Friday, January 26, 2007

Transportation

Here are a couple of issues that have nothing and yet everything to do with one another.

1. In the days since the SOTU, there has been quite a bit of talk about what constitutes a reasonable energy plan. There do, however, seem to be two distinct camps on the energy required for driving our vehicles. Charles Krauthammer is part of the contingent that wants to raise gasoline taxes thereby lowering consumption.

The other side of the argument is well-represented by blogger Kevin Drum. He suggests that huge increases in gasoline prices in 2005-2006 did little to affect consumption, so a tax probably won't do much either. Instead, he wants to raise minimum fuel efficiency standards. That is fine, but then it becomes cheaper in relative terms to drive. That could in turn increase consumption, which is not at all what we want to do.

There are merits to each of these plans, but both seem like partial solutions at best. My question is why we couldn't combine both ideas to achieve maximum effect with minimum impact on Americans who depend on their vehicles. My very simple (and most likely naive) notion is that we raise mileage standards and gasoline taxes congruently. You can drive more miles on a tank of gasoline that also costs you more money. In the end, your price per mile driven changes very little - theoretically allowing people to drive similar quantities on less fuel. Is there a reason why I should be reprimanded for stupidity here?

2. I have several friends who are staunch supporters of Mark Funkhouser for Kansas City mayor. I have told each of them that their opinion means a lot to me, but I need to be convinced by the candidates themselves. I have never had a doubt that Funkhouser is likely the strongest candidate in the field concerning policy and financial understanding. I have been concerned, however, about his vision for the city. Hearing him speak on television and radio about Kansas City's future has been frustrating at times. I know that he is trying to set realistic expectations, but at times realism seems to give way to morosity. I really do want a realistic plan for the city, but I also want it to feel like progress.

Anyway, a transportation question posed by the star about the light rail system has possibly turned the tide in Funkhouser's favor. I read the responses by each candidate, and Funkhouser seemed the only one ready to deal with this issue today. He gave more than a perfunctory answer to the question, which is more than most candidates. More importantly he acknowledged challenges, but also laid out specifics in a way that inspired confidence in the future. Well done.

3 comments:

joe said...

Hi Jeff,

I'm a local blogger who's helping Funkhouser on his campaign. It's so hard to answer this vision question, because there or so many ways to approach it. And with a candidate like Mark, with all the in-depth studies of City Hall that he's done, it's real easy to get into incrediibly detailed specifics. But not on a campaign, where all you can really count on is a soundbite.

So I think the best way to sum it up is through his campaign slogan. His vision is:

Clean, safe neighborhoods
In a city that works
For regular folks

To get there, he's stated that his number-one priority is to improve citizen satisfaction with city services.

And to do that he's aiming at a whole sale change in the leadership culture at City Hall.

What does that mean?

Well, above all I it means, frankly, no more running the city behind closed doors to benefit the few and the well-connected.

I know those sound like kind of abstract ideas. It's nothing specific like a 1,000-room hotel or a certain number of residences downtwn by 2008.

But, honestly, those things aren't necessarily histo decide. When he says he wants a city for regular folks, he means it. And by definition that precludes him from anouncing his specific plan and vision, because his plan and vision is to make OUR plan and viision reality.

(Sorry to campaign on your site. But you were kind of asking for answers. I hope I helped a little.)

Jim said...

Thanks for the comment John,

I'm kidding I know you're Joe, and I'm actually Jim by the way. Thanks for the campaign slogan. I hadn't heard it yet. I think it represents what I have heard from Funkhouser.

The concern I posed in the post, however, is not alleviated by that slogan. My interest is in hearing how clean, safe neighborhoods in a working city represent progress. Now I know the answer to that statement. But the point is that I want a mayor to attach the big picture benefit. Will this better operated city give us more community, be helpful to families, something else? I feel as though I'm getting the features when what I want are the benefits. I think improved citizen satisfaction is a noble goal, but what does that really mean. I guess what I am advocating is a message that revolves around better lives for the citizens, not around the tools that will provide the better lives. I know it doesn't seem like a big difference, but I think it is an important one.

Dan said...

I invited your spouse to a Funkhouser meet and greet on 2/8, but I don't think I have a current email for you. Meet him, ask him your questions, and get on board!

 

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