My View – Wayne Snoey
Thoughts about Covington, Regional Issues and Real Estate Trends
I haven’t written in a while because this has been an incredibly busy year. A few years ago, I committed to a strenuous schedule to help further transportation solutions in our region. I serve as a Council Member for the City of Covington. This creates numerous commitments in and around the community. In addition, I serve or have served on several other organizations that consist of elected officials. This includes the King County Flood Control Advisory Committee, the SE County Area Transportation Solutions Coalition (SEATS), the Executive Board of the Puget Sound Regional Council and the South County Area Transportation Board (SCATBd).
For the last two years, I represented the Suburban Cities Association (SCA), as one of two South King County representatives, on the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) Executive Board. My partner South King representative is Mayor Peter Lewis of Auburn. Covington and most of the cities (37) in King County outside of Seattle are members of SCA. SCA gets to appoint regional representatives to the PSRC Executive Board. Many are not familiar with the Puget Sound Regional Council. It is a federally required “Metropolitan Planning Organization” (MPO). Members are King, Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap counties along with all cities contained within. It includes other members affecting growth in this area such as WSDOT and the Washington State Transportation Commission. In short, all growth and transportation issues in these 4 counties must be approved by the Executive Board. While this may be boring to most, be aware that many aspects of your life are approved or denied by this organization! I am just finishing my two year term and it has been a great honor to serve on this Board.
For the last 4 years, I served as Covington’s representative to the South County Area Transportation Board (SCATBd). This group is not about skate boarding, even though it has the interesting name. King County is divided into three subareas with the resulting three organizations chartered to study and comment on all transportation issues within or adjacent to those areas. This broad responsibility requires extensive reading and study of transportation issues affecting roads, transit, rail, freight mobility, growth issues and more. Three years ago, I was elected Vice-Chair by the Members. Two years ago, I was elected Chair. Normally the Chair changes every year, but this year I was honored to be elected Chair for the 2nd year in a row.
SCATBd is the largest of the three subareas in King County. South King County is the largest freight, manufacturing and industrial center in the Pacific Northwest. SCATBd consists of:
- 16 Cities
- Portions of Two Counties
- Three Transit Agencies
- The Port of Seattle.
- All or portions of 9 State Legislative Districts.
- 650,000 People
- 35% of County Population
- Over 300,000 Jobs!
To be an effective Chair of SCATBd requires a lot of work. There are often daily emails to respond to, many meetings to attend, agendas to prepare, people to talk to and volumes of reading. Meeting with Legislators to promote the transporation needs of South King County was a laborious process this last Session. There are 45 members of the House and Senate Transportation Committees. I met with almost all the Legislators from our region and either the Legislator or their staff of the rest of the members of these Committees. The value was that the needs of our South King County cities were loudly heard. As we go into the 2012 Legislative Session, the groundwork has been laid for strong consideration of South King County needs. Thousands of jobs are at risk if we fail to improve our transportation system!
If this brief description sounds like it has been a lot of work, it has been. Unfortunately, it has collided with a contining Recession which has hit the real estate industry harder than most. As a full-time Broker, the last 4 years have been very difficult for my family along with everyone else in the industry. Some have the idea that being a Council Member helps one’s business or that it is a paying career. The fact is, with the exeception of some larger cities like Seattle and the County, the opposite is true. Many assume that one is actually paid for all the duties I described above. Other than a small stipend ($450 month) that mostly covers gas and expenses, this is volunteer work. Many assume that if one is doing all this community work, they must be doing just fine and don’t need the business. As an elected official, you are are required to make the tough decisions. Some will disagree with and not do business with you as a result. Often you cannot work with some clients so that there is not a conflict of interest. Recently I chatted with a person running for office who told me they were accused of doing so to get more business. I had to laugh and tell them the truth.
