During his years as a columnist at the Seattle P-I, Ted Van Dyk earned a reputation for, um, not responding kindly to editorial feedback, which I suppose explains why the editors at Crosscut don’t even try. For example, take his recent prescription for balancing state and local budgets without raising taxes:
Big capital projects should be put on hold. That would mean, in Seattle, moving forward with both the deep-bore tunnel, to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct, and the Evergreen Point bridge modernization.
Now that’s the sort of logical, coherent prose that makes Van Dyk a must read for lazy bloggers everywhere.
Yeah sure, if you read further you eventually figure out that he really means that all big capital projects other than 520 and the Big Bore should be put on hold, but from a writerly perspective one could make a strong argument that there’s an entire paragraph missing between the two sentences above.
Which of course distracts from the factual incoherence of Van Dyk’s argument, in that capital and operating budgets actually have nothing to do with each other. For example, Van Dyk surprises no one by arguing that King County Executive Dow Constantine should halt light rail’s Eastside expansion:
Its crushing prospective pricetag ($23 billion and counting) already threatens to displace not only non-rail transportation but other spending for other public purposes in the decade ahead.
But the dedicated taxes to pay for this project were overwhelmingly approved by voters for the express purpose of building rail, not roads. (Remember, the “Roads & Transit” measure failed at the polls one year before the transit-only version passed.) And even if Constantine could halt construction, in clear defiance of the will of the people, it’s not like the revenue could be legally shifted to, say, jails, courts and law enforcement… a criminal justice system that eats up over 70% of the county’s general fund.
So to use an operating budget deficit as an excuse for arguing to halt capital spending on projects you don’t like, is just plain dishonest. Or stupid.
But either way, it makes for juicy blog fodder.