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Tired of growth? Be careful what you wish for

The Puget Sound region has what it takes to attract and keep talented people. If that can be tiresome, we should consider the alternative.
Seattle sees lots of moving days like this one (2005).

Seattle sees lots of moving days like this one (2005). Shelly Munkberg/Flickr

The cover of Newsweek on May 20, 1996 read: “Swimming to Seattle: Everybody Else is Moving There. Should You?”

If you got beyond the preposterous cover image of journalist Michael Kinsley wearing a sou’wester hat, the article did point to the powerful impact from a golden age that Seattle found itself enjoying during the 1990s. People were moving to the region in large numbers, approaching the blistering pace of the mid-1960s (a time of a big Boeing ramp-up).

The 1990s brought aggressive efforts to deal with — or, in the minds of many, to discourage — growth, including the state Growth Management Act and Seattle’s Citizens Alternative Plan limiting downtown growth. But the measures often seemed futile.

In many ways, the 1990s were not all that unusual. The Seattle region has always attracted newcomers, even when times are tough. A brutal, double-dip recession in the early 1980s had failed to halt people moving here. Even the Boeing Bust at the start of the 1970s provoked less outflow of people from the Puget Sound region than might have been expected, given the magnitude of that economic calamity. (The famous billboard asking the last person leaving to turn out the lights vastly overstated the rush to get out of town.) And during the recent Great Recession, when migration around the country slowed dramatically, people still came to the shores of Puget Sound.

Those experiences hold a big lesson for the region: We are likely to keep seeing growth for the foreseeable future, assuming we don't make major mistakes.

Population growth has two components. "Natural” growth is measured as births minus deaths. The second component, “net migration,” is measured as people moving in minus those moving away (in-migrants minus out-migrants). Over the past 50 years, about 55 percent of growth in the Puget Sound region has resulted from this phenomenon, net in-migration. During that time, the nation grew at an annual rate of just about 1 percent (the natural rate plus foreign immigration), while the Puget Sound region grew by about 1.6 percent per year. Since Washington’s natural growth rate is about average, the only way to grow faster than the country as a whole is to have more people moving in than moving out.

It is important, though, to focus not just on the net rate of in-migration, but also on the total flow of people in and out of the region. According to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey five-year average for 2007-2011 (a time period when migration around the country slowed considerably), the Puget Sound region experienced an average annual net inflow from other states of about 10,000 people. But that net figure masks the larger total flow: each year about 100,000 people moved into the region from other states while about 90,000 people moved out of the region to other states. Furthermore, each year an average of about 25,000 people move to the three-county central Sound region (King, Pierce and Snohomish counties) from other parts of Washington and 35,000 people arrive from foreign countries.

In other words, approximately 5 percent of the population — about 1-in-every-20 people — is newly arrived each year. 

Not surprisingly, the migration picture varies around the region. Of those moving into King County, only about 30 percent come from somewhere else in Washington, while 55 percent of those moving into Snohomish County come from elsewhere in the state. (Migration data for Pierce County are heavily skewed by its large military population.)

A rough pattern has become clear over the past decade: People move to King County from other states and abroad, having been recruited by employers, and residents of King County move to adjacent counties in search of affordable homes. During the housing boom of the past decade, that pattern expanded, with residents priced out of Pierce and Snohomish counties moving up and down Interstate 5 to Thurston and Skagit counties. 


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Comments:

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 6:49 a.m. Inappropriate

Seattle's population has grown over the past decade, but the number of jobs here hasn't kept up.

The forecasts not long ago were for FAR greater numbers of jobs. There now are about 500,000 jobs in Seattle:

http://www.seattle.gov/economicDevelopment/indicators/JobGrowth.htm

That is about the same as in 2000, and well below what the PSRC forecast in 1995 we would have at this point (its forecast then was for Seattle employment now to be around 615,000):

http://www.seattlemet.com/news-and-profiles/publicola/articles/fizz-for-march-27unjustified-march-2014

Anyone want to discuss why job growth in Seattle has been so anemic?

The growth of government employees downtown has been robust, but private sector jobs evaporated instead of multiplying.

crossrip

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 8:18 a.m. Inappropriate

I'm wondering where all those new people work. And also wondering why all those new buildings downtown were put up. Are you saying they're filled with air only?

That's not much of a vote of confidence for your blessed One Percent!

Anandakos

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 5:13 p.m. Inappropriate

That is interesting (and surprising) but Seattle does not tell the whole story; a lot of job growth has been outside Seattle city limits. From observing the bridges, SR520 and I-90, it looks like nearly as many people live in Seattle and work on the Eastside as the reverse.

kieth

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 6:56 a.m. Inappropriate

"Unless we actively work to make the region stagnant, boring and ugly"

God knows that the city council and DPD are doing what they can to do just that

talisker

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 8:46 a.m. Inappropriate

AMEN!

mspat

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 9:18 a.m. Inappropriate

Add "anti-business" to the list of Council "priorieties" and I say Amen as well.

