Neither Business Nor the Economy Is Driven by Rationality

By Morning Fizz July 3, 2009

fizz30Letters, Part 1 : As we reported Wednesday , more than a dozen prominent bike and pedestrian advocates signed on to a letter to the mayor and city council opposing the proposed repeal of the so-called "head tax"—a $25-per-employee tax that exempts employees who don't drive to work alone.

Yesterday, council member Richard Conlin, who's running for reelection, defended his support for repealing the tax. His argument: Yes, the tax brings in money for bike and pedestrian projects (among other transportation projects), and no, it's not very expensive, but it sends a message that Seattle doesn't like small businesses—and "symbolism counts."
It does bring in some cash, and the amount per employee is pretty symbolic, but neither business nor the economy is driven by rationality, so the amount for businesses is less important than the perception that this is a positive business climate step. We do not believe that there will be any significant change in transportation investments as a result, and I will not personally support any reduction in bike and ped projects as part of any modest reductions that might be proposed (which are likely to be simply stretching out the schedule for some major projects).

As it happens, symbolism counts in economic decision-making -- I know we all have this concept of hard-headed business people who only care about the bottom line, but the fact is that perception matters, and "business climate", rational or not, is a consideration for folks.

Letters, Part 2 : North Seattle activist Faye Garneau—head of the Aurora Avenue Merchants Association and a longtime player in city politics—wrote an angry letter to city council member Tim Burgess opposing his proposed nuisance ordinance , which would allow the city to penalize property owners for things like drug dealing and graffiti.

Among her complaints (all descriptions of the legislation are Garneau's, as Burgess has not yet released a draft): The fact that the ordinance allows the city to implement "abatement proceedings" against a business for activities that "do not even constitute 'nuisances' under State Law"; the fact that businesses can be shut down or otherwise penalized without a hearing; and the fact that the ordinance allows the city to fine business owners $500 a day plys $25,000 if the chief of police believes the business owner was not "cooperative."

"People are not liable for damage for the wrongs committed by others, except in rare cases of established agency. This proposed ordinance is an obvious attempt to pin liability on people, NOT FOR THEIR OWN ACTIONS, BUT FOR THE ACTIONS OF OTHERS OCCURRING ON THE OWNER'S PROPERTY, WHETHER THE OWNER PARTICIPATED, WAS AWARE, OR NOT. ... PEOPLE ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE PENALIZED FOR THE ACTS OF OTHERS IN OUR COUNTRY."

Book Fizz, courtesy of Book Nerd : This is the last weekend to catch the Jason show at Fantagraphics in Georgetown, including original Jason staples like I Killed Adolf Hitler and The Left Bank Gang . They also have copies on hand of Den Hemmelighetsfulle Mumie (the original Norwegian hardcover edition of Meow, Baby!), as well as his latest book of stories, Low Moon .

Morning Fizz brought to you by Transportation Choices Coalition .

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