Appealing Voodoo Economics Housing Values

By On
• In Whatcom County,

Years ago, the first time my property value was raised, I wrote to the assessor about it. The reply I received was essentially a “canned answer.” I pressed and asked the assessor how my house could have gone up in value when, although kept in good repair, no real improvements had been made to it in years. My purchase price for the house, before their “re-valuation,” was already almost five times what it sold for in the 70s. I know the inflation arguments, fair market value arguments, and all of that, but I still have a hard time understanding how something made of materials with a limited lifespan, like a house, can go up in value as it is used. The normal trend is for items to go down in value as they are used, like cars.

I recently received another property re-valuation from the Whatcom County Assessor’s Office. This one increased the value of my home by a whopping $46,000 over just one year! The assessor’s office gave me a ballpark figure of my tax increase using the 2018 taxes, but cautioned me that the 2019 tax rate may go up or down. Of course, we all know that taxes almost never go down. This year I will pay an additional $613 dollars on top of my current taxes. Aside from installing a cedar fence that cost a few thousand dollars, no real improvements have been made to the property. So how did a $4,000 fence turn into a $46,000 property value increase? I asked some economists to explain it to me but found no real answers, since they did it with voodoo economics.

The main part of this voodoo argument is based on a made-up concept called “fair market value.” Instead of valuing the house on something reasonable like how old it is, the condition it’s in, etc. you simply look at the values that nearby homes have sold for. Even if they are falling down, their fair market value may be high. I’ve heard several reports of houses being bought, sight unseen. This craziness may lead your new neighbor to pay much more for a home or rental than they should, which allows the assessor to value your home higher. This is a fake argument and an insane way to determine value. What they’re literally saying is, “If your neighbor has no sense of how to negotiate a fair price for a house, or is desperate and doesn’t have time to negotiate for a house since they need one for their new family right now, and/or simply has so much money that they don’t care how much the house costs, then, according to idea of fair market value, the house is simply worth more.” That’s it: magical words are spoken, and your home value goes up even though no physical improvements were made to it. When I brought this up two years ago at a Young Democrats Candidate Endorsement Meeting, several council members were quick to remind me that we don’t pay the highest property taxes in the country. One reason being that we are taxed other ways, like our regressive 8.7 percent sales tax and other special levies.

So who is this good for? You would think that making housing unaffordable for most people, would be a bad thing, and for most of us it is. However, there are two groups this works out very well for. One group is retired individuals who sell their houses here and move to cheaper markets. The other group is landlords and investors, the top 10 percent. You see, if a poor or working-class family has to sell their home because they can’t afford the taxes on it, or they lose their job, or have medical debt, an investor can swoop in, pick it up, and flip or rent it using the artificially inflated value I just described. The high price of the house and the taxes associated with it, are just expenses landlords pass on to hard working families who now need to rent.

I should also note the one good argument I heard for higher housing values: the possibility of selling your home for more than it appraised. This approach will only work until the bubble bursts, and if I can sell before the four new homes under construction in my neighborhood are completed. Also, I’d have to move far away from Bellingham to be able to purchase an equivalent home for what I can sell mine for. So is the goal of our government to force successful, hard-working, small-business owners out of Bellingham by overcharging them for their necessities? It sure feels that way sometimes. It should be noted that as single-family homes are turned into rentals, the same homes that previously held two adults and two children are now housing eight individuals, which has happened to one home on my street. So, while property taxes are a percentage of the taxes needed in a given area, there will be more people squeezed into the same area who are paying sales tax. In short, your government will be bringing in more tax money from the same number of homes. It should also be noted that high housing prices increase homelessness. Right now nearly 11% of homes in the US are empty meaning that empty homes outnumber the homeless population. So the problem is NOT a shortage of housing, or land, but in how we have turned the necessity of housing into a commodity. Again, how can your house be going up in value when 1 in 10 houses are empty?

