Guest Editorial |

Guest Editorial

Submitted by Paul Pillmore, Park City

After reading the Landmark Study (LS) and the Walkability Bond (WB) proponents’ statements, I called City Hall and the Police Department in order to collect factual data. As a result of my due diligence, I have to enter the debate strongly opposed to the WB.

My family bikes and walks around regularly; we simply do not perceive all the dangers portrayed by the proponents of WB that require an immediate solution funded with debt. Of course the bike lanes and sidewalks, like most public resources, require improvements; that is what the LS addressed and the City Council funded with $1.9 million in the current budget. Clearly, the Council’s allocation of resources is not enough for the WB proponents who want an additional $15 million of taxpayers’ money. The Yes on Walkability advocates state in their advertisements that " bonding for walkability today, we can enjoy these benefits today" when they cite a whole list of "benefits" that we already enjoy for free.

I am not interested in paying for additional indebtedness that, when added to existing commitments, will cause property taxes to increase up to an additional $88.40/year per $100K for primary residents. Businesses and second home owners will clearly pay a lot more. We are in the midst of a slowing economy caused by a credit bust and now we are being asked to borrow even more. I think that is irrational and fiscally imprudent.

Our future marginal property tax commitments:

$15 Million Walkability Bond: $16.80/year per $100k for primary residents; $30.55/year per 100K for business and second homes (source: Walkability Bond Fact Sheet)

$20 Million Open Spaces Bond: $22.40/year per $100K for primary residents and $40.73/year per $100K for business and second home owners (source: Walkability Bond Fact Sheet and City Hall staff. As soon as we buy land, our taxes go up.)

State School Equalization changes: $49.20/year per $100k for primary residents (source: The Park Record October 24-26, 2007 p. A12. To be fair, this amount could be less.)

Our 2008 budget already allocates approximately $1.9 million to fund ALL of the items recommended in the LS. Section 1.0 of the LS Executive Summary clearly states that Tiers 1&2 "best met the evaluation criteria" for safety, connectivity, etc. The study goes on to say that even if safety is given double weight, the projects in the various tiers remain unchanged. Section 5.0 states:

"The Action Plan includes a recommended Project List that is ‘achievable’ based on past history and an understanding of likely resources. It does not require a major shift in public funding policy (my emphasis). The list of recommended implementation actions are based on sound concepts that together create a pedestrian environment that is safer, better connected, more efficient, and easier to navigate. The cost/efficiency analysis indicates that the recommended Project List is relatively efficient compared to cost."

WB proponents implicitly reject the LS findings, substitute their own reality, and demand that we spend approximately 8 times more money. Has anyone specified exactly how the $15 million will be spent? The answer is NO! We are being told that the projects will come from the LS but the LS lists several options that total well over $20 million. For example, the two largest components of the LS list are tunnels under Bonanza and Kearns which will absorb about 40-50% of the WB. Neither of these projects has engineering approval. Further, I simply have trouble believing that high school students will miraculously start using a $3+ million tunnel just because it is there. With no specific projects tied directly to the WB, taxpayers will have absolutely no control over how the money is spent.

Appendix A of the LS states clearly that only 9% of the respondents surveyed in Park City think the paths are too unsafe to use. The whole safety argument is overblown. Both City Hall and the Police Department confirm that there is NO DATA supporting the fears cited in the WB-related editorials and advertisements. In fact, the police department is about to deploy 2 more officers devoted to traffic safety. Yes, there is an increase in traffic but children are not being hit or run off the roads all around town. I live in Park Meadows and my children all rode/ride their bikes to school as well as around town. I have a vested interest in safe conditions but, at the same time, I have no desire to fund a completely riskless environment.

There is no safety crisis and I think most people do not appreciate some WB proponents’ tautology of guilt that implies if you don’t vote for this now and a child is hurt it will be on your conscience.

If the community really wants to spend an additional $15 million on all these projects cited in the LS, then let’s do it the old-fashioned way: specify the exact projects and their costs, debate their merits, and pay for it out of current funding.

Better yet, WB proponents can privately raise the funds required and donate the money to City Hall.

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