And this is important because?
The Lakewood City Council held its retreat Feb.21 at City Hall on the third floor – which is three floors above street level where the rest of the 58,211 people in the city live – but at least that venue is a considerable savings to the taxpayer given the event used to be held at the posh Alderbrook Resort and Spa on Hood Canal.
Savings, however, was not on the agenda. Spending was.
A tie for number two priority listed among the “projects and programs of regional significance” – under the category of “Street and Sidewalk Improvements” – was a two-phase project to construct a “non-motorized trail” to walk/jog your dog (cat, baby, self) around Gravelly Lake.
Pending – of course – “anticipated revenue,” and maybe a vote (of the people this time as opposed to a vote of the council).
In an article headlined “Lakewood sticks drivers with $20 car tab fee” – a verdict (imposition) rendered (handed down) by the council last September without the promised vote of their constituents – some councilmembers explained their (difficult) decision.
Mary Moss – the only councilmember to oppose the fee (6-1) – said she had “spoken with people who are struggling financially and can’t afford the additional $20.”
Jason Whalen, on the other hand, referenced the road maintenance plan as a cooperative effort between Lakewood taxpayers and the city, “a plan that requires a bit of shared pain.”
Mayor Don Anderson called the decision “a last resort.”
And in a King 5 news story the Mayor said that spending the car tab fees on road preservation and repair projects was a problem that needed to be “fixed.”
Now we learn that an $8,800,000 “trail” or circumnavigation (which is a roundabout way of saying the council may have found a way around the voters) of lake-dwellers who live among some of Lakewood’s high-end neighborhoods, is part of the “shared pain,” included in the “last resort,” and a most dire situation that needs to be “fixed.”
“Beginning in 2015, revenue will be generated by a $20 Vehicle Licensing Fee to fund street and sidewalk projects,” (p.004 of the retreat agenda).
These people that will be pounding the pavement on the proposed path paralleling Gravelly Lake Drive (GLD) – are they terrorized by traffic?
So-so, per the chart (p.5).
Will there be a ton treading the track thanks to this $9-mill trail?
Even the city statisticians admit that a total of 430 people served per 1,000 feet of the project (one-half mile), is pretty low.
Accidents? People driven over, bicyclists run down, because the current path (four feet wide) isn’t five feet wide?
Evidently. Now and then. Occasionally. Been known to happen.
On a scale of 1-10: about five. Right around there. In that neighborhood.
Access to amenities? People who will want to walk around Gravelly Lake in order to get somewhere important?
High marks here. That is if you count “schools, parks, commercial centers, library/civic, transit center, cultural” (garage sales, widow shopping outings, hurrying – speed-walking, jogging, running – to pay your bill before your power gets shut off because you had to choose between being able to cook and driving your car what with the new car tab fees, etc.).
How many thought this GLD-thing a good idea?
Those who took the survey.
The one in 2013 in which 50-percent of all 426 of you (in a city of nearly 60,000) said you were just fine with the current curb, sidewalk and (horror) gravel shoulders (p.24).
The one in which the answer as to whether you would be willing – in order to improve streets or sidewalks (which half of you concerning the latter said were A-OK) – to pay license tab fees, to have your property tax increased, or to shell out more in sales tax was: no, no and no (over 70-percent no).
But now that you’ve said no, you should know that the council at their retreat began planning (strategizing, conniving) how to convince you to do in a bond or “lid lift” (levy, not toilet) what you’ve already said no to.
The challenge will be to “focus on ‘yes’ voters rather than trying to convert a ‘no’ voter;” being careful not to connect funding for both parks and streets in the anticipated ballot as “two unrelated matters” can be perceived as “logrolling (pairing unpopular measures with popular ones);” and how to carefully craft (as in crafty) the two so as to avoid a legal challenge – or hope that no-one does.
While the City of Kirkland is cited as an example of having run a “side-by-side in a single campaign,” Lakewood’s researchers observed that the “measures (were) not found illegal (which) may have more to do with having not been challenged than having been legally supported,” (p.30).
“What if lawmakers were more like the people they serve?” asked David Price in an article by that title in Crosscut.com this past February 27.
Here’s another: Would you walk the trail – much less be willing to pay for – a path around Gravelly Lake Drive?
That question is worth $9 million.
Nice alliteration. Widow shopping outings explains much.
David Anderson says
Correction: “window shopping”
I’m not clear. Is this a proposal to build a non-motorized trail next to the lake, or sidewalks along the roads that circumnavigate the lake? The first would be ludicrous since the public has no obvious access to the lake so the trail would only benefit a handful of residents who live on the lake.
If it’s for sidewalks/bike paths along the roads surrounding the lake then we have to decide if Lakewood wants to join the 21st century or not. Certainly there is a group of people who see roads as only for cars and you can tell that’s how Lakewood was built (I would say “designed”, but I don’t think there was much of that). On any measure of walkability/bike commuting Lakewood will rank towards the bottom. But should they pay significant amounts of money to retrofit? Or, is it better to just be that ugly warning to other cities about the value of urban planning (South Hill and Bonney Lake also chose not to heed the warning)? You can see that dynamic playing out with this proposal.
David Anderson says
To answer Tim’s question, the “non-motorized trail” would parallel the road around Gravelly Lake Drive (GLD) as per the City PDF supplied in the first link of the article. Including charts, maps, statistics, and GOTV (Get Out The Vote) strategies, pages 4-28 deal with this path, among other concrete-pours over the next six years.
