Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

"Upcoming elections - whither shall we go?"

Pullman resident and globetrotting professor Chuck Pezeshki weighed in on the Moscow City Council elections (?) in his column in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News yesterday. (Isn't it funny how all the local libs, even ones that don't live in Moscow, are coming out of the woodwork to attack the Greater Moscow Alliance and its candidiates? They're afraid that their little Walden experiment in Moscow is about to come to an end.)

Normally, Chuck's arrogant rantings make my eyes hurt to read. But he actually made some fairly rational points today. For example, it is true that local politicians affect our day-to-day lives much more than those in Washington, DC. I made that same point to a group of UI students last week.

I'm also glad Chuck freely admits to shopping at Wal-Mart and dismisses the silly fear that Wal-Mart will somehow "destroy" downtown Moscow and Pullman.

However, I must take exception to Pezeshki's assertion that we don't need to lay down another huge piece of asphalt to replace what we already have." Pullman residents shopping at Wal-Mart and WinCo in Moscow hurts Pullman taxpayers and it hurts Pullman businesses. One of the reasons that people own a house "that they cannot pay the mortgage on" is because all the tax burden in Pullman is on home owners. Studies have shown that Pullman is underretailed in every category except restaurants and that as a result, Pullman and Whitman County lose $150 million a year in taxable sales to neighboring communities.

Like Pezeshki, I don't think everything needs to be duplicated in both cities, but each has to be self-sufficient, whether that means Wal-Mart or WinCo or whatever, before we can talk of cooperation. I know iberals are all about equivalent outcomes and therefore fear it, but competition is a good thing.

I don't have time to get into Chuck's theories on nationalized healthcare and how the economic salvation of the Palouse lies in more professors and more bike paths. Speaking of professors, Chuck has commented on the Daily News web site:

Honestly, the anti-intellectualism present in the two towns, whose bread and butter is vastly created by those with big degrees is overwhelming sometimes. You want to know what Moscow and Pullman would look like without the universities? Drive north to Tensed.

I guess he's hurt we don't fall down and worship Ph.D.s It's actually not anti-intellectualism anyway. It's anti-arrogantassholism.

Moscow's City Council elections are hotly contested this year. Good. Residents are waking up to the fact that local issues affect them far more on a day-to-day basis than who is president. It gives me hope that we can regenerate our democracy.

There are a couple of big issues. First, people have been debating the idea of development, arguing that since the Moscow Wal-Mart Supercenter has effectively been killed for the time being, the Moscow City Council is anti-development.

For me, the whole super-center concept is a real nonstarter. I can't see how a super center (or two) adds anything to the combined communities of Pullman or Moscow. We have a Wal-Mart. I shop there. The merchandise and prices are identical to the dozens of Wal-Marts, including super centers, that I have visited, other than the fact you cannot get your hair cut or do your banking there. Even the drive time from Pullman is only marginally longer for many of us on the north side of town than if we had a Wal-Mart on Bishop Boulevard. Why lay down another huge piece of asphalt in either community to replace what we already have?

With regard to a budget grocery store, we have WinCo. I shop there. Like the Moscow Wal-Mart, I like the people that work there. Shopping at either store is not a boutique experience, but both sets of employees have always been friendly to me.

As do the proponents of the various super centers, I do not believe that Wal-Mart will displace downtown business in either town. Both Pullman and Moscow have turned their downtowns into coffee shops and boutique marketplaces. For economic development, that's a good thing. Livable, lively downtowns that serve as entertainment districts are what attract the people who create growth. These people, labeled by author Richard Florida as the "Creative Class," are the individuals who are starting the businesses that will thrive through the 21st century.

People arguing that the Moscow City Council is anti-business are off-base. People arguing that we need to bring industry to Moscow, with all that implies as far as pollution and water consumption, are living 50 years in the past. The day of creating high-paying blue-collar jobs by siting a manufacturing facility in a community are gone. In today's world, if you want growth, build a livable city where people can walk, instead of drive. Build a community with bike paths, instead of cookie-cutter subdivisions. Complete large-scale, unique amenities like the Latah Trail that set us apart from other small communities. If jobs that provide health care for employees is the real issue, lobby for a national health-care plan, because the industrial infrastructure that used to provide those kinds of jobs is gone forever.

And instead of spending time attacking the people who work at the universities, arguing that they are overpaid, when by national standards they are not, prize those high-paying jobs, and help in lobbying efforts in both state capitals for pay raises for faculty and staff. Some perspective - for every dollar that taxpayers put into Washington State University, WSU researchers, professors, and staff generate seven. And some of those seven dollars circulate in this community.

Secondly, the City Council should can the so-called "boardinghouse ordinance." One of the key things that makes Moscow great is that growth is clustered in neighborhoods close to the city center. Anything that jeopardizes families wanting to live close to the city center should be disallowed. The main beneficiaries of any boardinghouse ordinance are people who live beyond their means, owning a house that they cannot pay the mortgage on. A word to the current City Council - in this part of the world, conditional use permits turn into permanent use permits pretty quickly. Anyone doubting this should look at such permits for uses on national forests. Though it is against the letter of the law, such permits are bought and sold with various businesses all the time. Expecting anything different with boardinghouse permits is foolishness.

Finally, both city councils need to kill the competitive talk between our two cities. The fate of Moscow and Pullman are intertwined. Let's talk more about cooperation instead of duplication of services. Both communities depend on each other.

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