“The Coming Reset in State Government”

Against the backdrop of the federal march to insolvency, it is fearful to see that many states are following the same path. As Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels wrote in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, “State government finances are a wreck.”

Think things are bad now but will get better as soon as the economy starts growing again? “We ain’t seen nothin’ yet,” says Daniels, a deficit hawk. “It’s … likely that we’re facing a near permanent reduction in state tax revenues that will require us to reduce the size and scope of our state governments.’

Daniels is particularly gloomy about the prospects of states with progressive income tax rates. “California, which extracts more than half its income taxes from a fraction of 1% of its citizens, is extreme but hardly alone in its overreliance on a few, highly mobile taxpayers. Both individuals and businesses are fleeing soak-the-rich states already.”

Bacon’s bottom line: One of Virginia’s relative fiscal strengths is a diversified tax base that does not rely excessively upon one type of tax — be it sales, income or property — to fund state government. Therefore, we can better weather a pronounced downturn that hits one category of tax revenue especially hard. Meanwhile, we need to acknowledge, as Daniels points out, that state revenues are not going to come roaring back any time soon. We should make a virtue of austerity and do serious re-thinking about restructuring how we deliver and pay for state and local government services.

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63 responses to ““The Coming Reset in State Government””

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Our biggest advantage is the ability to suck an awful lot of money from Uncle Sam. What happens when that pipe slows its flow?

    And, of course, there is the ability of most of Virginia's cities and counties, including the Richmond suburbs, to manipulate the buffoons representing NoVA into subsidizing low property taxes and decent public facilities from the wallets of NoVA.


  2. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    "We ain't seen nothin' yet,"

    Gee, where have I heard that before? Oh yeah, I remember now. It's what I've been using as a slogan for two years now.

    Nice to see Jim beginning to see the light. As for Virginia and it's diversification of taxes, what makes you think that multiple taxes are any more safe than a single big one? Calif. is more than an income tax state.

    No, it has a whole herd of taxes and fees that they impose. And while all the focus is on the property tax and Prop. 13 it should be remembered that is primarily a local source of revenue and only one portion of the total real estate bill.

    But Virginia is no different when it comes to taxes. The government has hocked itself to the gills in bonds, FRANS, and a host of other 'innovative' financial schemes that are all going bust. Meanwhile the great former government of America is stripping forests bare in an effort to produce enough paper to indebt our citizens further. Not through worthless dollar bills, through bonds and other instruments of international fiance that have a legal lien on all of America, including the very seat you are sitting in right now.

    But never fear, you already know the ending of this story. A gigantic financial reset, like pushing the power button on the Nintendo when you don't like the outcome of the game. Even Jim recognizes it. But this is the real world, not a video screen. Reality and history says one of two things are bound to happen in such a situation as we are facing. The debtor goes postal, or the debtee takes control of the collateral.

  3. well I keep trying to sell this chart:


    It's got a slider to show how we went as a nation from relatively solvent job situation to a massive blood-letting which translates into revenue shortfalls for the states which depend heavily on taxes on the sales of stuff at various levels from retail to cars to services.

    Va is suffering similarly even though NoVa is far better off than many other areas.

    But I think this points out that the problem we have now was not the direct result of prolifigate spending as we can see that Va and Ind have been relatively deficit hawk states for several years.

    So.. what's killing places like Indiana is the dramatic loss of jobs.. and in turn.. taxes from employed folks buying stuff that the state derives taxes from.

    then.. the other shoe.. the housing meltdown which is hurting the local levels.

    In my own area, elected officials are nervously watching the current sales tax data and not looking forward to the reassessments which they worry may drop the bottom out.

    and you know things are bad when gas tax and new car sales drop so precipitously that VDOT has to come 2 Billion and is warning of more pain as is Gov. Kaine.

    If I were one of those no mo tax guys, I would see this situation as a marvelous opportunity to get to the nub of what services are absolutely positively necessary no matter what and which ones are not even those we often characterize them as "needs".

    the big 3 in most states including Va are Education, roads, and Prisons..

    Each of these IMHO are fertile grounds for reexamining "needs" in the context of the current economic storms – which I agree – may not reside for a while in terms of a Jobs recovery.

    I support tolls and let people decide what are "needs".

    Ditto with schools.. fund the core academics and let parents decide what extra-curricula amenities are "needs".

    And we need to ask ourselves how much we "need" to put a 21-year old who was carrying cocaine in a cellblock with depraved and violent "teachers".

    I like Kaine's approach to this where he is asking each agencies to provide him with a range of cut scenarios… 5, 10, 15%….

    I have to tell you.. when I see a bumper thumper accident attended to by 6 police cruisers, 2 rescue squads, and a fire truck… it makes me wonder what kind of a financial cookie monster we have created.

    We just recently converted to what is known as 'revenue recovery" for our ambulance service and I am AGOG. They not only charge 10-20 bucks a mile but between 400-700 per trip and THEN.. they are standing at the stop lights collecting donations… then I find out that they just qualified for a $10,000 homeland security grant and the money was used to replace their EXISTING gym equipment because it was not all the same kind and brand…

    If we have to tighten our belts – it would almost be a relief.. in a way…

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry, more than a number of people have told me that they too see some relief in forcing all governments, just like families and businesses, to tighten their belts.

    Example A – Fairfax County has been contracting for certain medical emergency services, while Arlington and Loudoun have a Dr. on the payroll. Of course, Fairfax County is about to vote to add this position with some found money. Never mind that FY 2011 projects a deficit of $315 million.

    The Fire Dept. has juggled dollars and can add the position without needing more revenue — this year. But what about next year, the year after and the year after that?

    Why have Virginia's colleges and universities seen their costs grow much faster than inflation or the increase in students year after year after year?

    How many non-teaching staff can our public schools afford? Can we afford very expensive, cutting edge special education programs that may or may not produce positive result for some, but certainly not all children in need?

    Could we substitute some less costly drug treatment programs for first offenders?

    Can we afford to keep importing poverty through family unification immigration programs or should we move to a skill-education point-based system like some other countries do?

    Can we continue to subsidize land development by building a five billion dollar plus Silver Line that will never carry more than 20%of the traffic in and out of Tysons Corner?

    And if we keep doing what we are doing, what happens to the basic services? Because unlike the foolish editorial staff of the Post, most people in Virginia know that they are pretty well tapped out.