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 9:49 a.m. Inappropriate

”Add "anti-business" to the list of Council "priorieties" [sic] and I say Amen as well.”

The city council repealed a payroll tax in 2009. It has pushed property tax hikes – which businesses pay little of AND pass on the costs of – for libraries, school districts. SHA, early childhood learning, seawall repair, the metropolitan parks district, bridging the gap, pike place market, fire stations, and EMS services. Businesses are the primary beneficiaries of transit, and all the transit taxes around here are designed to target lower middle class people for the heaviest impacts and not “ding” businesses at all (that's what sales taxes and car taxes are designed for). The city council has the authority to impose new taxes on businesses for transit, but they are pushing instead a sales tax hike and a car tab tax hike this fall.

The city council is PRO big business and ANTI young families when it comes to fiscal policies. What don't you get about that?

crossrip

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 7:15 a.m. Inappropriate

Why didn't Seattle make this list of top 25 cities for working parents:

http://www.businessinsider.com/top-cities-for-working-parents-2014-8 ?

One thing we could do to improve its ranking on that list would be to shift some of this area's "most regressive in the country" state/local tax impacts off of young families with children and on to the "citizens" who deserve more of that burden: rich corporations.

crossrip

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 2:26 p.m. Inappropriate

This city doesn't want working parents. They want young healthy people who can ride bikes to work and working adults who can take public transportation without having to worry about getting home in time to pick up their kids from school or to get them to soccer practice or swim classes. There's no room in the grand vision of a car free future for families.

talisker

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 8:07 a.m. Inappropriate

Good observations Michael. I have always said to my 'anti-growth' friends . . . . be careful what you wish for. I city/region that is growing reflects a healthy economy and has the synergy to continue to attract more talent and business and community investments. A region on the wane has to combat all that and more . . . and the resources to make investments dries up just when you need it the most! I think growth is good -- unplanned growth and un-sustainable growth is potentially soul-killing for a community. I think Seattle and King County still struggle with how to welcome the growth and make timely investments that add to the quality of life. Clearly we proverbially missed the bus . . . or more like missed the train when we didn't vote to fund rail mass transit earlier in the scheme of things. Now its just darn expensive to fit it in. But we're getting there. Our roads are a challenge and it would be nice if we had more miles of bike trails that connected daily commuters to their jobs (I just got back from Germany and Norway where I reveled in bike trails that transitioned to smart choices on fitting in bikes through the urban core too!) I also think we'll have to keep making investments in athletic fields and community centers and arts facilities to make both Seattle and suburban/Sound Cities attractive places for families. Convincing voters these investments are worth it for a quality of life -- has been easier in Seattle and north of I-90 -- but I think we could make inroads in south King County if we talked to voters like adults. In the meantime -- I applaud the KC Executive and Council and south county mayors/elected who recognize the historic under-investment and challenges to bringing amenities to the more diverse and sometimes financially challenged south county cities. Everyone (especially the communities taking the most growth and higher density housing) deserves to parks, trails and vibrant commercial areas and opportunities to enjoy the arts.

Finally -- just one comment on one of your observations: "Looking to the future, and trying to assess the degree to which we will continue to grow through in-migration, the first question is, why do people come here? It certainly is not for the weather: A study of the relationship between weather and migration patterns found that the weather of Western Washington ranks very low in its ability to attract people." I would challenge that assumption for future migration choices. I am hearing that the climate change forecasters are saying that the NW may become VERY attractive in the future - when people start bailing out of the US southwest and southern CA (think Arizona and east of LA, etc.) when climate change drives temperatures even higher and water becomes scarcer. I think the NW is well advised to prepare for these "climate migrators" . . . though I won't predict when!

Thanks for the thoughtful discussion of natural and in-migration!

mtsier

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 10 a.m. Inappropriate

“Clearly we proverbially missed the bus . . . or more like missed the train when we didn't vote to fund rail mass transit earlier in the scheme of things. Now its just darn expensive to fit it in.”

Sound Transit's grossly-excessive tax costs have absolutely nothing to do with “fitting it in.” Lots of urban areas build out light rail at little or no new tax costs to people. The greater Portland area, the Twin Cities, and that Hudson/Bergen system in New Jersey all come to mind. The reason for the massive tax costs of light rail here are solely a function of the abusive financing scheme the unaccountable board of that oligarchy began setting in to place a couple of years ago. It is based on securing a mountain of long term bonds by pledges to confiscate heavy regressive taxes for decades – far more taxing than needed for reasonable operations and capital expenses.

Are you completely ignorant of how aberrant that public works financing plan is? It's got nothing in common with best practices, or how any of the peers finance light rail.

Do you know who designed the abusive financing plan Sound Transit's unaccountable board began implementing? Try to figure that out, and get back to us.

