Op-Ed: Robbing Peter to pay Paul

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Diane Pottinger, P.E. is the Distirct Manager of the North City Water District, which serves Shoreline east of I-5 and an eastern section of Lake Forest Park.

Remember the Skagit River Bridge collapse, when every media outlet couldn’t stop talking about our state’s serious infrastructure problem? Fast forward three years, and our legislators are considering eliminating funds and the funding source that were dedicated to infrastructure improvements.

Known as the Public Works Trust Fund, this source of funding has enabled over $2.6 billion in infrastructure improvements since 1985 — including 21 low interest loans for $23 million dollars of infrastructure projects right here in Shoreline and Lake Forest Park. The Public Works Trust Fund is key to helping us to keep rates low for water, sewer and stormwater services.

What caused our legislators’ priorities to shift, even though our infrastructure is still in crisis? Two words: educational funding.

Robbing Peter to pay Paul: what schools, bridges, and water systems have in common.

We at North City Water District are huge supporters of schools, and recognize the serious financial crisis that our educational system is facing. Something must absolutely be done. However, taking funding away from infrastructure does not seem wise, nor is it a sustainable solution.

Without funding for infrastructure repair and upgrade, the safety of bridges (over which school buses traverse), the safety of our water system (from which our children drink), and the safe removal of waste from homes, businesses and schools are all at risk—and no less critical to our childrens’ well-being—especially when you consider the risk of an aging infrastructure during a major emergency event like an earthquake.

Sadly, the “invisibility factor” of infrastructure (the majority of which is underground) has led to Public Works Trust Funds being diverted to other uses: this was the 7th year in a row that legislators used money from this fund to balance the budget, hoping that infrastructure systems will keep functioning with minimal or emergency-only attention.

Here at North City Water District, we believe a significant reduction in financing for infrastructure improvements is not the best way to address the financial shortfall in our educational system. We believe BOTH education AND infrastructure are imperative to the well-being of our children and our state.

If you too feel that infrastructure and schools are important, we urge you to contact your Legislator.


Sydell Polin, Retired GM Ronald WW District,  June 1, 2016 at 10:52 PM  

I was a charter member of the 1st Public Works Trust Fund and a member of the think tank that created it. It's goal was to provide low interest loans to cities and special districts for infrastructure repairs. It was managed by very professional state staff for approximately 30 years and because of the recycling of the loan paybacks it grew and at the same time it helped to benefit ratepayers with lower rates. There is no question that education needs funding but the state needs a new creative approach to find a solution.

Dave Lange, Ridgecrest,  June 7, 2016 at 8:16 PM  

Another example is Sound Transit using utility money to move a pump station off of 145th (and 5th) so that buses can make it into a poorly designed light rail station. Sound Transit thinks the 145th station is a destination for the north shore tri-cities when the same bus heading up Aurora would greatly benefit the density and transit options forming on Aurora (such as serving City Hall). The same mis-step with the pump station forces poor pedestrian access to the station and through the highway interchange. So much for integrating with the neighborhood.

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