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Archive for Monday, October 13, 2008

Low-information vote

A sales tax question on the Nov. 4 ballot won’t be a clear referendum on the T.

October 13, 2008

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Whatever message voters send to the Lawrence City Commission concerning the city's public transit system is likely to be as unclear as the question the commission has put on the Nov. 4 ballot.

City commissioners apparently believe they have done their duty by putting a sales tax question on the ballot, which essentially will save or kill the city's T system, including the paratransit system that serves riders with special needs. In discussing the sales tax questions, city officials assure voters that they understand the T needs many improvements, including a revised route system and additional efforts to work with Kansas University toward a merged bus system.

The only problem is that our city leaders have made little, if any, effort to make those changes or even define what the new improved T will look like. That forces supporters of the T to either approve funding for a completely undefined plan or kill the T in an effort to force city officials to come up with a specific plan to save it.

It's not like city commissioners didn't see this problem coming. For several years, commissioners have been depleting the T's reserve fund in order to provide property tax reductions in the city. They also knew the city would have to renegotiate its contract with the T's operators this year and that rising fuel prices and higher maintenance costs undoubtedly would cause that contract to rise considerably.

It was clear the T needed help, but there was no serious discussion of how to alter routes or operations to make the system more efficient - only vague acknowledgment that such changes were needed.

How about the proposed merger with the KU student bus system? City commissioners say they want to pursue such a merger, but they have been sitting on KU's signed letter of intent to merge the systems since June because they said they wanted to work out more details. Well, voters would like some details, too. If any of those details have been worked out, they should be shared with voters before the Nov. 4 election.

Without those details, it will be difficult to know exactly what a "no" vote on the two T sales tax questions means. People who support public transit in Lawrence might still vote "no" because they think a sales tax is the wrong way to finance it or because they don't want to continue the T service in its current form. Some of those who oppose a sales tax might think the T is important enough to warrant a mill-levy increase. Voters who see the current system as flawed might have said "yes" to a more well-defined transit plan that included revised routes and realistic prospects for a merger with KU.

People who simply believe Lawrence needs a fixed-route bus system may be willing to vote for one or both of the sales tax questions, but city commissioners haven't made a "yes" vote easy. Approving the T sales tax would place a lot of faith in commissioners to come up with a plan that is both effective and financially sustainable. Given their inaction on this issue so far, that trust is hard to justify.

Comments

jafs 5 years, 6 months ago

According to David Corliss, the city manager, with whom I spoke in person at length, the following is the city's plan if the tax fails.1. Sell the buses and pay some expenses.2. Decide whether or not to operate a greatly reduced para-transit service (2 vehicles instead of 14) for one year from the reserves.There was no mention made of redesigning or improving the system if the tax fails.He did say that they have been looking at ways to improve efficiency and will probably do that if the tax passes.I mentioned that they could show us a plan before we have to come up with the money, but he didn't find that suggestion compelling.If they did, I'd have a far easier time voting for the tax.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 6 months ago

If the roads had been designed strictly to run buses and emergency/service/delivery vehicles, road construction and maintenance costs would be dramatically less than they are now. Because of the sprawl of the last few decades, Lawrence has a shortfall in the revenues needed to pay for basic road maintenance because of the constant need to expand the capacity our roads and install traffic control devices such as synchronized traffic lights. We have been overwhelmed by single-occupancy vehicles. A public transit system is merely a very modest way to mitigate the damage and the expense this inundation by mostly unnecessary SOV's causes.And you know what? All it costs you anti-social folks is a few pennies a day to help other people relieve congestion so you can have more of the streets all for yourselves.

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gl0ck0wn3r 5 years, 6 months ago

The problem with running any serious statistics on the T is that it only exposes the flaws of the system. That's why the city only releases meaningless numbers that sound good (8% increase in riders!). Usually, with a little digging, one finds that the numbers are, at best, inaccurate and often simply wrong. The city really has no firm idea of how many "riders" use the T or for what purposes.

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Newell_Post 5 years, 6 months ago

Bozo:The same "subsidies" that support single-occupancy vehicles also support buses, do they not? (Roads, police, and related infrastructure paid for by tax dollars.) Since bus systems already receive this subsidy, why do they need more subsidies?I still have never seen a credible financial statement for the T in standard GAAP form including balance sheet and income statement. It would be particularly useful to see actual/before statements and after/projected ones. (Before and after the vote.) If it is the position of the LJW that voters should support the T, then I think the JLW should publish complete financial statements on which the voters can make an informed decision.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 6 months ago

Every transportation system in this country is massively subsidized by taxpayers, with single occupancy vehicles and air travel far and away leading the way. Unless trains. subways and buses are also subsidized, they have no chance of competing.