The best indicator that Sound Transit's financing plan is abusive is that it won't disclose its material terms. When a GOOD transit financing plan exits there are webpages describing it and the individuals and firms responsible put their names out there. Here's an example:

http://www.transportation-finance.org/projects/hudson_bergen_lrt.aspx

Now, let's see you give us a link to some Sound Transit webpage that discusses how that unaccountable board is setting up its "tax to the max" financing plan. Go ahead . . . I double-dog dare you.

crossrip

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 9:57 a.m. Inappropriate

A difference between now and then is that Seattle's population is growing, while it was declining previously. This is partly due to planned density increases, but also inflows of families (with burgeoning school populations). It would be interesting to see figures for intra-county migration into Seattle.

There is also the tourist factor. The more visitors, mostly in our "better" months, the more people want to move here, often citing hot summers or cold winters elsewhere. In the '60s to '90s, tourism was a much smaller part of the economy than now. Locales such as Sequim and Yakima are attracting retirees.

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 11:09 a.m. Inappropriate

Crossrip - There is a lot more to this conversation than transportation funding. But, just wondering about your comment: "The reason for the massive tax costs of light rail here are solely a function of the abusive financing scheme the unaccountable board of that oligarchy began setting in to place a couple of years ago." You sure it has nothing to do with hills and tunnels and lakes and floating bridges and the cost of dealing with them here compared to other places in a light rail context? Just saying, the cost per mile here is likely higher than flat dry land, and justifiably so.

On job creation in Seattle, according to the website you cite, most recent unemployment data for Seattle proper was 4.7 percent, and 5.5 percent for the metropolitan area, and government jobs make up only 10 percent of the work force. I don't have the facts to debate that private sector job growth in terms of numbers may have been flat, but maintaining that base has come as the nature of jobs shift from manufacturing in the Duwamish to information, research and retail management jobs further to the north, with a significant increase in average salary. Based on the rise in real estate values in Seattle proper, and in the metro area in general, something is going on here that is driving demand. Perhaps in addition to job growth (or pay growth), that "thing" is growth management.

Interestingly, the benefits of effective growth management appear to be an important part of the matrix of the "glue" that keeps people here once they arrive, even against an unfavorable cost gradient. I.E. we are dirtying our nest more slowly than other regions with more lax growth controls, and in sum more people appreciate the associated benefits and stay than flee due to increased costs. In any case, the stringent growth management rules in King County do not seem to be a strong disincentive for knowledge-based industries to locate and grow here compared with other parts of the country that have lower housing costs and more laissez faire land use policies, and miles and miles of cookie cutter homes and pavement.

A last point made by Mr. Luis is a pet peeve of mine and has been evident since I returned some 18 years ago from a stint in the east, and that is the lack of secondary educational capacity in the region. Our regional higher education model has not changed significantly from the one laid out in the early to mid part of the last century, and it is wholly inadequate to support regional population growth and the not-so-new knowledge based economy that has emerged in the last 30 years. There are not enough slots to support the growing demand for higher education, and as the first generation of in-migration children mature, where are they going to train to follow their parents into high value-added occupations? Right now, the answer looks like a lot of places other than the Seattle metro area or Washington State.

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 11:52 a.m. Inappropriate


“You sure [the exceedingly high tax cost of light rail here] has nothing to do with hills and tunnels and lakes and floating bridges and the cost of dealing with them here compared to other places in a light rail context? Just saying, the cost per mile here is likely higher than flat dry land, and justifiably so.”

It's not the capital costs that are the problem, it's the abusive and unique financing plan. Let's see if you understand it (you may not – the unaccountable appointees on Sound Transit's board want the public ignorant of its salient features). I'll ask a question, you answer it: How much sales tax revenue did the board pledge as security for the $300M 2009-series 30-year term bond?” If you can answer that question then you'll have a good idea about why Sound Transit's financing plan is so abusive, and unlike anything the peers impose on people everywhere else in the country with light rail.

The fact of the matter is the capital costs here “per mile” are not far off from those of, say, TriMet's new “Portland-Milwaukie” line. It crosses water, is built in an established urban environment, and planning for it began in about 2004. It's going to be operational next year though. Here're the main differences though compared to the Sound Transit model (these differences are due to how TriMet doesn't use a punishing, abusive financing plan): NO new regressive taxing, NO new long term bonds secured by sales taxes or other local general taxes, ample federal and state money, and diversions of existing revenue sources. That is a “best practices” light rail financing plan.

Why doesn't Sound Transit's appointive board use best practices, when that would cause far less financial harm to people?

“On job creation in Seattle, according to the website you cite, most recent unemployment data for Seattle proper was 4.7 percent, and 5.5 percent for the metropolitan area, and government jobs make up only 10 percent of the work force. I don't have the facts to debate that private sector job growth in terms of numbers may have been flat [ ].”

