Monday, November 28, 2005

Kaine's Tour Heads to Manassas

This Wash Post story this morning captures the rising sense that Gov.-elect Tim Kaine's string of 'town hall' meetings around the state are wearing kind of thin. Tomorrow night he goes to Manassas.

Sean T. Connaughton (R), chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, said Northern Virginia's message is pretty simple: "Traffic stinks, and we want them to deal with it a meaningful way."

"What we need are leaders who will turn campaign promises into construction projects," continued Connaughton, who said he plans to deliver this message at the town hall meeting. "Every member of the General Assembly and every candidate for statewide office promised to do something about the issue of transportation, and it really has not ever translated into anything."

The article points out that Kaine didn't commit to any major new transportation projects in Northern Virginia (but he still crushed his opponent there).

So, is this a sensible political strategy by Kaine, given the scope of the challenge? The article also outlines the gap that Kaine has to bridge, between the more-funding coalition and the 'smart growth' and anti-tax forces. There's not much trust and/or goodwill between those two sides.


At 9:22 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

"Another coalition that includes smart-growth advocates and some anti-tax Republicans says the state would have plenty of money if it would use it more wisely. The core of their criticism is the belief that transportation projects need to be better coordinated with new developments that create the need for more roads and transit."

But exactly HOW is that going to be done. No one has a plan beyond some vague policy descriptions that no professional thinks will work. Not eventually, and especially not now, to solve immediate and existing problems.

Even if the smart growth people are correctin saying their plan, whatever it is, will solve the problem, they are wrong in thinking it can be done without money - lots of money.

Whatever Kaine comes up with, it will have to bridge the gap between the two groups or it will fail.

But that is just the beginning. He will also have to bridge the gap between urban dwellers who don't want more density and rural dwellers who don't want more density.

Then, of course, he will still have to fix the roads.

At 9:54 AM, Blogger Toomanytaxes said...

Sometimes it's harder to govern than to campaign. Kaine will need to find some common ground on the value and costs of development, as part of his transportation effort. Can he do that? It may be next to impossible.

Part of the problem is the make-up of the metro Washington economy. GMU professor Stephen Fuller's research indicates that only 42% of the metro area's economy are "local businesses." Ten percent are national businesses; 34.5% of the economy is federal government, both directly and its contractors; associations and hospitals each make up 2.5%; international businesses constitute 5%; leaving 3.5% for "other."

A strong argument can be made that, but for the local businesses and hospitals, the bulk of the rest of metro Washington's economy does not benefit from more development, especially under Virginia's tax structure that sends dollars to Richmond and returns but pennies to NoVA. Development certainly helps local businesses, but they seem to be a minority of the regional economy. For the rest, development is probably just another cost, both in diminished quality of life and in higher taxes. So, on one plane, smart growth versus sprawl is irrelevant.

Most would agree that NoVA has out-developed its supporting infrastructure and, as Ray Hyde regularly points out, that's much bigger than roads and transit. If significant numbers of the population are employed in activities that do not benefit from more development, but would be asked to pay higher taxes to fund the infrastructure to support more development, why would they agree to such a plan? (This factor probably accounts for a significant portion of both the anti-sales-tax vote in 2002 and for Tim Kaine's huge margins in NoVA in 2005.)

On the other hand, there are people in this area who want more growth and would clearly benefit therefrom. Would they want to pay all or, at least, most of the costs for building the infrastructure necessary to support the additional development? Not likely!

Is consensus possible? Do elected officials even understand this situation? That's the first order of business: understand the customer base.

At 11:08 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

Thank you TMT. You have succinctly made points that I have been floundering with for months.

At 11:30 AM, Anonymous Matt said...

The majority of people in NOVA don't want more growth. Most people agree that the traffic situation is a mess and more growth will just make the situation worse.

The reality is that growth is a natural occuring event. The maine reasons are natural population increases and the amazing job creation power in NOVA. So there are three basic choices. 1. Do nothing and hope the problem goes away 2. Continue the last 30 years of sprawl or 3. Do something different.

Now 1 and 2 or stupid so the only logical choice is 3. There are some people that like choice 2 but I think they are in the minority.

For me choice three is this.... I think there should be impact fees for all new development to pay for new schools, fire, police, and maintanence costs. New roads should all be toll based. Transit should charge the actual cost value to run the system or operate on a similar formula that interstates, state roads or local roads, use depending on the amount of people using the transit system. heavily.

At 12:50 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

There is a difference between being in favor of sprawl and recognizing that there is a minimum cost trade-off position between sprawl and density/congestion.

As Matt and TMT point out, NOVA has outgrown its infrastructure and more growth will make the situation worse. New or rebuilt infrastructure there will be enormously expensive. Therefore, the minimum cost tade-off position will involve using some additional space, call it sprawl if you will.

Even though all existing residents have benefited from years of public investment, he now proposes that ends for all new residents, who will magically pay the full cost of their impact. And they will do this without wrecking the economy.

If transit actally charges the full costs of operating it (as its proponents argue should happent to auto traffic) and if all of Matt's other suggestions come to pass, then I think the net result will be more sprawl as people strive to escape the areas where these disbenefits occur.

That does not mean they are going to move to Big Piney, Wyoming. That would violate the minimum cost trade-off position.

The other result of Matt's proposal is that it is exactly equivalent to a big tax increase to pay for new infrastructure. The one good thing about it is that those people who use new infrastructure would pay for it, and those people would likely include many current residents who favored the plan thinking it would apply to "the others".


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