  5. Virginia is getting ready to take some fairly significant hits and I have every reason to expect that Mr. Kaine will do his duty.

    The talk about special education, staff doctors, and the like.. need some context though..

    I'd dare say that most Virginia Counties cannot afford those positions to start with so they don't have the problem of figuring out which ones to cut.

    In my own county – our budget resulted in the cutting of actual teaching positions and next year sounds worse.

    If the State cuts funds – and it appears to me a strong likelihood… we'll could well end up laying off teachers and deputies.

    see ya'll are still trimming fat up in NoVa… 😉

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    Of course Daniels is gloomy: he s a deficit hawk. If finansces are a wreck, then you have two choices: spend less or tax more. If youspend less, then you will defintely get less, but if you spend more and do it wisely, you MAY be able to gain more thanyou lose.

    There is no future in being a deficit hawk, other than a continuing downward spiral.

    Yes,there are times and places to cut spendig, but it is not the ONLY answer. Sometimes, you wil be worse off because you spent too little.


  7. Anonymous Avatar

    "It's what I've been using as a slogan for two years now."

    And you have been wrong for two years. My net worth is actually up compard to two years ago, thanks to paying down debt and substantial increase in my property holdings.

    Frankly, I don't see the doom and gloom.


  8. ….." but if you spend more and do it wisely, you MAY be able to gain more thanyou lose."

    this is an argument that you can make when the states finances are more flush than normal and unemployment is low

    but this is a losing argument when the state (and localities) are faced with serious revenue shortfalls and many of the people who would have to pay higher taxes are already hurting and some near the edge.

    Perhaps those that say they are doing well in the midst of economic downturns wouldn't mind paying extra… to "get more" ..

    Ray.. what planet are you on?

    Even if your idea was not politically tone deaf … how could you justify raising taxes on people who may well be newly unemployed, lost their health insurance and their home – instead of being a temporary income source with a second mortgage is, instead – underwater?

    but even in good times – how would you distinguish between a tax increase to "do more" and one that just spent more on stuff that was not only not a need but clearly wasteful.

    I gave the example of a Homeland Security Grant – has a nice ring to the name… but 10,000 of taxpayer money was spent to duplicate exercise equipment – in the name of making us more secure…

    this is why increasing taxes, even in flush times, is viewed by many as more waste and more squandering of money…

    People are increasingly asking "if you raise my taxes, how does that make things better for me".

    it doesn't mean that they personally must benefit – but there must be some kind of a reasonable nexus that makes sense.

    I'd bet you a bunch of money had the good folks of my county been asked directly if they wanted to give 10K of their taxes towards exercise equipment – on the premise that it would produce more svelte defenders of the homeland that they would have taken a dim view of the whole idea.

    and that's the problem we have when we send taxes to Richmond and Washington … it's ALL spent OSTENSIBLY to "gain more than we lose" but we all know that more often than not – that money disappears down a rat hole.

    In Virginia – the reality right now is that VDOT will probably end up with more cuts and state-funded law enforcement will likely take a hit ..and it will be a miracle if education does not.

    The quickest and easiest way to lose the election for Gov would be for Deeds or McDonnell to say " I WILL raise your taxes" for the following reasons: **(%^$%^*R&R& …. why the "static"? because that is all most people are going to hear.

  9. Gooze Views Avatar
    Gooze Views

    Before you totally wonk out on policy (digging yourself a hole ever larger), consider today's column by Gretchen Morgenson of the NYT:

    PRECISELY one year ago, we lucky taxpayers took over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage finance giants that contributed mightily to the wild and crazy home-loan-boom-turned-bust. In that rescue operation, the Treasury agreed to pony up as much as $200 billion to keep Fannie in the black, coughing up cash whenever its liabilities exceed its assets. According to the company’s most recent quarterly financial statement, the Treasury will, by Sept. 30, have handed over $45 billion to shore up the company’s net worth."

    Any comment?
    Peter Galuszka

  10. "I have to tell you.. when I see a bumper thumper accident attended to by 6 police cruisers, 2 rescue squads, and a fire truck….."

    That's only the tip of the iceberg.

    They recently published the salaries of local school administrators in my locality (and surrounding localities)….it was shocking to say the least.

    Here are a few examples;

    Director of Student Activities – 90K

    Assistant HS Principal – 100K

    Assistant Middle School Principal – 94K

    Assistant Superintendent – 115K

    Coordinator of Curriculum & Instruction (whatever the hell that is) – 98K

    Superintendent – 147k

    And this is for a town with a population of less than 30,000 people and a school system that has less than 5,000 students.

    Ain't gonna fly folks….the well is going to run dry.

  11. James A. Bacon Avatar
    James A. Bacon

    Peter, What do you want me to comment upon? That Treasury agreed to pay up to $200 billion but "only" $45 billion was necessary? Or is there some other salient point to the quote that I'm missing?

  12. Do we think we know what is behind the "coming Reset"?

    Did the Fed Government…you know the big bag stimulus/Deficit effort cause the RESET in State Government?

    How about this instead:

    …. " nearly 90 percent of all new home loans are funded or guaranteed by taxpayers "

    "Absent government intervention, there would be no lending," said Nicolas P. Retsinas, director of Harvard University's center for housing studies."

    " [Federal] policymakers now face some tough choices. They must decide how to reduce support for the mortgage market without letting it collapse."


    Now some who post here have been claiming that the Feds were wrong to rescue the banks and do the bailout

    but now it appears that the only reason that States are not in worse condition even if they are hanging by the thread is that the Feds made decisions to try to keep the housing market alive and not to suffer complete collapse.

    so my question to the folks worried about the "coming reset" –

    should the Feds go ahead and pull the plug on home mortgages?

    If the Feds did that what would happen to the State Governments?

    So we go back to the first question – Should the FED have bailed out the banks and autos and done the stimulus

    or would the States had fared better if the Feds did not do any of that?

    Bonus Question – Were the Feds responsible for the "coming reset in State Government"?

    i.e. did the Feds cause the problems that the States are having right now?

  13. Anonymous Avatar

    What if the federal government were to repeal every (yes, every) unfunded mandate? What would happen to the states' budgets? Would states try to fund the expensive programs that the complain about anyway?

    I've had this conversation with Fairfax County officials.

    Fairfax "Taxes wouldn't be so high if we didn't unfunded federal and state mandates."

    TMT "But here are several examples where you exceed the mandated activity."

