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Monday, September 19, 2005

Seattle Times has a field day with I-912

Help Fight Initiative 912: Donate to Washington Defense

The Times really has Initiative 912 covered today: it's in a front page article, a local news article, and an editorial.

Today's front page article is about disaster planning. The article headline asks the question: Who'll be to blame if viaduct, 520 bridge collapse? An excerpt:
Earlier this year, the Legislature passed and Gregoire signed a 9.5-cent gas-tax increase that would provide $2 billion for the viaduct and $500 million for the 520 bridge, among other projects.

But a group opposing the increase quickly gathered 420,000 signatures for Initiative 912 to repeal the new gas tax. The initiative will be on the November ballot.

And that, UW professor May said, raises yet another question: "How far should public officials go in protecting somewhat indifferent citizens who have other concerns?"

State House Transportation Chairman Ed Murray, D-Seattle, said the moral burden for fixing the viaduct now rests with the voters.

But I-912 spokesman Brett Bader said he feels no such burden. He said he doesn't lose sleep over the prospect that I-912 and its backers might someday get blamed if people die on the viaduct.

"The thought hasn't crossed my mind," Bader said.
Of course it hasn't crossed his mind. It's surprising that Bader even admits he and his cohorts don't care if people die in a disaster. Anything to put four bucks a month back into the average driver's pocket - at the expense of our society, our economy, and our lives.

The bottom line is that hardcore anti-tax activists DON'T CARE about public safety and investing in our transportation infrastructure. If the viaduct or the floating bridge collapses, it must be because God is angry with sinful Washington State.

It is time to stop listening to idiots like Brett Bader. Their thinking is pure folly and will only lead to greater cost and consequences later on. Stop obsessing about the cost of making an investment now.

Would you rather pay a higher price tag later? People need to understand: we can pay less now or more later. And the "more later" is also attached to an even crueler cost: the loss of human lives.
Even without the new gas tax, Bader said, he thinks the state and city have more than enough money to replace the viaduct, or at least do enough repairs to make it safe.

He pointed out state and local government have spent or earmarked billions of dollars for other projects.

"They could have built a new viaduct; instead, they chose to build a monorail, light rail and two stadiums," Bader said.

What's more, he asked, if safety is such a concern, how can government officials justify delaying action while they quibble over whether to rebuild the viaduct or replace it with a tunnel that won't block the city's view of Puget Sound?

"The problem is not money," Bader said. "The problem is priorities and leadership."

Bader said using the disaster in New Orleans to bolster arguments against I-912 is a cheap political tactic.
Listen, Brett. The viaduct CANNOT BE MADE SAFE. Repairs are out of the question! It's not an option! WHY DON'T YOU GET THIS? The viaduct is build on liquefied soil. It can't be repaired! The very foundation on which it is built is unstable!

Proponents of I-912 apparently don't understand engineering or science. Voters would be extroadinarily unwise to listen to their silly, backwards thinking.

There is not enough money to replace the viaduct. There should be, but there isn't. You know, Brett - there MIGHT be a larger pool of funds to tap IF we hadn't cut the motor vehicle excise tax. But it was people like you who insisted that it be cut!

The viaduct needs to be replaced, but we also need mass transit systems. Bader & Co. think both light rail and monorail are a complete waste of money because they do not believe in mass transit.

Their philosophy is more pavement and more lanes. And that will not solve congestion. If you create more capacity, the capacity will be filled and you're right back to square one.

Go to the San Francisco Bay Area. Drive through the exurbs on Interstate 680. There's like six lanes in each direction through San Ramon, Walnut Creek, and other communities. They kept adding lanes because they thought it would ease traffic jams.

It hasn't worked. Traffic is still jammed during rush hour.

When you build more lanes, you get more solo drivers in their cars to fill them. That's how it works. New lanes and new pavement do not make congestion go away. They make it worse.

We have had a money problem. But we now have state leadership now that is willing to be courageous enough to fund these improvements to our infrastructure. If our state were led by Republicans, this investment never would have been made.

There isn't quibbling over how to replace the viaduct. The city and state have settled on a preferred option: the tunnel.

A tunnel is the best choice not because it removes the viaduct and creates a better view of the Sound, but because tunnels are safest. Contrary to what you might think, a tunnel is a very safe place to be in an earthquake.

I toured the Mount Baker/I-90 tunnels years ago. I went inside the DOT control center for the tunnels. These tunnels are soundly engineered. The people at DOT told us during our tour that they would personally want to be in one of the tunnels during an earthquake.

