Thursday, February 10, 2005

Four more years and boom?

Relating to my previous post (tangentially), Seattle Times columnist Nicole Brodeur notes that nobody has stepped forward to challenge Seattle mayor Greg Nickels for his office. Brodeur attributes it to the fact that Nickels has a flair for constituent service, and his decision to fix the potholes upon assuming office endeared him to city residents. This is quite possibly true. But I wonder if something else is at work.

Are the mayor's opponents waiting for the Seattle city budget to implode while Nickels is in charge? Despite his pothole repair program, the city has been spending far less on transportation than a recently convened commission has determined is neccessary to maintain the city's infrastructure. ($12 million/year; the commission believes that $25 million is more appropriate.) Along with declining gas taxes (which will only be aggrevated by increased use of mass transit) and the ever-expanding cost of social services and bureaucratic continuance, Seattle is going to have to raise taxes (sales or property), raise user and licensing fees, or make deeper cuts in the budget. To his credit, Nickels has done a good job of lowering the overhead costs, cutting unneccessary positions and eliminating duplication and overlap. Howewver, there's not much left to remove without impacting the underlying programs, and the budget still needs to shrink. Any cuts are going to antagonize one or more interest groups, permitting increases will damage the city's shaky business community, and tax increases will upset a large portion of the city's taxpayers. Right now, the city is content, but in four years, it is likely to be much less so, and that would be the time to make a run against Nickels.

posted at 08:34 PM | permalink | Comments (0)

More on Seattle Priorities

Robert at Mulatto Advocate took my rant on the moronorail and greatly expanded upon it, adding a lot of detail (and a personal note) to what was basically a quickie take on the consequences of living in a city that has never heard the word "no".

Today's Seattle Times also had a pair of articles which discussed more of the wheels-falling-off state of Seattle's finances, in this article discussing the Magnolia Bridge, which also needs to be replaced, but suffers from a lack of money, and this article, which details the woes of the Seattle School District, which faces a serious budget shortfall. The Magnolia Bridge piece mentions only in passing the misprioritizing of transportation funding, but the education piece discusses the checkered past of the district's management, and discusses some of the hard choices facing the board. There is an accompanying chart that is rather interesting and informative.

For those who are interested how Seattle allocates its budget, a link can be found here. It, too, is an interesting an informative link, although it is sometimes disturbing to see where the money goes. Your tax dollars at work...

posted at 08:00 PM | permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 6, 2005

Stupid Letters

Today's Seattle Times has yet another letter singing the praises of the monorail for Seattle, with a slap at last weekend's hosanna to the city's wonderfulness ("The Great City"). The authors of that article made the cardinal mistake of criticizing the monorail, with its indeterminate price tag, its as-yet undefined funding sources, and the lack of parking at the stations. Here is the letter, in its full glory.

Regarding "The great city" (guest commentary, Jan. 30), if authors Bruce Katz and David Jackson can travel from West Seattle or Ballard to downtown, at rush hour, quickly and easily, then they should show the rest of us how to do it. Until they can, the problem will seem immediate and obvious, and the monorail will look like an attractive alternative to sitting in traffic, awaiting the collapse of the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

By the way, the monorail stations will indeed lack park-and-ride lots, by design. The entire point of an inner-city transportation system is to remove the need for private automobiles. Subsidizing private transport to and from the stations, by providing parking, will simply encourage sprawl. Residences and the shops that serve residents not acres of ugly asphalt should abut the monorail stations.

The Alaskan Way viaduct needs to be repaired, but the city needs to understand that their preferred plan is simply not feasible from a financial standpoint. Building a below-grade replacement costs far more than simply replacing the current structure with a duplicate, and even Senator Patty Murray has explained that the feds are NOT going to pick up the tab. Seattle needs to find the money somewhere in its budget, raise taxes, or cut back on its extensive suite of non-essential projects.

As to the moronorail, it's something that the gee-whiz folks in Seattle need to finance on their own. Unlike other regional transit projects (which include Sound Transit and Interstate highways), the only people who will benefit from the monorail are the people in a portion of the city of Seattle. Residents of Bellevue, Redmond, Kent, Enumclaw, and Federal Way won't have any use for the monorail, especially when the absence of parking is factored in. I live 90 miles away from the northernmost point of the monorail, three counties away; I really don't want state funds committed to such a boondoggle, and I seriously doubt that most people in Spokane or Walla Walla or Bellingham or Vancouver want to pick up the tab either. It's not even projected to reach either SeaTac airport or Boeing Field, which means that it essentially a closed-loop system, further limiting its usefulness. It's ironic that he describes expanded access as "subsidizing", since it is likely to be a huge subsidy from the rest of the state (or the rest of the nation, if the monorail secures federal funding), benefitting the residents of Seattle alone. Let the residents pick up the tab, if they don't want to look at asphalt. And as to encouraging sprawl, the draconian land-use laws in King County ensure that housing will continue to go up in Pierce, Snohomish and Skagit counties, since most people cannot afford to spend the median $314,000 on a home in the city of Seattle. The monorail will not alleviate any of that traffic, or stop any more sprawl.

Not all of the monorail proponents are lefty moonbats (Matt Rosenberg comes to mind), but the writer of this letter is a standard-issue leftist. He even defends "Baghdad" Jim McDermott from that mean ole George Will in "this letter (first letter), which pretty much sums up his outlook on politics.

posted at 10:19 PM | permalink | Comments (1)

No park and ride facility? Well, I guess that I would either have to get myself to the monorail the hard way, or just drive myself all the way to my destination. Brilliant.

posted by triticale on February 14, 2005 01:41 PM

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