Recently John Hood wrote at this site of his “mixed feelings about the proposed Titan Cement plant.” John said that attempts to “link the project’s government subsidies with its environmental permitting” troubles him. He cited a Lumina News article that described details of communications between company and government officials. The News writer used words such as “loophole,” “confidential” e-mails and “Titan lobbyist” to raise suspicions about the incentive deal. I don’t defend government incentive schemes, but, clearly, Titan officials want to avoid more construction delays. Why blame them for a legitimate self-interest?
I know that other people share John’s intermingled thoughts about this situation. Incidentally, the word mixed “suggests a combination of differing but not necessarily conflicting elements,” according to my American Heritage dictionary. Long ago, I resolved that the “incentives” issue does not conflict with the right of a company to use its private property without harassment by outside interests.
I’m sure that John and I agree about government-provided subsidies. Politicians entice companies to locate for self-serving reasons. It’s unfair and wrong. I have expressed my disdain with this political meddling many times. However, attempts to discredit the companies that accept these public offerings misdirect the disgrace. The proper targets are legislators who hatch up bad public policy and offer bribes.
Titan officials probably regret accepting political incentives because of the now known negatives. Cynical suspicions have been aroused in those who already mistrust our public officials. People suspect that something politically subversive has happened. And these feelings play into the hands of anti-development activists who try to damage Titan America with schemes to stall construction and cost the company money.
I think that the incentive issue has become a red herring. Why do company opponents want a “top-to-bottom” review using the State Environmental Review Act? It’s a ploy: “delaying Titan’s permits,” as explained in the Lumina News story. The company will endure an intense, lengthy and expensive federal environmental review. Why impose a redundant and costly state process?
And why single out Titan America for criticism about accepting incentives? Curiously, no group such as Stop Titan has emerged to prevent the government-subsidized film industry from operating here (Stop Hollywood?). Several other companies in Wilmington also enjoy public subsidies with no press or activist outrage. So, something else is intermingled in the Titan case.
That would be the all-out, persistent effort by activist groups to prevent a legitimate business from using its land to provide a beneficial product. Let’s not mix the issue of bad public policy with the right of Titan America to operate on its private property.
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