But it’s not like they’re using the added tax money to take care of our teachers, health care professionals, police, or other emergency service providers. Overpriced housing is a nationwide problem but it’s especially difficult for people who work here making the town function, but can’t afford to buy a house here. Except for the upper echelons, most of these individuals make very little. It’s time to stop taking the dignity out of work by punishing workers through their necessities. I’d like to remind everyone that presently 42 percent of your neighbors live at, or below, the poverty level. Some of them have the skills to refurbish and flip houses, but could NOT get approved for a loan high enough to buy a property here to work on. So the old adage, “No one is stopping the poor from pulling themselves up by their bootstraps,” does not apply. Hard workers are blocked from moving up by the economic structure.

These rights of hardworking people to raise their families in single-family homes are eroded through a gradual process that largely goes unnoticed because voodoo economics can be used to explain it all away. So the next time a council member tells you how much they care about ethics, ask them how that can be true when they continue to apply pressure to the necessity of housing? When they take the dignity out of work by forcing hardworking people to scrimp on food, medicine, clothing, etc. to pay their mortgages, rent, and property taxes. Like most issues, the housing issue effects our minority communities more than others. You can’t say you care about ethics, and at the same time continue to tolerate high home prices and taxes on necessities. You are stealing from people via their necessities. Tax non-necessities more aggressively, and leave necessities alone.

Let’s say you earn less than $30,000 a year. Perhaps you work two jobs and already are paying too much for housing. Walk into a bank, tell them your situation, and then tell them that you also want to take out a loan on a property that costs as much, or more, than the one you’re already in. You will be denied. This is called an inability to class jump, even if you’re willing to do the work.

I am appealing the assessor’s decision and will post articles as I go through the process. We need to stop punishing workers by allowing the government to steal money for essentials from them though involuntary property tax increases. Sure, some options do exist for senior citizens, disabled individuals, and the Open Space Act (RCW 84.33) to have some of the land values temporarily frozen, but the taxes were already too high before this revaluation, and as soon as a property doesn’t meet any of these criteria, it will be revalued at these new inflated rates.
To request your own Housing Valuation Appeal form, contact your assessor. You have 30 days from the time you receive your notification of revaluation to fill out and send in your appeal form. I encourage all of you to do this. You will find that the assessor’s argument is entirely based on the voodoo economics concept of “fair market value” described above, but at least the “re-valuation” will receive a hearing by the Board of Equalization.

About Jon Humphrey

Citizen Journalist • Bellingham • Member since May 23, 2017

Jon Humphrey is currently a music educator in Bellingham and very active in the community. He also has decades of professional IT experience including everything from support to development. He [...]

Comments by Readers

Eli Mackiewicz

Jan 02, 2019

Hey NW Citizen,

Do you have any other authors? Is this site dead? 

Other than complaints about Twin Sisters Brewing (which I’ve avoided based on your reporting, thank you) and comments about Dig-Once, this site seems like it’s lost its connection with the community.

Where’s Ralph!??!!!

I’ll check back in six months and see if anything here is worth reading.

Cheers! 

Read More...

Jon Humphrey

Jan 02, 2019

Eli, I wonder how talking about our housing crisis (something the mayor and some of the council members directly benefit from) and Dig Once (a totally common sense policy the COB is intentionaly over quoting to protect big telecoms at the expense of the community) constitutes being disconnected from the community. A quick search shows you to be a City of Bellingham Employee who’s program may disappear with a different administration. Still, this problem effects the whole community and needs to be discussed. Please keep in mind that the people that pay the COB salaries are hurting. In fact, many of the lower paid COB employees are among the poor.

Read More...

Dianne Foster

Jan 02, 2019

Thanks,  Jon.    I’m not against property taxes,  but this year the rate went up for one year only,  due to fully funding education,  and Republicans in Olympia forced the property tax hike to make it look bad for Democrats.    (My understanding is it should go down next year.)    I do,  however,  sympathize with the sentiment that working class people are paying for increased density.   As we die off,   realtors are waiting in the wings to turn historic houses into student rentals,  and ultimately to tear them down for taudry condos and apartments;   I’m watching this development in Sehome as we speak.   Failure of our public systems to provide low income and student housing drives up the values,  upon which the private sector speculates.   Which is why we have 1% of the population now owning 50% of the wealth.    That concentration can only increase over time,   unless there is public action taken.   Don’t hold your breath.

