Slide 29

Dear Commissioner,

Regarding Slide 29 of today’s Tax Levy Presentation. (Where Commissioner Bowman opined that she wished the Port would do a better job explaining the benefits of the Tax Levy to the community.)

Forgive me for saying so but you can’t really blame the public for having a tough time appreciating the benefits of your Tax Levies. As a point of pride Washingtonians tend to hate taxes. They refuse to vote for an income tax–even when the net effect would be to most people’s best interest. So why would you think King County would appreciate your tax, over which residents have no say so?

Regardless, in marketing terms, I do not think the problem is one of ‘messaging’ per sé. Although many people may not be able to articulate their objections, I think they rightly intuit that there is an issue with the ‘value proposition’ itself. I will try to state my objections with your Tax Levy as clearly as I can. I do so not because I am against the tax (which is relatively modest as these things go) on its face, but because I think it could be put to a much better use. My objections are two-fold:

1. You don’t need it; not really. Regardless of one’s understanding of basic bookkeeping, it’s not too hard to see that your net income covers your expenses quite nicely. So you take advantage of your ‘unique’ status as a quasi-governmental organization to perform two functions that are, in my opinion, not entirely cool:
The first half is to save money by paying down bond debt and giving the corporation extra breathing room (presumably for the next CIP.)

And the other half is ‘to give back to the community’, with a variety of small side programs. Nice, I suppose. Except that you’re giving back to us with the left what you took from us with the right. It’s a kind of Noblesse Oblige that makes for great photo-ops. But as I said during Public Testimony, I’d prefer it if you’d keep things simple and just stick to moving freight, people. And fish. You’re not really a government, though more and more you seem to want to act like one. You should dial back those instincts no matter how well-intentioned they may be and leave them to other electeds. Although you are elected, never forget: you are the electeds with the least amount of oversight and accountability in the State. Most Washingtonians have never heard of you and would be amazed at your full range of current programs. So you should use your powers not directly related to the efficient conveyance of passengers and freight as sparingly as possible. (I wasn’t kidding about that. I doubt the State intended for you to be managing hundreds of millions of dollars in commercial real estate back in 1911.)

2. But more than that, those community give-backs are cheap–as in miserly to the point of insult. If yer gonna tax us and then return some of it for ‘mitigation’? Don’t give us like a one percent in return. That’s worse than those ‘Cash Back’ scams that credit card companies use to convince customers to sign up. If you want to tax us $72 million? Be a mensch! Have the decency to return at least half that sum to the communities your planes do so much damage to in the form of programs that I (and many others) advocate for to monitor and mitigate the effects of aircraft noise and pollution. You go on all the time about all the ‘constraints’ you’re under which prevent you from helping the communities. If only you could do more! Well here’s one place where you can pretty much go Spring Break Wild, kids! You don’t have to get permission from anybody. All you need is the will to act on behalf of the community and three people to vote Yes.

In closing, I reviewed your Legislative Agenda for 2019. And as always there are many fine goals for encouraging others to step up and make some hard choices to begin addressing climate change. Noticeably absent from that document are statements which lay out the significant sacrifices and commitments that you will make in the coming years to meet the challenges we all will face. You can’t keep saying “It’s XXXX’s duty. It’s YYYYYY’s duty.” It’s your duty. You want to be a government? Don’t just tax. Lead. Accept responsibility commensurate with your totally unique situation rather than always behaving merely as its beneficiary.

I envy you guys so much. You have the best job of any leadership position in the State Of Washington. No other entity has the unique combination of opportunity and authority that you have to effect change and to be a role model for the rest of the State.

The time is now. Just remember: We want to help you succeed.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *