Burien Council OKs $10 Car Fees to Restore, Maintain City Streets

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by Ralph Nichols

A $10 vehicle license fee was adopted on June 21 by the Burien Transportation District to fund a 20-year, $19.4 million program to restore and maintain city streets.

The action came on a 4-3 vote by the city council, sitting as the board of commissioners for the transportation district, following a public hearing.

This program, including the fee, was approved by the council in April, but state law required that final action be taken by the transportation district commission.

Mayor Joan McGilton, Deputy Mayor Rose Clark, and council members Jack Block Jr. and Kathy Keene voted for the fee on vehicles registered in the city.

Council members Brian Bennett, Lucy Krakowiak and Gordon Shaw opposed it.

The affirmative vote also provided that the boundary of the city wide district will expand to include any future annexations by Burien.

Only two residents testified during the public hearing: Ed Dacy, who supported the fee-based program as an investment in the city’s future; and former councilman Stephen Lamphear, who opposed the action.

The $10 license fee will help fund 2-inch asphalt overlays and related repairs on more than 260 miles of city streets to restore and maintain city streets at an average Pavement Condition Index level of 80 percent. The current average condition of local streets is 68 percent.

McGilton said prior to the vote that with the lack of state and federal funds, “the only funding source remaining to us is our city. Ten dollars is a reasonable amount to pay for those of us who use the roads in Burien.”

The $10 fee will help fund 2-inch asphalt overlays and related repairs on more than 260 miles of Burien streets.

Block called it “a good investment that has a good payback,” while Keene called it “good policy” that “brings our roads up to the standards we want … unlike our sister city to the north.”

Lamphear’s remarks echoed his recent comments in a letter to The B-Town Blog (link here) that the hearing is “a time and money waster.”

In that letter, he criticized “the arrogance of the Imperial Burien City Council” for thumbing “their collective noses at the 75% of voters who voted NO on this license fee last year.”

The Transportation Benefit District was adopted by the city council in July 2009, which proposed at that time bicycle and pedestrian improvements along 8th Avenue S. and S/SW 136th Sts. – to be funded through an annual vehicle license fee of $25.

But last fall, this license fee proposal was rejected by 75 percent of those voting in the city election.

Although state law requires a Transportation Improvement District commission to hold a public hearing when fees are imposed, it does not require a vote on fees at a basic $10 level.

Asked about Lamphear’s complaint by The B-Town Blog prior to Monday’s meeting, the Mayor flatly rejected it.

“I don’t think the community felt obligated just to do 136th Street and 8th Avenue,” McGilton said, referring to the limited scope of last year’s ballot issue compared to the new program.

To residents, asphalt-overlays throughout the city “means the street by my house,” she said.

And the $10 fee for this program to improve all city streets is much less than the $25 fee that was proposed for bicycle and pedestrian improvements only.

“We’re paying it forward,” McGilton continued. “Ten dollars per car is a good investment in 20 years of drivable roads. This is a road program that will be paid for by everybody who lives in the city and drives on our roads.”

The $10 fee will generate about $300,000 annually for ongoing asphalt overlays. Funds for the initial $8.6 million phase of the project, expected to start this summer and continue through 2011, will come from bonds issued by the city.

McGilton noted that this is the third year the city has not been able to pay for asphalt overlays through its general fund.

This program “shows vision,” she added. “It’s doing something good for the community rather than just doing what gets us re-elected.”

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20 Responses to “Burien Council OKs $10 Car Fees to Restore, Maintain City Streets”
  1. Theresa says:

    What Mayor McGilton fails to understand is that it’s not the $10 we’re complaining about. It’s the blatant disregard for the citizens of Burien clear response to reject this $10 fee. At this point, I think she better start worrying about what’s going to get her re-elected.

    • Stephen Lamphear says:

      McGilton has no need to worry about re-election. We actually rarely get mad enough over anything significant enough to “throw the bastards out.” Instead, we rant to our friends, on blogs and to the TV. We don’t actually DO anything.

      And, importantly, the voters don’t elect the mayor (small ‘m’). The mayor is merely the chair of the council, chosen by the majority. The mayor is merely a ceremonial figurehead to sign ordinances, cut ribbons, be the public face of the city, and the shill for the staff. The mayor has no power whatsoever unless weak councilmembers cede it by inaction — which it appears they have done.

    • Patricia says:

      I agree. I am so disgusted with this council and will not ever vote for any of them again.
      I am going to watch their spending and it better not be for sidewalks or bike lanes and they better put a site out with what they are spending from our $10. and they were sneaky as well.

  2. napavine says:

    “It show’s vision”! (If you look closely at the law, you can find a loop hole).

  3. Greg Fox says:

    I am not condoning the increase, but if the city did not do it the county could and, again, without voter approval. The state law roughly states that there can be one $10.00 license increase without voter approval by the local jurisdiction (city or county), but only one increase will be allowed. So if the city did not raise the tax then the county could (and the county would keep the money and not have to spend it on city improvements).
    Des Moines raised it last year as a means to get some revenue and most other communities have also.
    If you are upset about being additionally taxed (and it is a tax) then talk to your state representative as they are the ones that voted it in (along with the new candy tax and the new soda and beer tax and the additional cigarette tax and..).
    It seems everyone wants the same level of service for everything that we’ve all come to enjoy (and expect) with no additional taxes (and you see where that has gotten us).
    If the economy continues to suck (and there is no reason that it won’t), then there will be more taxes and less services. So dig into to your wallets because it is only going to get worse!

