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Subsidizing Wal-Mart -- When trying to understand the success of Wal-Mart and other big-box stores, be aware of the ways in which this country subsidizes vehicular travel. Most studies report this subsidy as a cost per gallon of gas figure. To my knowledge, all policy analysts who have conducted comprehensive studies agree that there is a subsidy. Their research indicates that the effective subsidy is somewhere between $3 and $9 per gallon. So the drivers who drive more miles than the average driver and/or get worse mileage per gallon than the average driver, are being subsidized by those who drive less than average.


Due to the size of their stores and the size of their trade areas, Wal-Mart and other big-box stores benefit from this corporate welfare system. Because they draw from a smaller trade area, smaller stores -- oftentimes locally owned -- are at a competitive disadvantage. The playing field is not level, and the long-term cost to society is immeasurable. Those who are for a truly free market should shop locally and lobby to eliminate this unfair advantage.


Matt Holbert


Spokane, Wash.





Undeserving of Good Streets


Folks say that the awful condition of our streets is what makes us, well, so uniquely Spokane. Nope. What really sets Spokane apart from other Northwest cities is the incivility of our drivers. The simple truth is this: Spokane drivers don't deserve good streets. Moreover, potholes are, at the moment, the best safety features of our streets.


I will vote against any street bond issue until the following priorities have been satisfied:


Better enforcement of speed limits; crosswalks; stop signs and stop lights; no turning on red; and so forth.


Reduction of speed limits on residential arterials and in areas of congested and turning traffic (such as on Monroe and Grove between Seventh and 14th Avenues).


Better marking of crosswalks, including zebra-striping; lighting; warning signs; pedestrian-activated traffic signals.


Traffic-calming strategies, including reduction of the number of lanes on streets like Monroe and Grove between 7th and 14th and the addition of turning lanes (and islands to discourage the use of turning lanes as passing lanes).


Provision of pedestrian sidewalks and bicycle lanes on arterials that have neither (like the Ben Garrett Parkway) and, of course, provision of bicycle lanes along selected arterials that already have sidewalks (like Monroe/Lincoln and Bernard on the South Hill).


I do not wish to sound contrarian, especially as I realize how far our streets have deteriorated. But it makes no sense whatsoever to resurface our streets until they have been redesigned for pedestrian and driver safety, with all appropriate crosswalk protections and traffic-calming strategies.


Wayne B. Kraft


Spokane, Wash.





Let's Hear the Truth -- Do not send out your messenger, claiming that the city has only $3 million a year to maintain arterial and residential city streets, to trick and burden already hard-pressed property and business owners into a $50 million street bond issue, trying to raise property taxes.


In reality, City Hall has $67,587,316 of capital project funding for arterial streets, and special revenue street funding of $40,787,321 for residential streets for the three years of 1999, 2000, 2001, not including the parking meter monies. This amounted to $108,384,637 for arterial and residential streets for these three years. With responsible management, this should have been sufficient to take care of our streets.


Total expenditures for 1999, 2000 and 2001 by the city government were $1,460,135,161. The unobligated balance in 2001 was $69,475,832. Where did the money go?


Times changed at City Hall: Expenditures at John Talbott's office were $65,452 per year for the mayor and his secretary. Expenditures at John Powers' office increased to $516,671 a year for the mayor and his entourage. Very costly.


Wasteful spending at City Hall is why our streets are so neglected. Priorities at City Hall should be police, fire, streets, public buildings and giving something back to Spokane's deserving citizens.


As a former downtown business owner of the Davenport Sport Shop and Boutique in the Davenport Hotel, I used to love downtown Spokane. I was destroyed when the $110 million River Park Square project began in 1995. River Park Square brought downtown and City Hall despair and resulted in high expenses and attorney fees.


In today's hard economic times, City Hall must economize for the welfare of Spokane citizens. No new taxes! No $50 million street bond issue. Fix the streets with existing revenues. Cut wasteful expenditures.


Lilo Harris


Spokane, Wash.





Vehicle Owners Should Pay -- In consideration that the city of Spokane is to fix our streets with money by increasing property taxes, I have a few questions for our mayor, the city council and especially Mr. Steve Eugster. Why should those citizens, with equal tax/value, who own only one vehicle, or none at all, pay the same amount of tax as those households that own two, three or more vehicles? Why should those who own properties and receive money from residents pay tax that they will pass on even if the people own no vehicles? And why should the businesses without vehicles pay the same tax as those that own a fleet of autos and/or trucks?


Our streets desperately need to be repaired, but a real property tax is not the answer. The city government is trying to do the right thing but in the wrong way.


The only fair way to fix our streets is with a tax on the vehicles -- a user tax. The tax should be based on the value and weight of each vehicle and collected when license tabs are due. This is the right way to fix our streets.


Bruce R. Rogers


Spokane, Wash.

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