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Welcome to STop, the Seattle Times Opinion blog where our editorial writers and editors share their evolving thoughts on a variety of issues. STop is a place where opinion writers and readers can exchange views and readers can learn more about how editorial positions are formed.

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May 18, 2005

Our liberal imagination

If we had some ham, we could have some ham and eggs dept:

Here is the editor-in-chief of the Seattle Weekly, Knute Berger, in his current column opposing Mayor Nickels’ plan to allow high-rise condos downtown. Now, the mayor’s aim is to increase Seattle’s density, which it is obligated to do under a state law called the Growth Management Act, while putting the least pressure on single-family neighborhoods. The mayor’s answer is to pile density into the downtown.

Berger doesn’t agree with that, and he doesn’t like density in the neighborhoods either, and I assume he is not willing to repeal the GMA and come out for “sprawl.” Then what? Here’s his answer:

If Seattle offered excellent schools and free day care, it would be costly—but would it be more costly than putting the viaduct underground? If you put $4 billion into improving Seattle schools and creating family-friendly programs, you could increase density by growing the number of people per household without massive new development. There are alternatives to dealing with urban growth and density by promoting high-rise development that will clutter the skyline, block the sun, and benefit mostly the well-to-do.

First, the $4 billion is a lump sum, which is what you need to build a waterfront tunnel, and not an income stream, which is what you need to run a school district. Second, Seattle doesn’t have the $4 billion even for the waterfront tunnel, but only a promise of half that, from a gas tax that applies to the entire state. It is unconstitutional to spend gas-tax money on schools, or on day care, so really Seattle has none of the $4 billion in this particular dream.

Imagine this Bill-and-Melinda-sized experiment anyway. I think it would fail. That is, if Seattle spent a bunch more on the public schools, and it did offer free day care, it would not attract that many families with kids. The main reason is that the ability to "fix" the schools with money is much more limited and costly than liberals believe. And even if you could do this, you would raise the demand for housing in the city. You would have the people with kids bidding for houses against people without kids, who are buying $400,000, $500,000 and $600,000 houses now--prices that are inflated by the Growth Management Act that liberals created and still defend.

Respond to Bruce.

 
Posted by Bruce Ramsey at May 18, 2005 12:15 PM



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