All posts by Randal Meyer

When Over-Preservation Impedes City Growth

As the “gig economy” spawns attacks on Uber Technologies Inc. and Airbnb Inc., those afraid of change have opened a new front in the war on economic dynamism. Increasing swaths of major cities — including over a quarter of Manhattan and a third of Baltimore — have been designated as historic landmarks in order to force out developers. This overpreservation impedes development and revitalization, freezing neighborhoods in time and depressing economic growth.

“Not In My BackYard” interests in New York “use historic preservation as a way to limit development,” says former Landmarks Commissioner Margery Perlmutter. Not surprisingly, these NIMBYs are concentrated in richer, politically connected areas. Groups in the Upper West Side, Upper East Side, SoHo and TriBeCa have managed to preserve between 30 and 70 percent of their neighborhoods, while poorer areas like East Harlem are less than 1 percent designated for historical preservation.

But this isn’t a story about gentrification, with Millennial hipsters trying to squeeze out racial minorities: There is great profit to be made in transforming outdated buildings in richer areas.

Continue reading at The National Law Journal.

Bill de Blasio’s blatant campaign-finance hypocrisy

Mayor de Blasio certainly has mastered the art of speaking from both sides of his mouth.

On the one side, he calls for “major reforms” in elections regarding polling sites and voter registration, pretending to defend the sanctity of New York’s elections. On the other, he defends skirting spending limits that are the subject of US attorney, Manhattan DA and FBI investigations.

It may be a bit much to call the mayor a hypocrite, but not that much.

On Jan. 4, the state Board of Elections penned a report recommending that the Manhattan DA seek criminal charges against de Blasio and his staffers for coordinating illicit campaign-finance spending, prompting Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr. to investigate the mayor.

De Blasio is accused of engaging in “coordinated fundraising and expenditure of funds to evade to contribution limits.” He allegedly did that to get three friendly Democrats elected to the state Senate to counter longtime-frenemy Gov. Cuomo’s power in the body.

The Board of Elections report is pretty damning, citing “considerable evidence” of wrongdoing. “The de Blasio team solicited contributions for the benefit of the campaigns of Justin Wagner, Terry Gipson, and Cecilia Tkaczyk, and instructed contributors to route the donations through” political committees as straw donors, which then deposited the money with the candidates’ own committees.

This funneling of funds through the various committees was done “in order to evade contribution limits and to disguise the true names of the contributors.”

Read the full article at the New York Post.

Feds using forfeiture to their advantage

[Co-authored with Trevor Burrus)

The Justice Department recently announced that it is resuming the “equitable sharing” part of its civil asset forfeiture program, thus ending one of the major criminal justice reform victories of the Obama administration.

Civil asset forfeiture is a legal tool by which police officers can seize and sell private property without a convicting the owner of any crime, and equitable sharing is a process by which state and local police can circumvent state restrictions on civil asset forfeiture and take property under the color of federal law.

It may sound like a scene from a dystopian novel, but under civil asset forfeiture, a police officer can pull you over, claim he smells marijuana, and then take all the cash you have — and maybe even your car, too. Getting your property back requires going through lengthy court procedures to prove that the property is “innocent.”

Back in December, after Congress enacted reductions to the Justice Department’s civil asset forfeiture fund by $1.2 billion, the Justice Department announced that the program was being deferred until further notice.

Read the rest on The Detroit News, here.