Archive for Monday, May 19, 2014

Editorial: Not a good time

There’s nothing wrong with making Lawrence more bicycle friendly, but a tax to pay for that goal isn’t a good idea right now.

May 19, 2014


There is nothing wrong with the city of Lawrence promoting bicycles as good exercise and an environmentally friendly commuting alternative. But a tax to fund projects to make the city more bike friendly feels like a stretch, especially when more pressing priorities loom.

On Tuesday night, City Commissioner Bob Schumm proposed a half-mill property tax increase in 2015 to pay for bicycle paths, sidewalk repairs and other improvements that would make the public less reliant on vehicles.

Such a tax increase would generate about $450,000 annually. The cost to taxpayers, on average, would be less than $1 per month.

Schumm said having a dedicated funding source would put the city in position to leverage grant opportunities that could spur significant bicycle and sidewalk projects.

“We could have a real network for nonmotorized transportation,” Schumm said. “Everything we have right now is too piecemeal.”

A large crowd of cycling enthusiasts showed up at Tuesday’s meeting to support Schumm’s idea.

Michael Almon, a leader of the Lawrence-based Sustainability Action Network, urged commissioners to spend about $2 million a year on bicycle-related projects. He said the city has talked for years about creating a network of bicycle routes and paths, but the system doesn’t work well for bicyclists who want to rely less on cars.

“Bicycles traditionally have been viewed here as recreation rather than transportation,” Almon said.

Almon’s right. But let’s be honest. Spending $450,000 to $2 million per year on biking improvements isn’t likely to change that view significantly. In fact, it’s hard to imagine the number it would take to shift enough Lawrence commuters from cars to bicycles to make a dramatic difference in traffic, parking and air quality.

Perhaps more importantly is that the city has bigger priorities, most notably a new police station. That issue will require a tax increase, either property tax, sales tax or both and it’s possible that it will require a citywide election. Timing is everything in elections — pursuing tax increases for a new police station and bike paths simultaneously unnecessarily jeopardizes both efforts.

There’s nothing wrong with making Lawrence more bicycle friendly. But a property tax to pay for it seems ill advised at this time. We’d urge the city commission not to go down that path.


Richard Heckler 3 years, 11 months ago

A new police station will not make Lawrence,Kansas safer nor will it reduce crime. The only way to perhaps keep the current crime rate in check is to stop expanding the size of Lawrence,Kansas. There is a satellite police station at 15th and Wakarusa.

The more Lawrence grows/expands it borders the more crime will grow. It's a matter of fact. The more Lawrence grows/expands the more OUR tax bills are going to expand. It's a lose lose lose.

The title of the editorial is misleading and should be noted in Tuesday's journal world. Here is the real story. City commissioner proposes tax increase to fund bicycle and sidewalk rehab projects in 2015

What was presented is a plan to rehab sidewalks and create a more practical and safer bike/pedestrian travel situation which of course includes all existing resources. There is nothing extravagant about this project.

Studies Show Bike Commuting Is One of the Best Ways to Stay Healthy

I know there are studies also depicting walking as another best way to stay healthy. Which makes this bicycle/pedestrian project anything but extravagant. Practical,safe and healthy travel are the key words.

Senior citizens can appreciate rehabilitated sidewalks. Then again anyone who walks a lot can appreciate rehabilitated sidewalks. Then again so could those who use walkers and wheelchairs.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 11 months ago

Let's not forget fossil fueled vehicles eat up multi millions of tax $$$$$$ annually and receive tax dollars from a variety of revenue streams. ALL fossil fueled vehicles/machines pollute the environment which assists in moving global warming and climate change forward.

What's wrong with promoting health and safety in addition to moving climate change back to say 150 years or forever?

What I've read is that taxpayers can accomplish about 250 miles of safe bike travel for the same cost of 1 mile of 4 lane travel.