    • Stephen Lamphear says:

      Thank you. I’m not against paying to maintain city streets either. I’m opposed to not being given a choice over what I pay for. The Legislature has created a number of opportunities for local government to raise taxes/fees. Among those is the county water taxi/ferry district. The public was not given a vote on creation of this wholly-owned subsidiary of the County, nor were we given a vote on the tax that finances a foot ferry that, in the investigation of Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat, costs more per person than just buying each one of them a boat of their own.

      The Transportation Benefit District is simply a way for a city/county to get around the legal requirement for a public vote on tax increases. The first instance of the license fee is technically not an “increase”, so no vote is required. And think about who runs the TBDs — the exact same folks who sit on the council who have failed to plan for upkeep and repairs out of regular revenues.

      If a proposal to improve the streets were put on the ballot as a tax, I would vote FOR it. I do want the streets maintained at a higher level than those in Seattle. But give me the right, the opportunity to decide what ‘public goods’ I choose to purchase and at what level. That’s my beef.

  4. Betsy says:

    The government’s getting too big.

    • Stephen Lamphear says:

      That is a vacuous statement without foundation or support — the common fall-back of those who fail to participate. You get the government you allow to happen.

      Did you come to the Council meeting to voice your opinion? Did you write to the Council? Did you do anything to express your position, either for or against?

      No? Then, the truth is you will continue to get the government you allow to happen. It is those who are involved that write the laws, make the decisions, frame the issue. Those who are uninvolved pay the price of their inertia over and over.

      There are plenty of cop-outs for failing to participate — not one of them holds even a droplet of polluted Puget Sound water.

  5. Coverofnight says:

    Thanks to Stephen for speaking up for us against this fee, but it only confirms what the rest of us already know – that this Council will do whatever it wants and they’ll just go through the motions of “listening to the public” without any intention of changing their minds. Greg suggests we talk to our representatives if we don’t like all the new taxes. But on any level (local, state, national), we’re finding that NOBODY is listening to our voices! In my household, we don’t spend what we don’t have – if only Burien operated this way! No, their feeling is that if they don’t have it, they’ll get it from US so they can spend, spend, spend, despite our cries for mercy. It’s almost impossible now to stop the government waste and seemingly insatiable appetite for spending. At this point, YOUR VOTE IS THE ONLY EFFECTIVE VOICE YOU HAVE. Choose wisely in upcoming elections. When the old guard is removed, our new representatives will know that we will hold them accountable for their campaign promises and rhetoric. We’ve been lied to long enough.

    • Stephen Lamphear says:

      I’ll believe it when I see it. Are you going to run for council? If not, why not? You get what you want by participating, not by carping from the sidelines!

  6. SD says:

    “McGilton noted that this is the third year the city has not been able to pay for asphalt overlays through its general fund.”

    My interpretation….The city chose not to set aside adequate funds to maintain an asset all Burien residents benefit from…our roads.

  7. fish says:

    Thank you to the City Council for taking a tough vote. Infrastructure ain’t free, folks.

    • Stephen Lamphear says:

      And perhaps no one but me noticed that the city newsletter, received PRIOR to the formality-only hearing and the split council vote, clearly said the tax/fee was already in effect. I am positive councilmembers and city staff CHOSE those words. The tax/fee was a done deal before anyone got to testify. It was a travesty of the public process.

  8. SD says:

    Fish: “infrastructure ain’t free.”

    Free? Certainly not! I’ve paid my fair share of taxes and expect the city to use my tax dollars wisely which includes maintaining our basic infrastructure. Block states, “it’s a good investment that has good payback.” Really? Then why in the heck didn’t the city set aside the citizen’s tax dollars to fund ongoing maintenance of our roads? Was it not a good investment three years ago, two years ago, one year ago? The city’s priorities are screwed up!

  9. Toby says:

    ok, they raise the car tabs $10….. now how much more do we have to pay to see first ave finshed! I can only guess that the city will do a great job like the 1st ave project.

  10. Rainycity says:

    I`m just kind of wondering,,
    Isn`t that kind of like stealing from us when we voted no to the car tax?
    Let`s just say our neighborhood`s were operating like the town council..
    Hey Bill, those sure are nice wheels, mind if I have them,, NO says Bill.
    Okay,, then I can just go over and take them anyways
    Is that still considered stealing?
    Does anybody know if I just stop somewhere here in Renton on my way home to get my tabs, will I still get charged the $10.00?

  11. star says:

    Well, for now, I guess this won’t affect me. I don’t have a car, I just opt for borrowing everyone else’s.

    rainy-Only one surefire way to find out….

  12. Chuck says:

    The mayor has talked about this fee/tax for awhile. I am disappointed in ALL of our government. I am in Tukwila so this does not affect me yet. Tukwila is looking for new revenue sources/taxs, I am sure we will have this fee/tax soon along with any others they can find. I was in a meeting with a couple of council members. One was talking about the search for new revenue. I told him we the people don’t have anymore money to give them. The other council member in attendance looked at me and said we could just raise your B&O tax.

    They don’t listen and as long as we keep voting them in they will do and take what they want. I must admit our Mayor (Tukwila) is doing everything he can to not raise fees/tax’s. I only hope he is able to not take more from us that don’t have anymore to give. As more illegals or or non english speaking move into our area and put a strain on resources, things will get worse. So get ready to pay, unless you are an illegal then get ready to take.

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