Archive for the ‘Chicagoland’ Category

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Chicago consumer prices lag

May 31, 2009

Now that we have the highest sales tax rates of any substantial community in the nation, it stands to reason that consumer prices, which include taxes, would be increasing faster here than nationally, right? Read the rest of this entry ?

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Medallions up another 4% last month

April 30, 2009

Chicago Dispatcher reports the median sales price of Chicago taxi medallions was $165,000 during the month ending March 23, up from $158,000 the previous month (and $77,000 in February 2007).

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Assessor ignores assessment policy

April 23, 2009

Last week, the Tribune published Cook County Assessor James Houlihan’s fiscal reform proposal.  He wants to restructure the state sales tax and the state income tax, claiming that this would not only balance the state budget but also provide more funds to localities, theoretically allowing them to reduce real estate taxes.

But Mr. Assessor, how about the assessment and extension of real estate taxes.  You know, the stuff you do?  Can’t you improve that?  Maybe you could start by assessing vacant land properly?  And making sure that land value is fully included in all assessments?  That’s not going to discourage any economic activity.

Then maybe we could ask the solons of the Cook County Board to change the property classification system, assessing improvements at only 40% of the ratio applied to land value? They could do this under existing law. Maybe they could even exempt improvements entirely?  And, while we’re asking the Illinois General Assembly to reform things, why not eliminate the sales and income taxes, by resurrecting the state sales tax?

Regular readers of this blog, and Henry George School students, know why this is a good idea.  Evidently Assessor Houlihan doesn’t want us to even think about it.

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Earmarks

April 18, 2009

Wikipedia (right now) defines “earmark” as

a congressional provision that directs approved funds to be spent on specific projects or that directs specific exemptions from taxes or mandated fees.

On the face of it, I don’t see that as such a bad thing.  If my Congressbeing has determined that the national interest requires a particular expenditure, it seems reasonable that she might want to make sure that a budget or appropriation item really will be used for that purpose.

The problem, of course, has been that earmarks are obscure, and invariably are for local projects in which the Federal government has no legitimate role.  Now, the earmarks are being disclosed, at least by House members, and our friends at Taxpayers for Common Sense have compiled a list. Not of earmarks, but of URL’s where earmarks can be found.

I figured they might be bad, and they are.  “My” Congressbeing, for instance, has a list of mainly municipal and nonprofit projects, at least some of which are economically justified and therefore should be funded out of the savings or other benefits which they produce. There  are also a few government contractors being taken care of, and a couple of CTA projects.  Because the latter is something I know a little bit about, I can say that the descriptions are quite deceptive, greatly exaggerating the result (e.g. “extension of the Yellow Line”) which will be obtained by a relatively modest ($1 million) expenditure.

And that list is hardly the worst.

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Another Chicago classic now available

February 15, 2009

Homer Hoyt’s 1933 book “100 Years of Land value in Chicago” is now posted at the Internet Archive. Only a few land value nerds will read it all the way thru, but all should be impressed by the quantity of work Hoyt put into it, describing and analyzing Chicago’s land market for its first century.

Summary graph of land values

Summary graph of land values

This was all done before cheap photocopiers, faxes, and of course computers. I wish someone would update it.

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Olcott’s Land Values Blue Book

February 10, 2009

One of the challenges for many beginning Henry George School students is to understand that land has value, and that the value of land is really not very difficult to determine.  One example that we used to use was Olcott’s Land Values Blue Book, an annual publication that, until the early ’90s, reported the estimated land value for every block in Chicago and much of suburban Cook County.  I don’t know exactly why the series was discontinued, but I assume it was because professionals now find the Internet a more convenient source of information.

The 1939 edition of Olcott’s has been scanned and posted to the Internet Archive.  Below is an example page.

Sample page from Olcott's

Sample page from Olcott's

The numbers in most areas are value per front foot for a standard-sized lot.  The book includes adjustment factors for use where lots are other than standard.  For unsubdivided parcels, a value per acre is shown.

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Who understands global climate change?

January 31, 2009

Not me, that’s for sure. I’ve no doubt that command-and-control advocates would have trouble finding a better excuse to tell everyone what to do than to promise us that, if we don’t cooperate, we’ll all be flooded, starve to death, and die of thirst. Yet, maybe there is something to it. Read the rest of this entry ?