June 25, 2008 · Updated 9:33 PM
"Growth explains I-695 positionsI-695, a new twist and an old myth. Is it a needy lesson to a bloated boondoggle- prone government that keeps taking in more and delivering less as claimed by group A? Or the manifestation of a selfish, head in the sand, take the money and run reaction that strips government of vital services while adding more complexity to managing the public welfare, as claimed by group B? I'll take the popular position that both sides are right. The reason for this ironic twist can be summed up in three words Growth is Expensive. As we all know, the Puget Sound area has been growing like a weed for over 30 years now. As we also know, taxes have been outstripping inflation, yet we witness visibly less return on the dollar in the way of public services (i.e. both the ferry lines and the number of ferry employees just get keep getting bigger). We'll teachem a lesson, says group A. But why cut at the most vital services (i.e. transportation) tackled by our state government, by making it cheaper to operate an automobile, asks group B. Particularly when said automobile often resembles an oversized land yacht that would better serve the community if it were left moored in the garage rather than used to transport a single occupant comprising less than three percent of said car's weight on totally congested roads?Back to the three word explanation. Folklore tells us that growth broadens the tax base and stimulates the economy while creating jobs and affordable housing. But like most folklore it's severely outdated and without proof. The facts tell us another story. A 1997 study by a Eugene city planner found that the cost of public services demanded by a new three bedroom house totaled $24,000 in Oregon. The town of Springfield (Ore.) experienced a population growth of 4.5 percent per year (similar to ours) and after ten years the city expenses and debt had increased 300 percent. Closer to home, studies in Lake Stevens and Everett peg the infrastructure costs of a new home in excess of $8,000. I could go on but you get my point. These studies are not commissioned by no growth zealots but by concerned city planners trying to understand the ever widening gulf between their revenue (taxes) and their expenditures. So the public correctly perceives a decreasing level of public services and opts to teachem a lesson by giving government a smaller wheel barrow to move a growing mound of dirt with a shortsighted and futile I-695. Meanwhile traffic on the I-5 corridor rises to third worst in the nation, air quality in the area makes the top 10 worst list and the days of recognizing local towns on the 'best places to live in the U.S. are a thing of the past. But at least both sides are right in this issue. The answer is to abandon the folklore and support responsible government representatives that face the facts - Growth is Expensive.Dean Enell is a South Whidbey resident who has long encouraged the county to adopt development fees."