Dear Editor:Just what is “good government” on a local level? Is “good government” defined by one of the May initiative ballot questions proposed by the two downvalley lawyerly gentleman concerned with our affordable housing program? They would have every significant upper valley affordable housing project go to the voters for budget approval. It would go something like this: First, the city buys land for affordable housing, spends years and huge sums of money creating FINAL architectural and engineering design; hires a certified public accountant to certify all direct and indirect costs; probably spends years calculating the “off-site” costs, as defined by the two downvalley proponents, which probably includes each project’s effects on global warming; and after years and millions invested, sends a detailed budget by mail to each registered voter for a review by the people. Should the voting public be asked to evaluate reams of information and disinformation on every project? Should the city risk millions, and years on speculative housing projects, dependent on how well-manipulated the vote is at the end?Or is “good government” establishing a community plan, voting to tax ourselves to fund the community plan, purchasing land to implement the plan, voting to confirm a specific site before proceeding, and then holding years of public hearings, after voter approval, to finalize the best plan and budget possible? The above describes exactly what happened over seven years for Burlingame.The irony of the initiative is, after years of careful planning, the budget at Burlingame is more fiscally responsive than anything the city has done in years; $19 million is in the bank to pay for a project with a total subsidy cost for 239 units of $14 million at total buildout, including Phase II (which might never happen). The subsidy cost per bedroom is one-fifth what the city has paid in the past.Come on, reality often takes a beating around here, but can’t we just address the question? This isn’t about “good government,” it’s about effectively ending any future affordable housing projects. The two downvalley gentlemen sponsoring these “good government” questions have every right to disagree with our upvalley plan for affordable housing, every right to try to stop Burlingame, every right to bring anything they want to voters. Many citizens question the benefits of affordable housing, and many only live here due to its existence. Too bad we can’t just vote on the real question about whether we want affordable housing or not, and go on with life instead of wasting so much time and energy on fabricated distractions. Oh, yeah, now I remember, we already did vote on housing at Burlingame! If we vote no twice in May, which is another two yes votes for Burlingame, is that enough? Three for three, if yet another petition forces an August vote? Four for four, if we include the vote four years ago? Will we ever exhaust our penchant for neverendums? Both phases of Burlingame actually get the city close to its long-term housing goals and solves the problem for at least five years. What would we argue about if the housing program succeeds? By the way, all the budget/density/open space/impact information has been available for months at City Hall if anyone is interested in the real numbers.Tim SemrauAspen
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