Read More...

Robert Leib

Jan 02, 2019

This is truly a rip-off of our citizens.  In 2007 I bought 5 acres on Northwest and planned on building a new home.  The tax value was $132,000.  In 2008 they raised the valuation to $190000.  The property tax went from $690 per year to $1600 per year and they came in and claimed wetlands and that it would be unbuildable.  This all happened when the economy had died and I could not give the property away.  4 years later the value was finally dropped back to $130,000, but guess what?  The tax stayed at $1600 per year.  It is obvious that they use the values to steal more money from property owners.  They do it in 4 year intervals section by section so no group can organize as it is happening at different times.  What a scam this county has become.

Read More...

Jon Humphrey

Jan 02, 2019

Thanks Dianne and Robert. I am the first to vote for voulntary taxes that provide funding for education, helping the homeless, etc. My wife and I have even volunteer with the schools, but see little improvement for the actual workers there while the upper eschelon continus to draw big salaries. For example, we received a notice from Greg Baker that money is going to be cut for personal development for teachers this year. I offered advice on less expensive, online, solutions but noted that perhaps it is time for upper eschelon school administrators to take a voluntary paycut if they can’t even afford to allow our teachers to further educate themselves and pass that knowledge to our students. Isn’t that part of  the point of a public education system? To produce the best students we can. How can we do that if our teachers can’t be compensated for continuing education? Even with a tax increase.

Our tax system is regressive. We need to tax more from the top. Taxing necessities is crazy. The same families that need more money to be put into education, can’t afford good food, clothing, broadband connections ,etc. partially because of their taxes on the necessity called their home.

As we know the city isn’t doing much to lower the cost of any of their necessities in any significant way because they’re too cowardly to tax the very wealthy. For example, we all received notices that our gas, trash, water, electricity (pretty much every necessity) is going up in cost this year too. Sure, some will receive a few vouchers here and there for a portion of their services, but on the whole the cost of living is going up for everyone but the top 10%. For example, the city could help by providing real opportunities by investing in real infrastructure, opening up existing infrastructure for use, etc. which will attract next generation jobs, etc. but they don’t. They prefer giving contracts to the private sector, even when it doesn’t make sense. CenturyLink just caused a statewide 911 outage, yet we’re still not taking public infrastructure seriously?! 

It’s the old addage of, “settle for nothing now, settle for nothing later.” I hear the same excuses now that I did three years ago, especially from the city, and we’re still waiting to see anything but token improvements in most areas. In the meantime, they found $130 million to spend on the waterfront…. A project that most of the developers have pulled out of as highlighted here. http://www.westernfrontonline.com/2018/09/24/with-planning-stage-over-public-interest-in-waterfront-redevelopment-project-wanes-in-time-of-need/

In short, the developers, and comunity, are bailing on the Waterfront. Why?! Because, we told them 3 years ago, we’re past the age of physical expansion. Bellingham has lots of abandoned store fronts and buildings, we don’t need new ones. We need a modern city. In the meantime, modern options like fiber would have cost less than 1/5th of what was spent on the now apparetnly doomed Waterfront project, would have paid for themselves, and would have brought in more revenue for just about everything, including tax revenue to help us address virtually all of our social and economic issues. Instead, with no better solutions, they come after housing again. Why? Because there’s nothing we can do about it. We can pay our taxes or lose our homes. It’s not like they didn’t know better they’re just really disconnected from the community and trying to keep their donors happy as we enter the 2019 mayoral election season.

As far as the taxes going down goes, I have never seen that in my lifetime…. except for the very wealthy…. I hope you’re right. I spend most of my “excess” income educating my children. We will have less of that now.

Read More...

