Saturday, April 26, 2008

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.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post!
I just wanted to let you know that I always read your blog on google reader.

11:29 AM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...


4:03 PM

Blogger EdHeath said...

I'm not sure that neighbors get a say in how development unfolds in a CBA, but I think they get some control over some other development in their neighborhod. As you say, we don't want to repeat or recreate the historical baggage.

As far as a gas tax goes, I personally think we do need something like the European model, a tax of as much as a couple of dollars. Perhaps it should be phased in, to give people time to make the long term shifts, but it would help tremendously (I think) in helping people to realize that they do not need a huge SUV to drive to the mall in, and that regular cars can also drive in the snow. I keep flirting with the idea of bicycling into work, especially now that gas is headed towards four dollars. If more people rode bikes to work (and more markets opened in neighborhoods) we might all start wearing berets or otherwise acting like Europeans (annexing the Sudetenland?).

5:02 PM


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