November 4, 2002
Proposed budget and public
(Copy of letter sent to members of the King County Council
It is within the power of the King County Council to reduce budget costs and housing costs by amending the county's environmental rules to reasonably protect the environment rather than, as now, set the goals at maximum restoration to pre-European conditions.
In 1991 King County road engineer Lou Haff stated the county's Sensitive Areas Ordinance and the county's Surface Water Management design manual were swallowing more than half of the county's share of the new gas-tax increase. He also said that county environmental laws were stricter than state and federal laws. They still are, only more so.
County environmental requirements and exorbitant permit fees are resulting not only in sky-high road costs but also in the current proposals for government funding of not only low-income housing but also moderate-income housing.
A recent letter from Councilman Larry Phillips to the Seattle Times critized an editorial blaming high housing prices on growth-management policies. He ended by taking credit for "creating high-paying jobs and a hot regional economy throughout the 1990s - the era of the urban growth boundary."
Right. It was the creation of all those jobs, at a ratio of "five jobs created in Seattle over the past five years (to) about one housing unit (created)," according to a 2-24-01 Times housing article, that caused the housing supply problem.
What with the 1990's constricted housing supply, plus a growth-management-restricted urban land supply, plus very costly government environmental requirements and astronomical fees that continually are being added to, it's inevitable that taxpayer-funding housing is no longer limited to that for low-incomers and the increased gas taxes will go toward providing lots of environmental restoration and little new pavement.
Since it is within the powers of the King County Council to enact reasonable amendments to environmental regulations that county officials are fond of bragging "lead the nation", there is no excuse for hand-wringing statements about insufficient taxpayer funding. The money is there. It's just not being wisely spent.
Maxine Keesling, Woodinville