Let the recovery begin--and the Mercer debate begin anew. Greg Nickels, Tim Burgess, and Richard Conlin announced a proposal today to eliminate the city's two-year-old head tax, which was originally designed to get people out of their cars. (Businesses pay $25 per head per year--unless those heads are attached to bodies that get to work via carpool, walking, transit, or biking.)
Fortunately for the boss of this Eddie Murphy, the head tax doesn't take head size into account.
The policy is unpopular with business groups and seems particularly vulnerable in a recession/election year. Burgess says the tax "has generated less revenue than anticipated, but more importantly it has negative consequences because it taxes the creation of new jobs"
The thing is, getting rid of it would cut an estimated $4.7 million from street and sidewalk projects next year.
Enter mayoral challenger Joe Mallahan, for whom the proposal to cut the tax is something of a victory--he's been calling for it for a while. But he's also been calling for better basic services, including sidewalks, so he says he won't abide by the decrease in sidewalk funds. (You may have noticed how much of the city doesn't have sidewalks.)Instead, he'd cut the pricey Mercer Corridor Project, which does improve a fair number of sidewalks, but which he has long opposed, characterizing it as a favor to SLU developers (like, say, Paul Allen): "Mayor Nickels wants to take away $70 million of our streets and sidewalks funding and spend it on his Mercer Street pet project so he can keep developers happy," Mallahan said in today's release.
It's an interesting position Mallahan has staked out, simultaneously holding down the pro-business, anti-tax stance while joining the likes of Nick Licata--hardly business' favorite candidate--in opposing the big-biz-supported Mercer Project. It also adds another line of attack on a big Nickels project--the mayor's already got to deal with Michael McGinn's constant pounding of the Viaduct-replacement tunnel and Jan Drago's critiques of his lobbying for stimulus money for the Mercer project. It must get lonely at the top--though you wouldn't know it from his fundraisers.
Update: McGinn weighs in as well, juxtaposing the head tax with the tunnel: "What a shell game....Nickels puts out a press release saying he is cutting taxes, but at the same time he favors the biggest boondoggle this city's taxpayers may ever see."