    Fairfax – SILENCE

    Actually, I like to see the feds give state and local government a chance by dropping the unfunded mandates.


  14. Anonymous Avatar

    Yeah well, you couldn't get me to do any of those jobs for the salaries posted, even if it would b a payincrease. I'm GLAD there is someone that will do them.


  15. Anonymous Avatar

    The county will continue to spend all the money they have +5%.

    Count on it.


  16. Anonymous Avatar

    "…this is an argument that you can make when the states finances are more flush than normal and unemployment is low…"

    It does't matter when you make it. A good investment in bad times may be better than the same investment in good times.

    Government CAN do some things better than individuals or private enterprise. The problem is to pick those things that provide a net benefit — in good times or bad.


  17. Anonymous Avatar

    "…but we all know that more often than not – that money disappears down a rat hole."

    Actually, we do NOT know that, even if it is a popular mantra. The reason we don't know that is that there is virtually no feedback mechanism or metrics attached to the programs.

    Governemtn has certain advantages that even government is hard pressed to foul up.

    The usual feedback is "we need more" from the same special interest groups that supported them in the first place.

    We need first to decide on a measurement system, and then we can argue about whether we have a rat's hole or not.


  18. Anonymous Avatar

    After all, what is it that Bacon is so concerned aobut:

    "A drastic curtailment of the size of the federal government with all the disruption and pain that implies."

    Geez, if Gummint is that bad, you'd thinke he would be dancing in the aisles.


  19. re: " A good investment in bad times may be better than the same investment in good times."

    Ray.. if a tractor is a good investment but you do not have the cash and your credit is maxed…. there is no such thing as a "good" investment.

    It's irresponsible.

    If you take on more debt than you can pay off – that "investment" makes you look like an idiot.

  20. "disappearing down a rat hole"

    Ray – tell me how much money your county generates in gas taxes and then tell me how much money your county gets back in projects, maintenance, etc.

    I'll bet you have no clue and cannot find out either.

    This is what I mean when people VIEW this as money down a rathole.

    You say the problem can be solved with more transparency.

    Fine – you do the transparency FIRST before I put any more money into something that to me walks and talks like a rathole.

    This is why the 2002 Regional Transportation Referendum went down hard….

    it's was the the essence of the issue… "give us more money to do good stuff with"

    and the answer from the taxpayers was crystal clear – Hell No.

    so if you think more money for the government is an "investment" if only we show the accounting.. fine… you show me the accounting before we do any more.

  21. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry – well stated. Let's see the transparency first, then let's talk about finances.

    But those most seeking additional revenues do not want transparency. They want business as usual with more of somebody else's money to keep the racket going.

    Someday a grand jury will investigate Tysons Corner.


  22. Anonymous Avatar

    "This is why the 2002 Regional Transportation Referendum went down hard…. "

    The reason that went down was that there was no plan behind the money to be raised. Besides that it was a blatant addition to taxes mainly for NOVA.

    Even so, the conditions have deteriorzated so badly since then, that it might not fail if re-oferd today.


  23. Anonymous Avatar

    "…so if you think more money for the government is an "investment" if only we show the accounting.. fine… you show me the accounting before we do any more."

    I agree completely. Finally we find something we can agree on.

    I think we should apply that sentiment uniformly, however, and that means it applies to environmental initiatives the same as road, or school initiatives.


  24. Anonymous Avatar

    "…if a tractor is a good investment but you do not have the cash and your credit is maxed…. there is no such thing as a "good" investment."

    What has my personal financial condition got to do with it?

    A good investment can still be made in bad times. If the economy is down I can probably buy a tractor on the cheap: it is a BETTER investment than in good times.

    Whether I can afford it (in good times or bad times) is a separate matter. before I go figure out how to pay for something, I need to know if that something is worth while.


  25. Anonymous Avatar

    Fundamental Fairness — Not!!!

    Route 28 in Fairfax & Loudoun Counties is being reconstructed, widened and interchanges are being built. Commercial landowners belong to a special tax district. They were given the choice to opt out and have their commercial zoning removed. The remaining owners were given more density and protection against down-zoning. They pay 80% of the costs for road improvements. Traffic moves better. The landowners have been making money — at least before the downturn in the economy. It's been a true success.

    Tysons Corner. Landowners are paying $400 million towards Dulles Rail. No opting out. The landowners have offered nothing but hollow promises to date for any other improvements. We are expecting a $1.5 to $2 billion price tag for infrastructure improvements. So why the difference?

    There was little, if any, opposition to the Route 28 plan bey anyone. Contrast Tysons.

    Maybe I'll write a book on Tysons someday.


  26. re: Route 28 –

    that's interesting… if some are allowed to opt out.. then the funding/financing would seem to be affected right?

    In other words.. how much money you borrow – then how much you pay back over which period of time.

    If it "works", I like it.

    and just to remind – the business owners in will pay the extra tax but in most cases, that just get's incorporated into the price of what they sell so ultimately it's the folks who shop there that pay.

    And one would think a similar approach would/could/should be used with Tysons unless the numbers "don't work" and then plan b would be to have the taxpayers pay.

    But the "opt-out" is an intriguing concept.

    You could do something like that in a special development district around the projected Tysons boundaries and ….

    now TMT may not like this..

    offer opt-in for folks who properties are not currently commercial property… so you join the district and in turn are given the right to gain commercial zoning status for your property.

    Others who were not interested could opt out.

    Now I'm sure that there are some outcomes I've not thought about.. and TMT can come back and talk about them.

    … by the way.. are you SURE that the opt-out is legal?

    .. we had a similar issue down here and it was my impression that the AG had given an opinion that opt-out was not legal…. but perhaps it was a different kind of a district.

    oops.. just checked.. it was a CDA not a special district.. apparently they're different critters when it comes to opt-out.

    have you got a link TMT?

  27. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry — a link to Route 28. http://www.28freeway.com/index.html

    But then, as in Animal Farm, some pigs are more equal than other pigs.


  28. thanks… that's interesting.. not much in the way of specifics for the financing other than 200 million …

    someone has to go to the bond market to get that money… and bond holders are pretty picky about the "plan" for pay-back especially with regard to how "air-tight" the commitments.

    I don't know my back-end from a whole in the ground more often than not but wouldn't the prospective financiers of said project want to know how many did NOT opt-out…ergo .. if there were enough of the "opt-ins" to repay the notes and some provision to handle the businesses that went under…etc… casualty contingencies…

    just reading the website.. it's not clear who the entity is that will "hold the bag" on the bonds… is it VDOT?