Scott Burkhart 3 years, 11 months ago

There is no man made global warming/climate change.

Ken Lassman 3 years, 11 months ago

Oh, you must mean that women are also contributing? I'm still waiting for your link to the Yale360 article that you says summarizes your objections to the conclusion that humanity is not changing the chemistry of the atmosphere enough to tip the climate toward overall warming, rising sea levels, increased ocean acidity, shrinking sea ice, glaciers, ice cap mass, etc.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 11 months ago

Bicycle and pedestrian accidents are unfortunately all too common, are sometimes fatal, and very often cost someone a lot of money. Everyone who reads the news in Lawrence should know those things.

The costs of health care for injured and uninsured pedestrians and bicyclists that are unable to collect money from a motorized vehicle driver or his/her insurance company are shifted onto others who use the health care facility or sometimes, the taxpayers.

To adequately evaluate whether the money to make Lawrence safer for bicycles and pedestrians requires accurate answers to three questions:
1) Will this proposed project actually prevent deaths and injuries?
2) How much money are the deaths and injuries that might be prevented really worth?
Answering that question should require a lot of thought, because those costs are only partly financial.
3) Is preventing deaths and injuries worth the taxpayer's money?

But, property tax or not, one of three groups will have to pay anyway:
1) The taxpayers might have to pay indirectly through public assistance programs.
2) The other users of the health care facility might have to pay, because the costs of treatment will be shifted onto them.
3) The costs might be shifted to other drivers of automobiles, whose premiums will go up.

It would probably not be necessary to have this discussion if the drivers of automobiles here in town would drive very carefully and show consideration for bicyclists and pedestrians. And of course, bicyclists need to be much more careful as well, and obey all traffic laws, so as to not surprise automobile drivers.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 11 months ago

Note to self: If I double click the 'Post comment' button, my comment will appear twice!

Luke Bell 3 years, 11 months ago

Richard -

I really feel sorry for you. You are so biased against growth and development that you are now blaming all increases in crime on new residents and businesses.

Of course, you fail to cite any research that shows that crime disproportionately takes place in the newer parts of the city. I would love to see this research because it would most likely show that there are fewer incidents of crime on a per capita basis in the newer parts of the city.

For once, it would be nice if you could set your anti-growth bias aside and actually have a fair and unbiased conversation on the issue.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 11 months ago

Yes I am biased against growth that doesn't pay for itself….absolutely. Economic growth is essential…..without so called tax incentives that is.

It doesn't matter where crime occurs the crime rate is on the increase without a doubt. Domestic violence occurs in all neighborhoods as does theft. Plenty of activity in the new apartment dwellings.

" because it would most likely show that there are fewer incidents of crime on a per capita basis in the newer parts of the city." Where's the hard evidence?

As the city grows so does the crime rate and so does the already inflated LPD budget which gets into a citizens "expendable cash flow" .

Yes I am biased against growth that doesn't pay for itself. Flooded markets cannot pay for themselves no way jose' ! Economic Displacement has never paid for itself and never will.

Economic Growth does not require lots of Free Lunch's and flooded markets.

City hall, elected officials and local profiteers are draining OUR pocketbooks and raising OUR taxes. We've subsidized local profiteers at such a basic level for so long, that many people believe the status quo is actually fair and neutral. This is false-what we think of as a level playing field is tilted steeply in favor of local profiteers driving development.

The development industry is a big tax dollar budget item. Millions upon millions upon millions of tax dollar rebates of sorts like those secret sales taxes that consumers are not advised of when they enter an establishment.

Ryan Hall 3 years, 11 months ago

Come on, Richard. Why are you against real estate agents and those who represent them? They need put food on table, even if it means turning Lawrence into a suburb of Topeka.

James Howlette 3 years, 11 months ago

Actually, spending money on biking improvements is likely to change the view of bikes as transportation, but a bigger shift would happen if everyone had decent jobs that didn't involve driving K-10.

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