Saturday, January 14, 2006

Tim Kaine's Magic Wand

He doesn't have one of course, but he'll need one. Maybe the past few weeks he's spent touring the state on his 'town hall' meetings without talking much himself left kind of a vacuum for editorialists and assorted reporters to write a nearly endless string of transportation-is-his-top-priority stories. If he'd given us some specifics earlier to chew on (and chew up, probably) maybe he wouldn't be facing such high expectations.

The Virginian-Pilot is all over this today, with an editorial proclaiming that 'for good or ill, Tim Kaine will be Virginia's next transportation governor.' Maybe so, but he's not emperor. For good or ill, the outcome of this session should be laid in large part at the feet of Virginia's voters, who have installed a bloc of anti-tax legislators who may simply not give in this year. Give the people what they want, right?

The Pilot also has a good story by Christina Nuckols about Kaine's big-picture approach to leadership and his easygoing style. It also touches on some of Kaine's ideas, including:
'Kaine said he is committed to finding ways to coordinate land use planning with road-building.
“If absence of transportation is a sufficient reason to turn down a rezoning, then you’re going to have people around at the table trying to figure out, 'Well, OK, how do we come up with the right transportation plan?’ ... I want to put that pressure on local governments and developers as they’re thinking about rezonings.”'
But just doing rezonings isn't going to have enough impact, and frankly a lot of localities care less about the transportation impact than they do about picking up the tax revenues that a new development can bring. That's the disconnect.


At 5:39 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

Wait a minute. Which is it? Development brings in tax revenues, or housing is a net tax loss?

If you can't build your way out of congestion, and can't land use your way out, and can't raise taxes, then I guess we'll have to live with it, which is what Anthony Downs suggests.

At least congestion is one free market solution, even if congestion itself is not free.

If we can't build on account of congestion, and we can't fix congestion, then the impact on housing costs is going to make road building look cheap.

Then of course we can go out and build where ther is not congestion, yet.

Just because we don't raise taxes doesn't mean we are not going to pay. Which should we prefer to pay for, what we get or what we don't get?

At 5:56 PM, Blogger Bob Burke said...

I've witnessed the evolution of this point a few times, and here's how it works: the county administrator tells the supervisors, We can't get the retailers and the commercial sector in here until we have enough residential. So the supervisors get the message, and overzone for residential.

And it works - homebuilders looking for cheap land and few permitting hassles come to these outlying counties, build a bunch of houses for workers who can't afford to buy closer to the urban core.

Then, the supervisors get closer to their actual hearts' desire - tax revenue from commercial projects. Big-box stores, grocery stores, and so on. And life is good for the supervisors because they don't have to raise real-estate taxes.

But these counties have divided their zoning - housing here, shopping there. Everybody drives. The commercial projects are traffic magnets and frustration mounts.

And THEN the supervisors decide, 'we can't have any more people living here! Schools are packed! Traffic is awful! Let's allow only 10-acre lots.'

That's when they start citing the studies that show that 'residential doesn't pay' - sure it doesn't pay, but it's good bait when you're trying to attract commercial projects.

I like the 'I guess we'll have to live with it' option. That ought to at least be on the table, huh.

At 7:13 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

10 acre lots? Try fifty.

EMR argues those properties closest in are valued the most, but it makes no difference if it is out of reach.

Businesses are desired because they pay more than they cost. It si another way of saying the tax structure is inequitable. Supervisors get votes by keeping taxes low, so they subsidize housing at the expense of employers. Employers need to have an employee base most of all, so they won't move until it exists. this results in an oversuppl;y of jobs in one location (the previous one) and the resulting congestion.

We need to entice them to move sooner, so we offer tax breaks to offset the overcharging. Meanwhile we have to develop the employee base with no support. PW suffered from that for years, and now it is a fast growing jobs location.

It takes time for balance to develop,and in the meantime conditions are changing. EMR's call for balanced communities is futile, still, we can do better than we are.

Like any other business you have to front the money in order to play. If you expect every new customer to pay full price up front for the facilities to accommodate them, you won't be in business very long.

At 12:24 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

Here is another take on the commercial development issue. From


Why is it again that Great Falls is not developing as fast as the rest of the state? Oh yeah, could this be it?

