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

September 16, 2012

Just Say No to the City of Ferndale – Part 2: How small towns like Ferndale contribute to the decline of our nation.

Original Post Feb 20, 2012

“I have long been concerned by the ability of our nation’s runaway spending and debt to weaken our national security, and now we are starting to see the real consequences.  The President’s failure to tackle our debt is killing our economy, weakening our national security and threatening the very essence of America’s exceptionalism.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

And it is happening at the grassroots level here in Our Town, USA.   In Just Say No to the City of Ferndale – Part 1 , I explained why I was against a new road tax because the City had spent the current tax money on other projects and was looking toward the public to once again bail them out.   But the problem with their spending and other towns like them across the nation runs much deeper than a few tenths of a percent tax.  It’s their chronic overspending that is helping small towns like Ferndale contribute to the decline of our nation.

Currently the City of Ferndale is smack in the middle of improving Main Street between 3rd and Church Rd.  The project has no geographical challenges such as river crossings or challenges such as rail tracks.   The project isn’t adding more traffic capacity, no new intersections and the road as it is driven today would hardly be described by any Ferndale residents as a pressing transportation need.   Yet, the City of Ferndale is spending about $8.4 million dollars on the remodeling of just over 1 mile of roadway.

main 3rd to church

For perspective Everson is reconstructing just about 1/2 mile of Mission Road at the same time this spring that Ferndale is completing the second 1/2 mile stretch of our Main Street project, but while Everson will spend $575,000 for a widened road bed, shoulders and a sidewalk, Ferndale will spend about $4.4 million on a road that includes  two normal traffic lanes, a turn lane, two bike lanes, two side walks and a planter strip.

Why is Ferndale spending so much more money on their roads than other towns like Everson and more importantly, where are they getting the money?

Why Ferndale is spending so much is a tough question for a simple blogger, but I lean towards shopping addiction rather than the big truck little *&^_#  reason which may come to mind for some.

New research reveals while some super-shoppers spend to boost self-esteem and band-aid other perceived internal deficits, others’ carts are driven by plain-old materialism. Whatever the motivation, however, researchers mostly agree that buying behaviors can range from frivolous fun to serious addiction.

LiveScience: The Truth About Shopaholics

With a mayor and seven council members there probably are more reasons they overspend, but there is only one place they get the money for road projects; we the taxpayers.   We pay with local  taxes and fees on gas, property, sales, trash, water, sewer etc, but the problem with shopaholics is not that they spend money it is that they spend money on things they want rather than things they need and they often overspend on credit rather than living within their means.

That is the same problem I see with Ferndale and other small towns across our nation.  They are spending on things like landscape strips, bike lanes and roundabouts while other roads go without repair and maintenance.   And if other small towns are like Ferndale they are also racking up city debt as well as relying on State and Federal funds to feed their shopping addiction just like Ferndale.   In a recent Herald article, Mayor Jensen, when referring to several recently completed road projects, said,

State and federal funding have helped to make these projects successful.

Success is often a relative measure though. In this case Mayor Jensen seems to equate project completion with success.   Let me explain why I disagree by using a current example from Ferndale’s 6-Year Financial plan 2012.  Here’s a clip of financing for some of the current Main St. – 3rd to Church Road Project.

 

acct 308

As you read through all of the various loans and grants it takes to fund this project, remember that no matter what it is called or where it comes from, ultimately all of the funding comes from we the taxpayer.    So, in the case of Federal grant funds the project successfully added more debt onto an already unprecedented national debt.  In the case of State grants funds the project was successful at putting our landscape strips and bike lanes into budget competition with necessary things like schools, parks, law enforcement etc.  How dumb is that?  Then there is the way that cities like Ferndale play with finances so they can pry even more state and federal money away from us.

Reconstruction projects are costly, but funding from a TBD may allow the city to use some of that funding to further leverage additional state and federal grant revenue.

Transportation Benefit District Sales Tax Election

Wait a minute.  So some of that local tax that was touted as for road repair will actually be used to lever even more state and federal money out of our pockets?   Does that count as a success?  I guess that would depend on who has the lever and who has the pocket.

I like landscape strips and bike lanes as much as the next person, but more local debt, more state budget problems and an increased national deficit sounds like a nation in decline, not success.

 

_______________________________________

6/26/12 Update: A couple of articles hit the Bellingham Herald over the last week or so which just reaffirms that at least the City of Ferndale doesn’t get it when it comes to overspending.

FERNDALE – A once-rural road now inside the city limits will be upgraded to city standards, complete with sidewalks and bicycle lanes, even if it means taking strips of property from unwilling property owners.

…the city is counting on future grants to fund part of the $5 million project. But the amenities seemed extravagant to some of the residents who spoke at Monday’s council meeting.

“While this project is necessary and long overdue, it should not be a lavish undertaking,” said Janella McKay, a Church Road resident. “Making it an affordable street should be a top priority.”

Overspending and arrogance on the part of the City administrators doesn’t reflect well on the people who elected them.  I don’t think the average person in Ferndale is of the borrow from Peter to pay Paul variety, yet that is what the City is doing to support their spending.  I think it’s a bit scary to find such a close similarity between this description of  the new transportation tax in Ferndale and a description of a common internet scam.

Ferndale transportation tax:

Based on recent sales tax collections, the city expects to raise $300,000 a year for road improvements. That amount will be used each year as seed money to attract larger amounts in state or federal grants.
Source: Bellingham Herald

Internet scam:

Most of these scams involve you supplying seed money, or disclosing confidential data used to deplete your savings account. While these cons are usually recognizable and safely ignored, enough suckers are fooled to make the effort profitable for the criminals who have no fear of legal retribution.

_______________________________________

9/16/12 Update: Just a bit of follow up as the Church Road project approaches..

