The Seattle P-I Virtual Editorial Board highlighted an excellent comment to an editorial about the $1.6 billion tax package. A reader going by the handle "Face Reality" made the following insightful observations:
Seattle has no coherent "tax plan": Or finance, revenue, fiscal or spending plans for that matter. It hasn't for over 20 years. A succession of irresponsible Councils and Mayors (that we insist on re-electing) seeking short term gratification has seen to that.You should really go read the entire comment.
Instead of a measured, predictable tax package for very specific, prioritized needs we get an endless, open ended "all at once" debacle and xmas tree wish list that still includes money for needless things like Paul Allen SLU beautification.
Reckless tax and fiscal policies make this city that much more unaffordable for all but those who can blithely pay for our "new urban" paradise while unwittingly contributing to the very sprawl they decry: When everyone else is driven to more affordable areas outside Seattle – along with many of the businesses that employ them.
There is a direct correlation between taxes, sprawl and affordability. So many people here are in denial about that reality - you can't simply tax, grow or densify your way to affordability and a quality city. The concepts are mutually exclusive if badly applied - as in Seattle.
Poorly applied and rapid ramp ups in taxes raise housing prices and mortgage qualifications, stagnant business growth and cause decline in real revenues as the increased taxes are eaten up by more service demands that density creates. If this continues, a city inevitably declines as demographics and businesses leave for cheaper pastures, ie, the 'burbs.
The real bill will come due in just a few years, when the inevitable economic downturn combined with higher taxes that narrow the base and discourage businesses will bring both an actual DECLINE in tax revenues across the board and a grinding halt in City business and population growth.
With the usual Hobson's choice of cutting services vs raising taxes even higher, setting up the potential for the classic revenue "death spiral".
An experience well documented in just about every other American city the last 30 years – including memory challenged Seattle, once again the caboose on the train of national experience.
Smugness, arrogance, delusional growth projections, pseudo - environmentalism and the attitude "its different this time" are no defense against the lessons of history.
This was cross-posted on both Seattle Bubble and Seattle Traffic.
(Face Reality, Seattle P-I (comments), 08.16.2006 )