John Servais

Jan 03, 2019

Eli,

Thanks for your spirited comment.  To answer your question, yes, we do have other authors besides Jon and Dick.  See important article being posted today by a first time writer although one with a total of 55 comments on this site over the years.   

And, no, this site is not dead.  But must grant you it has been sparse the past couple months.  Chalk this up to some growing pains with the new LLC that bought the site in September.  This site is now entering its 25th year of posting and we really simply do not give up.  Eli, are you interested in writing?  Want to have a coffee and discuss?  Let me know.  

This site is a venue for local writers.  Citizen journalists, if you will.  We want reporting and perspective on important local issues.  Local being Bellingham, Whatcom County and our small towns.  We avoid advocacy but do engage in pointed criticism - as witness the recent articles by Jon Humphrey.  We are here to expose and explore important issues that our local governments would prefer we leave alone.  Issues the Bellingham Herald avoids.  We do not write nice articles about what is wonderful as there are enough places you can read that.  We exist to do our best to make city hall accountable.  And the courthouse.  We are open to those who may want to join us.  None of us make a dime on this - not we owners nor we writers.  We do it for our community.  

Back to Eli.  Gentle readers, Eli has contributed comments over the past several years and I value his candid and energetic attitude.  Here are a few beginnings of some of his previous gems.  

Eli Mackiewicz
Nov 03, 2015
Hello John,
Thank you for keeping this blog running and active throughout the election season. 

and 

Mar 15, 2017
Commenters and other readers,
You are fair in your assessment. Apologies for any condescension. It was not my intent, but was indeed the effect. Please allow me a chance to clarify and (perhaps) take my foot out of my mouth.

Both these comments went on to some good thoughts and perspectives.  

Read More...

Sam Crawford

Jan 03, 2019

Hmm, the author votes for tax increases (schools, housing, etc), but doesn’t like his tax bill?

A couple things to keep in mind:

The assessor doesn’t set the taxes, those amounts are decided by local jurisdictions. Municipal levies (city, county) are set by the respective legislative bodies. The assessor’s job is to do a valuation, then split up the taxes accordingly, so everyone pays their ‘fair share’ according to the value of their real estate.

When the real estate market increases in value, which it very much has, everyone’s valuation goes up. The rising tide indeed raises all ships. If the municipal government were to keep the tax levy the same as the previous year, and everyone’s valuation were increased the same percentage, your taxes - at least the share for the municipality - wouldn’t change.

But… School districts, fire districts, and the like, persuade the voters to pass levies on a $-per-thousand valuation, and when the voters do that, they build in potential increases in their tax bill when their property valuation goes up. Again, the assessor did not create that scheme, the districts did, and then got the voters to approve it. And yes, those districts benefit greatly when the real estate market values increase as much as they have locally, unless there’s a mechanism built in to reduce the millage amount as values go up, which is sometimes the case.

As far as your valuation, you’re in denial if you think the values didn’t increase a lot in the past couple years. I owned a small home in the Sunnyland neighborhood, year-before-last a realtor estimated it was “worth a little over $300k”. We sold it this summer (in July) for $421k! It looks like you purchased your home in 2012 for $280K, and now it’s being assessed at $330k. That’s a pretty modest increase compared to the market. I’ll also suggest that amount is less than you’d actually be able to sell the house for these days.

Anyway, my point is, by appealing your tax bill, you are effectively asking that your neighbors (aka: “the rest of us”) pick up part of your share. Because the amount collected by the various jurisdictions won’t be going down. And you can take that fact to the bank!

 

Read More...

Ryan Knowlton

Jan 03, 2019

 

Jon and Sam, you two are argueing over who gets the bill when I think the bill is way too much….