I will continue to serve on SCATBd. But now that I am in my last month as Chair and my last month on the PSRC Executive Board, it will give me the opportunity to add these service hours back to my real estate career. Effectively, I have been working seven days a week these last 3 years to get everything done. I value my wife’s patience in putting up with the fractured family time. I value the extensive time I have spent furthering transportation solutions in our region. I will continue to do so as I am able. But, we all know, there is no free lunch. We are still mired in a poor economy and it is time for me to get back to work earning a real living.
I appreciate the positive comments I have received from so many this last year and look forward to a great 2012! We are all in this together.
Following is an cut and paste from an email I received from Kent Youth & Family Services. Maybe you can help these kids have what might be a once in lifetime opportunity. KYFS is a great organization and you will not go wrong supporting them!
KYFS has been presented with an opportunity to have 3-5 of our Outreach kids participate in the “Michael Jordan Flight School” diversity program in Santa Barbara, CA. We feel this represents an outstanding opportunity for our kids to experience a trip away from home. Besides honing their skills at this unique basketball experience, our kids will get to spend some time with Michael Jordan. This is sure to be an amazing opportunity, they will never forget.
KYFS is requesting from our donors and community partners an opportunity to help us assist our Outreach kids in making this dream a reality. The Michael Jordan Flight School is for boys and girl, ages 7-18. There are two different camps running from July 29th – August 2nd and August 3rd – 7th. Registration includes transportation to and from the airport, housing and meals. Our hope is to send three to five kids from our Outreach Program.
I have refused to sign Initiatives for many years now. There are several reasons for this:
- Most are poorly thought out and have unintended consequences.
- They seek voter approval through sound bites, splashy titles or headlines.
- They replace the proper legislative process of debate and compromise that is the backbone of our country.
- They typically support a minority (special interests) that benefits to the detriment of too many others.
- Most create budgetary problems that are not visible to voters.
- They often support a business of creating Initiatives.
I believe that an Initiative should only occur for really BIG things. This might be where a legislative body has become corrupt (not just because we don’t happen to like a decision) or where there is a big change in society and it is a way for citizens to model the change and lead the way. The Initiative process is not in place for a person to create a business from producing them. It certainly is not there just because we don’t want to pay taxes for services we don’t personally use or create a tax just to help an individual or group that can pay for the campaign.
The Constitutional way to change almost everything, in our form of government, is to elect different people to office if the current ones are not doing a good job. The Initiative process too often subverts the intent of the creators of the Federal and State Constitutions. Of all the States, Washington has one of the most liberal Initiative processes and we have seen the negative results too often.
Fortunately, our Constitution was written to allow the Legislature the power to override Initiatives after two years. At least this provision allows the issue to be subject to the proper debate and compromise of our Legislative system. I find it interesting that Legislative bodies are always derided by the creators of Initiatives when they overturn them. Do they fail to remember that this is also in the same Constitution as their right to create them and was put there to protect the State from frivolous Initiatives?
OK, what Initiative am I going to sign? It was announced last week in the Seattle Times with the headline “McKay joins push to make pot legal”. It may be found at:
I have always supported the decriminalization of marijuana and a legalization process. For the last 40+ years, I have heard every argument there is for why it is bad and why it should never be legalized. The reality is that almost every argument against marijuana is a stretch of truth or reason in some way. Poisonous chemicals, gateway drug, access to children, religious objections, moral objections, crime going up, on and on. At the end of the day, there is too little substance to all of these arguments to cause us to continue to wage war on our own citizens and indirectly cause the destruction of communities of innocent citizens of other countries.
History points to the folly of Prohibition (1920-1933). Most of the same reasons we hear about marijuana today were used then to make alcohol illegal. Prohibition failed for most of the same reasons that we have seen with the prohibition of marijuana. It turned normal, law-abiding citizens into criminals. It created huge criminal enterprises that were enormously profitable. It caused huge expenditures of governmental resources (higher taxes) to police, prosecute and incarcerate citizens along with the real criminals.
