Is anyone taking transportation seriously?

What a week for transit news. First the legislature pulls a fast one by demanding more research before prioritizing projects in Salt Lake County even though the tax increase has already passed. Then we have the County Council shuffling money around all over the valley instead of concentrating it on the fast-growing west side. (By the way, Mark Crockett, it's a "bait and switch", not a Ponzi scheme. Thought you should know.) Is anyone willing to take transit seriously in this town or are we gunning to be the new Los Angeles?

The legislature had plenty of time to mull over the projects and knew it had been coming for months. Instead of pro-actively taking on the issue, they've kept on tabling it asking for more information. Transportation is one of the few responsibilities that should belong to state government and it's dismaying to see it not being given top billing. I know they're busy guys. I know the pay stinks, the hours are long, and they get an earful from anyone and everyone with an opinion. (This might be why so many cops make it in politics: they're used to it.) At the same time, we expect a focus on the state's core responsibilities.

Legislators, you're on notice. You delayed converting the increase to a sales tax, and we grumbled. You put off prioritizing before we could vote on the increase, and we had a few words. Now you delay it yet again and we're about ready to get into some fisticuffs. It's going to be an out-and-out war if you fail to send a healthy chunk of that surplus to one-time construction projects.

At least a few folks in the legislature, like Sen. Howard Stephenson, understand how to do it right. His bill to buy land now under bond and sell the excess later is a great idea. I have a little concern that the state should overbuy land by too much (we aren't asking them to be in the land speculation business), but it makes sense to buy a little too much rather than not enough. I hope some of his fellows will pull their heads from the sand and get on board.

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6 Responses

  1. Kipluck says:

    What IS a “Ponzi scheme” though?

  2. Jesse says:

    A Ponzi Scheme is a lot like Social Security: people who are paying into the system now are paying the promised benefits of the people who paid before them. In short, newer investors are paying off old investors and there’s no money left.

    A bait-and-switch, on the other hand, is buying into something with an expectation of what will be done and then having what will be done changed.

  3. aporitic says:

    The short answer to your question is: “sure people are taking transportation seriously — it’s just that none of the people who are serve in the legislature.”

    This legislature is run by guys whose primary constituency are anti-tax groups. They aren’t even interested in issues that go beyond tax cutting or holding the line against tax increases.

    That’s why they never moved on the sales tax authorization that the local communities asked for THREE YEARS AGO. Then, once it looked like the local communities weren’t going to wait for to do their job and were going to raise the money on their own to build this stuff, they couldn’t stand the thought of people making decisions for themselves as to how to spend their own money, so they finally stepped in and authorized the ballot measures, but with conditions that guaranteed their ability to meddle in the use of this money (because, by heck!, we can’t have local people raising local money and making decisions at the local level about how to spend that money to address local needs — heckno, we gotta be making those decisions for them, because evryone knows that big brother, er, the state government, er, the legislative leadership knows better than you do what your needs are and what the best ways to address them are).

    What you describe as “a fast one” is just the latest in a long series of moves the legislature has pulled to game this tax into something they can use for their own priorities. They have played dirty pool from day one. They don’t like taxes. They don’t like transit. They don’t like people making up their own minds about what should be done in their own communities instead of taking direction from on high (i.e. – the leg. leadership) who knows better than you do what your needs are and what should want.

    The fact that this money is local money, voted on by citizens and intended for projects to meet real, even critical, local needs, means nothing to these guys. They don’t believe you should get a choice in these kind of things and they only did this to avoid the end-run that SL county was gearing up to do with the property tax (G.O. bond). I’m repeating myself now – sorry.

    You mark my words: the legislature will steal this money from the citizens who voted for it and the projects that get built will be some mish-mash of pet projects selected by key legislatures who do not really understand transportation issues or the local and regional issues the tax was intended to address. We’ll spend a billoin dollars in new sales tax money and have little to show for it compared to the benefits that could have been achieved with that money if they’d have left the local leaders alone and just let them do their jobs.

  4. Kris says:

    *sigh* no, seriously. What did they think it meant when most of us voted for that tax increase? That we just want to pay higher taxes? No! I need my UT County light rail, damnit!

  5. Jesse says:

    Aporitic, that’s the irony: the legislative leaders would, under other circumstances, probably opt for more local control.

  6. Jeremy says:

    That was the short answer, aporitic?

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