    I think there is probably an interesting story here…

  29. Anonymous Avatar

    "They were given the choice to opt out and have their commercial zoning removed. The remaining owners were given more density and protection against down-zoning. "

    Jeez, that is some choice, isn't it?

    You either play ball or we will turn you into a farm.

    If you do play ball we will treat you diferent from everyone else: we will give you some stuff and promise not to take it back. But, you gotta pay for all the real stuff: the stuff government can't simply grant or grab.


    The existing owners commercial zoning should have been protected, regardless of their decision to join the "new" plan.

    As for the remaining owners, they were not "given" more density: they bought it through promises to support the road construction.

    If we are going to sell zoning, then why not come out and do so? And why not do so in such a way that it benefits the citizens, taking some of the fire out of TMT's belly. Distribute the development rights to all citizens and then let the builders buy what they need, if the citizens will sell them.


    The Rte 28 saga isn't over yet. It remains to be seen whether it winds up better or wrose off as a result of the combination of widening and building. If it works, then those who said you cannot build your way out of congestion will have one data point that says they are wrong.

    But compare what is happening on Rte 28 where the goal is too move people to and from the businesses and airport, to what is happening on Rte 50, where the goal is just the opposite.

    They opened another of th e traffic circles there recently. heading westbound this one is just over the crest of a hill, and the whole circle is slanted towards the west. As a result, when you crest the hill nad enter the circle you do not have a clear view see if there is anyone in the circle you are supoosed to yield to.

    Certainly you cannot see far enough ahead to "negotiate" a zipper merge.

    Rte 28 may yet fail to move the people it needs to move, but at least they will have done their best. Rte 50 is going to fail by design.


  30. on Route 28… why would any of the landowners be "entitled" to Commercial Zoning designation?

    This sounds like a fair deal to me.

    You can get your commercial rezoning without having to go through the normal process or you can choose not to.

    If you took this same process and applied it elsewhere and it worked… then you've found another way to get some infrastructure without having a referenda or tolls or waiting a gazillion years ….for state funding.

    I wonder how much the additional tax will be?

  31. Anonymous Avatar

    "why would any of the landowners be "entitled" to Commercial Zoning designation?

    They would be entitled to that designation if they had it when th bought the property, bacause the value of the property depends on the designation.

    How would you feel if te couty rescinded your residential status, after all we all "know" that it is residential that does not pay.

    Why should your entitlement be more sacrosant than theirs?


  32. do we know if their properties were already up-zoned?

    We have a road widening down here and most of the properties on either side are residential.

    The road was publically funded.

    but it could have been done as a special tax district in exchange for upzoning the properties – and no tax money needed and no waiting for 20 years for funding – which is how long it took to fund that road.

    There are probably other value-added things that could be offered to properties already commercial also.

    The trend in Va for road improvements is moving towards special tax districts because usually when roads need improvements – it means the traffic levels are sufficient for commercial venues and widening pretty much changes the character of the residential anyhow unless they're going to be converted to rentals, etc.

    since the title of this thread is ""The Coming Reset in State Government" – this is one of those things that are going to result if the state does not have new transportation funding and they won't raise gas taxes…

    that work will devolve down to the regional and local level for them to decide how they want to fund such improvements and special tax districts are fair and appropriate IMHO.

    Fair because the people that want/need – decide how they want to satisfy it and appropriate because in they are enjoying an increase in jobs and people buying stuff.. then melding commercial with road improvements can make sense.

  33. Anonymous Avatar

    Ray, I don't understand how any landowner in the Route 28 corridor was treated unfairly. Each had a right to opt in or opt out. Those opting in, paid more, but also got more density than they would have been entitled to, some protection against losing that density, and better transportation. A landowner opting out still could build residential. Why should someone opting out get to build commercial and ride free on the backs of those landowners who paid the higher taxes? It strikes me as one of the few truly fair transportation-land use deals that ever happened in Fairfax County.


  34. I would agree and although I don't understand all the ins and outs of it, especially the nitty-gritty of the financing..

    if this works.. this is a way to bring new infrastructure online when few other reasonable options exist.

    and it basically gets the local people involved in addressing the issue rather than them expecting VDOT to come in and spend a bunch of money that probably came from elsewhere where VDOT has convinced those folks that their project on a list means it will be built "some day".

    this approach is much more realistic and.. more important.. sustainable..over the longer run

  35. Anonymous Avatar

    "Each had a right to opt in or opt out."

    That isn't the way I read it.

    "They were given the choice to opt out and have their commercial zoning removed."

    That is not much of a choice, in my opinion: it is pretty much pay up, or else you lose you rprevious designaion: we'll downzone you.

    On the other hand, if you DO pay up, We'll sell you MORE Commercial Zoning Density AND we'll guarantee you don't get downzoned.

    This part of it is getting pretty close to my previous suggestion, which was that IF IT IS ONLY infrrastructure costs which make people opposed to development, then simply put a price on development that covers the costs. Eliminate the endless hearings, and anyone who pays (enough) can build.

    Then all we have to argue about is the price. In this case the price was ten new overpasses. So that is one data point. When we have enough of them we can establish what people think is a fair price for development.

    In this case zoning was essentially put up for sale. And the sales tactics were pretty effective, you either buy in or lose out on your previous investment.


    But I don't believe for an instant it is just the price that bothers people. If you solve the price issue they will come up with some other argument. The current favorites seem to be historical or environmental value, which are subjectively pridced higher than anything else.


  36. Anonymous Avatar

    "…do we know if their properties were already up-zoned?"

    Ah, yes, so this gets back to our previous argument about when do you start being fair about zoning?
    Why is it OK to use taxpayers money to pay for develpment right today, after hundreds were simply taken through downzoning.

    Yes, as I recall the Rte 28 corridor was (of course) rural at one time, and as Dulles developed more and more parcels became commercial.

    This went on to the point that 28 became a real bottleneck and cause people to miss their flights at the airport. The special tax district was a way around that, and a good one in my opinion.

    I have no problem with people paying to get additional zoning. I have a problem with people who HAD zoning having it taken away without payment.

    I'd have a real problem if someone had zoning that was taken away without payment, and then thirty years later had to pay to buy it back.

    This seems to be a little twist on that: you have zoning, but now you have to pay to get more or else lose what you have.