We see the exact same problems today except that the fallout in the Central and South American countries is monumental compared to what occurred in Prohibition. Our marijuana policy is devastating vast areas of these countries. Sure, other drugs are involved, but the marijuana trade is huge, equaling some 60% of cartel profits. Does anyone actually believe that our gigantic machine to keep marijuana out of the hands of our citizens, including children, actually has done so? If you think so, you are incredibly naïve. Marijuana is available to all. Except for hazy laws about medical marijuana, all we are doing is allowing real criminals to profit from its sale and use.
Legalizing the product does not have to mean endorsement. Tobacco products are legal but certainly are not endorsed by government. Alcohol is legal but is not endorsed. Most medical professionals clearly state that obesity is our number one health problem. Do we then ban all fast food restaurants and products? Automobiles kill far more healthy people in our nation than anything else. Do we ban them? Of course not, in both cases. What we do is require good information (or reasonable safety precautions) be available about these and thousands of other products AND LET THE PERSON MAKE THE DECISION! Right this moment, anyone can purchase legally available products that are far more dangerous than marijuana. Many people die from overdosing on common household medicines and chemicals every day. I have not heard of anyone doing the same from imbibing marijuana.
Typically, the same folks that want marijuana banned are the same that want “big government” to stop telling them what to do. Why is this issue different? This is a personal choice issue with far fewer consequences then allowing people to turn their properties into garbage dumps or drive without seat belts, for example. Legalize marijuana and put the taxes spent on prohibition into treatment for some and into the many other areas needing funding, like real crime or education. Instead of profits from the sale of marijuana THAT ARE ALREADY OCCURRING, going to criminals, why not into new resources to pay for the many important things our society needs? Maybe a college education for the kid we used to put in jail?
We have been putting our family and community members in jail, for using or possessing marijuana, far too long. It is past time for change. I remember, as a law enforcement officer many years ago, confiscating marijuana from kids many times. Did I arrest them? No, I typically spread it to the wind and let them go. Why ruin a kid’s future for a piece of a plant? It made no sense then and it makes a whole lot less sense now. Today, as an elected official, I could take a lot of flak for writing this blog. So be it: my job is to do the right thing for our community and I believe I am doing just that with support for this issue.
Kudos to Representative Mary Lou Dickerson, the sponsor of HB 1550 – Regulating the production, distribution, and sale of cannabis, this last Legislative session. Kudos to the Legislature for passing it! Big thumbs down to Governor Gregoire for caving in to ridiculous Federal bluster about arresting State employees and gutting the Bill. This was a historical moment to send a State message as occurred to help cause the end of Prohibition. Also Kudos to Mike McKay, as a former U.S. Attorney, for standing up and supporting this reasoned Initiative to change how we, as a society, deal with a plant.
(In case you were already assigning a motive to me, I do not use marijuana products!)
About six weeks ago, we gained a new member of our household: an eight week old Schnoodle. What is a “Schnoodle” you ask? It is a mixed breed dog that is a cross between a Schnauzer and a Poodle. By the photo attached, you can tell it breaks the hearts of most that see it with “Oh, how cute” or “OOOHHH, how adorable”. It may be the resemblance to a teddy bear or Winnie the Pooh that elicits the flow of praise. This is a big event in the Snoey household as we have never had a dog as a family. In fact, I have never had a dog because of lifetime allergies.
How we came to be owners of a Schnoodle can be laid at the feet of our children. Or more specifically, to the feet of our one Grandchild, Lexi. The operative word is “ONE”, with no more on the immediate horizon. In short, our little baby grew up, is now twelve and the same height at her mother. It is very hard to cuddle and rock a twelve year old. They fight it and insist they are much too big for such little kid stuff. When they are nearly the same size as we are, it is not the same as rocking the 2 or 3 year old that we remember. Feet and arms hang out all over.