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none2 5 years, 6 months ago

gl0ck0wn3r (Anonymous) says:This is the great lie of the pro-T activists: that people who do not wish to fund the T do not believe any form of public transport should exist.==========================I think that statement brings up to important points: 1) Must public transportation be ran by government entities? 2) If it must be a governmental entity, what percentage of the cost being paid by the fairs is considered adequate?

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 6 months ago

"Because of the first distribution of sales tax will not occur until July, it will be necessary to use reserve funds to cover the cost of operations for the first six months of 2009." - Page E-2 of the city budget:Well, nota, If the sales taxes pass, then the city will almost certainly tap into the reserve funds to keep it in operation until the sales taxes begin to deliver revenue. If they don't pass, with the reserve fund already being portrayed as inadequate, public transit will almost certainly be eliminated ASAP."You have no idea about what I am or am not concerned."I think I have a pretty good idea, and it's darwinistic in the lowest common denominator sense of the term. "Most people I know who do not believe the T is an effective solution believe that other solutions could be explored - but as long as the T exists in current form, no one will bother."This ignores the fact that the city and the university have finally made the first steps towards the only plausible city-wide public transit system, and ignores that the failure to pass these taxes will mean that the opportunity to create a new, comprehensive public transit system will be set back by at least two years. And in the meantime, quite literally thousands of Lawrencians will lose an essential tool in leading independent and productive lives.

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gl0ck0wn3r 5 years, 6 months ago

"just_another_bozo_on_this_bus (Anonymous) says:Yes, Glock, the city commission has presented any voter who cares about low-income folks with a Hobson's choice- fund public transit with a regressive sales tax, or have no public transit at all. But this isn't a dilemma for you, since you've never shown yourself to be concerned about low-income people."Come on, you've hurt my eFeelings. You have no idea about what I am or am not concerned. Further, you assume because one believes this system should be terminated that one believes no other system could take its place. Untrue. Most people I know who do not believe the T is an effective solution believe that other solutions could be explored - but as long as the T exists in current form, no one will bother. This is the great lie of the pro-T activists: that people who do not wish to fund the T do not believe any form of public transport should exist.

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notajayhawk 5 years, 6 months ago

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus (Anonymous) says: "The depth and breadth of your ignorance is astounding."Apparently surpassed by boohoozo's (by a wide margin).Funny you should use the words "quibble about the wording" to Godot, boohoozo. Yes, I realize the grant money from the federal government is not a line item in the budget, being set up as a 'pass through.' It's still money taken in by and paid out by the city. Sort of like an income tax refund (something you'd know about if you had a job, boohoozo) may not be part of your weekly household budget, but it's still money that comes in and gets spent.Yes, yes, I know, save yourself the keyboard time of saying without city revenues, the grant money doesn't come in. Funny how you never mentioned, boohoozo (maybe because you didn't read the actual budget?) that even with the sales tax, the buses will be funded from reserves for the first six months of 2009:"Because of the first distribution of sales tax will not occur until July, it will be necessary to use reserve funds to cover the cost of operations for the first six months of 2009." - Page E-2 of the city budget:http://www.lawrenceks.org/budget2009/2009_cm_recommended_budget-web.pdfThis could be done even if the sales tax fails, giving the city ample time to find an alternate source of revenue.All of which is academic. boohoozo says the buses will cease to exist the day after the election, and whatever boohoozo says must be true.

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hawkperchedatriverfront 5 years, 6 months ago

marci is courting the votes of students for her and the T passage. Sad thing is, if the sales tax passses, the supposed revenue specifically for it won't be there. A mill levy is in the works and the county is already going to raise the mill levy.Any long term residents of Lawrence would do best to Vote NOVote NO on all three sales tax issues.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 6 months ago

Yes, Glock, the city commission has presented any voter who cares about low-income folks with a Hobson's choice-- fund public transit with a regressive sales tax, or have no public transit at all. But this isn't a dilemma for you, since you've never shown yourself to be concerned about low-income people.

