During my recent trip to Seattle, one of the pressing local issues in the news dealt with the city council’s recent decision to eliminate public toilets in the downtown area. As could be predicted, the public toilets have become havens for drug use, crime, and prostitution. And as I quickly found out, downtown Seattle is replete with people willing to take advantage of the opportunity.
According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the toilets have cost taxpayers about $4.3 million since they were installed in 2004. The money came from a tax on wastewater rates that cost the average single family household about $2.59 per year on an annual sewer bill of $465.
It should surprise no one that these bathrooms would be mistreated in this way. In fact, it was completely predictable. As they say, “no one washes a rental car.” Sure, the intent was good – people do need to use the bathroom while downtown. But you slap the word “public” on anything, and it’s going to be ruined by people looking to take advantage of the taxpayers.
Had the city given the $4.3 million to a private company to build and maintain their own toilets, with whatever security rules they wished, you would probably still be able to go to the bathroom in downtown Seattle. As it is, you better hit the fish market prepared to hold it.