It may be too late for love, but it's never too late for ... new taxes!
Yes, while the heavy scent of spring-flowering trees may inspire the poets and lovers among us, the pols are busily figuring out ways to put the arm on the unwary taxpayer.
And thanks to the Dougster, they have to be pretty subtle about it. Since the voters have to approve any tax increases, the power people have to use a kind of political jujitsu to persuade the voters to pick their own pockets. So once again, we're in for some entertaining political theater.
Next April, we can expect to see a city-sponsored tax increase on the ballot, which would raise the municipal sales-tax rate from 2.1 percent to as much as 3 percent. Police Chief Lorne Kramer, who was given the title of Deputy City Manger and an extra fifteen grand a year to keep him from leaving for greener pastures, is the point man for this particular scheme.
Kramer's job is to sell this as primarily a "public safety" and secondarily a "crumbling infrastructure" issue. That may be tough, since crime has declined over the last several years. As for infrastructure, that's another tough sell.
People don't think about drainage, unless there's a flood. And even then, they blame greedy developers or incompetent city officials for any problems, rather than simply say, "You know, Mabel, if we'd paid higher taxes, our basement wouldn't have flooded!"
Right now, it looks as if Kramer has been maneuvered into a classic no-win situation. If he had taken the job in Seattle, he'd be enjoying new challenges, a far higher salary and a progressive municipality. Dutifully, he chose to stay, and now he's saddled with a near-impossible task.
If he succeeds, Mullen and Makepeace will take all the credit, pat him on the head and send him back to being a full-time chief. If he fails, he takes the fall, and the ever-unpopular Jim Mullen can't be blamed for the disaster.
Indeed, one school of thought holds that Mullen would like to see it go down, if only to remove his most dangerous rival from power.
Meanwhile, walking past the old Sun building downtown the other day, I ran into the ever-amiable Terry Sullivan, longtime head of the Convention and Visitors Bureau. Terry's excited; he thinks that the latest convention center plan might actually come to something.
The current scenario calls for the construction of a privately-funded high-rise hotel on the Sun site at the corner of Cascade and Colorado, and a convention center immediately to the west of the hotel. And how would it be funded?
According to Terry, by a combination of tax-increment financing and an increased Lodging and Automobile Rental Tax (the so-called LART). The voters would have to approve, but it'd be a relatively easy sell, since the LART is only paid by visitors.
The problem, of course, is that the November ballot is notoriously hostile to tax increases of any kind, while the April ballot is pre-empted by the city sales-tax increase. Clearly, if you put two tax increases on the same ballot, they'll both go down. And don't forget that D-11, hopeful to the end, has a tax issue on the November ballot, which would create the same dynamic.
So what's gonna happen? In a rational world, council would forget about the sales tax increase, and go for an increase in the LART. They could structure the increase in such a way that the city'd get a few extra dollars, and we'd get a convention center to boot.
They could let Lorne Kramer go back to being the best chief this city has ever had, and let CVB heavies Lou Mellini, Terry Sullivan, and Liz Youngquist run the campaign. And since those are three smart people, they'd just hire Sarah Jack, who'd conceive and execute a winning strategy, and let Mullen and Makepeace take all the credit.
Everyone wins. The city gets a convention center, the politicians get a victory, the tourists pay for it and the G's editorial writers are mad, mad, mad.
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