Well let me help you out with some data points then. In the 2000 – 2010 period the private sector around here lost lots of jobs. Downtown Seattle saw a 15 percent loss. The rest of the region didn’t do well either (9 percent loss city-wide, 4 percent loss for King County, and a 2 percent loss for the Puget Sound region). Government employment grew some in the 2000 – 2010 period though. Public sector jobs increased by 4 percent downtown, 2 percent city-wide, 7 percent in King County and 16 percent for the Puget Sound region. Those figures come from here:

http://downtownseattle.com/pdf_files/resources/Workforce_7.11.11.pdf

Take away government job growth and then account for the private sector job losses and increases in minimum wage services jobs and what do you get? A realistic picture, one that is not influenced by several thousand Amazon jobs.

crossrip

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 12:38 p.m. Inappropriate

Oh Jesus man. What's with the obsession of Sound Transit no matter what the subject of the original CrossCut article. If you are so damn armed with facts and convincing arguments regarding the Constitution (wave arms with excitement) then sue the friggin' agency and stop filling up the comment pages with such tripe.

Oh yea - Seattle lost some jobs yes - but with the magic of Google you can easily see how much better we are doing in recovery than other comparable metropolitan areas.

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323423804579024702316622012

http://www.geekwire.com/2013/forbes-seattle-5thbest-city-jobs/

http://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/morning_call/2014/05/job-growth-high-wages-fuel-seattles-thriving.html

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323423804579024702316622012

From the WSJ: Of the nation's 49 metropolitan areas with populations over 1 million, only two—both in California—have seen their unemployment rate fall more than Seattle's over the past year. And neither of those areas has seen its unemployment rate go as low as Seattle's 5.9%

Get real already.

Lily32

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 1:18 p.m. Inappropriate

If you are so damn armed with facts and convincing arguments regarding the Constitution (wave arms with excitement) then sue the friggin' agency and stop filling up the comment pages with such tripe.

Thanks for reading my comments. Since you bring up the constitution, I'll go ahead and invite anyone to discuss whether or not that statutory oligarchy was formed in a manner that respects what the Fourteenth Amendment demands in terms of Americans' rights to vote for and against those who would set legal policies for municipalities.

Now "Lily" I'm sure you are incapable of addressing that issue (it's a "law" thing), but there probably are a good number of lawyers who read Crosscut who know "the emperor has no clothes". They are whom I want to address this issue.

As to those "rosy" employment statistics you reference: the WSJ piece isn't limited to jobs in Seattle, the "bizjournal" piece is referring specifically to "the Puget Sound region", the Forbes piece refers to the Metro area (including Tacoma, Bellevue, and Redmond, etc. There is solid job growth outside the city limits, and inside the city limits there's been nowhere near the job growth the PSRC projected in the mid-1990s. Those are the facts, and they are important for a number of reasons. One of those reasons those facts are important is they disprove the "build it and they will come" mantra used as the rationale for undertaking light rail. Essentially NONE of the job growth has been proximate to ANY of the light rail stations built.

crossrip

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 1:30 p.m. Inappropriate

And the point is??? Something apparently to do with light rail. How about this - next time read the article in question and respond in kind. Otherwise it appears that no matter the article in question you're copying and pasting from the same text on the downfall of civilization re: Sound Transit.

Give it a rest already - or at least use something creative, like a random numbers generator, to guide your narrative. Jeesh.

Lily32

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 1:32 p.m. Inappropriate

Good luck trying to steer that conversation - the Titanic had better response.

Little dog syndrome.

Treker

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 1:58 p.m. Inappropriate

"And the point is??? Something apparently to do with light rail. How about this - next time read the article in question and respond in kind."

OK, let me spoon-feed this to you "Lily". The article starts out by describing how in early 1996 the civic view was of boomtimes and wild growth. That viewpoint was fueled by the PSRC, a civic booster organization. The primary vestige remaining of that pre-dotcom bust, pre-recession, pre-WAMU layoff era is Sound Transit and its craptastic financing plan. It is a vestige of overheated musings by a relative handful of decision-makers in the 1990's whose crystal balls turned out to have been more than a little murky. They were flat out wrong about how many people would need to take rail to downtown Seattle, by a huge amount. None of that would have been a problem if the enabling legislation were proper, and allowed for people to take action to head off abusive taxing schemes and unjustified construction plans in light of changed circumstances. But now we can't do that, and we've got unaccountable political appointees compounding the fundamental errors by the policies they set on that board.

Obviously you don't care about whether Sound Transit has a constitutional structure, or the fact that it is not a representative democracy, or that its board is launching into an unreasonable and abusive financing plan that unlike its peers requires impositions of huge amounts of regressive taxes for decades. Fine -- you have a different priority system (which apparently prioritizes complaining about my postings). Whatever floats your boat! However, what I've addressed in this post is germane to this piece: we're subject to a financially-punishing and unaccountable municipality that came about because Seattle's government heads in the 1990's screwed up royally.

