Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Judicial Smackdown in Albemarle

Here's a timely case for Gov.-elect Tim Kaine's effort to expand local control over development. A judge in Albemarle County yesterday ruled in favor of a construction company that had its site plan for a new facility turned down by the county, which argued that the local roads couldn't handle the traffic. The judge said the county didn't have that authority. Here's the Daily Progress story.
'"While the decision is not a surprise, it is a huge blow to the protection of public health and safety," Brian Wheeler, president of the Ivy Community Association, said Monday. "This case says local government can't question the intensity of use on industrial land when it threatens property owners and schoolchildren next door."
Wheeler and other county officials had acknowledged that the case would be an uphill battle, mostly because the Dillon Rule doesn't allow local governments to make decisions not expressly granted to them by Richmond. Comments made by Gov.-elect Timothy M. Kaine suggest local governments might soon get more authority to reject plans based on lack of supporting infrastructure.
"Local government power is an issue that Kaine has given attention," Wheeler said. "Here we have an example right in Albemarle that demonstrates local government clearly lacks the power to say no to a development that will have a severe impact on roads and public safety."'

Monday, December 19, 2005

Stop and START

Bob Burke has filed a report on the fourth and final meeting of the Statewide Transportation Analysis and Recommendation Task Force. The state Senate task force has covered some interesting ground, Burke summarizes, but with only weeks to go until the opening of the 2006 session of the General Assembly, it has not come to any consensus about proposed legislation. Read his story here.

The START task force has not agreed that a $1 billion transportation-related tax increase is necessary, as erroneously reported Dec. 17 by the Virginian-Pilot.

Indeed, the prospects for a tax increase in 2006 look very dim. The state Senate's own task force is divided on the issue. If any tax legislation emerges from the Senate, it is likely to encounter internal resistance. Meanwhile, the House of Delegates leadership has vowed to oppose any tax hike, and even Gov.-elect Tim Kaine has said he would fight any tax increase until a constitutional amendment were passed to prevent raids on the transportation trust fund.
Looks to me like the Virginian-Pilot and Roanoke Times ought to stop bellyaching about the need for higher transportation taxes and get behind the constitutional amendment. At least then, with the passage of an amendment, they'll have a chance of seeing their dream come true three years from now.

Political Train Wrecks

It's the season for disgruntled editorial writers and columnists, and they're getting antsy over what Gov.-elect Tim Kaine and the GOP-led General Assembly will do about transportation. Not to mention the influential home- and road-buildingn lobbies. The question of funding unfortunately seems to be crowding out discussion of the other key policy issues. Virginian-Pilot columnist Margaret Edds on Sunday predicting 'a whole bunch' of political train wrecks, and lamenting what a lousy jobs the state's leaders have done so far.
'Officials agree that transportation is a mess and 2006 is the year to fashion a fix. But when it comes to paying for roads, empowering cities and counties to curb development and guaranteeing that transportation taxes won’t be diverted to education, Gov.-elect Tim Kaine, the state Senate and the House of Delegates might as well be speaking German, Spanish and French.'
Meanwhile, the Roanoke Times today blasts the GOP's anti-tax true believers, and directs readers to this column by Felix G. Rohatyn, an investment banker, and Warren Rudman, a former Republican senator from New Hampshire, chair the Commission on Public Infrastructure of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
'Private investment has led U.S. economic growth for two centuries, but it could not have done so without a series of complementary public investments in canals, railroads, roads, the airspace system, water projects, public transportation, public schools and the like, which improve business productivity and our standard of living while generating significant increases in private-sector employment.'
The Roanoke Times wishes that thinking would carry the day in Virginia:
'Such vision is in desperately short supply in Virginia, where too many leaders seem to think the huge funding gap in transportation -- and other critical infrastructure areas -- can be magically bridged by one-time infusions from the general fund and the eternal promise of waste cut from state government.'
Maybe I've missed it, but the House coalition seems to have gotten by so far without a detailed explanation of what Virginia's transportation network will look like in 10, 20 years under their approach.