Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Road Less Traveled....

As I was returning to my office this morning from the Urban Land Institute meeting in the Grove Hotel I noticed something. After a full morning of discussions regarding how we are going to fund more transportation infrastructure (i.e. raising this tax or that fee) I suddenly realised that I seemed to be going almost twice as fast going back to the office at 11:00 am than when I came to the meeting at 7:30 am...

We discussed local option sales tax increases of up to 1 cent, increasing registrations, increasing fuel taxes, increasing property taxes... the "increasing" discussions seemed to be never ending. Everyone seemed to have a plan to fix our woes with some sort of increased taxes. We know that we have issues that need to be funded, but it was not until Gov. Otter's Chief of Staff (Jeff Malman) got up and mentioned that we are now also working on how we can better spend the dollars we do have... I know it's easier to just raise a tax here or there and throw money at the issue, but if we are not spending the money we have wisely, aren't we putting a band aid on the real problems?

Getting back to my drive back to the office... why was it that I had a much easier commute back to Meridian later in the day than I had to Boise in the Morning? Well anyone and everyone knows it's because we all need to get to work in the morning and then come home at night at about the same time.

This lead me to think that we might also have "social engineering" issue that compounds our infrastructure issue. Why do we all (repeat... ALL) need to use our roads at the same time? Typically it's due to local business desires to have their folks change shift or start their work day all about the same time.

We do have infrastructure issues that need funding and we are going to have to find those dollars somehwere. Within the mix of "increased tax solutions" that are on the table, shouldn't we consider some "social engineering solutions" as well? Just how much would it cost the state to provide incentives to business encouraging/requiring "flex" hours or a change their shift schedules to times outside of the standard morning and evening commutes? Can we compare this cost of influencing our social behavior to the millions we are talking about spending for (in the Treasure Valley) 4 to 5 hour period each day that our roads are jammed with traffic... ?

As an example, how many people at Micron alone are beside us in traffic the mornings trying to get to work? What if a company the size of Micron were to move their shift change from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm to say... 9:00 am to 9:00 pm? And what if they were to encourage their normal "8 - 5'rs" into a more flexible schedule? That single action alone could take thousands of cars out of the early morning and evening commutes and spread the higher utilization of the roadways over a larger period of time. Less time commuting means less impact on our air quality, better fuel economy and happier drivers.

Employers aren't going to resolve our lack of funding issues, but do play a major role in why we have traffic issues at certain times of every day. I hate to see us pay for and build a huge infrastructure that will only be flexed 4 to 5 hours of every day because we choose to be inflexable in our travel requirements.

We need to put some "social engineering" options on that table to resolve our transportation issues... it's going to take a package of things, this needs to be one that's considered.


Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Sen. Larry Craig made a bad call...

I hate to say it, but it's true and he is totally aware of that now... and thanks to a tremendous amount of media coverage, so are we.

Here is an Idahoan that has dedicated over 27 years of his life to public service... and he made a "bad call" in the airport when he plead guilty to ridiculous charges in the hopes that the issue would not be blown out of proportion and would go away.

I only spent 20 years in public service in the Navy where I too made a few "bad calls". Calls I wish I would not have made in hindsight, but calls that I still had to live with and recover from while still doing my best at my job.

It always seemed at the time "one bad call" wiped out all those "atta-boys" that were so seldom recognized as it was... Until there was another issue for my peers to focus on, when the "bad call spotlight" would turn and focus on someone else, all the "brew-ha-ha" just seemed not so important to them anymore.

Have we have become a nation of living for what's important only in the next second?...

I can tell you that in my 20 years I moved 21 times and when I retired, I came back home to Idaho $20,000.00 in debt, only with a 1972 Chevy pickup & camper to my name. I spent what most believe are one's "most productive business" years in public service, but I wasn't poor... no, I can't think of a better place to serve, make such a difference, gain life long friends and get such great training for only $1,000.00 per year...

Larry Craig's has not dedicated his "most productive business years" serving the public interest to get rich. I appreciate his initiative and his families sacrifice, even more so now. One doesn't stay that long in public office in Idaho or Washington D.C. without being effective at what he does.

I'm sure he is not a monetarily rich man, he sacrificed that in lieu of other "riches". He has enriched not only his life by his accomplishments, but the lives of all Idahoans through the huge differences he's made in shaping our state and our nation governments over those 27 years. Have we always agreed? No, but I am very grateful for his dedicated service, he stepped up and always did what he thought was best, regardless of the criticism.

I hope he finishes his "tour" and continues to make the best "calls" he can for our state. I am sure that history will treat him well... He is deserving of that, despite "one bad call"...