Particularly telling is the following quote: "Phil Faccenda, an architect who grew up nearby on 9th Avenue South, said the project would adversely affect property values of homes to the north by greatly increasing traffic...'The homes are in good repair and should be protected from encroachment,' Faccenda said. He also questioned why the Walgreens couldn't be built on the half of the block fronting 10th Avenue South that already is zoned commercial, leaving the residential buffer alone."

Catch that? Leave the houses on the south side of 9th Street to protect the "residential buffer." Gosh, Phil, what do you think that would do to the property value of those houses? I'm guessing you don't really care. All of this high-mindedness is really just to protect your (or your parents') property.

If you live less than one block from a busy commercial thoroughfare, you simply do not have the reasonable expectation that it will never change. I know it probably sounds cold-hearted, but 10th Avenue South has been growing for years. If you own property on 9th, or even 8th Avenue South for that matter, it has already depreciated. And will continue to do so. We simply cannot as a community hem in all future growth because of houses on 9th Avenue South.


How is that? Depreciated?

Depreciated for housing, yeah.
so much for mixed use.

At 9:17 AM, Blogger Toomanytaxes said...

The King is dead; long live the new King! Tim Kaine begins his new administration with a wellspring of support in NoVA, along with some very high expectations. Right, wrong or indifferent, he needs to be able to sign some type of adequate public facilities legislation into law.

Watch for the January 31 special election to replace state senator Bill Mims (Loudoun and Fairfax Counties) as a referendum on APF and "linking land use to growth" (whatever that means). A number of activists of both parties are raising these issues as a litmus test. Democrat candidate Herring, who moved into the district for the election, is already using the phrase "link land use to transportation." What will the ultimate GOP candidate say?

Rumor also has it that more delegates and senators from outside NoVA and Tidewater are hearing from local officials and constituents about growth and infrastructure problems.

At 8:26 AM, Blogger Toomanytaxes said...

The Virginia Farm Bureau Federation endorsed both adequate public facilities ordinances and impact fees. I guess that the frustation extends beyond metro areas.

At 8:32 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

The most intelligent thing Kaine has said about our transportation dillemma is that it threatens our prosperity.

As TMT has pointed out, properity is hardly the biggest problem Fairfax faces. but the arguments he promotes in Fairfax are being used equally in places where they don't apply or certainly apply in a different manner.

According to the Post kaine would require developers to submit a standard traffic impact statement whenever they propose a rezoning. nothing wrong with that except another incremental increase in home prices to pay for doing VDOT's job. The few who buy new homes will provide information that benefits all. This is hardly a way to promote the idea that people should pay for what they get.

A second proposal would increase emphasis on intermodalism. I have said before that Rail to Dulles is a lousy idea, except for its impact on intermodalism, so no problems here. At least none that we can see yet.

A third goal is to set goals for accountability in transportation spending to ensure that we spend on the most urgent projects first. The problem with this is that it will likely result in all the money going to fix highway bottlenecks. Since there is not enough money to complete even a few of those, transit, bike and pedestrian promoters will be mostly left out. Business as usual.

But if he allows local governments to halt construction based on supposed inadequate roads, and without a plan to adress that problem, then he is throwing in the towel on the states economy, disrupting people's hopes and dreams, and doing nothing to solve our current traffic mess.

Nobody likes change, but if you try to restrain pent up forces with no way to release the pressure, you can go from a wildfire to an explosion in short order. Of course the other option is that your warm pleasant hearth cools to cold ashes and a few glowing embers.

At 10:02 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

Well, there you go, can't build in Metro areas, can't build in suburban areas, can't build in rural areas.

Looks like the next two million people will be living on the streets.

Now there's a cure for congestion.

At 1:04 PM, Blogger Toomanytaxes said...

I'd say that there are quite a few Virginians who believe, rightly or wrongly, for selfish or for unselfish reasons, that they are on the wrong side of the the "win-lose" equation for development. I don't know where this takes us, except for a ride to places we've not yet been.

Interestingly, I read an article in the Internet version of the Denver Post that discussed battles over development/over-development in the West. Places, such as Boise, Idaho and Great Falls, Montana, are being torn by similar debates over development.

We seem to be fulfilling the famous Chinese proverb (curse?): May you live in interesting times.


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