 A levy adds a fraction of a % to the property tax rate, whereas if your valuation has increased 50% you are payinng 50% more taxes.  My grandmothers home for example, was assessed at nearly triple what it cost to build and furnish in 1994. Her property taxes and “imperviable surfaces” tax amount to more monthly than my great Aunts senior living apartment rent.  In a more balanced area, I could dare say that average housing costs would and should represent the wage opportunity on a scale of an average home being around 3-1/2X the average family income. This is a loan standard for RESPONSIBLE lenders and borrowers that don’t want to overextend themselves.  The SAD truth is average wages have been stagnant while Bellingham’s average listed home price is pushing 9 TIMES the average family income, and 206% of the national average.  Seattle lies at 217% of the national average, but also comes with nearly double the average family income compared to Bellingham.  The State, Realtors, and unfortunately some of our residents(that I equate to a seagull that squawks for all the others to come when they have found something to eat) have joined the cheerleader squad for “Move to Washington/Bellingham”. WWU,  WCC,  and BTC enroll approx 28% of our population in students, adding great demand for housing. Meanwhile,  Bellingham and Whatcom county have completely starved the housing market through slow response, anti-growth regulation, NIMBY’s, and likely our local landlords wanting to keep the tables tilted their direction. The number of people that moved here in 2017-2018 exceeded the number of new units built nearly tenfold. 

The negative results of this are many:

-The cost of a home has risen well beyond the means of 87% of the working class in Bellingham.

-Massive Poverty. As already stated above we have well in excess of 1/3rd of our locals living in poverty.

-For those that own their homes, built them themselves, or purchased decades ago,  affordability is countered by high tax evaluations that are completely out of touch with the areas income potential, priced relative to a starved housing market driven by out of state rich implants and investors lookinng to make student bunkhouses out of every family home they can get their hands on.

-Job Vacancy.  Despite the growth, many workers are leaving, or avoiding the area because of the terrible income/cost of living ratio. For most they either can’t afford a home, or are stuck on the treadmill of work-rent-work-rent with nothing to save for eventually owning a home or condo. My workplace, for example, offers well above average opportunities, yet we are hemmoraging workers to places like Spokane and other cities out of state. When we interview replacements, they quickly find they’d have to give up “The Ranch” for an apartment or townhouse and that’s the end of that.

-Gentrificaiton. Yes I’m not a fan. It used to be that the poor occupied mobile home parks and small low cost apartments. These people are needed for low end service and retail jobs. Now the working class fight over any mobile home that comes up for sale,  while our taxes are used to pay the OTHER HALF of the cost for the poor to live in Section 8 apartments.  EVERYONE needs a place to live, and we shouldn’t have to subsidize them to provide it.

-Hyper-inflation: We pay ~130% of national average for items like groceries, fuel, utilites, clothing, medical care, and so on. Higher housing costs require higher pay for all the workers involved with these goods. There is an ugly side effect that comes with this as well. In a labor market where goods and services can be outsourced to areas of lower cost and cheaper labor, they will be. No reason to buy your Bellingham made widget when one can be shipped from Idaho or wherever for 30% cheaper. The Bellingham widget maker closes, Bellingham gets $0 in taxes from that closed business, and their workers no longer have jobs.  

The solution: I’m honestly not a fan, nor do I stand to gain anything from the growth, traffic, and busy-busy people everywhere ants nest that Bellingham is becoming, but we need much more housing to accomodate more people. It’s just that simple.

The damage: Taxes won’t go down. I remember a house near a friends place that sold, and was assessed for $440K in 2006. When the great recession came in 2008, this neighborhood  suffered many foreclosures, the contractor finishing the development went bankrupt and several homes were left unfinished. The homes value sank nearly $200K.  The owners walked away, and it was repossesed and  sat on the market for YEARS because it STILL carried that $440K assessment and the taxes that came with it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read More...

Jon Humphrey

Jan 03, 2019

Thanks Sam and Ryan. Ryan is correct that the bill is already too high. Sam, I suggest you re-read the article as I believe you missed the primary argument. The argument is that housing is a necessity and should not be taxed because any tax on it is essentially an involuntary tax that effects the poor more than anyone else. In fact, it is one of the five basic necessities.