So, Grandma (my wife, Debra) started feeling the loss some time ago. Many of our friends that are in the Grandparent phase have small dogs instead of little missing Grandkids, too. I think that is where the idea first came from. She spend the better part of the last six months researching dog breeds and what might be the best for us. By “research”, I mean that she spent both a lot of time on the Internet and a lot of time selling me on all the positive aspects of various breeds and why it was such a good idea for us to have a dog in the house.
I have never wanted a dog. I like the house neat and clean all the time and the thought of spots of puppy poop, vomit and pee on our carpets and hardwood just did not appeal to me. The freedom to go anywhere at anytime is really hindered with a little child, oops, I mean puppy in the house. The biggest problem, however, was my horrible allergies. I am registered as being allergic to almost everything, with animals one of the highest on the list. I have to limit my exposure to pets or plan on air intake reduced by about 75%, causing me to gasp like a trout in the bottom of a boat.
Part of the research my wife did was to address the allergy issue. This is where Schoodle comes in. It seems that the Poodle part is that they have hair and do not shed. That and the promise that Schoodle would be bathed and brushed pretty often was touted as the solution to my allergies. With it’s size being of the lapdog variety, there would be less of whatever remained to trigger my allergies. I still did not completely buy it, but what can do when a Grandma’s heart is set on a baby in the house to pamper?
One night about 2 months ago, as Debra was looking at Schoodles on the Internet (quite popular it turns out), she came across a picture of what is now our newest household member. She fell in love instantly and had to have THAT puppy. It came from a great family of breeders near Spokane and was all of six or so weeks old. I think most will agree that all puppies have a measure of cuteness, but this one was the ONE. The 6 months of ”research” caused the desired effect. I found my self in an out-of-body experience looking down at myself saying “OK”. Some quick availability checking the next morning and Schoodle had a “Sold” sign posted on her Internet picture and a note that the Snoey Household was the lucky buyer.
Debra and Lexi embarked on a naming contest so that when Schoodle arrived, it would already have an identity. Over the next week or so, they had lots of communication between them about different names. Some were good, but when the photo of Schnoodle was viewed, they didn’t seem to fit. Grandpa (me) was advised on the progress from time to time. In the end, they had agreement on a name: Nikki Noodle. The two parts are variations of nicknames from Lexi and her mom. I can’t go into more detail without hearing about it and getting those funny looks that parents and grandparents get from their kids and grandkids.
We had to wait until Schoodle was eight weeks old to get her. That happened in the QFC parking lot in Issaquah on a Saturday afternoon back on April 2nd. The courier was delivering Schoodle along with her brother and a few other dogs to their new families. A little ball of fluff was soon handed over to my wife. It was scared and snuggled in tight for protection and comfort. I think that was the same moment that mothers who have just given birth, and are handed their new baby, experience. Bonding happened and my wife’s grandbaby yearnings were fulfilled. Love blossomed and a new chapter opened in our lives.
More to come…
Regional planners have spent many years trying to formulate successful outcomes for the consistent in-migration of people to the Puget Sound region seeking the well-paying jobs that are created here. The most current results are the Vision 2040 and Transportation 2040 plans as adopted by the Puget Sound Regional Council. These plans must be created and maintained, as required by the Federal Government, to qualify the region for Federal funds. As an Executive Board Member of the Puget Sound Regional Council, I had the opportunity last year to cast a vote in favor of Transportation 2040.
While I supported the plan, it is a work in progress. There are two basic reasons why the vision will not succeed without some major changes: it fails to accurately take into account the reality of affordability AND personal/community needs for families with children. Seattle is already a model growth center by many standards such as mass transit and, as such, very few can afford to live there due to the high cost of housing. Those that do live there are 81% households without children (the exact opposite of most of the newer suburban cities). Using bias measures, utilized in many other areas of race and so forth, the growth centers concept potentially discriminates against families and those in poverty.
