The big problem with municipal finance in Washington is this 1930s court ruling that holds a state income tax unconstitutional (by our state constitution). This is what needs addressing and I’m of the opinion that we should dedicate some time to attacking that particular problem head on. It’s easier said than done, but I see no problem with bringing a suit against the state to directly challenge that ruling and I think it would be really, really easy to rally other municipalities to join in on solving the actual problem. The cost of not having a natural way to pay for the roads has resulted in all manner of bad workarounds and the most regressive tax system in the country. It can’t be allowed to continue. So for a long term solution I propose we address this using the power at our disposal, for the short term (a stop gap), my previous post immediately follows.
My original post on this is below this as well. I’m going to start putting most current topics/writing at the top so the reader hits it first. Ideally this will also serve to show a flow from ideas to form.
Right now the idea of a capital gains tax is huge in the state of Washington. That’s because we have a ridiculous grain of case law from the 1930s that ruled income tax unconstitutional. Municipalities in this state are constantly hamstrung because we have to fund things in a cumbersome way, for example the upcoming levy to fix the streets. Fixing streets should be a no-brainer and the council should not have to sell that to the public. It should just happen, and everyone who uses the streets need to pitch in, proportional to their income and ability. Right now our tax code is upside down and the burden of most remedial tasks (like roads) falls mostly on poorer and working class people. At the state level, the capital gains tax is huge talk right now, and Inslee is pushing municipalities to follow suit in order to deal with the normal things that communities have to deal with.
Earlier entry topic:
Community broadband restrictions have just been eased, and there is no reason why we couldn’t/shouldn’t be doing that. It’s a naturally occurring need and service and the infrastructure gets cheaper as time progresses. Doing so without wires is viable at a large scale for the first time in history, although the controversy over wireless technology will no doubt have a say in that moving forward.
And still earlier:
In politics, we don’t get to start our baby steps toward big dreams until we figure out how to pay for stuff. The following is how I’d want to guide the conversation about how to make a difference locally and globally as the community that we are in an economically (as well as ecologically) sustainable fashion. Permaculture concepts have a place in economics just as much as they do in environmental studies. Perhaps even more so.
It all starts with water, as well it should. We have infinite salt water and could treat it as a resource. We also have a messy port and a messy inland sea to clean up and we can be a part of all that while making the basic needs problems (that all come down to money) solveable.
Given a few of several infinitely available resources, in this case salt water, solar and tidal, we can easily move infinite salt water two blocks to the Port Townsend Commons (this is just what I call the future of the golf course for lack of a group process having chosen one), using tidal energy (free other than infrastructure) and we can use passive solar to evaporate it and create infinite fresh water. With up to 60 acres (I’m not advocating that we use it all for this, just making a point here), we can in theory produce infinite fresh water for use locally.
My water bill is over 100 a month, there’s roughly 4000 homes inside the city limits (shooting from the hip, these are not intended to be exact numbers). That equation comes out to $400,000 per month gross income. Minus expenses of course, that is an equation that can be worked with while promoting savings locally and just straight helping the world. Nevermind that we also start the mammoth job of cleaning up the port (and the golf course), as well as the Puget Sound itself. Think microcosm, and imagine if we weren’t the only ones doing it.
Now imagine this scenario with the bi-products of the water being naturally salt, small amounts of garbage and power. Well we can also sell the power, or we can use it, perhaps for community broadband. All these things are services that the city can and should be responsible for. I submit to you for consideration that stage one is producing our own fresh water supply, and energy comes second. Third is achieving carbon negativity, which isn’t so far a leap if you put some basic infrastructure, free green energy for the project, housing for the workforce and a substantial and ethical income in the early phases.
Continued writing on this topic:
Noting some critical feedback of my colleagues who have taken a seat at the table, I”m going to continue on this thread acknowledging that I hear you saying that our water is already cheap and a great deal. Let’s consider for the sake of argument that it is still beneficial to produce a certain amount of water and that water does bring in some income. If that’s a no go for you, it’s no big deal to imagine the same scenario without, just leave the current water system in place and consider, if you will, the following.
If we produced some amount of energy from any number of sources (wind, tidal, solar, etc…), from the rooftops and infrastructure that can be worked into a baby steps budget, all that is energy that can present in money to work with whether it’s savings (for example any tourist complex that provided it’s own power), or income (if the same complex gave back a little bit of energy to the city). A complex that is built with energy independence in mind naturally gives back and does not require a ton of additional infrastructure as you can simply sell the energy back to the county run PUD. So if every structure we build is energy independent, we have created a small but significant revenue stream that can be leveraged and stacked for more work, more workforce housing and more green jobs. The trick is to start at a level that you can do it right with the best possible infrastructure and make it scalable.
Tourism is our bread and butter. We have some of the best tourism numbers in the bioregion and we have every reason to lean into that. With the idea of workforce housing and job creation that adds to the local economy and city treasury, this is a no-brainer. The golf course becoming a tourism attraction that tied together the cities disparate systems could be the key to making all this work. I can imagine for example a bike rental center that was self sustaining and worked in conjunction with the Re-Cyclery right across the street and an alliance with the electric car-trolleys in town. With mini-golf, maximum golf, a lookout tower, a botanical garden and a well designed third millennium fully self sustaining home put on display, our natural tourism advantage can evolve into eco-tourism and the sky is the limit.
Community fundraising is a thing. I touched on this earlier, but I could see a future where a council, paid a living wage, could actually activate the community to allow for a culture of thriving, centered around the commons. If a person or two like myself were elected and were being paid enough to survive with extra time, it’s no stretch to imagine community engagement taking a whole new level. I’ll remind the reader that on the flip side of our most significant obvious struggle (gentrification), there is a silver lining in that the people here, by and large, have time to work with and enough money to make it paired with a consciousness that is very much for and into proactive change. The mindset here is such that folks are consistently willing to donate time and resources to making good things happen, all that is required is leadership and people to do the actual work.
So with that I’ll sign off for today’s writing session, and leave you to consider how different the world is right now than it’s ever been. The world is now infinitely accessible via the internet. A concert at the commons can be broadcast to the world. Everyone, without restriction, can attend the city council meetings. Young people with skills and ideas from around the world can hear about us and we can find them a place to live so they can help us build a future worth working towards.
Talk to me, let’s build something worth spending our time on in this town we call home, whether or not I myself sit on the council. I can guarantee that in this new millennium that all that want it will have a seat at the table.