  37. Anonymous Avatar

    " A landowner opting out still could build residential."

    You would have to be stark raving mad. There is no comparison in value.

    I don't think there is any residential on that corridor. It is giant office buildings, hotels, and malls, airport, and museums.

    There is some residential on the second block back – behind the office buildings.

    The question is, why should you give up anything you already paid for, just because you are not willing or don't have the funds to cough up for more density?

    On the other hand, why should you be allowed to opt out, keep your previous density, and become a free rider?

    This is all a done deal so it doesn't matter anyway, except fo the sake of argument and future planning.

    It looks like everyone opted in, or sold to someone who could.

    Also, there are some huge outfits in there with really deep pockets. Coldwell Banker has a huge brick office building that looks like it is trying to be an English Manor house, or something. They finished it just in time for the real estate crash.

    It would be pretty hard to duplicate what happened there, so I doubt it is a model for your run of the mill strip mall access road.


  38. Anonymous Avatar

    Ray – I see the Route 28 corridor as a model for what should be done at Tysons Corner. The bulk of the benefits of an urban Tysons will flow to a few landowners. They ought to pay for the bulk of the costs of the infrastructure needed to support their density.

    It's expected that Fairfax County will estimate the costs for roads, interchanges and other infrastructure that is necessary for Tysons to grow to 83 million square feet to be in the range of $1.5 to $2 billion. And keep in mind two other things. One, a study shows that the transportation system fails at 83 million square feet. Two, if the County were to limit density to 83 million square feet, the landowners would scream and do much worse. They want 220 million square feet, but might settle for 150-160 million square feet.

    There's no way in hell that the landowners would pay 80% of $1.5 to $2 billion. Many of them are near foreclosure or bankruptcy on their financing.

    So why are they still pushing for more density? For density that cannot exist without someone plunking down as much as $2 billion over the next 20 years. And then, even if we were to spend that much money, the entire transportation network fails if Tysons is built to 83 million square feet.

    So make them pony up the $1.6 billion (80% of $2 billion). They cannot and will not. Or they can reduce the size of Tysons Corner to a level that can be supported by the landowners paying 80% of what they can afford.


  39. Anonymous Avatar

    " I see the Route 28 corridor as a model for what should be done at Tysons Corner. The bulk of the benefits of an urban Tysons will flow to a few landowners. They ought to pay for the bulk of the costs of the infrastructure needed to support their density."

    I agree.

    Even better would be to find a way to make sure the benefits (and the costs) are more widely distributed. We have recently seen what happens when you compile too much money and power in too few hands.

    It only looks as if they make the investment, take the risks and reap the benefits.

    I think this is a better solution because even if the deveopers pay 100% of their own Cost of Production there will still be External Costs and Government Costs to be considered before you arrive and the Total Cost.

    No matter what else is done, some people will focus solely on the External Costs and argue against the plan on that basis. That is why I see the infrastructure argument as substantially a red herring. Some people don't want anyting to change around them and they are fundamentally opposed to ANY development: infrastructure costs is mostly a convenient argument, even if it has some substance.

    The only way I see to fix that problem is to increase the tangible external benefits. I don't know how to do this, but my idea of having citezens own the developemnt rights which they can sell to developers or not, as they see fit, is one way. Another way would be to issue shares of stock in the companies, proportional to your distance from the site.

    As I say, I don't know how to do this, but there must be some way to defuse the anger. Some way to balance the rights of owners and non-owners, proportionate to their true costs.

    Only the market can do that.

    I recall a conversation with a neighbor in which she stated shw hoped my place would not be developed. I told her I feel the same way, but what would she do if some developer offered her $5million for her place?

    "I'd sell it on the spot", she said.


    Concerning my other argument about vested rights, I found this in a story about another controversial WalMart:

    " The Orange County supervisors, who voted 4 to 1 last month to approve the store, stressed that the 50-acre site had been zoned commercial for decades. That means the owner, an outside investor, has been paying higher taxes than if the site were zoned for homes or farming, so supervisors said he should have the right now to cash in."

    Which is pretty much the argument I have been making. The article goes on to say:

    "The larger community also has rights, though, and in this case the community is the entire nation."

    And this is in reference to the location near the Wilderness Battlefield. I agree they have rights, but they have not invested in them for decades: they have let the owner do that for them.

    While I think it is unfortunate, I don't think the preservationists have much standing at this point, unless they are willing to buy it back.

    If my neighbor got a windfall and her property was developed, I would think that was unfortunate, too, but I don't think I would have much standing, either.


  40. Anonymous Avatar

    How much did the route 28 Corridor cost, and how many landowners are sharing that cost, for how many years?


  41. Anonymous Avatar

    There is no doubt in my mind that Tysons is a special case, in both scale and audacity. It shows why the one size fits all zoning ordince can never work.

    It is another example of how we put zoning in place to control the "big developers" and in the process we only made them bigger.

    What we ought to have is zoning that protects our interests by making sure we get a slice of the pie, and not just the bill for the infrastructure.


  42. I disagree about Tysons being a special case unless you can clearly illustrate how it differs from the Route 28 approach.

    It's not about people getting a "slice of the pie" Ray if the developer or a developer-influence government is the one deciding what your "slice" should be.

    Most folks are not opposed to growth.

    What they are opposed to are the adverse impacts that arise from growth.

    So.. yes.. if growth is going to take an already maxed road system and turn it into gridlock and your idea of the "slice" of pie is that your property has gained in value … and the property owner does not think that is a fair trade..

    then your solution is apparently to VDOT them.. essentially take from them because you disagree about their motivations for opposition.

    Do we know the actual facts about the zoning on the Route 28 issue?

    In general.. your argument about up-zones will lead to this.

    no more upzones without something in return.

    That's where we have got to.

    so.. for those who got their upzones.. great.. but there won't be any more of that because of folks like you.

    from now on.. by-right will be limited and more and more restrictions put on it to close off back-door attempts to develop the land in ways that vampire public infrastructure.

    That's what's going on with Tysons.

    You essentially have the developer telling folks that they are getting a "good deal" and should be content… and if they are not.. then instead of actually working to an agreement..they want to go get the government to agree with the developer and impose that solution on people who are opposed to it.

    You seem to think the property rights only applies to people who want to develop their property and not other property owners who will be affected by it.