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gl0ck0wn3r 5 years, 6 months ago

Could the LJW be any more in the tank for this failed social experiment? Between Chad's glowing stories and the daily stories about how a regressive tax really isn't that bad, one would think Dolph is making money on the deal. I do, however, find it amusing that the LJW assumes the citizens are too stupid to figure out how to vote on an issue and thus have pre-emptively declared a potential failure as the result of "low information" voters. Conversely, does this mean if the regressive tax passes that it is because all the "low information" voters were tricked into voting yes by guys like Richard Heckler?

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 6 months ago

You can quibble about the wording of the questions and the quality of city leadership all you want, Godot, but that doesn't change the fact that ALL funding for public transit has been removed from the city budget, and only passage of the sales tax will restore funding (additional or otherwise) for the upcoming budget year, and without city funding, all other funding will cease to flow, which will mean that ALL public transit will cease to operate."there will be more pressure put on the commission by you and the others in Grass Roots, and, possibly, KU administration, to either divert funds from other areas of the budget to fund the T, or, more likely, to increase property taxes."No amount of pressure can restore funding from any source until the budget for the 2009/2010 budget year is passed-- state law prevents it.

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autie 5 years, 6 months ago

"The where are they spending the money they get from the federal government for transit?" uh...on transit? I'm guessing these are 5310 or 5311 funds from the federal transit authority that probably pass through KDOT who monitors expenditures..Which requires a grant application..on and on.. If you don't have a system obviously no application and no dollars. Considering these grants fund about half of all individual rural transit systems, It would be ill concieved to eliminate them. Once you give it up, you might not get it back later.

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Godot 5 years, 6 months ago

Bozo, the question put before the voters is simply whether there should be an additional sales tax for merging the T with the KU bus system, and for increasing the number of routes the T offers.I have no doubt that, if this ballot initiative fails, there will be more pressure put on the commission by you and the others in Grass Roots, and, possibly, KU administration, to either divert funds from other areas of the budget to fund the T, or, more likely, to increase property taxes. The commission and the city administrator are, once again, failing to lead, and are wasting precious time and money with this sales tax question charade.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 6 months ago

I'm not defending the comprehensiveness of the information provided by the city. It could be because at least a couple of the commissioners would really like to see these issues fail.But the fact that public transit will cease to exist if the tax issues fail is well-established by now, which leads me to wonder why you've chosen to be willfully ignorant of that fact.

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madameX 5 years, 6 months ago

"""Then where are they spending the money they get from the federal government for transit?"""I think they don't get the money if they aren't matching it with funds of their own. Which would mean they don't spend it on anything, they just send it back to the feds.

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Godot 5 years, 6 months ago

Well, if the ballot question is unclear in all its ramifications, that is the fault of the writers of the question, not the voters who are expected to draw unstated inferences. When you are being asked a question that is unclear about everything except the fact that it will add to the cost of your purchases in Lawrence, the only correct answer is to say, "no."

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 6 months ago

"Then where are they spending the money they get from the federal government for transit?"The depth and breadth of your ignorance is astounding.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 6 months ago

"Doesn't say anything about their being no routes at all if the voters don't approve this tax increase,"Are you really so clueless that you need the obvious spoonfed to you?

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Godot 5 years, 6 months ago

The City website also states that this additional tax will provide for expanding the number of routes. Doesn't say anything about their being no routes at all if the voters don't approve this tax increase,that is why this vote is futile, and a waste of taxpayer time and money.The ballot question should be, "Do you want the City to continue to fund the T? Yes, or no?"This sales tax gimick is just that, a gimmick, and, really, when it comes to preserving or ending the T, is meaningless.That is another reason to vote , "No," This ballot was so ill-conceived it is unworthy of anyone's approval.

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notajayhawk 5 years, 6 months ago

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus (Anonymous) says: "If they had instead decided to fund the fire department solely with new sales taxes, would you vote "no?" "Of course not.The fire department is occasionally useful."But the fact remains there is ZERO funding for public transit in the budget for the coming year."Really, boohoozo?Then where are they spending the money they get from the federal government for transit?

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 6 months ago

The sales tax proposals do increase the funding over what public transit has been getting, but given that it has been underfunded from the start, and costs are going up dramatically when the current contract expires, the increase is essential, regardless of the funding source.But the fact remains there is ZERO funding for public transit in the budget for the coming year. So what I said in my previous post is completely accurate.

