Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Kaine's Credibility Problem

It took Gov. Mark. R. Warner more than two years to break his promise not to raise taxes. It took Tim Kaine less than two months.

Kaine won the gubernatorial election last November partly on the basis of two critical planks in his campaign platform:
  • He would not raise taxes for transportation until a constitutional amendment protected the Transportation Trust Fund from budgetary raids by the General Assembly.
  • He would fight for legislation that would clarify the power of local governments to block certain development projects that would generate more traffic than the local transportation system could handle.

Kaine quickly did an about-face on the tax issue, recommending tax increases of nearly $1 billion annually -- increases that he never hinted at during the campaign. He wasn't breaking his promise he argued, because he would personally guarantee, through his veto power, that the legislature didn't touch the Transportation Trust Fund.

But the "trust me" gambit hasn't worked out so well for the Smart Growth activists who supported Kaine, trusting him to fight for tighter land use controls. According to correspondence from Del. Robert Marshall, R-Manassas cited earlier in this blog, Kaine abruptly withdrew his support last week for an amendment he'd asked Marshall to champion in the House.

The legislative maneuvering isn't over yet, and Kaine may redeem himself. Further, there may be more to the story than what has been revealed so far. But Kaine had better ponder his moves carefully, or he will shed his image as a straight-shooting Mr. Clean and come across as just another pandering, backroom-dealing politician.

Update: Del. Morgan Griffith called Kaine's personal credibility into question on an unrelated effort, the nomination of former state AFL-CIO President Daniel LeBlance to Secretary of the Commonwealth. According to the Virginian-Pilot:

House Majority Leader Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, said he did not trust Kaine’s pledge to uphold the right-to-work law. He said Kaine already has broken a campaign pledge not to seek tax increases until he won passage of a constitutional amendment that would protect transportation money from being diverted to other services.

“If he doesn’t keep one promise, how can you expect him to keep a promise to protect the right-to-work law?” Griffith said.

8 Comments:

At 9:48 AM, Blogger Toomanytaxes said...

I heard a rumor (3/6/06) that new Senator Herring, working with Del. Marshall, was going to propose an amendment on the floor to place some strong land use control language into a bill. If this occurs and a floor vote is taken, we have the Senate's biggest nightmare -- having to vote for what many citizens want -- restrictions on development where roads are inadequate -- but against the powerful real estate industry. Or vice versa, which would give the incumbent senators' likely opponents in 2007 (primary or general election challengers) one mighty big sword to swing.

I wonder what sort of procedural options are bouncing around the Senate to stop this one from occurring, assuming my source was accurate. I don't expect that, if someone were to write a sequel to JFK's Profiles in Courage, many members of the GA would be included.

 
At 3:14 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

Where are the roads inadequate? Would that be where they are already overcrowded, or where they don't exist yet? Or both? who decides what is inadequate?

If this passes, it could mean that the only place you can build is in the suburbs, and not even in the close in ones.

Whose bright idea was this?

 
At 3:43 PM, Blogger Jim Wamsley said...

This is another chance to trot out “Accessibility”

As some of you will recall, Accessibility is a term borrowed from Marketers. Marketers use it to describe the number of customers a location can serve. Accessibility is also used by employers to describe the availability of employees. It is the measure that combines Land Use and Transportation. How many places can you get to within a set time? How many customers can get to you in a set time? Accessibility is measured as destinations within an area covered by a certain set trip time.

In discussing Accessibility, the how many customers can get to you is usually an easier concept to understand. Take a map and draw a 30 minute ring around your proposed store locations. Then count the residences within the ring. Yes a rural ring will be bigger, but the number of houses will be fewer. A transit oriented development ring may be very small, but the number of high rises raises the number of residences. Try it for different locations with differing development patterns.

Try counting restaurants 30 minutes from your door. Then select another residential location and try it. Then try it for every other trip you make.

Try doing this for new development locations and you will find that the only locations that pass will be infill developments. The far out suburbs fail the destinations test.

 
At 5:33 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

Jim, I don't doubt you are right, but where is the data? Accessibility is easy to explain but nearly impossibly hard to measure. I have never seen it done, or advertized anywhere. After all, life is not just about restaurants, or schools, or jobs, or shopping.