Like the rest of the poor and middle class, I pay more than my fair share in taxes, as most of the poor and middle class do. We proportionately pay much more than the wealthy who need to start paying their fair share. High housing prices aren’t good for anyone except the wealthy who can flip and rent them as I describe above unless you are going to sell the house and move to a cheaper market which there are fewer of all of the time. The new market may yield jobs that don’t pay as well, although it should be noted that Bellingham is way behind in building infrastructure to support next generation jobs. In short, everything needs to be taken into account. With 1 in 10 homes empty, the system, values, etc. are obviously entirely made up. Also, there are plenty of non-necessities to tax to make up for any lost revenue. Like luxury vehicles, etc. These taxes would not hit the poor and middle-class hard, while shifting the tax burden where it belongs, to the upper 10%.

If we were getting something for our taxes, I’d feel different, but while they tell us that they are increasing our taxes for say education, we receive e-mails from the superintendent of schools that they are cutting money for personal development for teachers, etc. So they are taking in more and more tax money all of the time, and doing less and less with it, unless you consider pissing it away on the Waterfront to be progress when better, less expesnive solutions, were available.

This is all why you need a balanced tax system, that taxes luxuries heavily instead of taxing the most vulnerable, and the hardest working, out of their homes. Yes, I do believe in voluntary taxes for education, and will vote for them. I don’t see how that negates my arguement about taxing the necessity of housing. A child needs a stable home to learn in when they’re not in school.

Read More...

Ryan Knowlton

Jan 03, 2019

Jon, the old “bait and switch” of taxes has been going on for decades sadly.  They ask for more taxes for schools, police, emergency services, divert funds elseware, make cuts, whine about how underfunded everything is, then repeat. Gregoire was a pro. She took funds from the ORV fund (paid for by the required ORV sticker/tabs) to pay for a study AGAINST ORV’s, and then used the results from that study as grounds to divert all the ORV funds to the General Fund. Grrrr. 

Bellingham has a virtually non-existant vacancy rate, but I wouldn’t be surprised in 1 in 10 is vacant on a national average due to empty vacation homes and vacancy in undesirable areas.  Also, I’ve heard the west coast is experiencing increased Asian investment now that BC has instituted a tax on them? Bellingham’s 2017-2018 growth was stated to be 17% Asian.

 

Read More...

Sam Crawford

Jan 03, 2019

Ok, I got it Jon. Taxing the shelter that is fundamental to our survival (our homes) is somewhat akin to taxing food, which I am opposed to. Point well taken.

I wonder then, how should government generate revenue? I don’t like income taxes or property taxes (disincentives to productive work and wealth accumulation), but sales taxes might be the way to go (especially for federal taxes). That scheme encourages people to put aside savings, helping to solve the long term issues with later-life income, etc.  And for local government funding, I’ve often mentioned the 25-30% of Whatcom’s sales taxes being paid by Canadians makes sales tax attractive as a local revenue generator in Whatcom County. A sales tax plan could have a progressive spectrum of low-to-no tax  rates on ‘essentials’ (food, shelter, healthcare) escalating to much higher rates, not unlike the ‘sin taxes’ now in place for tobacco, booze, etc.

 

Read More...

Ryan Knowlton

Jan 04, 2019

Sam,

Our state spends in excess of *1/3rd of it’s entire tax revenue* on welfare and social services. I would think with our gas tax and sales taxes both being some of the highest in the country, that things would pan out if we provided more affordable housing instead of using so much of our tax dollars to subsidize overpriced housing and healthcare for so many people.    

Read More...

Jon Humphrey

Jan 04, 2019

Thanks for all the comments. There is definitely some fat to be cut. Only the government and some large corporations have high level officials that can do an awful job and continue to receive pay raises while they cut benefits for their lower level workers. Often they continue to be paid until they ruin the company or make their institutions virtually worthless. I’d like to see that change. To answer Sam’s question I’ll have to depart from, and come back to, local issues as they are all connected to larger issues. I think most of the answers lie in a Green New Deal, and a reassessment of priorities, but I will expand mostly on broadband and technology.

