Archives for January 2, 2013

Lehigh County Authority Should Just Buy Allentown’s Water and Sewer System

Seriously, what is the point of having separately-owned water systems if this is happening? Pension doomsday considerations aside, consolidating Allentown’s water system with the LCA is an obvious move:

The new year will bring a new water source to Lehigh County Authority customers. On Jan. 2, 2013, LCA will activate a recently completed interconnection with the City of Allentown, adding 4 million gallons of water per day — more than half of our current supply — to our resources. We’ve prepared a list of answers to common questions about the interconnection below

Philly Needs More Pro-Growth Land Use Advocacy, Less Arson From Building Trades Union

Philaphilia is one of my favorite blogs (maybe my most favorite blog!), and one of the things you notice as a Philaphilia reader is that NIMBY groups manage to get a whole lot of development projects shut down in Philly.

NIMBYs have managed to turn the process for obtaining a variance into a political ordeal, and under the old zoning code, they were able to force all kinds of projects to go through this process – effectively giving NIMBYs veto power over new buildings. The new code allows more projects to get built by-right, with no political interference, but recently members of City Council have been trying to roll back those changes. The effect would be more red tape and less new construction.

I think that’s the appropriate backdrop for this story about members of the Philly building trades union burning down a non-union construction project, and the past few months of stories about the Goldtex controversy.

Demand for multi-family housing in Philly appears to be pretty strong right now. That demand should translate into lots of new construction projects. And the resulting demand for construction workers should be a boon to members of the building trades union. But many of these construction projects face hyper-local opposition from neighbors, and right now its an open political question as to how much power City Council will give back to neighbors to veto development projects.

That is where the building trades unions should focus their political efforts.

Rather than fighting individual developers over whether individual projects will use union or non-union labor, the unions should be focusing on more total development – fast-tracking the approval process for construction, raising the cost of land speculation, eliminating regulatory curbs on the housing supply, and anything else you can think of that will boost the total amount of construction happening.

What’s so frustrating is that this is a live debate, happening right now, but the only pro-growth voices you see quoted in articles on these issues are planning nerd bloggers, developers and some academics. The interest group with the most to gain from more construction – the building trades – has been strangely quiet about this, at least in the press. Maybe they are lobbying behind the scenes or something?

Ron Beitler is Running for Lower Macungie Commissioner

Great stuff, but Ron shouldn’t assume voters know what smart growth means:

Ron Beitler, co-owner of Bar None Weddings & Entertainment, was borned and raised in the township.

“I’m running for the Board of Commissioners to continue being a part of making our township an even better place to live and work,” Beitler said in a release.

“I’m running to continue to shine a spotlight on smart growth. Instead of rolling up their sleeves and implementing sound smart growth policies immediately when taking office in 2010, our current Commissioners made it a priority to instead strike a deal with a land developer that represents the antithesis of smart growth.

Within weeks of taking office they traded away two decades of open space and farmland protection in exchange for 700 acres of warehouse, strip mall and high-density housing zoning. Development of this open space and farmland could cost the township dearly in terms of our quality of life, ongoing infrastructure maintenance and cost of services such police and fire protection. My commitment is to continue advocacy for positive solutions making sure the residents of Lower Macungie have a clear alternative representing sound land use planning, smart growth principle and transparency in government. I hope to earn their support in the May 2013 Republican Primary!”

Here is Ron’s blog.

Running on smart growth in the Republican primary is an interesting choice. These days the Republican Party is a hotbed of suburban tribalism, with GOP activists demanding strict mandatory suburban design regulations (coated in a hot mess of free markety rhetoric, of course). This is hilarious given that overly prescriptive zoning regulations are a perfect  example of the Republican belief that overregulation hurts growth and prosperity. Here’s hoping Ron can talk some sense into the party.


Defining Down Reasonable

Rich Wilkins wants to give Charlie Dent and the 85 House Republicans some credit for voting for the Senate’s fiscal cliff compromise. I don’t, for two reasons.

The fiscal cliff was a political crisis, not an economic crisis. The issue was whether the US political system could pull together and stop a crisis of its own making, or if the Republican commitment to anti-tax politics would push us back into recession. The markets are not forcing us to reduce our debt or deficits. Quite the opposite. The issue was that a few different austerity measures were going to take effect that would reduce the deficit too much, too quickly. Charlie Dent and the Republicans have spent the past 4 years whining about the deficit, but when it finally came time for them to do something that would shrink the deficit by a lot, it turned out they didn’t really believe any of that stuff. They don’t really believe that a big deficit is hurting the economic recovery. That says a lot about how Charlie Dent’s been voting for 4 years.

The other reason Dent and the 85 House Republican cross-overs don’t deserve credit is because they helped create this political crisis in the first place.

The fiscal cliff was four main things – the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, the expiration of the payroll tax cut, the expiration of unemployment insurance, and the sequester cuts.

Extending unemployment insurance and especially the payroll tax cut were no brainers. There was never any reason not to do both of those things, but we didn’t extend the payroll tax cut, and unemployment insurance only barely made it in.

The Bush tax cuts were the subject of the 2012 election, and President Obama won that big. Obviously he should get his way on that, but he ended up compromising anyway.

But the last reason this happened – the sequester – is entirely the Republicans’ fault. They held the debt ceiling hostage for spending cuts (the “Boehner rule”) and how that ended was the Budget Control Act. The BCA established the supercommittee, and if the supercommittee failed, then the sequester would take effect and cut a bunch of spending arbitrarily. Republicans, including Paul Ryan, scuttled the supercommittee negotiations, so we ended up with the sequester.

Charlie Dent was right there with the rightwingers in the House on holding the debt ceiling hostage, and that’s what kicked all of this off. We should’t pat him on the head for diffusing a crisis of his own making. If you don’t want your Congressman to help create fake crises and then diffuse them later, then you need to replace your Republican Congressman with a Democrat.