of individual rights, including property rights--this controversy would not exist. Residents of The Heights could not plead with city officials to halt the project. City officials could not use taxation to rob some for the alleged benefit of others. And instead of a civil war in which citizens battle to use government force for their own purposes, all of us could live our lives as we choose, according to our own judgment in the pursuit of our own values.