Years ago, Steve Martin did a comedy routine about “How you can be a millionaire, and pay no taxes.”
The plan had two easy steps. Steve instructed the audience, “First, get a million dollars.”
I am often reminded of this routine when I think about Newburyport’s waterfront. I think most of us agree that our waterfront park should be expanded. If Steve were running the show he’d say, “First, get a bigger park.”
So, how do we get a bigger park? Just like “getting a million dollars,” it’s not so easy. In fact, it’s at least twice as hard, since the bigger park will, at the low end of the scale, cost about $2 million (and probably more). We could raise taxes, as some recognize would be likely. Given the city’s recent needs to improve infrastructure in many areas (and, fortunately, Newburyporters have stepped up and taken on these infrastructure improvements), additional taxes are probably not palatable to many.
Another suggestion is that we could use the revenue that the city will earn from the waterfront parking lots to borrow the funds needed to expand the park. The problem with that is it insures the (probably) indefinite future existence of those pesky waterfront parking lots. Why? We need the money from the parking revenue to pay off the bond.
We could rely upon volunteers to raise the money. I won’t get into that, but regular readers of The Daily News understand that that’s not very reliable.
The only solution that anyone or any group has proposed that makes sense is to utilize a small part of the Redevelopment Authority’s property, develop it and use the predictable tax revenue from it to fund the project.
Some may say it’s not a creative solution … but it is responsible, predictable and, most importantly, doable. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s the proposal that the NRA has made.
What is the important second step in Steve Martin’s plan? When the tax man comes to the door and asks why you haven’t paid taxes, just say, “I forgot!” Don’t let us be in that position when it comes time to pay the bill for the larger park that we deserve.
Joe DiBiase lives in Newburyport.