Saturday essay: Taxpayers as grocers? No thanks
There's talk of two new grocery stores locating in downtown Pittsburgh. Couple them with the grocery store being built in the Hill District and there could be three quite close together.
This is touted as good news for the growing number of residents — or those projected to move into what some call “grocery deserts,” places where grocery stores are few and far between. But it's not very good news for taxpayers who oftentimes foot part of the bill.
The Hill District store is heavily underwritten by the public. A proposed second grocer in the Market Square area might have half its development costs picked up by taxpayers. A third grocer is considering space near Market Square, too, in PPG Place. Development gurus are talking as if a taxpayer subsidy for this grocer is a given.
But why should anybody (other than private investors) grease anyone's ability to sell groceries? Why should taxpayers assume capital costs (and the risk) that should be borne solely by a developer? Simply put, they shouldn't.
Nonetheless, a cottage industry exists that pimps for this perversion. If it's not the argument that taxpayer-funded grocery stores improve the “nutritional choices” in poor neighborhoods, it's the argument that taxpayer-underwritten urban grocers boost the “synergies” of tony Downtown living.
But it's not up to taxpayers to finance “choices” or “synergies.” That's up to the marketplace. If there's a bona fide demand in those marketplaces, such stores will thrive and grocers and residents alike will benefit. If there's not, taxpayer subsidies only throw bad money after bad money.
— Colin McNickle
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- PSEA oops: Letters & the law
- U.N. Watch: Cheering on Iran
- The Kathleen Kane chronicles: The Pa. attorney general’s credibility is gone
- Obama’s amnesty: Abuse of power
- Sunday pops
- Pittsburgh Tuesday takes
- Liquor reform for a gas extraction tax?: It should be a nonstarter
- The turnpike scandal: More wet noodles