Voting Yes or No on a new Gas Tax proposed by the City of Ferndale is the wrong question.  The right question to ask is why the City of Ferndale is proposing this Border Area Gas Tax at all?  And that is a question that comes down to greed vs. ethics, so let’s look at what the City of Ferndale says about their tax proposal.

WHEREAS, the City of Ferndale, Washington, is a “Border Area Jurisdiction” being located within ten (10) miles of a U.S./Canada border crossing; and

WHEREAS, the current year-to-year financial support for City street maintenance and construction has not been sufficient to adequately fund the City’s street maintenance and construction needs; and

City of Ferndale Resolution NO. 14-06-16-A

So the way I read this portion of the City resolution is that Ferndale needs money for street maintenance and  they think they deserve the tax revenue simply because they are within 10 miles of a border crossing.  I could argue either point as they are both quite fuzzy, but what really needs to be addressed is the ethics of this resolution.  And to the point, I believe it was unethical for the City of Ferndale to have brought this resolution to the people because the City has not addressed the actual purpose of the Border Area Tax, nor how the tax moneys collected will address the needs implied in that purpose.  Here’s how the State explains the tax in a nutshell.

REVENUE SOURCE: Border Area Motor Vehicle Fuel and Special Fuel Tax
RCW: RCW 82.47.020 (Authorized in 1991)

WHO’S ELIGIBLE
Cities and towns within 10 miles of an international border crossing or transportation benefit districts (TBDs) that contain an international border crossing.

PURPOSE
For street maintenance and construction in areas along the Canadian border that are experiencing extraordinary traffic levels and impacts due to Canadian motorists.

Washington State Transportation Resource Manual – January 2013 Update

The actual purpose of the Border Area Tax is to fund street maintenance that results from extraordinary traffic and impacts due to Canadians motorists.   First question on my mind was what areas of Ferndale were being extraordinarily impacted by Canadian motorists and where are the areas of Ferndale with extraordinary levels of Canadian traffic?  I couldn’t think of any impacts from Canadian motorists at all, let alone extraordinary impacts.  Next question on my mind was what areas around Ferndale did the City feel were being extraordinarily impacted?   In essence, why did they propose the tax?

Well I perused the whole of the City Council Report on Gas Tax and, as I suspected, came up with absolutely nothing related to the impacts of Canadian motorists on Ferndale streets.   There was no mention of extraordinary impacts and there was no mention of even everyday impacts.  They did mention how much they needed more money (about $15,000,000) for the lengthy list of road repairs they want, but they made no mention of any roads on the list due to Canadian traffic.  In fact I don’t think most of them see more than a handful of Canadian cars.   No where in City documents, Facebook posts by the City, nor Herald articles, can I recall any mention of Canadian impact on the streets of Ferndale.   I see no case made anywhere for the City’s entitlement to the Border Area Tax due to extraordinary impacts from Canadian motorists, yet the tax was still proposed.

In my opinion, the City of Ferndale is proposing the Border Area Tax out of greed, a desire for tax revenue that they are not entitled to, but want anyway and apparently think they can get.  Furthermore, I believe it is unethical for them to consider this tax without addressing how it meets the tax’s purpose and also unethical for them to propose it to the voters without informing the voters of the real purpose of the tax.

If I lived in the city limits of Ferndale I would vote No to this gas tax, simply because the question doesn’t even belong on the ballot.   I wouldn’t complicate things with worrying about gallon exemptions or how much the penny means per person, I’d just say No because I wouldn’t take money under false pretenses and so I don’t think my City government should either.

Takeaway message:

Canadian traffic is not extraordinarily impacting the roads in Ferndale, so the City of Ferndale has no ethical reason for collecting this tax.

‘nuff said, Vote No

(Update 10/2/14)

The Ferndale Record held a small Gas Tax pro/con forum on Monday evening.  I didn’t attend, but later found that they asked the question which I had posted on Facebook.

The Washington State Transportation Resource Manual says that the Border Area fuel tax is “For street maintenance and construction in areas along the Canadian border that are experiencing extraordinary traffic levels and impacts due to Canadian motorists.”

Which roads in Ferndale have experienced extraordinary traffic levels and impacts due to Canadian motorists?

How would the City of Ferndale use the tax revenue to directly mitigate the extraordinary impact of Canadian motorists?

Councilman Mutchler, on the pro side, answered the question but in a completely vague, not really answering the question kind of way.  As for extraordinary impacts he is sure that Canadians drive as far west as Woods Coffee, because he’s seen them.  He talked about asphalt damage to Axton Rd on the Pilot/McDonalds side of the freeway where lots of Canadians go, but didn’t actually say where the damage was located.  I live on that side of the freeway and have driven that road 3 or 4 times a day for several years.  The significant damage to the road is not between the freeway and the Pilot station, it is further out on Axton near the city limits in an area where I can’t recall ever seeing a Canadian license plate.

The councilman also made no mention of how the Border Tax funds would directly or even indirectly mitigate impacts caused by Canadians, presumably because there is no extraordinary impact or because he already has other designs on the tax moneys.  Either way, with no new information my position remains.

Canadian traffic is not extraordinarily impacting the roads in Ferndale, so the City of Ferndale has no ethical reason for collecting this tax.

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