Croker Sack

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." — Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956)

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Cross-threaded Growth Management

"Bedroom communities" don't produce the level of tax revenue demanded by the governments that have grown up around us.

It's not just me. The Seattle Times says so, too:

In the past, cities have been reluctant to annex large residential areas because it costs more to provide services to them than they generate in taxes.

And, as the article notes, our legislators, governor, and the King County executive say the same thing.

In fact, the gist of the article is the anticipated annexation of areas now in unincorporated King County as a result of the state revenue made available to cities by a statute which becomes effective in June -- Chapter 361, Laws of 2006 (Substitute Senate Bill 6686).

As noted in an earlier entry, there is a seemingly odd clash of ideas involving growth management. Is it better and cheaper to concentrate population in certain areas, or not?

It seems that merely concentrating people in "urban growth areas" won't help, if there are so few commercial and industrial businesses and jobs that the people end up in a "bedroom community."

Isn't that the problem noted in the Seattle Times article? The cities didn't want to annex the suburbs, because there isn't enough tax revenue available from them -- in the sense of property tax revenue.

The cities already get quite a bit of revenue from those same human beings who live in suburbs, assuming the cities offer jobs (business and occupation taxes) and stores and services ( sales taxes). The cities enjoy the revenue without needing to provide services to the commuters who depart at the end of the work day.

If it's not affordable to be a "bedroom community" when it comes to "urban services," why do the movers and shakers in Kitsap County want to encourage an even greater degree of "bedroom communityness" here?

They are doing so. The Kitsap Transit board, which is made up of elected officials from each city and the county, wants to increase the availability of "passenger-only" ferries (sometimes called "foot ferries") at taxpayer expense. That can only lead to a greater number of people who live in Kitsap County and work in another county -- probably King County.

Washington State Ferries plans to do much the same thing. Part 2, page 11 of their draft long-range plan states:

While the jobs-housing balance in other counties will improve or remain relatively stable, Kitsap County’s balance is projected to worsen—population growth is expected to outpace its employment growth. In fact, Kitsap is expected to be home to 10% of new regional population and only 5% of new regional jobs. This suggests that Kitsap County will become more of a “bedroom community”, with a significant portion of new residents expected to commute across Puget Sound to King County, which is expected to be home to more than 60% of new jobs. [Emphasis added.]

And, the ferry system leaders plan to accommodate that type of development in Kitsap County, if they can, by building more ferries and increasing their capacity to carry people and vehicles.

Why do all this with the foot ferries and auto ferries?

Why make it easier for people to live here and work there?

Isn't it a problem when they do?

Doesn't that kind of situation make it impossible to provide urban services because of the lack of tax revenue?

If it happens because of choices people freely make when those same people face the economic consequences of their own choices, that's fine. But government shouldn't be encouraging and subsidizing the very thing government then claims is a problem.

Let all the people who want to pay their own way on the foot ferries go ahead and do so. (There are hardly any such people -- that's why the privately operated ferries disappeared more than fifty years ago and reappeared in a fit of nostalgia recently, only to wither again for lack of riders.)

Kitsap County may always have a substantial "bedroom community" aspect to it, but government shouldn't be encouraging an even greater degree of such development.


Post a Comment

<< Home