City Hall yesterday gave the go-ahead to attempt to buy back city property that was sold to Paul Allen - we reported on the plan two years ago. The about-face is necessary, the mayor and city council argue, if we are to widen and redirect streets in South Lake Union to solve the Mercer Mess. Left out of the discussion was the possibility City Hall's street plan can actually worsen traffic there, according to a now-forgotten study by no less than the mayor's office. It thus appears that Allen's people and city officials are suggesting it makes sense to sell land and buy it back at a loss to build an $80 million street grid that can tie up traffic even further.
But the important thing here - and goverment officials seem to have this written on every page of their Daily Planners - is that, if we're going to have taxes, the billionaire Allen must somehow benefit from them. Besides the street car line taxpayers are building for him, and hundreds of millions of tax-funded infrastructure destined to make Allen's SLU properties ever more valuable, the so-called Mercer Solution will bring several new boulevards to Allen's front yard, including a tree-lined waterfront drive.It was difficult not to think of the election-rigging, stadium-landlording, tax-grubbing Allen when author and New York Timesman David Cay Johnson, on PBS last week, mentioned his upcoming new book, "Free Lunch." It's about "how the wealthiest Americans are enriching themselves at government expense," said Johnson. "If you're already rich in America, the best way to get really rich, is through the government."