The Times endorses
Another road tax? Not this time
Among the public reaction to Mayor Greg Nickels' initial proposal for a roads-and-bridges levy was that it was too big, and that its 20-year...
Among the public reaction to Mayor Greg Nickels' initial proposal for a roads-and-bridges levy was that it was too big, and that its 20-year term made it a "never-ending tax." The Seattle City Council has cut it to $365 million and nine years and put it on the city ballot as Proposition 1. The new, smaller version is better, but not by enough.
It is still laden with crosswalks, bike lanes, traffic circles, curb bulbs, stairways, road signs, tree planting, tree trimming and a renovation of King Street Station. We are in favor of most of these things, but many of them are, in the words of the Washington Policy Center's critical report, "routine public work."
The city is stuffing routine public work into a special levy while keeping a much larger and more discretionary item — the waterfront tunnel — away from a public vote. That is a cynical way to treat the public.
This is not to deny that there are needs for repair and rebuilding. The Northeast 45th Street Viaduct by University Village still has wooden supports. Seismic work is needed on the Ballard Bridge and also needed on Jackson Street and Airport Way around Union Station, a section of bridgework built in 1910, and on the Albro overpass at Airport Way, built in 1928. There are others.
Grace Crunican, czar of Seattle's roads and formerly of Oregon's, says bluntly, "You guys haven't addressed transportation in four decades."
The city complains that it has lost $25 million in road revenues, mostly on account of the 1 percent tax lid in Initiative 747. But the City Council has just replaced four-fifths of that loss with a commercial parking tax and a private-sector employment tax. These revenues are available for road work, and can be bonded against. The most critical projects on Crunican's list can be done.
The city is also in the midst of an economic boom, which brings in new, general revenues. Some of those revenues ought to be available for traffic signals, signs, curb bulbs, trees and the rest.
Passing Proposition 1 would increase the property tax on a $400,000 house by $155, bringing the total tax to $4,000. It will continue to grow.
A school levy is coming up, and a regional transportation levy. Tax fatigue is a problem for the people Seattle, and they should think twice before making it worse.
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.