Wealth allows one to live in the region’s urban core and that wealth allows those families to send their kids to private schools and own a home large enough to have a family and/or to have a yard for their kids to play in. Those in poverty and the lower middle class have few choices. Those who do have families will not chose to live in many highly urbanized areas (crime and failing schools) unless they are forced to by government edict (Dictatorship) or are offered real affordability coupled with great schools and amenities that provide safe activity areas for their children (only real choice).
This is why I have deep concerns about this vision. The decaying inner core of many other major metro areas allow those in poverty to live there only by the fact they are so undesirable that no one else will live there (equaling low housing costs). The cores of many major older cities in America are like this despite billions in attempted fixes. Gentrification that moves in wealthy people as they force out middle class and lower incomes is certainly not the answer and only expands what is already happening in Seattle and Bellevue. This is what usually happens with many “successful” rehabilitation projects.
Housing affordability must be a real fact. It is quite often a fraud as it is often evaluated against the home prices or incomes that exist in an area or are in such few numbers as to be inconsequential. It has to be based on actual purchasing power for average and lower incomes for the general region. Hence “affordable homes” in places like Bellevue have been $400,000 and more! If we are going to expect families to live in urban centers, they need great schools and places for their children to play safely. This is going to require new ideas and input from those most affected. Be part of the process by being involved!
I have not blogged in a while because I was going through a major change. After 19 years with my former, regional company, I changed to a larger, national company. As a real estate Broker, there were hundreds of things I needed to change and nearly 2000 people to notify. The process has taken a couple of months and, while still not fully completed, I am close to normal again. What a relief!
The change was hard to contemplate and hard to execute. While there were many positive reasons why I made the change, the fact is: change is hard. It is hard work because there are new things to learn and old things to remember to forget. Simply announcing yourself and your company takes a while to get used to. It is real easy to use the old company name as an automatic reflex. We all experience this after January 1st every year. The old year was only 365 days and it sometimes takes a month or more to get used to. Imagine if years were 6935 days (19 years) long and then a change!
That said, good planning helps. Getting the dozens and dozens of tasks down in a chart that you can check off really helps. Jotting down notes so you don’t forget them later is important. Organize the start of each day so you are the most efficient. One thing overlooked by many is the necessity to review the day each night to help prepare for the next day. It is easy to forget details overnight.
One of the harder things that happens with change is that some decide to tell you what a bad decision you made and take it as a personal rejection. I think we have all discovered who our best friends are when we make any important change of direction in our lives. Our truest friends will be supportive, even if they don’t agree or understand. I am pleased to report that almost all I know have been very supportive of my change and very, very few have been on the negative side.
We can insert new company, home, relationship, relocation, career, eating style, exercise program, vacation trip or other personal decision and replace it above where I changed a “company” and the conversation runs pretty true. I guess the message I am trying to impart is that it is generally better to support someone making a personal decision than criticize. We all have opinions and want to be heard, but there may be more good in the world if we made more choices to support rather than criticize. Just a thought!
Many potential retirees have put off retirement over the last few years due to the uncertain economy and large drop in both investment income and primary home values. Many count on the value of their home as a significant portion of their retirement. Many downsize significantly at retirement and bank the balance. With investment portfolio values having decreased and much less home equity available, one can easily see why retirement has not been in the cards for many. The inability to find a buyer has been a problem for those with adequate equity and are attempting to sell their homes.
The good news is that many have seen investment portfolio values increase over the last year. While home prices continue to fall in the Northwest and many areas around the country, there are many areas where they have stabilized and are actually on the increase. While the NW is predicted to have a good recovery at some point, it is behind much of the country as the wave of property declines hit us last. As such, it is expected that we will lag behind most in recovery. On the bright side, we will begin to see an increase in some retirees taking advantage of the price differential to sell their homes in value-added areas and move to the Northwest.
We compressed many buyers into the purchasing surge in Spring of 2010 due to the Federal Homebuyer Tax Credit. Because so many buyers wanted to get that Credit before it expired, they accelerated their purchasing decision. As such, the market came to a standstill after April 30th, 2010, the last day to claim the Credit. Typically, after such an event, it takes at least 6 months for the market to stabilize. Indeed, it was not until November that we saw effective increases in buyers.