Right now 60% of our taxes go to war (some soften this up by calling it defense). The talented people working in this industry should be put to better use working on medical research, space exploration, new technology… the list goes on. Also, we spend about 40% of all of our fuel on military operations when we are at war. (This number comes from Operation Iraqi Freedom). Policing the world has resulted in many problems, not only did we put some of the best, most selfless, people in our culture (the men and women in the armed forces) in harm’s way, the resources we expended doing so increased climate change and will lead to a rise in cost of necessities like food. As much as I’d like to see smaller, more efficient cars, no individuals in an 8-cylinder truck can come close to burning up what was spent a day while we were at war in their lifetime in resources. As an aside, subsidies on fuel are crazy. Let’s let gas cost what it should and usher in a new era of electric vehicles. They perform better anyway.

Don’t worry, from a security standpoint (if you make this argument for war spending) we will be more secure with advanced benevolent technology that can be used to protect ourselves with if need be. My favorite example involves having a totally benevolent moon base, which can hurl things at the Earth if necessary. Honestly, just throwing the right stuff at the Earth as a defense. Sure, calculations need to be done on materials, rotation rate, etc. but this example shows us that we really don’t need to develop weapons specifically. We will develop new technology as part of scientific endeavors anyway. What if we had personal force-fields, like in the Dune books, then no one could really be hurt by a projectile weapon. Except deer which are delicious. The examples go on. The point is that we can just do science, and this will usher in a new era of next generation jobs and the revenue that goes with it.

Now, onto how Whatcom County and Bellingham will NOT benefit from this without new leadership and real infrastructure county wide. We do NOT have the infrastructure to support modern high tech businesses. Pair this with poor electrical infrastructure, high rental and housing prices, low-wages, etc. there is literally no motivation for big tech companies to setup in a big way here. The services they need cost less and are better elsewhere. In fact, a tech company asked if they should move here on a Reedit thread recently and was referred to Mount Vernon instead where fiber connections, buildings, etc. are cheaper and their access to Seattle and Vancouver is excellent. They also have more choice by default for providers. Mount Vernon has 9 local net-neutral provders to choose from.

I love Bellingham, but Bellingham is only a few minutes away from Mount Vernon. People can easily hang out here and work and live there. We need to get past our arrogance that this is the only nice place to live and that therefore we can charge whatver we want for housing, services, etc.

I’ve written about these issues extensively on NWCitizen. For example, Wireless networks are less reliable than wired networks, need to be backed up by fiber anyway, and probably have health risks associated with them. Yet, your government is on tape being represented by Verion and your public works director got up twice and left before listening to public commentary. They simply couldn’t be bothered with listening to all sides of the argument before doing what some of the most hated comapnies in US history wanted.

It should be noted that PSE got 600 times more per pole attachment for small cell mounts than is paid in many other parts of the country. Our current government is always concerned about what big developers, PSE, and other big companies want even when the largest growth industry in the country is small internet based businesses. They are totally out of touch. So out of touch that they literally let people freeze to death while taking 3 years to really even do a small amount about homelessness, even though abandoned publicly owned buildings were available. On the whole, your mayor and councils live on a different planet and need to be replaced with few exceptions.  They really just don’t know, or at least don’t display that they know, what being an average citizen here is like.

Anyway, fiber costs less than fishing line to put in. The COB has been intentionally over-quoting the cost to confuse the council and citizens and protect the big telecoms by removing competition and setting up virtual monopolies…. Mount Vernon installs conduit for $180K a mile by boaring. The COB says they need anywhere from 2.2 to 8.8 times more than Mount Vernon, to do exactly the same job. A job they already know how to do. In fact, they want $300k for a study to see if they can remember how to do it. The newer CenturyLink connections aren’t available everywhere, and do NOT hold up to testing anyway. The real fiber services we have in town from WAVE and CSS cost thousands to get hooked up to and then cost 13.25 to 15 times more than services in places with public networks like Chatanooga, TN. We need to stop pretending that the big telecoms will ever do a good job and that we have the services we need from others. They have had decades to do a better job and never have. Ex. The December 27th, 2018 statewide 911 outage was caused by an over-reliance on CenturyLink who, on the whole, still has totally garbage infrastructure as they always have. I have many more examples in my broadband articles.

