Friday, October 20, 2017

Gridlock



My next newspaper column. It's decidedly local but, perhaps, an issue with wider relevance. The backstory is there's a guy in these parts who makes a fine living (a quarter mill a year, it's reported) cranking out voter initiatives (yeah, WA is one of those states, for better or worse, mostly worse) that play on the anti-tax, anti-government sensation that's sweeping the nation.
When we arrived here thirty-five years ago the Mukilteo Speedway passed mostly through forest. Harbor Pointe and Seaway/Merrill Creek didn’t exist, nor did many of the apartments downtown and along Casino Road. Mill Creek and much of what’s now part of Mukilteo hadn’t yet been incorporated. The Navy wasn’t here, or its developments in Marysville, or the crowded shopping malls to the north.  
Back then we could drive to Seattle in about half an hour almost any time. Bumbershoot could be enjoyed for $2.50 (free on Fridays) with room to spread out. The population of Snohomish county was about 350,000. One of the fastest growing counties in the country, it’s now nearly 800,000. If there’s an end in sight, it’s invisible to me.  
The “Negotiated Agreement,” which, we were told by our realtor, meant Paine Field would never become a commercial airport, was smoke. Bringing even more people, Alliant Air and United Airlines are first in line. And, because it looks like Northwest Washington will be the last part of the US to become uninhabitable due to climate change, still more will flock here, needing places to live; good news for builders. Both Everett mayoral candidates favor upzoning for taller buildings downtown, for more “density.” There’s gotta be point at which it becomes unsustainable: overcrowded, gridlocked, polluted, parched. 
But unabated population growth in these parts looks to be a permanent condition. If land in Everett and Mukilteo is about tapped out, there are still nearby farms to be converted, a few uncut trees, more zoning laws to change. Our freeways are maxed already. Social services, too. Police and fire protection, water resources, air quality, sewage treatment and, eventually, even power supplies, can’t support this rate of expansion forever. Much as I’d like, selfishly, to see a moratorium on growth I know it won’t happen. Too much depends on it. Candidates say no to more taxes, but yes oh yes to more taxpayers. 
The good news is there’s effective action we can take in response to unstoppable growth, and we must do it, now, before it’s too late. Happily, it requires almost no effort: Just say no. 
To Tim Eyman.  
Say no to his latest ploy for self-enrichment, cranking out initiatives, counting on American heads remaining in the sand.  
Apparently caring as little about quality of life here as Donald Trump cares about air, water, climate, education, equal rights, and access to healthcare everywhere, Eyman has offloaded yet another self-serving initiative, this one aimed at reversing our commitment to mass transit. Betting we’d prefer a permanent traffic jam over paying for a half-way livable future is a safe bet: he makes his money on the presentation, not the outcome. He wins either way, even if we don’t. (Which is why, I believe, he’s written initiatives that get struck down by courts: whipped outrage equals more donations. Even his latest b.s over “b.s.” fits the pattern: repeatedly bleating victimhood = ink = cash flow.)  
Because half of America has come to prefer ignoring those things which sustain us, it appears Eyman figures campaigning against taxes assures him of continuing to take (us via) the initiative. It has to stop. This is about far more than car tabs. It’s (sticking) a fork in the road. This is one of those times when, as citizens (and patriots!) we’re called upon to look beyond self-interest, for the sake of the future: our own and our neighbors,’ our children’s, and theirs. When the right thing to do is not, as a recent letter-writer proudly bragged, to “vote with my wallet,” but to vote with one’s heart and head (not to mention carbonized lungs). 
If just societies are conceived for the betterment of individuals through the power of many, it’s by individual willingness to share responsibility that societies survive. (Having splurged on an electric car, my RTA tax took a breathtaking leap. But, hey…)  
No crystal ball is required to see the consequences of voting for Eyman’s latest. If we can’t do anything about growth, we simply must do more about mass transit. Decades of cunctation have already increased costs. Not paying now will bankrupt us when there’s no choice. Money “saved” is a future lost. 
And, yes, it’s about time for a conversation about when enough growth is enough.  
[Image source]

2 comments:

Guy D LaRue said...

It is said that only two types of people want unlimited growth...fools and economists

Fonzirelli said...

'Much as I’d like, selfishly, to see a moratorium on growth I know it won’t happen. Too much depends on it. Candidates say no to more taxes, but yes oh yes to more taxpayers.'

You nailed it, Sid. Marysville is a great example of politicians making annexation a quiet secret while dragging in 80 to 90000 landowners into their 'city limits'. Now, try to get past on-ramp/off-ramp 199 of I-5 in the AM or PM without stop n go, not gonna happen even on weekends. Snohomish County would not let the tiny building lots Marysville loves, cause the law won't let them, not Marysville. Just gotta get the water and sewer to the developers' subdivisions and let PUD figure out the rest with TV and Phone providers. Taxes are so profitable for a town, oh no, sorry, CITY, yup, now we sit in lines while coal and oil trains pass thru in the AM and PM rush hours, and then sit in lines to get on freeways and sideroads. Time for a Big Discussion on 'What are these politicians thinking?' Time for some sort of Moratorium on new housing, yup, agreed. Thanks, Sid

Popular posts