Only Water Privatization Can Knock Out Allentown’s Pension Mess in One Blow, But Who Cares?

My view on the Allentown water privatization debate is that, on the merits it’s a bad idea. Municipal water privatization was popular for a while in some European cities but now we’re seeing some of those same cities re-municipalizing their water systems. It’s a bad deal. The best outcome would be for the city to sell the water and sewer infrastructure directly to the Lehigh County Authority.

What I really want to take issue with though is the idea that Allentown needs to do One Big Thing to fix the pension mess. It’s not worth selling the city-owned parking garages and surface lots because that won’t knock out the debt in One Shot! Cobbling together a package of lots of little pro-growth tax and regulatory reforms isn’t worth doing because that won’t deliver the Single Death Blow to the pension crisis.

I don’t get this. Why does it have to be one thing? Why not get as far as you can through pro-growth policy reforms and selling other non-essential assets, and then make up the rest by raising the land tax?

Vote the Party, Not the Person

There’s only one way to be an effective political actor on Election Day, and that’s voting a straight ticket. Don’t throw away your vote by splitting your ticket.

Political scientist Jonathan Bernstein makes the case:

On Tuesday, I’ll be voting for … the candidate nominated by my party.

Indeed, that’s my strong advice to everyone: figure out which party you would prefer to see in the White House, and vote for that candidate, and every other candidate nominated by that party. Doesn’t matter who the particular candidates are, what you think of them as people, or as politicians, or anything else. Pick a party and stick with it. That’s it.

Given the way U.S. politics works in 2012, one would have to be nuts to do anything else.

Party is simply a much better indicator of public policy for an incoming president than anything else. That’s in part because of the commitments that politicians make. However, it’s more than that; if it were only about positions, one could track the promises they make to get there. It’s also about groups.

Americans often like to believe that individuals are all on their own, but in fact when it comes to politics we usually act, and unless we have unusual resources only act effectively, as part of groups. Those groups tend to be affiliated with one or the other of our major political parties. And those parties, and the politicians that they elect, know it – and so elected officials tend to be especially responsive to the groups within their electoral coalition. So, for example, knowing that Barack Obama was a Democrat and that as organized groups gays and lesbians are aligned with the Democrats turned out to be a far better predicter of Obama’s position on marriage than, for example, what he actually said on the campaign trail in 2008.

Why Not Build the 500 Apartments in the LV Cities?

Few things rankle more than high density multifamily housing getting built on greenfield land when there’s so much unused urban land available. Why not build these 500 apartments on the surface parking lots along 3rd Street in South Bethlehem? Why not build them on the surface lots on the Easton waterfront? Why not build them next to one of the Allentown parks? That’s where it makes sense to add high density housing.

That said, building the apartments next to the excellent Louise Moore Park is a good application of another one of my favorite ideas – building high density housing next to parks. Louise Moore Park is a great park. It would be awesome to live next to it. And it would be that much more awesome if a whole lot of people got to live next to it.