Last week, the Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development announced its long-awaited appeal to the city's final SEPA threshold determination for the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter. I imagine PARD's strategy will be to delay the construction as long as possible through one frivolous appeal after another. What does that mean for Pullman? It means that we will all be less safe.
PARD has made the absurd contention that the large Wal-Mart parking lot will become a "party zone" and drive up policing costs. Some ACTUAL reasons policing costs are going up are high gas prices and rapid population growth combined with a lack of funding. That is the reason why Proposition 1 will be on the ballot September 20. If approved, it will add 1/10 of one percent to the sales and use tax to pay for desperately needed upgrades to the county jail in Colfax and putting more deputies back on patrol.
I was concerned when I heard that the city government told the Pullman Fire Department that there is no money in the general fund to purchase needed equipment such as a new Jaws of Life rescue system or a pump truck to fight brush fires. I think we all clearly realize the danger brush fires represent in populated areas after the School Canyon Fire last month.
The city’s general fund receives the vast majority of its revenue from property and sales tax. Even though Pullman is currently growing faster than the state average, Whitman County has some of the lowest sales tax collections in all of Washington. Why? Pullman is severely under-retailed, and so suffers sales tax leakage to neighboring jurisdictions. I-695 has been a further blow, as the city has lost millions of dollars in motor vehicle excise tax collections that had been used to make up for low sales tax receipts.
The retail sales tax revenue that Wal-Mart brings will go a long ways towards alleviating these public safety funding problems. The first priority of any local government is to raise funds to provide for the protection of citizens and their property, not to judge if the source of that income is “politically correct” to a particular group or not.
It is dangerous for PARD to suggest that we continue exporting our tax dollars by asserting, “One Wal-Mart is Enough!” Does anyone in Moscow answer when you dial 911?