This piece is about growth, in population and employment, going forward. Continuing with Sound Transit as it has morphed over the past two decades would be harmful to both. I want to discuss changing the course of this abusive experiment in wealth-shifting, and this very public forum is a good one because lawyers and judges read it.

crossrip

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 2:33 p.m. Inappropriate

Lily, I agree with you that crossrip's manic focus on ST financing can be tiresome. However, his basic thesis, summarized as "[the oligarchs] utilize heavy regressive taxes for decades as security for a mountain of long term debt" to finance transportation infrastructure appears to be accurate. Whether or not it is legal to do so is a question for the more (or less) honorable judiciary. Regardless, it is a legitimate concern and consistent with the way oligarchs run the growth machine (i.e., political economy) around here.

louploup

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 7 p.m. Inappropriate

Oh, I care about the subject ok.

Just tired of the ad nauseam posts - no matter what the subject.

It's the internet version of a broken record. Instead of constantly spewing on the internet - how about actually DOING something if so convinced you are right. Haven't seen any lawsuit by you.

OR - even the modest effort of posting an article on CrossCut for instance.

The internet trolling is really accomplishing something. Congratulations. "Roll eyes"

Lily32

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 12:39 p.m. Inappropriate

Crossrip - thanks for your reply. I will have to take you on your word that the total costs for the regional light rail here is similar to the total cost for light rail systems in other metropolitan areas, and that the "bad" funding mechanism here is the result of "bad" public policy and not a function of a challenging finance lift that5 could not be met another way. Your comparison of cost for a specific section of the TriMet line with our costs in general is unconvincing as it could be cherry picked examples from a mixed bowl of fruit.

As for your data on the nature of downtown job growth over the period 2000 to 2010 covering the dot.com bust, the Great Recession and the demise of Washington Mutual is unlikely that different from other metro centers with similar economies and challenges. I would refer you to more recent statistics from the Downtown Seattle Association that presents a much more rosy picture for the private sector:

http://www.downtownseattle.com/files/file/DSA_SOD_Economic_Report_2014.pdf, Page 10

"• Downtown employment is currently at its highest level since 2001, adding 18,378 jobs since 2010. This is approximately the same number of jobs lost Downtown during the most recent recession.

• Downtown Seattle accounted for more than half (52%) of the jobs lost during the recession, but so far has accounted for a strong majority (87%) of the net job increase in Seattle since 2010.

• Year-over-year, Downtown saw a 2.7 percent increase in jobs. Excluding Downtown Seattle, the city saw a 1.5 percent increase while countywide employment grew 2.2 percent.

• Puget Sound area job recovery continued to be dominated by the private sector. Downtown Seattle saw a three-percent increase in private sector jobs and a one-percent increase in public sector jobs. Citywide, the public sector saw a one-percent decrease in jobs while the private sector saw a three percent gain."

I am not anti or pro growth and I am not an unabashed booster for either downtown or Sound Transit. I am more concerned with how we deal with the growth that is coming without destroying the natural infrastructure that is our golden egg and what sets this place and market apart from most others in this country and abroad. Perhaps you agree with me and we are just arguing about the details of how we achieve that goal.

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 1:38 p.m. Inappropriate

Well here's what I posted at the top of this thread:

-------------

Seattle's population has grown over the past decade, but the number of jobs here hasn't kept up.

The forecasts not long ago were for FAR greater numbers of jobs. There now are about 500,000 jobs in Seattle:

http://www.seattle.gov/economicDevelopment/indicators/JobGrowth.htm

That is about the same as in 2000, and well below what the PSRC forecast in 1995 we would have at this point (its forecast then was for Seattle employment now to be around 615,000):

http://www.seattlemet.com/news-and-profiles/publicola/articles/fizz-for-march-27unjustified-march-2014

Anyone want to discuss why job growth in Seattle has been so anemic?

-------------

Looks like that DSA report you've cited pretty much backs up my point there. That's still a good question though. The PSRC's population growth estimate for Seattle was accurate, but the employment growth estimate fell well short of the mark. Maybe as a poster above suggested some of that can be attributed to lots of retirees moving in to this city, or maybe it's an increase in single-worker households with children?

The first paragraph of that post simply is weird. You don't have to take my word for anything. Use Google. It's a straightforward matter to ascertain how light rail should be financed. There have been several dozen light rail projects commenced around the country since Sound Transit came into existence and NONE of them utilize heavy regressive taxes for decades as security for a mountain of long term debt. Contrary to what you suggest, the fact that the unaccountable board of that oligarchy chose that aberrant financing plan has nothing to do with any unique "finance lift". What on earth made you think that?

crossrip

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 2:49 p.m. Inappropriate

Crossrip - thanks again for your thoughts. You said: "Anyone want to discuss why job growth in Seattle has been so anemic?" Yes, the dot com bust, followed by the recession combined with the loss of one of the major employers downtown depressed job growth in Seattle through 2010. No one, including PSRC, foresaw the near collapse of the economy and the loss of an anchor like WaMu in that period. Job growth in the region including Seattle has been robust recently - and you cannot separate the allure of the city proper from that overall economic engine. It turns out that younger workers are choosing to live in Seattle even if they work on the eastside. So population growth is outstripping job growth in the city. I suggest job growth will catch up (is catching up) with city residency going forward.

