Imagine you took the time and effort to go out and vote. On your ballot, you found a referendum on a tax for certain civic projects. The ballot not only listed the projects for which the tax would pay, but also specified an expiration (or sunset) date for the tax.
Imagine then if your city council (or similar governing body) covened a few months or years later and looked at the tax and the projects (not all of which or perhaps none of which have been completed) and then agreed that your city needed a Passenger Rail system more than any of them. Furthermore, they voted in public session (no shame) to extend the tax beyond the sunset date.
If you voted for the tax, you probably would feel yourself ill used. If you did not vote for it and had been paying it these months and years, you would feel angry, disappointed and cheated. You may even vow never to ride the city council's damn train, no matter how convenient. You would probably be thinking about cancelling your carpool and buying a gas guzzler just for vengeance.
In a not-so-atypical move, the city council and mayor of Albuquerque, NM, have voted to manipulate our taxes in exactly the above way. Albuquerque will get a streetcar system (see previous blog) and the taxpayer will get the long shaft up the . . . Oh, well.
There's a good way and a bad way to promote Passenger Rail. The good way is to identify a need and a source of revenue. If that source includes private investment, so be it. Whether or not it does, any public investment should be for the benefit of the rate/tax payers. The bad way is to decide that your street would look good with a transit system, that developers will buy and develop in droves along its route, and that this is somehow good for the poor schmuck who lives nowhere near the streetcar line. (Environmental arguments are the hardest of this kind to swallow: "Even if you have to drive your car in to downtown, the streetcar will make for less traffic and pollution will be cut back by the clean electric service." Two lies: Rarely does new development result in less traffic, and coal-fired power plants pollute more, not less, than late model automobiles.)
Much is now being made by the drive-by media about the value of this decision. It is plain fraud and it will do more to taint Passenger Rail for the taxpaying public than it will to move Passenger Rail forward. We need passenger rail everywhere in this country. But not by means of fraud.
This is our opinion.
© 2006 - C. A. Turek - firstname.lastname@example.org