Friday, June 5, 2009

Growth Management: Choosing Our Sprawl & How To Pay For It

A recent article in Crosscut appears to question whether concentrating growth eliminates sprawl, or encourages it.
The answer is probably some of both, because any population increase at all just tends to squeeze us together.
Rather than ask a binary 'either, or' question -which is a false choice- we ought to simply inquire which type of sprawl is likely to be less insidious, more desirable, and less costly in the long run.

We all agree there are limits to land and water supplies, as well as limits to essential public services at affordable cost.
Remember, we were forced into funding our EMS unit, Whatcom Medic One, on a countywide basis a few years ago, to save it?
Too many intentional games get played between municipalities regarding who pays for public services and amenities; that silliness needs to end.

As far as growth is concerned, it's much better for each new development to be required to pay its full share of anticipated costs, without externalizing that burden to unsuspecting 'others'.
For example, why are there no B&O taxes or impact fees required for businesses locating outside of Bellingham?
And, why is there no agreement to consolidate the funding and management of public amenities such as Libraries, Parks and the like?
Why doesn't Whatcom County see completing the WRIA 1 [click on label below] process as absolutely necessary to plan its future land and water use?

To me, all of this means that fewer feuding fiefdoms and much better cooperation and collaboration between governmental agencies should be required.
Another example, why are separate 'planning departments' needed for County and City functions?
The same might be said for other public safety, public health, public welfare, and public utility services to varying degrees.

The severe budget difficulties that both City and County are now facing should be a clear tip-off that things, as they are, have become increasingly unsustainable.
It just doesn't hack it to react to such problems in an erratic, knee-jerk fashion that mainly serves to passing the buck to the next administration; haven't we had enough of that?
And, for services that citizens truly need, allowing them to lapse or become dysfunctional is shortsighted and irresponsible!

Here's an idea for a furlough policy: time off -without pay- for all elected executives and legislators, until they come up with viable plans to consolidate public services and adopt them!

That ought to instill a better sense of responsibility and urgency, don't you think?
It also might force some important decisions to be made that some folks would rather avoid!
That by itself might be the equivalent to term limits, who knows?

While I am glad to see several new candidates stepping up to our next local election, I hope some -or all- of them are up to this particular challenge.
And, it is a challenge!
But, hey, someone's got to do it...