Why does all of this matter? Because all of the next generation companies want cheap infrastructure. They also need power that is clean provided in underground conduit so a tree can’t fall on it, catch on fire, and stop their production like happened here recently. Sure, they can install solar and generators, but that is an added expense. They can simply go to a city that takes infrastructure seriously instead of putting up with our crap. Most of the best technologists don’t want anything to do with the big telecoms and they have little tolerance for towns that don’t take infrastructure seriouly. For example, when I wrote to Microsoft about public fiber, they wrote back saying they support my efforts. Why, because better broadband means a better experience for their users. Remember, Microsoft doesn’t just make Windows and Office, they also make the XBox, and much more. Google, Netflix, Apple, etc. (all of the top tech companies including the Linux guys whose OS runs 95% of the world’s super computers) want cheap broadband provided over net-neutral connections. Nielsen’s law tells us that our need for bandwidth increases by 50% every-year. Broadband is a necessity now, and needs to be treated as such.

Again, this is only part of the puzzle. This needs to be paired with cheap, clean, electricity, and other services for a big company to consider moving here in a big way. Sure, Amazon has a few people in town, but they would never put HQ3 in Bellingham. Our city and county governments (with the exception of the Port and the PUD who are working on fiber) have shown the country that we are totally backward when it comes to tech and all of the opportunities that come with it. Even though, this is a virtually risk free investment that helps address virtually all of our social and economic needs. The county, being rural, can even get grants for installing conduit and fiber. The city can get virtually 0% interest loans for infrastructure improvements, which would be paid for via leasing. It literally won’t cost them anything! It will, though, piss off the big telecoms.

So Sam, how does the government make they money they need? Well they need to start by getting with the times. I’ll use yet another recent example of a 1980s idea they want to do in Fairhaven in 2019. It’s parking meters in Fairhaven in the age of online shopping. Their next “great” idea will just further destroy downtown and Fairhaven small businesses. Sure, high rents have mostly done the job already, but the meters won’t help. Oh, by the way the meters will be hooked up to the existing public fiber network that the city is refusing the citizens who paid for it access to. They claim it’s not usable. Guess that’s unless you want to jam in some 80s style parking meters which will promote drunk driving and drive small business owners out of business, then apparently it is usable.

My point, the mayor, and councils need to get with the times. If they can’t, then they need to do something else. Public Fiber, is litearlly supported by thousands of people at this point and they are well aware of it. Investing in real infrstructure will create excellent jobs, increase educational opportunities, etc. (please see my other articles). People with more money will be able to afford more luxuries. We therefore, can add taxes to those luxuries. Which is fair, because they’re luxuries!

However, it all starts by not throwing our money away in the first place. We would have plenty of money for just about everything if we stopped policing the world. We also need to freeze pay raises for upper echelon school administrators, our high level government officials (like the mayor, public works directory, IT Director, etc.) if they don’t perform. Those of us that work for a living see our salaries go up and down when we don’t perform, our necessities go up in cost, or a thousand other things. Why don’t we have the same expectation for our high earning government officials? Sounds to me like we can save at least enough to do about 3 miles of fiber in conduit, just on cutting the high earners salaries by 20% in relation to the awful job they’re consistently doing. We don’t need to feel bad for them, they’ve made a lot off of their their degrees, which seem to be in coming with with as many ways as possible NOT to help and making it sound reasonable. Many others would be happy to have their 6 figure jobs, with great benefits, and would be happy to do a better job too. So yeah, cut the fat, hold people accountable, re-tool for the future with modern infrastructure, and tax luxuries. If we don’t we will miss all of the benefits that next generation jobs have to offer.


 

Read More...