Also, accompanying this trend in residency, many twenty-somethings are forgoing automobile ownership and opting for a combination of public transit, zipcar, car to go and rideshare. Some even ride light rail. More people will ride light rail in the future as service expands and the cost of personal car operation increases with fuel prices and personal preference continues the trend away from cars as more and more people see them as boat anchors and symbols of reckless stewardship of our climate than symbols of personal freedom and expression. The two trends above will do two things - increase the attractiveness of light rail stops for development of satellite business centers and job growth, and improve the tax base available to support that infrastructure.

You go on to say: "The first paragraph of that post simply is weird. You don't have to take my word for anything. Use Google. It's a straightforward matter to ascertain how light rail should be financed." That is not my point, you are deflecting and you know it. My point is that I am not going to research the total cost of light rail here (or the per mile cost) and compare it to the total cost (or per mile cost) of other systems around the country. I think you know what those costs are and you are not willing to compare apples here because it does not support your point. If you can tell me that the costs of tunneling under Beacon and Capital Hills and adding to the floating bridge are not different on a per mile basis than flat land systems, and that our system does not have a greater share of these challenges in total, then prove it.

Finally you say: "Contrary to what you suggest, the fact that the unaccountable board of that oligarchy chose that aberrant financing plan has nothing to do with any unique "finance lift". What on earth made you think that?" OK, prove me wrong with factual and realistic comparison of total system and per mile costs here compared to other systems instead of your cherry-picked example and I will drop it. I absolutely think the total financial lift had something to do with the financing plan derived here.

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 7:07 p.m. Inappropriate


“OK, prove me wrong with factual and realistic comparison of total system and per mile costs here compared to other systems instead of your cherry-picked example and I will drop it.”

You want a comparison, based on facts? There was no new taxing targeting people for the following three light rail systems: TriMet's, the one in the Twin Cities, and the Hudson-Bergen line. Zero.

The following is an estimate of the tax cost Sound Transit's unaccountable board imposed on the households of this region via the 2009 30-year term bond sale contract.

On September 10, 2009 the board rubberstamped one of Joni Earl's abusive taxing plans. This was a new local law for that municipality, one that contained an irrevocable pledge to confiscate sales tax throughout the district at or near a .9% rate through 2039. That is what Resolution 2009-16 does. That new local law will result in Sound Transit confiscating about $22 billion of regressive tax from this region, merely as security for that $300 million bond deal Goldman Sachs told Joni it wanted.

Here is the link to the 2009-series bond sale “official statement” that was filed with the SEC in connection with that $300 million bond sale:

https://fortress.wa.gov/cted/lgcdpbuc/ViewBondDocument.aspx?Name=OS&BondFormId;=3699

As you can see from the cover page, this punishing scheme was designed by Goldman Sachs and its local enablers (the lawyers and financiers who get rich setting up abusive tax scams like this). That is who pulls Earl's strings.

Bear in mind, the ballot proposition the voters approved in 2008 did not require the boardmembers to enact ANY new laws imposing ANY local tax. Moreover, absolutely nothing in that 2008 ballot measure even suggested Earl would whip up an ordinance for them to rubberstamp requiring that municipality to confiscate $22 billion of regressive sales tax over the next thirty years merely as security for a $300 million bond.

Here's how everyone can estimate the tax cost of that bond. On page 1 of the Sound Transit 4Q 2010 Quarterly Financial Report it shows that in 2010 the sales tax confiscations at the .9% rate that year were $506 million. That’s the first year of the thirty years of the continual sales tax collections that the new 2009 local law requires.

The amount of sales tax Sound Transit hauls in each year going forward is expected to grow on average at a 5% rate. The formula for determining the aggregate of 30 annual tax amounts that grow at a compounded rate of 5% is: [Y1 amount]*(1.05)^30. Using that formula (with the Y1 amount being $506 million) gives us a figure of $21,869,000,000.

That’s the expected tax cost to the public of that $300 million 2009 bond – nearly $22 billion of sales tax confiscations. That’s abusive by any measure, and completely unlike any financing plan the peers use. It shows the appointees comprising Sound Transit’s board hold the public in contempt.

Aggregating all Sound Transit’s spending budgets doesn’t come anywhere near demonstrating a need for $22 billion of sales tax revenue through 2039. Those bond sale contract security provisions mean that municipality’s tax confiscations are meant to exceed by billions of dollars reasonable capital and operating costs.

Get this: Earl's staff now has some updated projections; it want to tax for decades longer to secure an additional $7.5 billion of long term bonds (using serial thirty-year tax confiscation pledges).