So, expect more retirees to be able to sell their homes and expect more to activate their retirement plans as they see an adequate income stream returning. Most have realistically lowered their expectations to fit in the new economy. I see this in most people. The belt-tightening took some getting used to, but as potential retirees also accept that the plans they once had are not realistic now, they adapt and will start the process to sell and move. All this will help home sales in both urban areas and retirement communities.
I am quite optimistic about the real estate market in the months ahead. Sellers must still have a well-priced, clean and well-staged home to grab those buyers that are looking. Retirees that are selling will have more potential buyers and those retirees that are looking for their retirement home will increase the pool of buyers for everyone!
Two projects outside the State of Washington have the potential to move thousands of existing and future jobs in the Puget Sound region elsewhere. That elsewhere is: British Columbia and ports all along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of the United States. An article in the Seattle Times on Saturday, December 11th, 2010, titled “U.S. East, South race to build ports that accommodate superships” should scare the hell out of anyone worried about jobs in our region! Please read this article at:
These ports have recognized the completion of the expansion of the Panama Canal in 2014 will create tremendous opportunity for them. At that time, container ships four times the size of current ships will start flowing through it. This will make it possible, in many cases, to avoid existing West Coast ports that are no longer economical due to congestion or other reasons.
The other project is the unified plan of the Governments of British Columbia and Canada to expand the Ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert in conjunction with improvements on the Canadian National Railway. These combined projects have been designed to capture business from our ports to important destinations in the Central U. S. through Minneapolis and Chicago. The following quote from Wikipedia says it very well:
“On September 12, 2007, phase 1 the Fairview Terminal opened for business and is expecting its first container ship (from COSCO) in October. Phase 1 has an annual container-handling capacity of only 500,000 TEUs. However Phase 2, due to be completed late in 2010, will increase the Port of Prince Rupert’s capacity to 2 million TEUs, and to 4 million TEUs by 2015, and there is extensive capacity for further expansion. This will provide much-needed relief to the congested west-coast ports of North America. The containerization of the Fairview Terminal is an important part of the Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative of the Government of Canada and the Pacific Gateway strategy of the Province of British Columbia.”
Worried about jobs yet? How about the description of the Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative of the Government of Canada, again according to Wikipedia:
“The Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor is a system of transportation infrastructure, including British Columbia Lower Mainland and Prince Rupert ports, road and rail connections that reach across Western Canada and into the economic heartlands of North America, as well as major airports and border crossings.”
Did you notice that the goal is to reach the “economic heartlands of North America”? Are you under any illusion that this is referring to any primary destination other than the Central United States? Of course, they intend to ship to Eastern Canada, however the big markets are in the United States. Over the last several years, the Canadian National Railway has purchased smaller, existing U. S. railway systems to connect directly to Major U.S. cities in our Midwest, completing their economic plan to capture business from existing U.S. West Coast ports.
These areas expect to capture billions of dollars of business. Did you pay attention – “Billions of dollars flowing from West Coast Ports”? Folks, those are disappearing jobs! Many think only of the longshoremen unloading the containers and many products such as automobiles, lumber and grain. However, remember the many distribution companies that handle the products once unloaded. Further, many other businesses exist here simply because of the close proximity to our Ports of Seattle and Tacoma. With so many products already transiting the region, it makes sense to plant an associated manufacturing or assembly business here to take advantage of the product stream. Move the product stream and you will probably have to move the business!
Worried about jobs yet? Read on.
With such obvious developments in Canada, the Panama Canal and in the Eastern-Southwest U.S. you would expect that we have a great plan to keep business in our region, right? Do we, as a region, have a similar initiative that is strengthen by local, regional and national resolve? Unfortunately, the answer is a clear NO!
