Comment of the Day: Pay as You Go

COMMENT OF THE DAY: PAY AS YOU GO “I don’t want greater density, walkable neighborhoods and I sure don’t care about my carbon footprint. I’m not one of the mass of zombie manbearpig believers. None of these things is going to improve my quality of life. Having more money in my pocket through lower taxes will improve my quality of life. If you want high density walkable neighborhoods I suggest you build them with your own money. . . . Do you just assume that everyone wants to live in some kind of high density urban la la land. Maybe you want to but I don’t want to pay for your lifestyle. Pay for your own.” [jgriff, commenting on John Culberson to Metro: Stop This Train!]

17 Comment

  • Wait, so it is OK to spend tax dollars on highway construction that enables the proliferation of your beloved suburban sprawl, but not on rail that helps promote an alternative?

    Sorry, that dog won’t hunt…

  • If you don’t want density… live in the suburbs not the city. If you want density… live in the city not the suburbs. Pretty simple.

    Like it or not, density is the future BECAUSE of money. Check out land value per sqft and you’ll see why single family homes don’t go up inside the loop except in the most affluent/poor areas. Even the suburban lots of today are far more “dense” than they were 20 years ago… welcome to your future.

  • @jgriff: guessing you don’t have children?
    See, everything done today effects tomorrow…

    I believe Houston can be a great Garden City because we have the SPACE in all directions. But we need to agree to PLAN and to plan for all segments of society.

  • @ Mies:
    I live within a mile of downtown, have no inclination of living in the suburbs because I don’t have a preference for them. I’ve got nearly every bit of my net worth invested in urban Houston, and I’m in it for the long haul. My position is a greedy one. I want the whole region of Houston to grow so that there’s more urban employment so that there’s more people with the option to embrace urban living so that I can ultimately make money. The entire business model is predicated on the sustainability–and specifically, GROWTH–of urban employment centers.
    But only one out of every 22 new households are formed inside the loop. In order to maximize the growth of the labor pool that is within a reasonable commuting time to downtown, most transportation funding needs to go towards suburb-to-core infrastructure. And extra money needs to be spent on inner-city projects to ensure that they are compatible with a suburb-to-core commuting model (for instance, by grade-separating light rail so as to minimize conflicts with auto traffic). Just because such infrastructure spending does not directly benefit me (i.e. by being something I’ll use), that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t further the urban vision that will one day allow me to cash out and retire comfortably.
    Instead of Houston’s urban and suburban subcultures fighting over how the pie ought to be divided, we should be trying to work together to bake a bigger pie. The only people who lose out in that scenario are environmentalists…but I agree with jgriff on the appropriate attitude in that regard… **** ’em. I want pie.

  • @The Niche:

    You are right about the spoke freeways and the commuter rail, the suburb-to-core infrastructure, in that it is a necessary component to a vibrant inner core.

    But spending taxes on all the beltway roads only makes transportation within he suburbs more efficient, and creates employment sub-markets that compete with the inner city.

    Also, utilities such as water, waste-water and electricity are way more expensive on a per household basis in low-density developments that in a dense urban setting, and are mostly paid for by taxes.

    But I agree that some people like the suburbs and some like the city, and having the option at affordable prices is what ultimately will make the city desirable to more people.

    However, all infrastructure has to be paid for one way or another, and we all pay for things we don’t use, but our share of the things we do use is only a fraction of their cost.

  • My husband and I spend more than $10k a year on our car payments maintence gas etc and each spend an hour a day commuting to and from work and add errands on top of that. Our property taxes are only $3600. So to ME A WALKABLE community DOES equal money in my pocket. Immediately. Every day. So… Want to refine your argument??

  • It’s just assumed that we should all pay for suburban highways, but paying for inner-city infrastructure is considered some kind of welfare or social engineering. I often disagree with the Comment of the Day, but this is one of the rare times that I find it to simply be moronic.

  • Maybe what we really need are more, or more desirable, jobs in the suburbs where so many people choose to live. Then they wouldn’t have to commute an hour into downtown to work. I know a bunch of people who bought out on the NW side because they worked at Compaq at the time. But that Compaq/HP location has bled a few jobs in recent years, I think.

    I work in Midtown and have a very unstressful two-mile commute. I’m thinking of looking at a house that’s a 10 minute walk from the office. I think more people should try living and working in the same part of town. They might find they like it. Note: I’m not saying move to where your job is; I’m saying find or create a job closer to where you want to live.

  • @ Andres,

    I’m not entirely satisfied with the layout of our beltways, myself. I really wish that they’d feed more effectively from the secondary spokes (i.e. SH 249 and the like) into the primary spokes. That I support the concept of highways does not necessarily mean that I like everything that’s been built such as it has been built.
    It also bears mention that we aren’t actually spending tax dollars on Beltway 8. It’s a toll road. Its users pay for it. Likewise, suburban utilities are paid for by Municipal Utility Districts (MUDs), which are entirely paid for by the subdivisions that they support. That’s pretty awesome, IMO. Suburbanites willfully pay for their wasteful lifestyle, just the way it ought to be.

