Today’s Tribune gives us another example of the community collecting the rent: Chicago Park District harbors.
For many years, boat slips were greatly underpriced, so in order to get one you had to bribe a Park District employee. In 1996, harbor management was contracted out to Westrec Marina Management. Rates were raised and continue to increase. Harbors were improved and the number of spaces increased from 4400 to 5100.
A slip for your 35-foot boat at the popular northside harbors will cost you $3418 if you’re a Chicago resident, with a 25% surcharge for nonresidents. Fees are expected to yield $20.4 million in 2007, against $7.3 million operating costs. Of course there are also capital expenses, but the balance goes into the Park District’s general fund (although part of the cost is municipal tax which presumably goes to the City).
Of course there are people complaining about the cost: “It saddens me to see these prices get to the point where some people have to reconsider whether they can afford to do it anymore. With the way the economy’s going, fewer people will be able to get into boating in the first place,” says one boater.
You will always get people complaining, on behalf of the poor, that their costs should be reduced. It is obvious that boaters are not poor people. If you don’t want to pay to keep your boat in Chicago, there are less expensive harbors at Waukegan, Winthrop Harbor, Michigan City, and elsewhere. There are cans and star docks (which I guess require one to row out to one’s yacht) for as little as $1200/year.
Henry George’s proposal is really this simple. The community makes land valuable. That value belongs to the community, who should collect it in the form of a periodic payment for the exclusive right to use a piece of it. Even when the land is water.