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THE POOP PRECEDENT: Business booms at CoMo law firm over novel TIF theory

Yes, Virginia: "There is dog excrement."

COLUMBIA, Mo  12/11/17 (Beet Bite) -- Ever since Columbia attorney Robert Hollis' novel theory that "dog excrement," spent condoms, and empty liquor bottles harm the community enough to merit millions of dollars in property tax breaks called TIF, his phone has been ringing off the hook.
Like Bitcoin, everyone wants in on the bonanza. One wag even said his bathroom deserves a TIF.  There's poop, he said, and it surely meets the "butt for" test, the way policy makers decide who wins the tax break lottery. 

On behalf of Broadway Hotel developer Dave Parmley, Hollis argued to the TIF Commission that the site of the hotel's expansion is a "popular spot for dog excrement," a health hazard.  "Yes, there is dog excrement," he told the Columbia City Council.  He called it his "belt and suspenders" argument, a folksy name for the unsavory details. 

Hollis' PowerPoint slides (click pix to enlarge) added spents and empties, winning his client over two million dollars in property tax breaks -- four million with other costs, Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas said.

Now, back to those phones... 

"Law offices of Van Matre, Harrison, Hollis, Taylor and Elliott.  May I help you?"
"Yes.  I wanted to speak with Mr. Hollis. The tax assessor doubled my property taxes and our neighbor keeps letting his dog do number two in my yard. He won't pick it up, either. We should be paying a lot less, like that hotel guy." 

"Van Matre, Harrison, Hollis, Taylor and Elliott law offices.  May I help you?"

"Hi!  My husband and I live next to a frat house and every Sunday morning we're picking up empties they toss over the fence. We heard your firm can get big tax breaks for people who own property around student housing."
"Van Matre, Harrison, Hollis, Taylor and Elliott.  May I help you?"
"Is this the Cash for Condoms program?"
"Robert Hollis' office."

"Oh great. Wow. I've been on hold forever. Didn't think I'd get through. So my company owns a student apartment and as you can probably imagine, our parking lot and some of the soft, grassy areas have all that stuff Mr. Hollis says should cut our property taxes. Don't get me wrong: We try to pick it up.  Our latex glove bill alone oughtta be worth a few mil."
"Mr. Hollis isn't in. Can I take a message?"
"Certainly. This is Rebecca Pringle from the Journal of Property and Real Estate Law. We would like to invite Mr. Hollis to give a CLE seminar about his exciting new interpretation of Missouri TIF financing. Several states are now rewriting their tax incentive laws, and their Attornies General will be attending our annual conference." 

"Hi!  I'm a reporter with the Columbia Missourian. I need to know the correct legal word for dog doo. One that won't get us in trouble with our readers."
"I used 'excrement'."
"My editors say that's too long."
"Sounds too much like faces." 
"Fecal matter."
"Just looking for one word."
"Well, crap."
"Can't use that. Guess we'll go with poo. So, off the record, did you guys like actually go around the hotel site and look for this stuff? Did you have to wear hazmat gear?"
"Van Matre, Harrison, Taylor, Elliott, and um, Hollis.  May I help you?"

"Yeah.  This is Boone County Assessor Tom Schauwecker. I wanted to thank Bob for deluging my office with property tax appeals. NOT!"
[Ed. Note:  To his credit, Mr. Hollis does have a sense of humor, which he exhibited more than once during these hearings.  And obviously, this is satire. It may be good satire, bad satire, or just plain crap. If it's the latter, I want a tax break.]

-- Mike Martin

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