ed fallon and dave lippold agree about something!
Regarding tomorrow’s vote on the proposed local option sales tax for
Polk, Dallas and Warren counties . . .
we’ve been asked to share our opinion on the matter.
(For those outside the Des Moines metro, this may be relevant
in your community some day, so please bear with us.)
After lots of study and dialogue, we’re recommending a “no” vote,
but not without significant excitement about the plan itself.
Yes, we need to do a lot more for culture, the arts and trails.
Investing in these amenities will help make Iowa and the Des Moines metro
even more dynamic and sustainable places to live and work.
However, the trails discussion has been almost exclusively
about recreation. The focus should be on trails as
part of our biking transportation infrastructure.
Like other places that take biking seriously
(the Netherlands and Portland, Oregon),
there’s absolutely no reason the Des Moines metro couldn’t see
25% of its commuters getting to and from work by bike most of the year.
Sure, trails are a part of that conversation;
but the focus should be on biking-as-transportation, addressing issues of
road safety, bike lanes, bike racks, trail and lane maintenance, etc.
Driving one’s car to ride one’s bike on a trail does nothing
to reduce auto dependence or carbon emissions.
Biking as recreation is important, but if we truly are committed
to becoming more environmentally-friendly communities,
developing an infrastructure that supports
biking as transportation is essential.
Our main problem with Destiny is the funding stream.
It is simply flat-out wrong to pay for these improvements
by increasing the sales tax, which is the most regressive of all taxes.
With a sales tax increase,
the biggest businesses and wealthiest individuals
will see reductions in their property taxes
while the poor and middle-class will pay more.
So, what should happen?
First and foremost, Destiny proponents should join with those of us who
have been working for years to support a slate of legislative reforms that
would provide more than enough money to pay for Destiny-type projects,
not just in central Iowa but across the state.
Build a statewide coalition to:
• Allow local governments to enact an income surtax
to pay for Destiny-type improvements;
• Require most tax-exempt property owners
to pay for police and fire protection;
• Limit the use (and abuse) of tax increment financing (TIF)
and tax abatement;
• Restructure the road-use-tax-fund to shift money
away from new highway projects
(the proposed northeast Polk County Dallas County beltways)
toward bike, pedestrian, bus, light rail and rapid train transit options; and
• Provide more funding for arts and culture.
. . .
Second, there’s plenty that can be done even without legislative changes:
• As stated above, amend the Destiny proposal to focus improvements
for biking on transportation, not specifically recreation;
• Build a broader pro-Destiny coalition by
addressing the concerns that Destiny opponents have raised;
• Use the current vehicle tax (“wheel tax”) provision
of the Iowa code to pay for Destiny;
• Agree to limit campaign spending in support of Destiny to $25,000.
• For those who contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars
to the pro-Destiny campaign,
pledge that amount to the Destiny plan itself instead of spending it on
pricey consultants, brochures and advertising.
. . .
For those who are interested, that’s our take in a nutshell.
It’s a tough position to take,
because a lot of our friends have worked hard on both sides of this issue.
If it fails tomorrow,
we’d be willing to be part of the discussion on where to go from here.
Thanks, Ed Fallon and Lynn Heuss
the mostly reverend says VOTE NO JULY 10!!