You should be afraid for our jobs by now! If you think you are personally exempt, think again. Almost everyone will be affected in some way with the removal of thousands of jobs in our area with the resulting loss of money spent in the economy. This will occur as we are attempting to recover from the Great Recession, which many predict will take several years, making our economic climate even worse.
“Freight Mobility” is the term used to cover the general need to move products efficiently on our transportation system. We should really think of it as synonymous with jobs creation and preservation. The more that moves, the more jobs we have. There are two major arms of Freight Mobility to consider. The first is the obvious transshipping of products that arrive at our ports to points outside our region. The other, less thought of, is the need to ship products within our region as part of retail, manufacturing and assembly businesses.
Certainly, there are many smaller, individual projects underway or proposed that help to address freight mobility in our region. There are both federal and state dollars at work in our region improving both highway and rail infrastructure. Unfortunately, we are years behind and there is a major shortage of money to tackle the remaining projects that will affect freight mobility needs inside and outside the Puget Sound area.
We have many leaders in our region along with transportation and business organizations that see the need to attack this problem head on and NOW. We know the projects and the mission. What is the problem, then? The problem is simply money. The State of Washington has been in a budget crisis for the last couple of years and it will continue for the next couple of years. Gas tax and other general taxes have been falling and we are out of money for the next major round of freight mobility projects. These freight mobility projects, when completed, will also increase mobility for Transit and those that need to get to work via their personal vehicles when transit is not available.
There are no pots of money hidden somewhere that can be found to fund these remaining projects. Projects have primarily been funded by gas taxes. Almost every cent has been committed to pay for past and current projects being completed. There is no free lunch here: you will HAVE TO commit to some new money, whether we call it taxes or fees, to get these projects built. The alternative is to resurrect the old sign from the 60′s that asks the last person leaving to shut the lights out. And you had better grab a ride on that last freight train East to where your job moved.
I feel that we must carry the conversation about Freight Mobility to a higher level of action. In 2010, I began to talk with many of our elected representatives, including City, County, State and Congressional leaders, from the King and Pierce County areas. As we may be the most freight-dependant area in the United States, I heard from each of these leaders that they are concerned as well. In response, I have been working on the creation of a coalition of interested parties called the South Sound Transportation Coalition (SSTA). In 2011, I will continue to meet with elected leaders and will be reaching out to business and labor leaders inside and outside of the South Sound. We must develop a better plan and create a resolve that matches our competitors to enable us to build the efficient transportation grid we must have to meet the increasing competition.
Please contact your City, County, State and Federal Legislators and let them know you care about jobs and the need to fund transportation infrastructure for efficient Freight Mobility. This is the real resolve we need NOW!
Various media outlets are now reporting a “double-dip” in home prices. This is misleading as prices have never stopped falling over the last several years. The actual situation is that we sold a whole lot of first-time buyer homes last year and this spring which brought the median and average prices down a bit quicker than normal. This was a result of the Federal First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit and the fact that fewer more expensive homes sold because Jumbo loans dried up over the last two years. This was an extraordinary shift in buyers that upset long-standing and reliable statistical trends.
Since the Tax Credit ended at the end of April, there have been significantly fewer lower-priced homes selling as we compressed many of those buyers into March and April or earlier. Therefore, statistically more expensive homes were selling after April. In addition, Jumbo loans became more available and attractively-priced this summer. The effect of these loans becoming available again was to cause even more homes in the $600,000-900,000 to start selling. This caused the median and average price statistics to rise above the prices of early spring.
The rise in median and average prices this summer caused many to report that “prices have gone up” when in fact, they never stopped falling. Again, as noted above, the fact was simply that many more expensive homes started selling in relationship to lower priced homes. Duh! The media rarely gets this right. Unfortunately, when the “shadow inventory” of foreclosed homes starts coming on the market in a greater frequency, we could see further softening of prices in many areas where there was a lot of new construction in the years from 2004 to 2008. These areas are the locations of most fraudulent and non-conventional loans.
