Your Tax Dollars at Work

The owner of a beauty shop who applied for a loan from a community development fund received a response calling her “one crazy ass bitch” and suggesting that she was under a “delusion that somehow you might be credit worthy.” The author of the letter, who was suspended for a week without pay, later wrote a letter of apology saying she was under a “heightened state of anxiety” and wrote the letter only “for my own personal release,” not to be mailed out.

Other than as a humorous example of bureaucracy at work, why is this of interest to the Antiplanner? It turns out the applicant’s business has been hit hard by light-rail construction, which is preventing customers from accessing her shop. She applied for a loan from the Rainier Valley Community Development Fund, which was created by the City of Seattle and Sound Transit (which is building the light rail) and given $50 million specifically to help businesses survive construction.

So far, according to its own web site, the Rainier Fund has loaned out $10.8 million and created a whopping 27 jobs. The agency also gave out $15.1 million in “supplemental mitigation assistance,” as a result of which “only” 15 percent (some sources say 20 percent) of businesses along the rail line went under. The other $24.1 million probably went to staff members and their therapists. Photos on the web site also suggest that some of the grants and loans probably went to developers of high-density, transit-oriented developments.

Apparently, the beauty shop in question had already received $11,700 in grants from the Rainier Fund, but the owner felt like she needed more help to survive. She’ll probably get it now, if only so that the agency can save face.

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10 thoughts on “Your Tax Dollars at Work

  1. Frank

    Ms Jones, the owner of the beauty shop, is also African American, living in the country’s most diverse zip code.

    This is a prime example of racism (not to mention corporatist) in government and how high-density developers can negatively affect minority populations and communities. How many of the bankrupt businesses were owned by minorities?

    What a disgrace.

  2. bbream

    I think highwayman brings up a good point that’s worth exploring. Antiplanner, I imagine you’re upset about this event because a) a light-rail construction project is disrupting the movement of the markets and b) businesses are being supported by subsidies that cost additional taxpayer dollars. But in the case of road construction or road repair, which could have a similar impact, would you (or any other libertarians who wish to weigh in on the matter) still criticize a community development fund or other form of subsidy that cushions businesses that are affected by disruptive road work, given that the road work will support all those who drive as opposed to the smaller percentages who would use a light-rail system?

  3. Borealis

    Can anyone explain why they felt it necessary to evaluate the project in those linked documents by sub-racial classifications, such as West African vs. African American, and Filipino vs. other Asian subcategories?

  4. Frank

    “Can anyone explain why they felt it necessary to evaluate the project in those linked documents by sub-racial classifications…”

    Those aren’t “sub-racial” categories; they’re ethnicities, which go deeper than race, about which many social scientists, including anthropologists, say there is no biological/scientific basis.

  5. jwetmore

    Light rail construction is more disruptive than roadway construction because of utility impacts.

    First, light rail has utility free zones and utility review zones. These zones are required for a number of reasons, but generally no utilities should be located beneath or adjacent to the tracks because they become inaccessable once the tracks are built and they may impact the performance of the track structure. On a roadway, you can simply move traffic over, or detour it, to access a utility that is in the roadway. Since transit service must be maintained, utlitiy crossing are generally cased (an additional expense), so the utilities can be removed and replaced without excavating the guideway.

    The excavation for track is generally deeper than for roadways, especially for urban roadways where businesses may affected during construction. Long term maintenance considerations and frost protection, in northern climates, require a thick layer of granular material under the track structure that exceeds the requirements for pavements.

    For aerial utilities, clearances to the overhead contact system (OCS), to prevent electrical arcs, may require relocation of poles and wires for power, telephone, cable TV, etc. Additonally, metal objets near the OCS are generally required to be robustly grounded as the possibility of contact with the high voltage OCS is a significant safety hazard.

    Finally, the stray currents resulting from the use of the rails as the return path for the current used to power the trains can result in corrosion of any metal buried near the tracks, such as steel water mains and high pressure gas mains. Precautions are required for galvanic protection and monitoring of the utilities near light rail facilities.

    All of these considerations require additional construction time and cost – not to mention the additional design efforts.

    Sorry that the engineering details and considerations conflict with the vision of rail transit.

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