The oil company says it would not develop Greater Moose's Tooth Unit 1, a project in the vast National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, if the federal land agency doesn't approve the road and infrastructure plan the company prefers and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved.
As the U.S. approaches its chairmanship of th Arctic Council and far-north climate warming continues at twice the global rate, President Obama issued an executive order Wednesday addressing federal Arctic policy. But Sen. Lisa Murkowski expressed doubts about the order's effectiveness.
FAIRBANKS — Plummeting gasoline prices have made visits to the pump much more tolerable in the past six months, but Fairbanks motorists don’t have it quite as good as their counterparts in the Lower 48.
Urban planners are finally recognizing that streets should be designed for people, not careening hunks of deadly metal.
After over a hundred years of living with cars, some cities are slowly starting to realize that the automobile doesn't make a lot of sense in the urban context. It isn't just the smog or the traffic deaths; in a city, cars aren't even a convenient way to get around.
Now a growing number of cities are getting rid of cars in certain neighborhoods through fines, better design, new apps, and, in the case of Milan, even paying commuters to leave their car parked at home and take the train instead.
Unsurprisingly, the changes are happening fastest in European capitals that were designed hundreds or thousands of years before cars were ever built. In sprawling U.S. suburbs that were designed for driving, the path to eliminating cars is obviously more challenging.
Read further for more on the leaders moving toward car-free neighborhoods.
Alaska depends on oil tax revenue from development on state lands to fund much of state government. Oil prices are volatile, and Alaska’s economy has survived ups and downs, but with no state income or sales tax and little will to tap the $52 billion Permanent Fund, oil dictates most everything in Alaska.
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Thursday that she was “aghast” by a federal personnel board that upheld the appeals of two prosecutors who argued they did not deserve suspensions for the handling of the corruption case against the late Sen. Ted Stevens.
OPINION: Alaska can't keep skating along with fiscal insecurity but don't count on our lawmakers to lead us off the ice.
Rob Duke's insight:
This is both art and science. Tax systems must be like an investment portfolio: diversified.
-Some property tax to pay for local services, and schools;
-A small sales tax (.03) to support local government [earmarked separately for general fund (majority %), public safety (even split for fire-EMS & police), and schools];
-A utility tax (.10) to support public safety in the incorporated areas;
-Parcel fees to support fire services, extra school services, and recreation; and
-Special infrastructure districts to support local streets, roads, sidewalks, bike paths, and neighborhood parks.
In other words, tie local expenses as close as possible to local taxes. These modest taxes will fund basic services and scale up as the community grows. This also gives communities the freedom to tailor the kinds of services and facilities for which the majority is willing to pay.
For the State:
-A medium sales tax (.02-.03) on services;
-A little bigger sales tax on goods (.03-.04);
-A small income tax (.10)
-Gas tax to support road maintenance
-Toll roads for specialized roads used as transportation between urban population centers and crossroads; and
-a variety of fees to support miscellaneous services.
**Value Added Taxes (VAT's) are very efficient also, but misunderstood and, therefore, unpopular. Given this, I'd recommend something like what's been outlined above.
The science part is to connect taxes to the services performed and to the locations where the services are consumed. In addition, and this is the part that's art, is to spread the taxes out over a variety of economic sectors so that a dramatic drop in one area is still likely to be offset by another sector (or, at the very least not be a catastrophe like we now have with all our eggs in the oil basket).
It makes a certain amount of sense to use oil revenue as a capital sink (while also continuing to augment the Permanent Fund) that will replace diminished oil opportunity for new economic investment. I think we could even afford to take some chances on good ideas--even if some of them don't pan out; or other economies with better competitive advantage buy them out (sometimes there's more to made from patent royalties than from Return on Investment in manufacturing). Imagine what could happen if we had something like the ANCSA settlement endowments on the scale of the whole State of Alaska rather than several dozen tribal corporations...supporting education, research, and distributed by tax credits and monetary policy, not by central government control, letting the market find efficient outcomes.
The power of the policy to leverage affordable housing has been further eroded since the introduction of community infrastructure levy (CIL) in 2010. A non-negotiable fixed-rate tax on new development, CIL was intended to introduce more transparency and give developers a level of certainty about how much they would be expected to contribute towards infrastructural improvements. But, in reality, it has provided another excuse to dodge Section 106 obligations. A further change to the town planning act last year has made Section 106 agreements renegotiable, allowing review and appeal of all existing obligations, in a misguided attempt to promote growth – which simply makes it easier for developers to wriggle out of their promises, as happened in Tottenham and elsewhere.
“Not surprisingly, developers are now even keener to renegotiate the S106 after they’ve got planning permission, finding they can’t negotiate the CIL,” says Peter Rees. “In most cases, they manage to prove that they can no longer afford to pay for the affordable housing that they agreed – it’s simply ‘not viable’ any more.” One planning officer puts it succinctly: “There has never been a worse time to give schemes consent, in terms of securing public benefit.”
In all cases, how developers prove what they can afford to pay for comes down to the dark art of “viability”. The silver bullet of planning applications, the viability appraisal explains, through impenetrable pages of spreadsheets and fastidious appendixes, exactly how a project stacks up financially. It states, in carefully worded sub-clauses, just why it would be impossible for affordable housing to be provided, why the towers must of course be this height, why no ground-floor corner shop or surgery can be included, why workspace is out of the question; indeed, why it is inconceivable for the scheme to be configured in any other form. Presented as a precise science, viability is nothing of the sort; it is a form of bureaucratic alchemy, figures fiddled with spreadsheet spells that can be made to conjure any outcome desired.