    And no this is not a situation where some have 'already got theirs" because in this case, the developers have what the others do – already developed property – and what they want to do is build more dense – and you side with the property owners who want to further develop over the other property owners who do not want to.

    in effect – the "stealing" that you talk about…

  43. Anonymous Avatar

    "Most folks are not opposed to growth. "

    Funny, I heven't met one yet. Not on Martha's Vineyard and again not in Fauquier.

    I have met a few people who say "I'm not opposed to growth, but ….." and the ….. is a string of conditions that make growth impossible, or a LOT more expensive.

    I think the difference between Rte 28 and Tyosons is that Tysons is a LOT bigger in square feet of density and a LOT smaller in square feet of real estate.

    To make Tysons work you need to Terraform the entire area and ALL its infrastructure. By comparison Rte 28 is a simple road improvement, and anything esle is peanuts.

    No, I think Tysons is in a class by itself. Tysons is already the largest city in the state, and when this is finished it will be as big as Philadelphia.

    Nah, compared to the usual zoning dispute, Tysons is in a class by itself, but it is useful because it magnifies all that is wrong with our current approach to property rights and development rights.


  44. "magnifies" the property rights issue

    I agree.. and I asked…

    if you have two property owners of developed land and one of them wants to develop it to a more dense, more intensive use then why would you favor his right to do that over the adjacent property owner who will be subject to the adverse impacts of higher intensity use?

    Ray.. if people were opposed to growth, please explain why Fairfax looks like it does right now?

    your opinion about this is so totally out of whack with regard to obvious realities that you have zip credibility on the issue.

    but answer the Tysons's question.

    why should one property owner be allowed to do something that adversely impacts his neighbor?

    because that's the essence of the opposition when you get right down to it.

    If the prospective use would not adversely affect others.. then they would not have a problem.

    and this describes virtually 99% of Fairfax and the surrounding counties other than yours.

    I don't think using Facquier as a template for growth issue in Fairfax makes any sense what-so-ever..

  45. Anonymous Avatar

    "and you side with the property owners who want to further develop over the other property owners who do not want to."

    I'm not siding with anybody. I never said a word about propertyowners wo want to FURTHER develop. Only property owners who have their values reduced on account of government action.

    I do not believe all the hype about the grat things development will bring, nor do I beleive all the doom and gloom that others bring to the development hearings.

    My argument is that we would have a lot less argument about these things if 1) We protected people's property rights to begin with, so there is a clear understanding that naysayers do not control other people through numbers or volume.

    2) We do a lot better job of MEASURING the effects and costs of different options, so that every hearing doesn't boil down to an expression of opinion.

    As it stands now we can REQUIRE a report from a traffic or soils engineer, only to have it thrown out if some official or enough people "disagree" with it.

    It is outlandish. We put more calculation, thoughtful effort, and trade studies into your average yacht design than we do into zoning.


  46. Anonymous Avatar

    " then why would you favor his right to do that over the adjacent property owner who will be subject to the adverse impacts of higher intensity use?"

    I would not, and never suggested such a thing.

    But I would require the SAME level of proof concerning adverse impacts as I would require for positive ones.

    Right now we do not have the hard evidence needed. We like to blame new developement for rising taxes, but we have no baseline that says how much taxes are enough. We do not know how much more we need to pay for new infrastructure vs how much to keep up and improve our old.

    In your statement you simply assume there are adverse effects, while ignoring that there might be good ones, or you assume the bad outweigh the good.

    This is all part of the AFT COCS studies and other similar actions that have led to the widespread belief that development is bad, particularly residential development.

    But it has gotten so crazy that now even agricultural development is considered bad: God forbid you should have a successful winery or even a good farm stand.

    We have gone so political that we will no longer allow facts to intrude on our opinion.

    Pierce Homer recently said that funding our roads with sales taxes on cars and gas tax wasn't a good business model.

    OK, we wanted people to drive less and consume less, but when they did it bankrupted our present plan for user fees. But that is because they have not been adjusted in thirty years, not because the business model is fundamentally wrong. (It is, but that's beside the point).

    Where will the money come from it it doesn't come from auto users? (A moot question since there is vertually no one who is not an auto user.)

    In the end we will wind up with a mileage tax, and a whole new bureacracy to collect it. Why? Because we have a few idiots who have a strictly political opposition to "raising the gas tax".

    And they will die with that political belief in hand, and take our Commonwealth with them, in spite of the easily provable fact that $/ mile * Miles/gallon = $/gallon.

    The situation regarding the political belief in the "adverse effects" of higher density use is just as stupid.

    The fact taht Fairfax exists as it does is NOT evidence that people ar NOT opposed to growth. Instead it is evidence that the value of growth is higher than the value opposition can put on the adverse effects.

    And it isn't that there aren't any. There are plenty, but we have not agreed on how to measure them. Once we put the proper price on adverse effects, in a way that we can all agree on, THEN we can agree on how much is "too much" development.

    So, adverse effects (or protection therefrom) is one of the bundle of sticks you own as part of your property. But that means you have to buy and pay for certain protections. So if your deed does not say that you are protected from your neighbor subdividing (as preveiously agreed), then you are not protected.

    On the other hand, if your neighbor wants to subdivide (as not previously agreed), then you are protected.

    But he is protected too, because he can offer to buy that right from you, which you can refuse.


    We will have a record in the deedd book of everyone who ever sold those rights, so it won;t be too hard to decide what is a reasonable offer and what isn't.

    Or what is a reasonable refusal and what isn't.

    Right now, there is no price on a reasonable refusal. Any refusal is deemed reasonable and so it is the developer who is ata disadvantage to the developee.


  47. Anonymous Avatar

    You constantly think I am siding with the developers, when all I'm after is finding an objective way to determine what is fair as opposed to assuming, one way or the other, or taking an opinion, even if it is the opnion of many over one.

    The only thing I can figure from your attacks on my suggestions on how to measure "fair" is that you consider "fair" to be disadvantageous from where you are now.

    In other words, you know that those of your persuasion have an unfair advantage, and you intend to keep it.

    Growth still manages to happen, in spite of all the opposition. The opposition just makes it more expensive, slower, and probably someplace else. Unless we KNOW how much more expensive, how much slower, and how much someplace else, we cannot know what the cost is of allowing (too much) free opposition.

    I don't like to see the big developers move in and mow a place down any more than the next person, but the more opposition we put up the more likely it is that the big guys will be the ones to succeed.

