Our View: Board's not ideal, but it's still the best deal
If you have coworkers, a family, a significant other or friends -- if you've ever driven in rush-hour traffic or moved with a crowd of people trying to get into a concert or sports event, you know the meaning of the phrase: "you've got to go along to get along."
This is certainly no absolute truth to live by, but rather a very wise course of action in appropriate situations -- namely situations where you'll accomplish more going along with a less-than-perfect plan than by fighting it. Sure, in a perfect world you'd do it your way -- the right way -- but it's not a perfect world, and fighting would be more destructive than helpful.
The Washington County Board is faced with such an imperfect scenario as it considers implementing a quarter-of-a-cent sales tax to go to a metro-wide fund that would then be distributed to transit projects throughout the Twin Cities.
What makes the scenario so imperfect, at least from Washington County's perspective? The county will be sending an estimated $5 million into a big pool of money, and then have only about seven out of 100 votes on where that money goes.
It would be great for Washington County if every participating county had equal say in how the money was spent, but that's not an option. The alternative to implementing the tax is being left out of the transit discussion, and with projects like the Red Rock Corridor rail line on the horizon, that's not a good place for the county to be.
Even in the near future, Washington County residents would really benefit from having enough funding to run more express buses from Cottage Grove to the downtown areas, and extra transit money could help pay for that.
Washington County would benefit most not from its seven votes, but from having a voice on the board, which would give it a chance to sway other votes. More importantly, while certain projects may benefit certain parts of the Twin Cities more than others, ultimately it's of more benefit to everyone to have a comprehensive transit system. For example, a Red Rock Rail line that ends at the Union Depot won't be nearly as useful to people without another line that connects St. Paul to Minneapolis.
More broadly, roads are getting more crowded and gas is getting more expensive. Increasing transit options doesn't happen overnight, and it's very quickly becoming more necessary. Now is the time to start making serious investments in transit.
Some groups are opposing the sales tax increase on a "no new taxes" basis. We think this is short-sighted, because the longer we wait to create more transit options, the more we will pay to do it. As more people are able to ride buses or trains to work, the lifespan of our roads increases. View transit increases as preventative maintenance for roads and highways.
In conclusion, we realize, Washington County might not get everything it wants out of this deal, but we think by working together with the other counties it's likely to get more than by going it alone.