No peer taxes like that for buses and trains. The “Beacon Hill Tunnel” and the “plans for SR-520” don't come close to justifying taxing on that scale. Earl is into that kind of thing though – she's twisted that way.

Anyone want to try justifying Earl's nasty financing plan that the unaccountable board of that oligarchy rubberstamped? Go for it.

crossrip

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 7:51 p.m. Inappropriate

Crossrip - you did not answer my question. How much are our systems total and per mile capital costs versus other comparable systems? Very difficult to evaluate your other points without that information.

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 10:09 p.m. Inappropriate

Joni Earl suffered some drain bamage, so she's left her job of 15 years as the CEO of Sound Transit.

That means Earl can't discuss what she did at that high public position over that extended stretch.

Of relevance to this thread, now nobody can get straight answers from her about the instructions Goldman Sachs provided for the bond sale contracts' abusive security terms. Those contract terms mandate decades of heavy sales tax impositions, and no other light rail is financed so abusively.

Those punishing contract terms were intended from the beginning to harm less well off individuals and families around puget sound financially for decades.

This kind of municipal financing plan for ANY KIND of public works undertaking (not just light rail or other transit) is a first - by a mile - in the history of the USA and it is a horrible precedent.

crossrip

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 11:46 a.m. Inappropriate

Good points and one of the few salient comments so far. "Anemic job growth in Seattle.." compared to what? Silicon Valley in its heyday?

That comment reminds me of one of Yogi's gems: "That restaurant is too crowded now, nobody goes there anymore."

Lily32

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 7:48 p.m. Inappropriate

fYI - too many bumps - didn't want to anyone to think that I actually thought the latest tripe was of any value. Over and out.

Lily32

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 4:52 p.m. Inappropriate

At the risk of jumping back in here . . . and engendering crossrip's ongoing discussion of light rail costs and financing -- I will just note that it appears that the example of the new Hudson-Bergen light rail system as a comparable to Sound Transit is maybe not -- in terms of cost and alignments. First -- it was built with state and federal $$ according to an account I just read (sounds like local taxpayers directly benefitting from the system were just part of the larger system of statewide financial support). Additionally in terms of the comparison to alignments and 'fitting in' it appears it actually was easier to 'fit in' -- as they used a lot of existing ROW and former rail lines -- and did almost no tunneling.

"The Hudson–Bergen Light Rail system uses a combination of old rail and new exclusive rights-of-way for most of its length, with some grade separation in certain areas. It shares a lane with automobiles on a portion of Essex Street in downtown Jersey City, but for the most part, does not operate with other traffic. At-grade crossing are equipped with special signals to automatically change traffic lights in favor of the light rail.

A new curved viaduct was constructed eastward from 8th Street to 11th Street in Bayonne to join the existing right-of way to Liberty State Park, which was once the main line of the Central Railroad of New Jersey (CNJ), parts of which rest on the bed of the Morris Canal; CNJ's Newark and New York Railroad right-of-way was used for the line west to West Side Avenue.[24] From Liberty State Park to Hoboken Terminal the line uses a new right-of-way. From the terminal to the curve south of 2nd Street, the line runs parallel to NJT yard and tracks, formerly the main line of the Lackawanna Railroad; north of the curve it uses what had been Conrail's River Line, and was originally the New Jersey Junction Railroad. In order to obtain the right-of-way for the line north from Hoboken, NJT paid to upgrade the Northern Running Track, allowing Conrail to shift its operations. The tunnel and cut through The Palisades were originally the West Shore Railroad's main line." So, I like jacqueswhite - would ask you to 'prove it' that the per-mile costs are similar.

But also -- what's the beef about the loss of downtown jobs and comparisons to PSRC's past projections?? I agree with another commenter that no one could have predicted the Great Recession and the loss of WAMu and some other major hits. What would be interesting is to look at the latest numbers . . . . the ones cited by crossrip (from PSRC and Downtown Seattle) are only through 2010. Things have picked up considerable since then and I doubt they include the current expansion of dot-coms returning to Pioneer Square and Amazon's continued expansion. But again . . . . what's the point? Many of us were already well aware of the cross-lake commute wherein as many people head east as head west at this point. I thought that has been documented before (another commenter talks about this too!). Lots of people want to live in Seattle -- where there are walkable communities and easy access to nightlife and other amenities. They ironically then commute to jobs frequently in the segmented, mass transit and pedestrian challenged suburbs.
But we all digress . . . . I thought Mr. Luis' article was an interesting one about migration vs. homegrown growth!

mtsier

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 6:49 p.m. Inappropriate

The Hudson-Bergen light rail system is financed the right way. Sound Transit ignored it, and all the other reasonable financing plans for that kind of infrastructure, when it launched into its financing plan.

