Archives for August 1, 2012

Skateboarders Fight Back on Allentown “Quality of Life” Regulations

Richard Ramos for City Council!

A group of 30 motivated young Allentown residents, and a few of their adult supporters, got City Council on Wednesday night to promise to take a second look at bike and skateboard restrictions it enacted as part of a quality-of-life initiative […]

Richard Ramos, 16 of Allen Street organized a bike march to City Council Wednesday, bringing 29 friends to protest the restrictions.

“A city without kids riding bikes on the sidewalk wouldnt’ be a city,” he said.

Ramos said the city could also use a downtown skateboard park, to give skateboarders a place to go. He suggested Stevens Park at Sixth and Tilghman Streets.

I’m not sure about the wisdom of riding on sidewalks, but the city should definitely go through with the Safe Routes to School/Connecting Our Communities bike lane plan that would give cyclists and skateboarders their own lane, and slow car traffic on Linden and Turner.

A downtown skate park is an excellent idea, as I’ve argued on here before.

It’s great to see these kids getting involved in the political process even though they can’t vote. Just because they’re young doesn’t mean they don’t have legitimate political interests that should be taken seriously. “Quality of life” to them means being able to get around safely and conveniently even though they can’t drive, having access to good clean fun activities close to home, etc.

(Thanks: Scott Kraus)

Maybe Subsidize Washington Township’s Share of the Slate Belt Regional Police Department

$100,000 a year really isn’t that much money spread across 1600+ households, but if that’s what’s going to make or break the Slate Belt regional policing plan, the other townships should just subsidize Washington Township’s portion. They’re the only ones besides Bangor who would end up paying more money, and Bangor already voted for it. Doesn’t look like anybody’s decided to be parochial yet and try to call the whole thing off over $100K, which is awesome.

The other point to make about Andrew George’s article is that while public comment is important for getting resident buy-in to the proposal, Dave Renaldo should keep in mind that he’ll be hearing from the people who have the strongest opinions, who aren’t necessarily representative of most people in the township. Most people just want good police service for a good value. If Dave Renaldo and other Washington Township representatives personally feel that the regional police plan meets these criteria, then they should vote for it. That’s why there’s representative democracy. A plumber doesn’t take a poll on the best way to fix a broken pipe, and neither should a policy-maker. There’s no reason to expect the average voter to have any special insight on what the most effective police practices are. People want good police coverage for a good price, and it’s elected officials’ job to figure out how best to accomplish that.

Q-Poll: Obama Up 11 in PA

Big Tent:

In Pennsylvania, Obama tops Romney 53 to 42 percent in the poll; the president leads by a smaller 50 to 44 percent margin in Ohio, and edges Romney 51 percent to 45 percent in Florida.

That’s likely voters, although it may be harder to say who is a likely voter this year with the voter ID law.

Remunicipalization of Water Utilities

Tyler Cowen comments on an article from the Reuters Muniland blog:

Some time ago, @ModeledBehavior has requested comment on this article.  Excerpt:

Across the nation cash-strapped municipalities are considering the sale of their public-utility systems. These moves are intended to raise cash and rid the municipalities of expensive liabilities such as debt service and pension obligations. But officials considering this approach might do well to look to France and other nations that are rapidly moving in the opposite direction with a “remunicipalization” of their utility systems. In 2010, Paris, in the best known case of remunicipalization, ended contracts with the world’s two biggest water service companies, Suez and Veolia, bringing an end to their 100-year private duopoly. The reversal of a century-old practice in Paris was an acceleration of an international movement away from private control.

So what’s up?  I see it this way.  For advanced water systems, there is no cost advantage to having a privatized system.  It is a regulated monopoly and over time it acquires skill in manipulating the political process, most of all its regulators.  Why expect lower costs and prices?  A wide variety of studies of this topic, including studies by “market-oriented” economists, find no cost advantage for the private sector in this setting.

Appoint County Row Offices

What Bernie said.

More elections do not equal better democracy. Democracy works better when voters have fewer politicians to pay attention to, they know who’s in charge, and it’s easy to figure out who deserves credit or blame.

In this case, there’s more accountability if voters a County Executive, he or she staffs up the appointed positions, and then 4 years later voters get to look back and decide whether the County’s been well-run.

It’s hard enough for voters to figure out how to apportion credit or blame between the Executive and the legislative branch. Adding a bunch of other elected positions, where voters have no idea what the relevant issues are, only serves to scramble political accountability.

Especially when the national party labels are so badly suited to the local issue space.