Urban Review: Public vs. Private Investment, What's Left of California's Bullet Train and Some Property Tax Relief in Texas - Maybe

This week, why private investment needs to be considered alongside public dollars, what happened to California's innovative rail project, a painful proposal for property tax relief in Texas and more.

Rendering of the California bullet train

An artist’s conceptual design for high-speed trains just south of San Francisco, California. Please credit NC3D. From California High Speed Rail web site.

This week, why private investment needs to be considered alongside public dollars, what happened to California's innovative rail project, a painful proposal for property tax relief in Texas and more.

Title Page

Lawmakers Have A Proposal To Prevent More Texas Moms From Dying After Childbirth. Dallas Morning News.


Bullet Train Went From Peak California Innovation To The Project From Hell. Los Angeles Times.

Yet bite after bite, huge cost overruns, mismanagement, political concessions and delays ate away at the sleek and soaring vision of a bullet train linking San Francisco to San Diego. A project meant to drive home California’s role as the high-tech vanguard of the nation was looking more and more like a pepped-up Amtrak route through the Central Valley.

Executive Summary

A new Urban Institute analysis of investment in Baltimore found that public dollars were reaching high-poverty neighborhoods with larger shares of African American residents, largely as intended. But when it came to private investment, including things like mortgages, loans and commercial real estate, the analysis found that those tended to concentrate in whiter, wealthier areas.

"Capital flows are one indication of a community’s health and vitality," the report argues. "They also determine whether residents will have access to the amenities, services, and resources they need."

"Investment in Baltimore is highly concentrated," the report concludes. "Neighborhoods that are less than 50 percent African American receive nearly four times the investment of neighborhoods that are over 85 percent African American," adding that, "Low-poverty neighborhoods receive one and a half times the investment of high-poverty neighborhoods."

With this in mind, the analysis argues that to tackle the city's inequality, there will have to be substantial changes to ensure "mainstream investment to reach more Baltimore communities."

But the analysis shouldn't undercut the ways in which private capital and public funding interact and inform each other. “I think it’s very difficult to make this very clear distinction that public is somehow separate from private,” Morgan State University associate professor Lawrence Brown told Governing magazine about the analysis, “when actually they go hand in hand.”


Finally, Texans can expect a state legislature to get serious about property tax reform. Or so the early narrative has developed. But it seems the promise of reform might not quite work out the way many might have hoped.

"Lawmakers in the House and Senate are already working on legislation designed to slow the growth of property taxes," writes Ross Ramsey for the Texas Tribune. "But those bills, pushed by the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the House, wouldn’t lower existing taxes; instead, they would require voter approval for tax revenue increases of more than 2.5 percent."

Essentially the proposal being put forth would "swap" some property tax for easing up limitations on sales tax. Sales of nonprescription drugs, motor fuel, newspapers and magazines and more would all be taxed under state Rep. Drew Springer's proposal.

"The plan could ease the pain of property taxpayers," writes Ramsey. "The question is whether this — or other proposals like it that might be in the works — are worth the new pains they cause."




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