Neither Solution is Best
I was involved in the early discussions and eventual passage of 2A. I advocated for it, thought it was a good idea. As I advocated publicly for it I often heard the comment that the “other infrastructure” phrase was too broad. I brought this comment up to Tom Yerkey who told me not to worry, there was so much street work to be done that there would be no money for anything else for at least a decade. He was wrong.
In hindsight, there were three issues with the original 2A that we did not see at the time: too much flexibility; no accountability; and it ignored the other 2% city tax restrictions.
Too much flexibility – the phrase “other infrastructure” has led to the money being sent things other than streets.
No accountability – info is now available on 2A money spent on capital, but non capital spending has never been tracked.
Other taxes – 2A is a standalone tax targeted at streets, and did not account for capital restrictions on the other sales taxes.
The great news is that something is being done. Both the city and the citizens agree that now more money should be spent on the streets. Both would resolve the issue of accountability. We have some agreement!! The bad news is that neither solves all three of the issues with 2A. It is unfortunate that the parties cannot get together on the remaining details. Citizens are forced to spend $20,000 to pick between two ways of doing things, when the third way would be best.
The citizens’ initiative solves the flexibility issues with details included in the initiative. A good thing. It does nothing about the impact to the other city taxes. Rightly or wrongly, the city has dramatically increased its operations spending since 2008. The failure to account for it in the initiative leads to disruption of the operations side of the budget. As former Mayer Chuck Rose has pointed out the city council has been silent about where this impact would be felt.
The city’s responsive referendum would solve the other 2% capital restrictions. It is more comprehensive, and yet fails to deal with the flexibility issue. The referendum does take some flexibility out, but not completely. That is by design according to city council.
The clear way forward here would be for both sides to sit together and work out something they can both live with, and save $20,000. Apparently neither side learned how to compromise. It is infuriating that there are no adults here.
Now we have to decide for ourselves among the lesser of two imperfect choices. I can understand why people would choose either. For myself, I think the city’s referendum will do less good, but less harm. I think the Citizen’s initiative would do more good, but more harm.
I am going to take the behavior of all into account come November when we pick new council members. I’ll be looking for adults.