Light rail is dirt cheap for people in most places that build it. There is no new taxing targeting individuals and families for the extensive bus, light rail, and streetcar system the three-county region around Portland is building out. TriMet's reasonable financing plan has produced 50-some miles of light rail lines and scores of stations. That's one example where light rail is financed the right way. Did Sound Transit's unaccountable board copy that financing plan? No way.

Here's another – the Hiawatha line in the Twin Cities. It runs from downtown to the airport, and it tunnels for part of the route. No new taxing was used to construct it in the early 2000s. No local bonds were issued. It was dirt cheap for the people there.

It only is HERE that light rail is staggeringly expensive for households: a .9% sales tax, a car tab tax, and higher property taxes (because Sound Transit has condemned over 2,000 full and partial parcels, causing taxes to increase on other property owners). The stiff regressive taxes it imposes are to be confiscated for decades, merely as security for the mountain of long-term bonds Sound Transit sells. NO PLACE ELSE IN THE COUNTRY IMPOSES SCORES OF BILLIONS OF DOLLARS OF REGRESSIVE TAXES LIKE THAT FOR LIGHT RAIL.

Want to see a "best practices" light rail financing plan? Here you go:

http://www.transportation-finance.org/projects/hudson_bergen_lrt.aspx

Here are the funding sources: 1) FTA New Starts Full Funding Grant Agreements, 2) Grant Anticipation Notes (GANs) (backed by passenger fares), and 3) State Transportation Trust Fund (motor fuel tax receipts). What's that got in common with the financing plan Sound Transit's board began setting in to place several years back? Absolutely nothing. That's another example where light rail is dirt cheap for the people living in communities served by that kind of transit.

All of those funding sources used in New Jersey were available to Sound Transit's board. Did it employ them? No – it went for tax-to-the-max and issue-a-mountain-of-new-long-term-debt instead.

crossrip

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 9:03 p.m. Inappropriate

Anyone want to try posting URL's leading to any webpages at Sound Transit's website that describe the board's financing plan, how much sales tax and car tab tax the unaccountable board intends to confiscate according to its bond sale contracts' security terms, or why it targets the working poor and other individuals and families with the least means for the heaviest tax confiscation impacts?

The long-winded newbies in this thread are playing stupid about the nature and impacts of that unaccountable municipality's financing plan.

Any lawyers or judges read Crosscut? Let's discuss whether the state legislature screwed up Sound Transit's enabling legislation. It screwed up old-Metro's enabling legislation . . . Sound Transit's enabling statutes are flawed as well, right?

crossrip

Posted Wed, Aug 13, 9:08 p.m. Inappropriate

“The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant." - Maximilien de Robespierre

crossrip

Posted Thu, Aug 14, 7:20 a.m. Inappropriate

Yep == leading the charge by internet spraying about ST --- no matter the subject hand.

You can now return to the revolution

...or maybe go for a quadruple post this time.

Lily32

Posted Thu, Aug 14, 11:46 a.m. Inappropriate

Like most reactionaries, he's trying to stop time, if not roll it back. He's railing against the inevitable. Like the Nazis facing D-Day, if he and others like him couldn't stop it "on the beaches," it is "all over now, Baby Blue"...

Posted Fri, Aug 15, 9:16 a.m. Inappropriate

Now I'm being compared to "the Nazis".

Seriously.

That's what happens when one points out 1) the unaccountable board is setting up a financing plan that is abusive because it targets the working poor for grossly-excessive tax impacts for decades, and 2) that municipality's enabling legislation violates long-standing Fourteenth Amendment precedent that guarantees Americans the right to vote for and against municipal policy-makers.

I advocate here for a directly-elected board and financing for transit in line with the peers' best practices. That makes me "reactionary" and a "Nazi".

crossrip

Posted Fri, Aug 15, 1:09 p.m. Inappropriate

Godwin's Law. That particular Donkey does call himself Crazy.

louploup

Posted Fri, Aug 15, 5:12 p.m. Inappropriate

Global warming, the decline of morals, the Middle East crisis, Godzilla over Tokyo, Ebola,.....

.....and of course, the ST Board. Oh the humanity.

Treker

Posted Sun, Aug 17, 10:15 a.m. Inappropriate

Seattle operates under the fantasy of Seattle Exceptionalism. That there is no place like this, so this must be the place. However, over the past 20 years, the rest of the world has been gradually turning into...Seattle. And that includes not only major cities, but suburbs and exurbs as well. I just visited Yakima and found it to be amply Seattle-like...at about 1/5th the costs. I can say the same about Tri-Cities. And Memphis. And Pittsburgh. And probably about almost everywhere in the world. Everyone has or is getting bike infrastructure, transit, eco-consciousness, IT jobs. Seattle today is just a very, very overpriced version of itself...the self that has been copied worldwide, and is available for much less. Elsewhere.

jabailo

Posted Mon, Aug 18, 8:50 a.m. Inappropriate

Except with Yakima or the Tri-cities, you're, well, in Yakima or the Tri-Cities. Location, location, location.

Treker

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