The City has also applied for grant funding on that project, Radder noted.Councilmember Goodrich wondered if there are any specific strings attached like a specific timeframe to spend the funding or matching funds.

Radder said that there will be required matching funds, and the City intends to use Transportation Benefit District funding as that match.

Ferndale City Council meeting September 4, 2012

As they said  new tax revenue from the newly formed Transportation Benefit District will be used as seed/matching funds, not to just repair Church road, but rather give it an extreme makeover and put the taxpayers in extreme debt.   And again, not saying that anyone in the City of Ferndale is doing anything illegal, just wrong and a little bit on the underhanded side.   I sincerely mean that and here is just another example.  This is the first sentence you read at the City’s Transportation Benefit District page

The Ferndale Transportation Benefit District is designed to preserve and maintain the City’s transportation infrastructure.

I challenge anyone to look at what is going on on Main and Church Streets and call that “preservation and maintenance.  Voters hear “preserve and maintain” while the City hears the sound of seed money.

 

 

 

 

December 14, 2010

What is the Scariest thing about the Northwest Avenue Bike Lane Project?

carlaneWe all know that the City of Bellingham is considering doing away with parking in favor of bike lanes along portions of Northwest Avenue.  Whenever I hear about projects I think dollar signs and that is pretty scary since much of the money for these Bellingham projects comes from sources other than the Bellingham.  Sources like taxes you pay to the County, State and Federal government whether you live in Bellingham or not.

Yes, the same Federal Government that is running a deficit, is digging an even deeper hole funding do good projects in Bellingham and to be fair also in every other city, county, and state in our nation.    Anyone driven through the new roundabout in Blaine?  Well give it a whirl and as you’re going round and round about think about the $13.2 million that was added to the Federal Deficit.  Oh, and if you go round more than once think about the other 119 roundabouts round our state that the WSDOT is so full of pride about.  I’ve not investigated the cost and funding of every roundabout.  However to better orient yourself to the magnitude of the issue, consider that $13.2 million x 120 = $1.6 billion which is a lot of added deficit so that we can drive round in circles.

Nickel & Diming is a simple and time proven concept and it is hard at work growing our national debt.    Our nation’s debt isn’t from one big ticket item, it’s from millions of little projects.   In Bellingham they have adopted a Six Year Transportation Improvement Project which from the looks of it is just a list of many of those millions of little Nickel & Dime projects.

Here’s the funding resources for Bellingham’s Transportation Improvement Project:

    1. City Street: Public Works Street Fund comprised of motor vehicle gas tax and 42.5% of
      the total sales tax collected by the City of Bellingham.
    2. Real Estate Excise Tax (REET): Comprised of 1/2 of 1% of the total real estate revenue
      for a given year. REET funding is divided into first ¼ and second ¼ and can be used for limited types of transportation projects.
    3. Federal: Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Authority, or U.S.
      Department of Transportation administered grant funding programs.
    4. Federal American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA): One-time federal
      economic stimulus funding provided for transportation projects.
    5. Federal Highway Bridge Program (HBP): Provides federal funds for structural repair
      or replacement. Project oversight at the State level by the Bridge Replacement Advisory Committee (BRAC).
    6. Federal Surface Transportation Program (STP): Provides federal funds to maintain
      and expand eligible arterial street systems.
    7. Federal Surface Transportation Program Enhancements (STP-E): Provides federal
      funds to enhance facilities for alternative transportation modes on eligible street systems.
    8. State: State administered grant funding programs or State educational institutions such as Western Washington University (WWU), Whatcom Community College (WCC), and Bellingham Technical College (BTC).
    9. WSDOT: Washington State Department of Transportation biennium budget – State
      Funding administered through WSDOT.
    10. Washington Transportation Improvement Board (TIB): State grant funding for
      arterials, sidewalks, and safety measures.
    11. Private & Other (Partnerships): Transportation Impact Fees, Whatcom County,
      Whatcom Transportation Authority, private business investment, private mitigation, etc.

    That’s eleven sources of funding.   I got bored reading the word “Federal” over and over, but I think I found 1 or 2 that were Bellinghamish sources.  The rest of the list shows the way that Bellingham transportation projects add more burden to our already broken state budget and pile on more and more to our nation’s deficit problem.  It is scary how many of these projects are out there in cities around our nation just waiting for city officials to pull the trigger on some matching federal funds and push local overspending right up to our nations suffering bottom line.

    As if this situation isn’t scary enough as it is repeated around our nation, it’s even scarier here in Bellingham because amongst the whoopla over whether or not to trade parking for bicycle lanes on Northwest Avenue, the Bellingham City Council is considering allowing Dan Pike’s personally appointed Transportation Commission the power to implement these changes in an unprecedented fashion.

    The City Council on Monday, Dec. 13, will consider approving a resolution that:

    – Asks staff to conduct a community meeting as soon as possible to discuss how to install the bike lanes.

    – Asks staff to install them along the Northwest Avenue-Elm Street-Dupont Street corridor as soon as possible.

    – Authorizes the advisory Transportation Commission to make decisions of this sort in the future, with the council having 45 days after the commission decision to reject or change it.

    Read more: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2010/12/13/1460400/bellingham-council-to-consider.html#ixzz189PMPsQ8

    Really?  They are going to allow an appointed Transportation Commission to implement programs like this without prior Council approval?  Why exactly is there a Bellingham City Council again?

    And there it was, the scariest thing about the Northwest Avenue Bike Lane Project is not the loss of parking, nor just the piling on of debt.  The scariest thing is that we could be stuck with the bill when Mayor Dan Pike’s  commission pulls the trigger on any of these Bellingham Projects. 

    Bellinghamsters are big on Buy Local, when are they going to start the Pay Local campaign?

    Powered by WordPress