Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: No money, mo problems


Photo by Mr. T in DC on Flickr.
Water infrastructure funding running dry: Water and sewage infrastructure faces a massive maintenance backlog but little funding to fix it. This means 450 line breaks per year in DC, 300 in Fairfax and 1,440 in Montgomery. (Post)

MoCo's affordable housing needs to grow: Montgomery County needs up to 50,000 affordable housing units over the next decade, but with funding short the county is refining its inclusionary zoning laws instead. (Post)

Live free or die (in DC): DC officials are taking the message of DC statehood to New Hampshire and other states around the country. They hope to secure resolutions of support for statehood and voting rights from friendly state legislators. (Times)

McDonnell jeapordizes interstate commission: Gov. McDonnell is jeopardizing much of the funding for the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin by withholding $151,500 in dues, according to his own appointee to the commission. McDonnell argues the Commission is unnecessary and redundant. (Times)

Prince William cool on HOT lanes: Prince William residents are concerned I-95 HOT lanes will cause damage to the local slugging network by allowing drivers and slugs to pay a toll for the system. (WAMU)

Big pay days for DC's merit pay teachers: DC leads the way in US merit pay, giving its highly effective teachers large raises and bonuses. The system helps keep good teachers by rewarding them early. (NYT)

The history and future of parking: LA will soon follow DC's example and install a downtown performance parking system. While performance parking seems to be the future, it may be wise to understand parking's past. (Los Angeles Magazine, Steve S.)

And...: Proposals for Georgetown's vacant power plant will be discussed at ANC2E's next meeting. (Patch) ... Arlington's new board chair and vice-chair want more public access and urban agriculture. (WAMU) ... Parking rates will rise in Montgomery. (WAMU)

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David Edmondson is a transportation and urban affairs enthusiast living in Mount Vernon Square. He blogs about Marin County, California, at The Greater Marin

Comments

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small correction: in the water pipes story, the number quoted is for both MoCo and PG.

by charlie on Jan 3, 2012 9:11 am • linkreport

Water and sewage infrastructure faces a massive maintenance backlog but little funding to fix it.

If only there were some way to fund these critical infrastructure projects. Could you imagine if the federal government could borrow money at, say, a negative rate of interest, and give it to the states with the stipulation it be spent on infrastructure?

http://modeledbehavior.com/2011/07/10/cheaper-than-cash/

Oh, well. It's not like that could ever happen.

by oboe on Jan 3, 2012 9:18 am • linkreport

BTW, does anyone have a decent cite for the comparative costs for infrastructure maintenance between urban and semi-urban environments? In other words, what's the ratio of tax revenue per increment of liability assumed as population density increases/decreases?

by oboe on Jan 3, 2012 9:26 am • linkreport

@Georgetown power plant.

Why has this been vacant for so long given the $3.5 million a year in maintenance costs and prime location in Georgetown? It just seems like a complete waste of DC tax dollars when this could have been auctioned off years ago and been generating revenues for the District.

by Nicoli on Jan 3, 2012 9:47 am • linkreport

Nicoli-

It isn't owned by DC...it's owned by the GSA.

by Craig on Jan 3, 2012 9:55 am • linkreport

@oboe; this isn't a cite, athough I did read one piece a few months ago that concluded that most towns/cities were ponzi schemes -- to pay for infrastructure would require population growth that wasn't realistic.

To confound your analysis, it is more expensive to repair infrastructure in a dense urban enviornment? I've been wondering that after seeing all the loaded trucks leaving Rosslyn from the construction site. Who is paying for massive damage to the roads?

by charlie on Jan 3, 2012 10:24 am • linkreport

To confound your analysis, it is more expensive to repair infrastructure in a dense urban enviornment

Right, that's the $5T question, innit?

by oboe on Jan 3, 2012 10:30 am • linkreport

I did read one piece a few months ago that concluded that most towns/cities were ponzi schemes -- to pay for infrastructure would require population growth that wasn't realistic

Right, just like social security, medicare, and the entire federal government is a ponzi scheme. However, I wouldn't bet on the imminent collapse of Western Civilization. It's a bet that's been made many times in the past and never paid out. Maybe one day it will come true, but in the long run, we're all dead.

by Falls Church on Jan 3, 2012 10:36 am • linkreport

@Oboe; an externality analysis might be helpful here.

