Wally Wonders Why No editor, no publisher, you get what you get

June 5, 2010

Where there’s a Dan, there’s a way

Filed under: Local Issue — Tags: , , , — wally @ 7:31 am

Word around town is that Mayor Dan Pike of Bellingham is looking again/still to raise taxes.  I first read the announcement in the Herald blogs,

Mayor Dan Pike wants the city to form a citywide Transportation Benefit District and increase the sales tax by two-tenths of 1 percent, which would generate about $3.8 million a year.

He’s already talked with City Council members who like the idea, but the council is scheduled for formally discuss the proposal for the first time on Monday, June 7.

…He’d like to see money go toward annual repaving, building bike lanes and sidewalks and, through a contract with WTA, providing bus service that would otherwise be cut.

Read more: http://blogs.bellinghamherald.com/traffic/?p=3863#ixzz0pzBhzCx7

and then saw on Facebook that he was going to be on KGMI’s PM Bellingham to peddle his new tax scheme. 

KGMI News/Talk 790  Ready for higher sales taxes in Bellingham? Mayor Dan Pike is proposing an increase to pay for transportation projects. Would you vote for such an increase?

Wasn’t it just a month or so ago that the people of Whatcom County told WTA Board member Dan Pike that they weren’t willing to spend this same amount?   Now we have Mayor Dan Pike asking the people of Bellingham for the same amount.  Is it a coincidence that it will take the exact same amount to improve transportation issues in Bellingham or is it that the WTA vote was used as a poll to see how much the people of Bellingham would cough up without choking?  

If I lived in Bellingham that’d be the question on my mind.  Do we need this, or is it Mayor Dan Pike who wants it, and he’ll find a way?

I won’t get to vote on this because I live outside of Bellingham.   However those of us who live outside of  Bellingham should have the same concerns, because we likely spend a good portion of our money in Bellingham where we will be paying this tax.  Consider trips to Costco, Walmart, Fairhaven, Bellis Fair, go see a movie, buy a car, do business in town?  The people of Bellingham will be voting on this tax, but given the commercial layout of the county we will all share in the paying.  

So if this vote were to go through, Mayor Pike would essentially get a good portion of the taxes that he was just denied in the recent WTA vote.  He also gets to contract with WTA to provide additional bus service in Bellingham and gets extra for other transportation related spending within the city.   I wonder if as both a WTA board member and the Mayor of Bellingham, he will withdraw himself from contract dealings with himself? 

Oh, and let’s not forget that whether we are in Bellingham or not, as State & Federal taxpayers we foot the bill for new WTA buses that get worn out in the City of Bellingham.  

I haven’t decided whether this is shrewd, conniving of both?   Hopefully it won’t matter as much as people awake to the fact that so many of the politicians in office are looking for too many ways to spend and too few ways to save. 

Isn’t it time to give tax increases a rest?


  1. I don’t know. I feel that if Bellingham wants to raise its own taxes, it should be free to do so. What’s appropriate for the county, after all, may not always be appropriate for Bellingham.

    During the transit election, you (and others) did a good job of articulating a reasonable concern: if buses mainly benefit the city, why should the county pay for them so substantially? I argued at the time, and continue to posit, that relying on buses in the city, over much more expensive personal cars, increases transportation efficiency over the long-term, and thus benefits the county as well.

    Your argument, though, suggested an obvious corollary: if the city wanted to maintain enhanced bus service, it should pay for it itself. If this is true, wouldn’t it be fair to find out if the city is willing to pay for it itself? And if it is, shouldn’t that be their right? I’d certainly say so. And as I did before, I’d argue that maintaining bus service locally is a smart way to reduce the long-term tax burden of transportation both in the city and the county, a move that would be a net gain for both markets.

    Because the county will benefit from a more efficient transportation system, this likely will result in a net subsidy for the county, at Bellingham’s expense. I’m not sure if Bellingham’s people will mind this or not. I tend to doubt they will, as efficiency-related subsidies will be more dispersed, while the immediate benefit would be more obvious. But I don’t know for sure.

    Comment by Matt Petryni — June 10, 2010 @ 11:54 pm

  2. Also: the idea that the city contracting with WTA amounts to “Dan Pike contracting with himself” is clearly ridiculous. Dan Pike is not the WTA. Nor is he the City of Bellingham. He’s Dan Pike.

    Comment by Matt Petryni — June 10, 2010 @ 11:57 pm

  3. It’s not ridiculous and it doesn’t matter what his name is. He is point on Bellingham’s push for more WTA service in Bellingham and he is one of the more influential members on WTA’s board. It’s just plain wrong.

    Comment by wally — June 14, 2010 @ 8:14 pm

  4. I cringe when people use the word efficient with regards to the cost of running buses. I think what we are really talking about is that operating a full bus is less inefficient than an operating an empty one. That I can agree with. I also think it is safe to say that on average, the buses in the city of Bellingham are more full than those running around the county. But operating more buses that are less inefficient won’t create a surplus to subsidize anything. Just like buying more shoes on sale won’t put money in your pocket no matter how many pair you buy.

    If money were no object then WTA maintaining current levels or even expanding, to whatever service limit they deemed right, wouldn’t be an issue. But money is an object to most voting taxpayers and the voters in Whatcom County, as a whole, put a limit on what they would spend. If Mayor Pike’s plan goes through and WTA increases service in Bellingham, the taxpayers of the whole county will be subsidizing the new service for the city unless Bellingham agrees to pay whatever costs are not collected in fares.

    Comment by wally — June 14, 2010 @ 8:05 pm

  5. I don’t know why you are constantly fussing about taxes, and that raising them is bad. It’s only a means, and you constantly ignore, or at best gloss over, the ends and the objectives that taxes pay for. It would be like reading War and Peace and complaining that there’s too many words. Well, there are books that are very long but worth it, and others that are short but bad, but there’s no correlation in word count to book grade just as there isn’t any correlation in the amount of taxes to the effectiveness of spending them. You finishing this post with “Isn’t it time to give taxes a rest already?” is tantamount to walking into a library and saying, “Enough with all the words already!”

    Matt here is consistently trying to converse about the content of War and Peace (the length of it being a metaphor for the complexity of governance that has to reach a compromise in the best interests of *all* groups and idealogies it represents) and all you seem to do is complain about the book cover and the word count. Dan Pike is really just the book cover, and the issue you have with him has no relation to the content of the issues in the debate that should be going on.

    Comment by Bojangles — June 13, 2010 @ 7:28 pm

  6. Mr. Bojangles,

    If you’re going to quote me then quote me. I said “Isn’t it time to give tax increases a rest?” not “Isn’t it time to give taxes a rest already?”

    The key difference is the word “increases” and I do think that it would do our county, state and nation a lot of good to at least put a moratorium on tax increases.

    I’m not ignoring the end objective of taxes, but I am recognizing that as long as we are willing to give our government an ever increasing amount of our money, they will find an ever increasing amount of ways to spend it and as long as the supply is there they won’t have to prioritize, they just have to spend. The only way to stop this vicious cycle is for us to say no to more money or them to say no to more spending. The second has proven to be difficult, so we who believe we are taxed enough already are taking the bull by the horns.

    And speaking directly to the objective of taxes, I submit that there is a never ending list of good ways to spend. If I stood at my front door and started giving my money away to anyone and everyone with a good cause the line would first go down my sidewalk, then grow down the driveway and then into the street. The line would grow until I could no longer see the end. I would eventually run out of money in which case my family would join with me at the back of the line only to find that there was no one at the front door handing out money anymore.

    Isn’t it time to give tax increases a rest?

    Comment by wally — June 14, 2010 @ 8:36 pm

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