    An application for development is essentially an invitation for opposition. But most of the costs fall on the applicants side. We can even that up by obtaining fees for opposition, with the funding going to conservation efforts.

    If we ever have enough conservation, we won't need the opposition. That would be because we respect property rights, and now we own most of them.

    The only downside is that now that we onw them, we have to pay for the upkeep. We can't be like the preservationists in Orange that did nothing for decades while an owner paid commercial taxes on his property, only to come out of the Wilderness when he finally decided to build.

    It's really tough when things are fair.


  48. … " you assume the bad outweigh the good."

    not true. It is the responsibility of the applicant to do a study that shows the level of service before and after his development.

    that's HIS responsibility as a pre-condition to further consideration of his proposal.

    that's the issue in Tysons.

    it's NOT based on what people "think".. it's based on the data and the facts…

    what you don't agree with is who gets to decide whether or not the benefits outweigh the adverse

    and the fact is that such things are in the eyes of the beholder.

    the guy who want the more intensive use can say that one's property is more valuable but that property owner does not want a higher value, higher taxes and more traffic.

    He view is that the benefits do not outweigh the adverse.

    There is no way you can change this.

    There is no independent 3rd party who can decide what the true "value" is or not.

    So.. it's up to the person who want to make the changes to demonstrate to the satisfaction of those affected that the benefits are worth the change.

    simply stated – you can likely build something next door that is of the same scope and scale of the adjacent properties but you will not be able to dramatically alter the use of the property over and above the adjacent uses unless again.. those affected.. decide it's acceptable in THEIR eyes.

    so the way this works is that one property owner has to convince the adjacent property owner that the planned uses will not adversely affect them.

    This is where your zoning laws and restrictions come from – not from people opposed to any/all growth.

    It comes from people who do not want a metal stamping business next to their bedroom window.

    and you can go on and on and name all the potential uses that would be considered to be "adverse" – and in fact, in many localities the "by-right" use is only for the base zoning and any/all uses above a threshold require a special use permit.

    again.. this is because – over the years – it's become apparent that one "beneficial" use in the eyes of one owner is another owners nightmare use.

    In the Tysons Case, people are not opposed to the development because they are opposed to "growth" i.e. in your words "someone else getting a good deal".

    The are opposed because of the impacts that are shown in the studies – and how those impacts will be mitigated and who will pay for them.

    The Tysons issue is EXACTLY the basic issue about adverse impact from development and the "right" of the property owner to develop verses other property owners rights to not be adversely impacted.

  49. Anonymous Avatar

    I just read a draft op-ed piece by a friend of mine who is following Tysons even more closely than I. He's used information in Fairfax County documents that explains the need to expand the Dulles Toll Road from eight to thirteen lanes just in order to handle expansion of Tysons from 45 million square feet to 83 million square feet. It also would require three more interchanges on the Toll Road.

    I was skeptical, but he gave me references to the Tysons documents on the Fairfax County website. Sure enough, the Dulles Toll Road would need five new lanes.

    Clearly, the landowners at Tysons and not the commuters ought to pay for this foolishness. Actually, it's time for the Fairfax supervisors to pull the plug on the Task Force and its foolishness.


  50. Anonymous Avatar

    ":It is the responsibility of the applicant to do a study that shows the level of service before and after his development."

    Given that we e talking about someone who wants MORE density than ordinarily allowed, I agree.

    And yet anyone can go to the meeting and say "there is too much traffic" without any study at all.

    And since the applicant pays for the study they are always suspect. They can be, and are, simple rejected out of hand. That is what happened tome with my soils study that I paid good money for – for no reason.

    Then I paid more good money to have a foundation engineered, designed, and built for poor soils, where there was none.

    There is no FAIR standard of proof.

    As you point out, the burden is on the applicant, which simply proves my point: fairness and reasonable action is not intended to be part of the process.

    The supervsors in Orange showed a rare bit of decency, in the face of public dissent, when they pointed ot hat the owner hd pad taxes on the vacant land for decades.

    What I see more usually is someone submits a plan according to the rules, and by the time he is done the plan is cut in half.

    You can't convince me on this, because I was once on the other side. I went to a hearing and made a passionate speech againt a proposed development. I had a supportive audience so it wasn't too hard to whip them into a frenzy.

    The development was turned down on the strngth of my speech, which I realized later had zero merit as far as the facts went. All I had to do was attack a nefarious developer personally. I didn't even live in that town and I had no standing to even speak, but I got away with it.

    The developer told me later how unfair my attack was, and he was right: he had a lot of money sunk in it and it took me 10 minutes to torpedo him. He died before his plans came to fruition, and the town eventually bought the land for public use.

    That kind of process is broken and needs to be fixed: replaced with an objective system.


  51. Anonymous Avatar

    Thirteen lanes, plus a rail system.

    How insane is that?

    Why does all that activity need to be in one place?

    The lunatics are running the asylum.


  52. Anonymous Avatar

    Bingo — Ray, you have it down cold. Remember Orwell's Animal Farm? All animals are equal, but some are more equal than other. And they make campaign contributions. How do you think Gerry Connolly assembled his war chest that got him elected to Congress?

    But where are the landowners from the other parts of Fairfax County, who will pay directly or indirectly to transfer wealth to their competitors at Tysons? Those buffoons are nodding up and down. "We gotta stick together. What's good for those Tysons guys must be good for us."


  53. …" And since the applicant pays for the study they are always suspect."

    nope. they provide the money for the study and someone else chooses the independent company.

  54. It's up to the developer to prove via independent data to a set of level of service standards what the impacts are and then for those impacted to share their opinion of whether the impacts result in too much degradation for what is claimed as benefits.

    you continue to confuse local ordinances and procedures on things like soils … with the bigger issues of land development and the wider scope impacts on other properties.

    this does not boost your credibility Ray.

    Keep these things separate.

    Don't mix apples with oranges.

    Tysons Corner is not comparable in any way, shape or form to your soil issue.

  55. " Thirteen lanes, plus a rail system.

    How insane is that?

    Why does all that activity need to be in one place?

    The lunatics are running the asylum."

    is that your response to new development proposals in general?

    Please differentiate why you feel this way about the Tysons issue in terms of impacts and not that way for the impacts that would accrue from any other increased density proposal?

    The protocol should be the same -no?