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Godot 5 years, 6 months ago

Funny, the wording on the City website is that the sales tax will provide ADDITIONAL funding, not REPLACE current funding. It also states that the ADDITIONAL tax will sunset in 10 years. So, this ADDITIONAL funding is supposedly only temporary (which, of course, we know from the past that once a tax is implemented, it rarely goes away, especially in this city.)

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 6 months ago

"the sales tax will ADD to the money already allocated to the T from existing city and Federal funding."Wrong, Godot. In the city budget for the coming year, there is no funding for public transit. The funding that had been coming from property taxes has been removed by this city commission, and it can't be replaced in this budget cycle. If the sales tax issues fail, city funding for public transit will go to zero, and this will cause federal and state funds to end. In other words, a "no" vote will end public transit, including paratransit. That's precisely what many posters on this forum want, but if you don't want public transit to end, there is simply no other option than to vote "yes" on issues 2 and 3.

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Bowhunter99 5 years, 6 months ago

vote them out because they refuse to keep wasting taxpayer's money on a badly designed pet project?I think it was a brilliant idea to put this to a vote! Let the citizens of Lawrence decide whether or not the mT is what they want.... Just because bozo and merrill whine and cry the loudest doesn't mean we need to keep funding a failure of a transit system.Vote NO and force a complete redesign.

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texburgh 5 years, 6 months ago

The editorial raises many valid points. The sad fact is that our current city commission feels no commitment to public transit. I firmly believe they are pushing this issue as is because they are too chicken to kill it themselves. They want the voters to kill it - like Pontius Pilate, they wash their hands of the decision.Lawrence needs public transit. Lawrence needs the T. And yes, the routes need to be revisited; the scheduling needs to be revisited. But it should not be thrown out. I will vote YES on both sales taxes even though I think sales tax is the wrong way to go. I believe we should put this system back onto the commissioners and force them to make the tough decisions on how to make it work most effectively and most efficiently. And I wholeheartedly agree with Bozo - vote this bunch out.

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jafs 5 years, 6 months ago

The problem with voting no is that that will end the system, with no guarantee that a better one will be designed and operated.The problem with voting yes is that there is no guarantee that the system will be improved.It's a very difficult choice.And, I'm sure Godot is aware that the federal funding will disappear if the system is shut down.

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Godot 5 years, 6 months ago

Bozo is spinning. The argument is not whether to fund the T entirely with sales tax; the sales tax will ADD to the money already allocated to the T from existing city and Federal funding. The question is whether to add to an already huge budget for a system that does not work, and, in its current form, is not needed.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 6 months ago

Voting "no" and eliminating public transit to punish the incompetence of this commission is a bad choice. If they had instead decided to fund the fire department solely with new sales taxes, would you vote "no?" I'm sure many of you would, but personally, I'd vote "yes," and then look to vote these commissioners out come next April.

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craigers 5 years, 6 months ago

Good points Godot!! And the article was spot on too.

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geekin_topekan 5 years, 6 months ago

Vote YES Vote ad-absentiaVote sober

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Godot 5 years, 6 months ago

Did the commission determine the original routes for the T? Does the commission micromanage every decision made by the company that manages the T. if that is the case, why hire a management company? Why have a T director? I cannot believe that improvements cannot have been made in the system without the approval of additional funding.

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Richard Heckler 5 years, 6 months ago

Question #20.2 percent for public transportationA special sales tax for public transit operations and capital investmentLawrence Transit Public transportation in Lawrence travels throughout the community to businesses, educational institutions and employment areas. With a dedicated funding source, the City will have the resources to merge the transit system with the University of Kansas transit system ensuring substantial continuing resources to serve both community and student needs in an integrated system.Question #30.05 percent for public transportation, expandedA special sales tax for public transit system enhancementsAdditional dedicated resources for the transit system will provide for route enhancements and vehicle and facility improvements. Examples include increased bus service frequency on busy routes and alternative fuel buses.The 0.05 percent sales tax is only effective if the 0.2 percent sales tax for transit also becomes effective. Voters can not approve only a 0.05 percent sales tax for transit purposes.

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Richard Heckler 5 years, 6 months ago

Vote YES for Transit November 4 2008 - TuesdaySupport fixed routes,para transit and the T/KU mergerWithout yes votes on 2&3 there is nothing.

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q_ball2kand1 5 years, 6 months ago

Vote yes Vote lateVote occasionally

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