This essay examines some of the ramifications of the formation of business improvement districts (BIDs) in urban centers that levy additional taxes in particular geographic areas to provide supplementary services. Originally designed to further business development to improve the tax base of the entire city, these districts are increasingly being used by affluent city neighborhoods to enhance what are viewed as inadequate municipal services. Because cities are often divided into affluent, white neighborhoods and poor minority ones, BIDs are troubling in that they reinforce race and class divisions within what is theoretically an urban whole. Professor McFarlane argues that we must consider BIDs in light of the competing egalitarian and group formation principles embodied in voting rights jurisprudence.
Preserving Community in the City: Special Improvement Districts and the Privatization of Urban Racialized Space, 4 Stanford Agora 5 (Fall 2003)