    You have an independent firm analyze the proposal and lay out the impacts

    then the developer proposes his response and mitigation to those impacts.

    then the other affected property owners through their elected government decide if the benefits outweigh the impacts.

    the reason this does not always work this way is because for the most part the developers themselves often try to evade the basic protocol of properly establishing the impacts… and how they will be handled and by who.

    This is part of the issue with the Tysons proposal…

    first the citizens had to fight to get the impacts properly documented…

    then the developer wanted the county (the taxpayers) to either pick up some of the cost or allow degradation of the existing levels-of-service.

    the so-called "task force" was viewed by some as a not-so-subtle rope-a-dope approach to obfuscate what should be a fairly straight forward process.

    For myself.. I do wonder how a city – becomes a city where the levels of service are accepted to be different than the less intensive uses that preceded it's use as a "city".

    I don't know how that works.

    and to a certain extent, that is in my view… the essence of the Tysons proposal.

    It's essentially a proposal to create a city out of a suburban landscape… and if you judge it on that basis – we'd not have the ability to "grow" new cities…

    But still, at the end of the day, it is up to the folks who live in that area to decide if they want it to be a city or not… as much as it is up to the developer to insist that it should be.

    both sides – are property owners.

  56. Anonymous Avatar

    you continue to confuse local ordinances and procedures on things like soils …

    I picked it as an example only because it was one I was familiar with. I paid for a study, and it ws thrown out. No one else selected the (ell known and respected) engineering firm for me.

    I have heard plenty of people in hearings complaining about biased studies.

    I dont buy your argument.


  57. your personal experience in Facquier is not a valid template for how growth issues are handled on a much larger scale in places like Fairfax.

    Using your experience as anecdotal "evidence" of how the process is wrong.. is itself wrong.

    Everyone and their dog realizes that when the person making the proposal has a study done that he has self-interest involved and thus the study should not be trusted.

    If someone really wanted to provide an objective 3rd party opinion of their proposal – they provide the money such that someone else can choose who to do the study.

    or.. in your case.. you ask the folks who will consider your request WHO they would consider an objective source to do the study.

    and on bigger projects, citizens can force this to happen by having their own study done to rebut the developers study – so then the government is forced to find a more objective 3rd party to resolve the differences between the two biased studies.

    Finally – in most fields there are standardized protocols for various kinds of studies.

    When someone brings a 'study' to the table that is not standardized.. it's a pretty good tip-off that the conclusions of it deserve much more scrutiny than otherwise.

  58. Anonymous Avatar

    "it is up to the folks who live in that area to decide if they want it to be a city or not.."

    So, if a million people vote that they want to move to Delaplane the 600 Delaplane residents have the right to veto that idea?


  59. Anonymous Avatar

    "Please differentiate why you feel this way about the Tysons issue in terms of impacts and not that way for the impacts that would accrue from any other increased density proposal?

    The protocol should be the same -no?"

    Yes: Does this proposal result in a net public benefit such that the losers can be compensated by the winners.

    That is nowhere near how the protocol works now, especially as you describe it.

    I'm pretty sure that the costs go up like the square of the density or something like that. so the protocolfor approving Tyson OUGHT to be a lot different than the protocol for me building one additonal house on the farm.

    But it isn't.


  60. Anonymous Avatar

    in your case.. you ask the folks who will consider your request WHO they would consider an objective source to do the study.

    In my case it would not have mattered WHO made the study.

    GOD could have done it and it would still have been rejected.

    I had a well respected engineering firm which has done thousands of studies submitted to the county.

    An engineer's professional opinion based on measurements in the field was overuled by a third world temporaray placement bureacrat who didn't know his ass from his elbow while sitting behind his desk.

    It cost me ten grand and two months FOR NOTHING.

    Had the county hired another engineering firm and sent another drill truck tha found different evidence, then they would have standing, but they didn't.

    They just crapped on my head because they could. Nobody benefited: it was wasted government activity.

    It was a pure power play, and if you ask me, they were noodling for a bribe.


  61. Anonymous Avatar

    Not only that, but when the issue first came up (because some other homes located a couple of miles away had a problem), I ASKED the county what my options were and the TOLD me to get a soils engineer to approve the site. Presumably, if that happened they would sign off on it.

    The DIDN'T tell me that after ai paid for the report they would (or could) reject it, out of hand.

    The COULD have told me but DIDN'T that the real result they would accept was to have a special (and unecessary) foundation built.

    That would have still cost me money unecessarily, but it would have saved the cost of the rejected soils report.

    While this example is trivial compared to the kind of studies we are talking aobut here, the process of being whipsawn by bureaucrats is similar. And frequently this is a deliberate tactic, used in the hopes that developers will give up and go someplace else.

    So, if someone ever wants a home where the foundation can double as a bomb shelter: I've got just the place. Thanks to the county morons, my foundation literally, has more steel reinforcement in it than the rocket test bays where I work.



  62. Anonymous Avatar

    "…you can likely build something next door that is of the same scope and scale of the adjacent properties but you will not be able to dramatically alter the use of the property over and above the adjacent uses unless again.. those affected.. decide it's acceptable in THEIR eyes."

    And that is exactly the problem. They should NOT have veto power over someone else's property. that decision needs to be made by government objectively, based on merit and without interference from the neighbors.

    We need property rights that are enforced in such a way that the neighbors understand A)that what happensnext door is NOT up to them, and B) when they decide to do something their plans are EQUALLY not subject to veto by the neighboring non-owners.

    And once we get to that point there wll be a whole lot less posturing, aggravation, exaggeration, and machination. We will have a system that is fair, transparent and predictable: you either meet the requirements or you don't.

    I really don't care wht the requiremtns are: set them so high that building anything is fundamentally impossible, or the fees soo high that everything pays for itself, if you want.

    But don't then claim that we have nothing against development, or be surprised when it stops. And if someone shows up and MEETS the requirements, shut up and let him proceed. Don't then start the tactic of delay, obfuscate, aggravate, and confuse, inthe hopes that he will go away.

    The Tysons plan is clearly far outside the scope of anything planned for the area, and it should have been rejected outright. The only reaon it is remotely still in play is that the likely opponents are strung out on the opium of train transit.


  63. Anonymous Avatar

    "Everyone and their dog realizes that when the person making the proposal has a study done that he has self-interest involved and thus the study should not be trusted."

    Didn't you just say the applicant puts up the money and a third party picks the engineers to do the study?

    Why require the study to be done if you then allow non-experts to repudiate it?


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