Or an another (dated) example, the constant tearing up of DC streets in the late 90s to lay competing fiber cables.

@fallschurch; I think the point isn't about western civilization. The biggest waste in the US isnt' misspent goverment fund -- it is too many governments. We're lucky in DC to have pretty large entities (DC, Ffx, MoCo and PG county) although that anomaly called falls church should be merged into something.

Smaller entities just can't service debt as well.

by charlie on Jan 3, 2012 10:50 am • linkreport

The biggest waste in the US isnt' misspent goverment fund -- it is too many governments. We're lucky in DC to have pretty large entities (DC, Ffx, MoCo and PG county) although that anomaly called falls church should be merged into something.

Ah, the siren song of scale. It always seems like bigger is better because it's more efficient but most people undervalue the importance of flexibility. Sure, a company like Microsoft is more efficient because they can spread infrastructure costs (for example, the HR department) across a bigger company, but behemoths are invariably slow to recognize disruptive market changes, find it difficult to occupy market niches, and are boringly homogenous.

Falls Church fills just such a niche and it would be a very different place if it was part of FFX or Arlington. As the richest locality in the country, with steady real estate prices and arguably the best schools, the model clearly works. Sure, taxes are a little higher in Falls Church because it lacks scale efficiencies but that's a small price to pay for independence and the ability to tailor government to your needs.

by Falls Church on Jan 3, 2012 11:36 am • linkreport

the discussion of merit pay takes it face value and doesn't go beyond giving a reflexive quote from the teacher's union. performance evaluation of something like teaching is tough to do and the DC system like most still relies too much on few observations and generalities. the real question is whether it picks the right people and is worth the money. Given the pr tone of Rhee's administration and the lack of attention to things like curricula (which should include things like classroom management), I have to wonder how much to "celebrate".

by Rich on Jan 3, 2012 12:03 pm • linkreport

@Fallls Church

But that's the point: there's not a universal level of government that works best at a given scale. Some government functions (like large infrastructure) require a much larger scale to make fiscal sense.

The reality, however, is that rational planning at that larger infrastructural scale would often involve saying "no" to that idea that the local government can tailor everything to your needs - because that tailoring, far too often, is exactly the problem.

by Alex B. on Jan 3, 2012 12:03 pm • linkreport

@Alex B

I'm partial to the right levels of heiarchy, I think that Fairfax has the mobility of a tank (and to that analogy, Falls church the power of a fly). I think Virginia does it particularly strangely with the choice of

US -> State -> County (-> Town)
or
US -> State -> City

but with the historical oddity that the state performs more functions for the larger Counties than the smaller cities (particularly VDOT which controls all of the public roads in the counties but not in the cities.. with Arlington as the notable exception).

I personally prefer the ability to have local steering, perhaps larger than Falls Church, but much smaller than Fairfax. DC (where I live) fills this with the ANCs, though the entire district is half the size of Fairfax.

by RyanD on Jan 3, 2012 2:02 pm • linkreport

@Pelham1861

What bugs me about McDonnell's actions is that he's unilaterally holding out on a relative pittance, diminishing the capacity of other participating bodies (i.e., DC, MD, WV and PA) to do the work of the commission. It makes it harder to manage the Potomac Basin when about half of the basin is in a nonparticipatory state. It's like pulling out of a treaty without telling the other side or renegotiating.

The state money - about $484k total - is leveraged into a budget of $2.9 million, which is from EPA and other scientific grants. Yes they meet in public, yes they have annual reports to scrutinize.

Read the ICPRB's website and the back-and-forth letters on the subject if you want to inform yourself. Write a defense of McDonnell's actions.

by OctaviusIII on Jan 3, 2012 5:25 pm • linkreport

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