  • My family lives in the city and we want to live in the city. My husband’s commute is only as bad as the traffic is for the four exits up on 610 we are from his office (which can be 10 min or 35 min). But I was laughing the other day with the suburbanites I know because somehow it takes me the same amount of time to come from Lazybrook to the Museum district they do from the heart of Kingwood. Being close in is useless with all these cars everywhere. I would love to live near a rail and take it all around. Our taxes pay for lots of things we might not personally use, but at least this makes sense and adds value to the area. Everyone profits when the land values go up. There’s a lot more senseless stuff being done with our tax dollars if you’re just looking for a good cry

  • “And stay off my lawn, too!”

  • Hmm.. One of the nice things about this forum is the wide group of people that comprise it. I agree that this town is more and more divided. It would be nice to return to the more welcoming Houston when everyone was from somewhere else and the thing that seemed to bind us was to build a new life and make some $$$.

    With that in mind, it would be useful to discuss how to better distribute funding to projects -> a revamp of the capital investment projects funding. This would be part of the solution to discussing planning and the appropriate level of funding. It is too easy to say that I live in the suburbs and don’t want XYZ or I live inner city and don’t think that QRS project in the suburbs is worthwhile. Through conscious planning and BUDGETING the consensus is made.
    Metro should be a lightning rod of development power rather than the unchecked power and bureaucracy that it largely is.

  • Relic-

    While I shudder when you seemed to suggest that one of the things that should unite Houston is the lust for money (that, to me, is a big part of the reason Houston generally lacks a solid community feel, but that’s another story entirely), I do share your fascination as to why so many developers in this city ignore Metro and, frankly, vice-versa.

    Just look at the gold line in Pasadena, CA for evidence that transit and developers can go hand-in-hand. If you provide people with options for living in an area where a car is not always a complete requirement, many people will jump to that option. And this is true, even in the burbs (Pasadena is a suburb).

    The problem I see here is a lack of vision and entrenched policies and ways of doing things that hinder better cooperation. For a city that likes to claim to be the next great global city to emerge in the 21st century, Houston sure seems to be 20 to 30 years behind.

  • @ Appetitus: Actually, I’ve known several developers that had approached METRO about incorporating light rail into some aspect of their project (and there are probably others). They received cold shoulder. Even the City’s planning department doesn’t get much in the way of interagency cooperation from METRO.
    But perhaps worse than giving proactive developers the brush-off, when METRO bid out for a developer to build a transit-oriented development at the TMC Transit Center, METRO failed to include the Texas Medical Center, Inc. in the talks, and they had veto power over the project. METRO had selected a developer and was moving forward with the planning process by the time that Texas Medical Center, Inc. got wind of everything and exercised their veto. The finalists in METRO’s selection process had each spent a great deal of time and effort trying to get that project going, and it was all for nought. It’ll take a meaningful shake-up at METRO before I believe that private sector developers will be willing to work with them again. Hopefully that’s a priority for Annise Parker. The ball is in her court.

  • Ah, my comment about the $$ is not a cynical one… I think the capitalist spirit in this town is great! My reference was that in the 60s and 70s people flocked here not for the hot summers, not because mosquitoes were in,.. because there were great jobs, lots of promise, and this resulted in diversity and all the buzzwords that we now have conferences and community clinics to “create.” Houstonians are not greedy, avarice driven single minded people! The result of having all these industrious, hardworking people brought the roots to build industry and the city we know today. I’d rather belong to a forum that focuses on how to create and to engineer, to discuss and think-than henpeck about how much cooler one group is than another.

  • Relic-

    I am sure Detroit felt the same way in the 40’s and 50’s.

    No one is arguing against capitalism or making a profit. Capitalism works fine in most areas of the economy to varying degrees.

    What I take umbrage with is your assertion that somehow such a mindset leads to cohesive communities that provide a sustainable quality of life to residents. In fact, I see the exact opposite mindset as essential to provide a sustainable community and long term quality of life to residents. We need more parks, more transit, more bike trails, more community events, etc. Most, if not all of these, are not based on a profit oriented motive (or at least based solely on profit).

    But again, that is a whole other topic.

  • What I said was that 1. it brought a varied group of people that were 2. focused on making a better way of life that 3. did not get caught up in who is better or who is in and who is out. The majority of folks were from somewhere else.

    In reviewing, TheNiche put it succintly before my post.. I want pie, too.

    To be blunt, odds are fairly good that anything better than insitutional peach cobbler is not coming from anything that resembles a City of Houston organization. To that end, the driving force- energy and capital will come from private citizens either driving the city to act or to privately fund.

    The initial post was lamenting the use of public funds to build inner city infrastructure. One of my points early on is how the city can better meet the needs of the neighborhoods that comprise it. The current project funding does not compensate regentrified areas that are paying a disproportinate share of taxes for poor infrastructure. The suburbs that are paying taxes don’t want to fund services they frankly will rarely use.

    So the question that arises is how should the city rise beyond its bloated self and meet budget and plan to meet the needs of today and fuel the demand of the future?