There are exceptions to this continuing decline. For example, the Lake Tapps area in Pierce County had a huge drop in prices in 2009 and early 2010. It seems to have reset pretty quickly due to so many homes on the market at that time, especially distressed homes. It may have already leveled off, having dropped quickly to stabilization. Areas on the Eastside and downtown Seattle may have reached stabilization in some areas. Other areas in the US have stabilized, which is very good news. Seattle was the last to feel the market slide and will likely be one of the last to stabilize.
The incredibly attractive interest rates that exist right now may be the one thing that pulls the real estate market out of the doldrums. This is in the face of Governmental and Fannie Mae rules that have continued to make things worse than they should be by way of appraisal rules that have made distressed homes the standard of value. Imagine the trashed, abandoned home down the street that happens to be the same model as your home. Because it is the same size and same neighborhood, it is likely that the appraiser will say it is worth the same as yours! This is causing havoc in areas with many distressed homes.
I have not written recently due to a very difficult schedule, however there is an immediate issue that needs commenting on: we have a near record number of Initiatives on the Ballot this fall. For many voters, the issues are often not clear cut, no matter now many times you read them. They get more confusing when you add in the media blitz by the competing interests. Some sound pretty good on the surface, but all have unintended consequences. I would like to offer a little insight into the process that might give you some new ideas to consider when voting on Initiatives.
First, almost all are created by special interests with a motive to improve the situation of their group. This does not mean they are all bad, but should always create cause for concern and investigation. Tim Eyman has created a business, for example, that will go bust unless there are Initiatives created. Costco supports I-1100 as it will create additional business for them. The former should cause huge concern for all voters as the mercenary approach is not really about cause. The later will not break Costco either way and would benefit others who also support the Initiative.
Secondly, few Initiatives are well-written and almost always have huge problems of implementation because they have not been clearly thought out. Some, like increasing teacher wages, sound wonderful, but when no funding mechanism is part of the Initiative, create a “Rob Peter to Pay Paul” situation. This hurts someone else, that the voters really did not consider, in the “Great Idea” emotional appeal.
Thirdly, Initiatives are almost always an end-run around the Legislative who may have rightly prevented them from becoming law. Because they are an end-run, they completely bypass the checks and balances of our Legislative process. While one may not always agree with our Legislators, they are supported by some very smart staff and attorneys that take the time to help prevent mistakes and unintended consequences. There are usually public hearings, for example, for interested parties to get heard and create a written record. This process helps to make sure that all viewpoints are heard and considered as part of the final product or denied product. Regardless of personal opinions, this is far more democratic than a one-sided, special interest group creating the Legislation in a vacuum of public input. This is further slanted by catchy headlines to gather votes from voters who never read beyond the headline.
So, what do I do almost every time? I vote the opposite of the intention of the creators of the Initiative. I do this because the Initiative process in Washington is being misused. You have to read closely, for example, as many times Initiatives are written is a way that your intended vote means the opposite of what you think. They are being created just to have a job creating them. Their use should be very rare and only in the case of real misconduct or outright neglect by the Legislature. This should be similar to the very rare cases of Impeachment of a President.
One wants to be relevant as a voter, but to be responsibly relevant, voters must take the time to study the issues, talk with others and actually participate in the process. Opening a ballot and voting emotionally does not help our families, communities, government or Nation. As a Nation, we are a Republic. We elect people to represent us. They are supposed to study the issues and vote as they believe their community would with the same facts. If we don’t like their vote, there are regular elections where we get to comment on our representative. We toss them out our vote them back in.
Let’s start supporting our form of government by being involved in the real Legislative process. Study issues and then contact your Legislator and let them know how you feel. Engage in the process and take the opportunity to influence your leaders. This is the right way, not through random, poorly thought out Initiatives. Beware of unintended consequences and purveyors of yearly Initiatives.