We need to have a series of color coded GIS maps that calculate the accessibility of all locations, weighted for the likliehood of travel for every destination within, say, a thirty minute circle. Those maps might be different for residential, commercial, and industrial development.

There might be major arguments over what the weights should be, but we could probably determine that if we had enough data on what actually occurs. If I sell ski-doos, proximity to high rises is not my concern, maybe.

With the gradient maps, we could give every location an accessibility grade score. Then we could set the fees for building in that location according to the score. The higher the score, the lower the fee, lower the requirements, and the faster the process.

By itself, that would drive the prices, but it wouldn't exclude anyone. Less desirable locations would go to the back of the line, take longer and cost more, but at least you would know the outcome.

Furthermore, everytime a new development was complete, it would change the mix in that area and some new properties that were previously scored low would move up. Then you would have a uniform plan that changed periodically that anyone could look up and understand. We would have a procedure that allows communities to grow organically, and yet predict where the growth is most likely.

Instead we have comprehensive plans that are carved in stone and guaranteed to fail.

Finally, you could look at the thirty minute circle and set a limit as to when it is just too damn small. This would be your congestion limit, if you will.

But when was the last time you went to a zoning hearing and heard the applicant say we picked this spot for its accessibility?

Unless you are in favor of Kelo, the first condition is that the property in question is available, and that depends on a lot of non-market factors. But the suggestion of prioritizing properties on accessibility is a good one, and it could very well change the propensity to market certain properties for the better.

I don't know if this is an answer, but it is better than just saying no, based on some undefined idea of what constitutes inadequate transit, and without considering all the other political and economic ramifications. I think it has possibilities, and it has the benefit that it does not make policy based on homilies, platitudes, and perceptions of what is desirable and what is not: it is a market oriented solution. It throws up some barriers but no prohibitions: I like it.

What happens if we discover that doing infill causes more transportation inadequacies, as a result of increased traffic? I guess you could have traffic density maps and deduct the traffic density score from the accessibility score.

What happens if we do this and discover the answer is the same: the best places to build are in the not-too-far suburbs, where you can still build relatively cheap, and score big on appreciation and growth?

 
At 8:13 PM, Blogger Jim Wamsley said...

Life is not just about restaurants, or schools, or jobs, or shopping. That is why you use tha data generated by the transportation demand models to determine travel You use the land use or assessment maps to determine destination density.

You will have to do your own searches. I found this one on the first page of results from an “Accessibility Studies” search.
http://www.utrc2.org/research/compproj.php?viewid=64
You can also go to the FHWA site and search. Blogs provide a platform that the increases the level of knowledge brought to the discussion by having different individuals with different backgrounds participate.

The idea that the thirty minute circle would have a limit as to when it is just too damn small ignores the density of use within the circle. This would be your congestion limit, if you will. The place where it is too small is on the interstates where there are no destinations within thirty minutes. By definition, communities have destinations within the circle.

 
At 10:14 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

Thank you, I have looked for data and come up empty, or else academic. Nothing that actually compares data that you can correlate with truth on the ground.

 
At 11:07 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

As for too small, I think it cuts both ways. Recently I was on Connecticut Avenue and it took me almost thirty minutes to get out of the parking garage. There was no useful destination for me within walking distance.

 
At 12:04 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

I haven't made any headway on this yet, but I found this comment on the same topic.

"I live in one of those expensive concentrations of liberals (Ann Arbor), and here there is an ongoing battle between the 'preservation liberals' and the 'density liberals' with the density advocates recently managing to make some headway (approval of some new downtown high-rise projects). But there are so many strings attached to these projects, that they are never very affordable (except for the few designated "affordable" units -- the subsidies for which, of course, raise the prices of the rest). And naturally we have the other accoutrements of expensive liberal university enclaves (a green belt and extensive and historic district commissions imposing strict limits on changes to buildings). And then everyone complains about sprawl and only rich people being able to afford to live in town. Now as someone who can afford it, I have to say it's really a very nice place to live, but to me the relationship between liberal politics, development restrictions, and high prices is quite clear."

 

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