Smithfield needs about $875,000 to rebuild crumbling Venture Drive, and the town council is debating how to come up with the money.

One idea is to create a special tax district made up of the properties along Venture Drive and Outlet Center Drive. At a recent meeting, one council member likened such a tax district to the one that has long existed in downtown Smithfield.

But that is not really an apples-to-apples comparison. The downtown Smithfield tax district came about because both the town and downtown properties owners wanted to breathe new life into Smithfield's central business district, which was suffering from business flight and building neglect.

Money from that tax hired a downtown development director, whose job was to promote downtown while encouraging property owners to spruce up their storefronts. Smithfield did not create the tax district to repair crumbling streets.

To be honest, we have no problem with a special tax district encompassing the outlet center and the hotels and restaurants that surround it. Among other things, money from such a tax district could build sidewalks connecting the various businesses in what has become Smithfield's commercial hub. The money could also pay for shared promotions, parking lot cleanup, lawn maintenance, whatever the property owners agreed upon, even road work.

But the idea for such a tax district should come from the property owners, or at the very least, property owners should support the formation of such a tax district.

Instead, the idea for this tax district comes from town hall, and we don't know that property owners along Venture Drive and Outlet Center Drive are rushing to town hall in support of the proposal.

What's missing here is a bit of honesty from town hall. If the truth be known, Smithfield is in no position to borrow the relatively paltry sum of $875,000 needed to rebuild Venture Drive, and that's because it mostly exhausted its borrowing capacity when it opted to turn a $3 million recreation and aquatics center into an $11 million money pit. That ill-conceived debt has made it hard for Smithfield to borrow money for pressing needs, including water and sewer system repairs and, yes, the rebuilding of Venture Drive.

We would encourage town leaders to approach property owners along Venture Drive and Outlet Center Drive. But in asking property owners to tax themselves, town leaders should admit that their own poor decisions have put the area's business interests between a rock and a hard place. If at that point, and with that knowledge, property owners agree to tax themselves, then by all means, move forward.

But the decision should rest with the affected property owners, not with a town desperate for money because of its own bad decisions.



Moodys also concluded that the police and fire pension debt could grow by even more than $3.3 billion if the pension funds dont achieve their assumed annual returns on investment, which range from 7.5 percent to 8 percent levels it said none of the citys four pension funds even came close to achieving last year.

Emanuels plan reduces contributions to the police and fire pension plans by nearly $1 billion between now and 2019, the year of the next city election, as Chicago faces additional financial pressures. Those include the need to come up with hundreds of millions in additional revenue likely from more tax, fine and fee increases to restore financial soundness to pension plans for city laborers, municipal workers and Chicago Public Schools teachers.

Moodys isnt the only agency that reacted unenthusiastically to the new police and fire pension law. Standard amp; Poors, which still rates the citys credit as investment grade, warned this week of further downgrades if the city doesnt engineer fixes for the laborers and municipal workers plans.

Additional downgrades would be a hit on taxpayers because interest rates the city would have to pay to borrow money would increase. The city plans to issue $600 million in bonds in the coming months to pay for major construction projects, equipment purchases and legal settlements.

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You have to have a bank account these days. Without a bank account of some form it's almost impossible to participate fully in our economy. You can't buy anything which costs more than what you have in cash, be it a house, a car or even a mattress. You can't borrow money from an institution. You find yourself constantly paying through the nose for things like check-cashing fees, a predatory practice which most Americans are privileged never to encounter. And you certainly can't write checks of your own.

It turns out, however, that you probably shouldn't write checks of your own - even if you have a checking account. The organization in charge of processing check payments says so explicitly: "stop using paper checks," they wrote, in a statement to Fusion.

Why would they say such a thing? Well, having a bank account does comes with its own set of problems. As Sarah Jeong painfully discovered a few weeks ago, bank accounts simply aren't set up for how we live today - which is to say, online--and can easily be compromised so that our hard-earned dollars wind up going to pay someone else's expenses. One morning, Jeong woke up to discover that her bank account had been emptied by someone named Michael who had used it to pay off various credit cards online. Jeong's bank told her that Michael had been able to do this because he had her bank account number and routing number. Writes Jeong in Motherboard:

I cannot count the number of times I've freely given out my routing and account numbers--in emails, in webforms, in paperwork. This is because it's necessary for other people to know my routing number and account number in order for them to send me money. But apparently, with that same information, they can also snatch money straight from my account. What kind of insane system is this?

There's two factor authentication, there's one factor authentication, and then there's this, which I think I can call zero factor authentication.

Is Jeong really right? Can anybody, anywhere, just spirit money out of your bank account, armed with nothing more than the information on the front of every check you write?



Dont get me wrong. I like corporate bonds as an asset class. And I think private sector investors like you and me should actively consider owning corporate bonds at any given time as part of managing a broadly diversified portfolio. Instead, where I start to think it becomes a REALLY lousy idea to buy corporate bonds is when youre talking about a major global monetary policy institution like the European Central Bank (ECB), which is set to begin buying corporate bonds as part of its ongoing once extraordinary now pedestrian stimulus program. Global central banks have long ago crossed the market intervention line, which is bound to only add to the eventual unintended consequences down the road.

The Latest Policy Stew

The ECB announced in March its intention to purchase corporate bonds as part of expanding its stimulus program that has already brought us beauts such as negative interest rates (this has really worked well so far for the Europeans and the Japanese, right? I hear that it has really helped already struggling banking institutions to have the front end of their respective yield curves pushed deep under water, except that it hasnt at all. What a surprise, since paying somebody to borrow money from you and charging them to deposit money with you makes so much sense in a rational world). Under the program, six national central banks within the Euro Zone will go out and buy investment grade corporate bonds in both the primary and secondary market.

The ECB is expected to start slowly before eventually bringing the program up to purchases of around 5 billion to 10 billion euros per month. The ECBs hope is that the program will lower the financing costs for not only larger companies in the Euro Zone (EZU) but also smaller and mid sized companies that could more meaningfully benefit from lower borrowing costs.