Saturday, June 26, 2010

Would the Rapid City BID be bad for democracy?

Anonymous comments:
Do you also support the BID? I didn't think you would. I found this off the Internet and thought it was of interest:

There is concern that overt control of BIDs by business and property owners results in the privileging of the interests of those people over the democratic interests of society at large. There has also been substantial attention to the manner in which BIDs have often attempted to rid the spaces they control of the homeless, ethnic minorities, and political activists who might frighten off potential shoppers.

In preparation for the vote, I did a little more reading, here's the article where the above quote came from BIDs on Wikipedia. (And like any good Wikipedia article, there are primary references/links to check out.)

A business improvement district (BID) is a public-private partnership in which businesses in a defined area pay an additional tax or fee in order to fund improvements within the district's boundaries... BIDs provide services, such as cleaning streets, providing security, making capital improvements, and marketing the area. The services provided by BIDs are supplemental to those already provided by the municipality.

I have decided I will vote in favor of the BID - if the downtown business owners want to get together to make our downtown more vibrant so we don't have to drive all over the place to obtain goods and services, I'm all for it.

Honestly, I hadn't thought about these potential side-effects. We should watch for them.

In this case, the BID's potential as a method of oppression of "those we don't like" is fairly limited -- largely because the scale of this BID is small and situated directly next to many public spaces. Also, Rapid City is a small town, leading to a more open debate and discussion of things.

Furthermore, the success of the BID will depend on the public for 2010 funding and other support -- and Rapid City has a great history of people taking ownership of their community. An example of this is when the City's citizens loudly said no to Nash Finch building in the floodplain, and their support of the Cornerstone Mission and Church Response over the years. Sure, things happen behind the scenes (like, when the City Fathers formed the "committee for art that we like" and quietly ignored them when they decided to replace the powerful sculptures giving a voice to the Native American experience and replace them with white males on every street corner).

But I think all in all the BID will be a good thing and we should try to support the downtown businesses in what they are trying to do. I love the Firehouse, Global Market, Prairie Edge, and other businesses downtown and want it to continue to get better. I think downtown is a much better place then when I moved here 15 years ago and for many reasons I think it's good for our community for the downtown to continue to thrive.

After all, demonstrators need to eat too!

1 comment:

  1. I would like to have the taxpayers in the BID to be able to choose their own officers to represent them. As it is written now, the Mayor of Rapid gets to hand pick who he wants to serve on the BID board.

    Taxed with no representation?