There are a few problems, as I see it, with the GLD-matter.
1. The $20 car tab fee – aside from the fact that this was imposed upon the citizens by the council without the promised vote of the people – was specifically sold to the public as a “preserve and maintain the City’s road system” issue (p.003). Sidewalks – an amenity, most certainly not a necessity – were mentioned, if at all, in passing during the two-year hand-wringing by the council as to what to about city streets. And yet, and again I quote, “Beginning in 2015 (this March in fact – my insertion), revenue will also be generated by a $20 Vehicle Licensing Fee to fund street and sidewalk improvement projects.”
Source of funds for sidewalk improvements: “a $20 Vehicle Licensing Fee.”
Which fee, ostensibly and initially, was promoted to address “the pain” of driving on deteriorating streets; to “fix” what we were told was broken; “a last resort.”
Not – most certainly not, quite definitely not – to provide for an admitted few a long leisurely (or for some: languid) stroll around a small, secluded lake.
2. Further complicating who pays for this particular GLD trail is the notation on p.005 that the near $9-mill cost has at best a “medium” chance at grant funding. That could be because, also on that same page and in that same chart, the proposed GLD trail is afflicted by only medium traffic; the population served is admittedly low; and while the “amenities accessed” are listed as high (note the asterisk which lists everything remotely associated with this assessment), the “correctible safety concerns” are but “moderate.”
In other words, whoever grants money for such things might look askance at how the City of Lakewood nevertheless determined that this trail is tied for second among its priorities for new “Street and Sidewalk Improvements.”
3. Which brings us to the third matter of concern with regards funding. Since the $20 Vehicle License Fee won’t cover the cost of the GLD trail; and grant potential is medium, then where is the city looking for more money to pour into pouring concrete? Pages 007-028 answer that question: increased property taxes.
For something the survey showed you would not support (nor even knew about).
Greg Horn says
I would expect to read something like this on April 1. That would more easily explain why I thought it was a joke. If this is what our city council spends it’s time discussing, then it is time to bring back the gallows and string them up one at a time until the remaining ones come to their senses.
What about property rights of the lake residents? This reminds me of what happened to one of our Lakewood neighbors a few years ago (Mr. Miller, I believe), when Sound Transit illegally stole his property for a possible future parking lot.
KJ Kernen says
Oh GREAT! Once again our money @ it’s best work.
I just ran into a former employee of Lakewood who was laid off because of budget cuts! He had been with the city for over 15 years.
AND the city council wants to know why the citizens think government is corrupt?
David Anderson says
For the record, a dozen city employees were recently let go from Lakewood payroll – 20 full-time equivalents if you count positions already vacant or soon to be vacant that won’t be filled.
An excerpt from an article by John Arbeeny and David Anderson previously published here in The Suburban Times:
A dog catcher in Lakewood, with one year experience and a BA degree, gets paid nearly the same as a dog catcher in Bellevue with the same credentials, $32,645 and $34,039 respectively.
An Administrative Assistant (AA) in Lakewood makes 86-percent starting salary of what is paid in Bellevue for an AA.
And yet nearly 20-percent of Lakewood’s residents live below the poverty level contrasted with less than eight percent in Bellevue.
And only 21-percent of Lakewood’s people have a bachelor’s degree or higher while Bellevue’s is three times that.
Consequently, and not surprisingly, the Median Household Income (HI) in Lakewood is $43,362 while Bellevue’s is $90,333.
In a 2007 city-to-city comparison – 17 cities in all, including Bellevue – of Executive Assistant (EA) salaries, Lakewood ranked 4th from the bottom in Household Income (HI) but third from the top in the amount paid an executive assistant relative to household income.
The same held true not only for executive assistants but also for administrative assistants and for that matter maintenance workers.
Yet who pays the salaries of the dog catcher, the maintenance worker, the AA’s and the EA’s? The citizens. And in Lakewood, the citizens with an HI of less than half that of their counterparts in Bellevue, are paying nearly the same for the positions contrasted.
The only baseline that really matters in establishing what citizens should pay in taxes for government services is household income. Government employee salaries – and walking paths for that matter – should be commensurate with the community they serve.
Yet never is this a basis for determining salaries since they would rise or fall depending on the fortunes of the citizens which, truth be told, is a far more fair and direct measure of how effective government has been in improving the lot of the governed.
In Lakewood, where drivers already pay the highest car insurance premiums in the entire state, those same drivers are now required to pay an additional fee for the little sticker that goes on the license plate when it is difficult enough – as former Lakewood Mayor Doug Richardson once admitted (TNT, Nov.24, 2012) – to put food on the dinner plate.
In a Washington Times piece this past September 30, headlined “Squeezing the Turnip,” editorialists wrote what applies here locally:
“Spendthrift politicians must understand there isn’t any more blood.”
Co-opted Confederate says
I wonder how much it would cost for a lawyer to draw up a class action suit?
The terms: Malfeasance, Misfeasance, Nonfeasance, Breach of Promise, Incompetent nabobs always come to mind when I hear the term Lakewood City Council
Lakewood girl says
I think the walking path would be greatly used by many lakewood residents. If you want to talk about anyone being terrorized by traffic, look no further than Interlaaken……..
How about fixing the walking path around the lake in Ft. Steilacoom Park!