The things you learn by reading the newspaper
The Trib today has an article about Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's fears that community benefits agreements (CBA) like the one forged between the Penguins and Hill District residents will scare away developers if other neighborhoods push for CBAs.
"My belief is that it was a unique situation," Ravenstahl said Thursday. "It was the result of the prior experiences that they had with the Mellon Arena site that was developed, and the uprooting and dislodging and changing of a neighborhood without any consultation. That's why a community benefits agreement was ultimately reached and why we entered into the dialogue." (link)
The mayor may be correct that the situation in the Hill District is unique because of the historical baggage the construction of a new arena carries. But it's my belief that any time a developer is relying on the power of government to get their project done -- either through subsidies or the granting of exclusive development rights -- then neighbors deserve to have a say in how that development will unfold. If developers use their own money, and secure land or development rights on the open market, then, perhaps, they can tell neighbors to go pound sand. Otherwise, residents deserve a place at the table.
In other news, according to this story about new highway funding, the federal gasoline tax has remained at 18.4 cents since 1993. In constant dollars, that's about 13 cents. Adjusted for inflation, the tax would be 27 cents.
So what's my point? People who know me or who read this blog regularly (about three people) know that I'm an advocate of walkable, high-densiy development, and that government should be pushing people to conserve fuel, and not just throwing money at developing alternative sources of energy (though given the rapid development of ecomomies in places like India and China, both strategies are probably necessary.)
Therefore, I propose that the gasoline tax be adjusted for inflation at least every two to three years. Making gasoline even more expensive than it is now would encourage people to drive less, and also encourage more sustainable development. In the short term, it would also raise more revenues for road repairs, since short-term demand for gasoline is relatively inelastic. In the long-term, gas tax revenues would fall, but so would wear and tear on roads and bridges.