As WSDOT points out:
Structural engineers agree that tunnels are one of the safest places to be during an earthquake because the tunnel moves with the earth. Tunnels are inherently strong - for example, no Seattle tunnels were damaged during the 2001 Nisqually earthquake. These include the I-90 tunnels (Mt. Baker and Mercer Island), Battery Street Tunnel, 3rd Avenue Bus Tunnel and the Burlington Northern Tunnel.

Another example is how well the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) tunnel fared during the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989. The system withstood the earthquake forces and resumed service within hours to serve as a key transportation “lifeline” during the time that the Bay Bridge and Cypress Freeway were shut down and undergoing extensive repairs. Similarly, the Los Angeles subway was back in service within 24 hours following the 1994 Northridge earthquake while nearby bridges were out of service for months.
It's about public safety, Brett. Not about somebody's view. A tunnel is expensive, but it's an investment in public safety. It is the best choice to replace the viaduct.

As for using New Orleans to make the case why I-912 is a bad idea, that's not cheap. That's being realistic. What's really cheap is the arrogant, self-serving attitude that Bader and his cohorts put on display for us. In their world, government is an evil monster that cannot be trusted with one penny. In their world, taxpayers know how to spend their money better than the government does.

Unfortunately, their world ignores reality. We cannot afford to listen to them or we will pay the price.

Taxpayers individually cannot build transportation systems. It is only the government that is able to fund and manage such projects. Government does many, many good things. This package is just another example of how government serves all of us.

Another article in this morning's Times focuses on Keep Washington Rolling, the interest group coalition that, like Washington Defense, is fighting Initiative 912. An excerpt:
Opponents of the anti-gas-tax measure, Initiative 912, aren't shy about saying their situation seems pretty desperate.

Gas prices continue to surge. A recent campaign poll of voters, largely paid for by big business, found most people want to repeal the 9.5-cent-a-gallon gas tax the Legislature passed earlier this year. In fact, the more voters learn about the initiative, the more they like it.

For the coalition fighting the measure — including business, labor and environmentalists — "that's not good news," said Clifford Traisman, a lobbyist for the Washington Environmental Council, who's helping organize a campaign to defeat I-912. "We are the underdog."
We're not desperate. We know it's going to be a challenge to get voters to do some critical thinking. But it can be done. And we believe that the more voters learn about the transportation package, the more they dislike Initiative 912.

What's with this sentence here: "In fact, the more voters learn about the initiative, the more they like it."

What kind of a statement is that? Of course, if you educate voters about an initiative and tell them it gives them a tax cut, they're going to like it. But that's not the right approach.

Instead: "In fact, the more voters learn about the 2005 transportation package, the more they like it."

That's the right approach. Ask voters whether they like the package - not the initiative! The package (at least a key component) is what we're voting on here.

We believe that the more voters learn about the package and what it does for them, the more they will like it.

On to the next excerpt:
Traisman and other members of the opposition group, Keep Washington Rolling, say their best shot at turning things around is to run an unconventional campaign that eschews traditional tactics. In particular, they say, you won't see prominent politicians on the air urging people to vote no on I-912.

Instead, the campaign has hired experts to develop a strategy that combines targeted mailings with a smaller number of savvy commercials.


Keep Washington Rolling is holding focus groups soon to refine its ideas, but it plans to rely heavily on targeted mailings with specific information about road projects it contends would be put on hold if the gas-tax increase is repealed.
Yeah - being smarter about paid media/campaign ads would probably help. But we don't think it's enough. It's why we have formed Washington Defense: it is time for us to mount a grassroots effort to defeat Initiative 912. We believe that face to face contact with voters, more than anything else, is what will propel us to victory. Not direct mail or "savvy TV commercials".
I-912 opponents are getting help from a Denver firm that helped run the FasTracks campaign. Keep Washington Rolling hopes to raise more than $2 million for its effort, which would still be less than half of what was spent trying to pass Referendum 51. The business community apparently doesn't have the stomach to spend that much money this time.

The campaign, in its polling, found that former Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi could have a significant impact on how people vote if he endorsed or opposed I-912. Rossi said recently he has no position.
And Rossi should be pressured to declare his position. Of course he has one. He's not going to make it public because he doesn't want to anger a major faction of his coalition - either his conservative base or the business community.

But he must be pressured to do so. If he won't, he's a coward, not a leader. If he wants to lead this state, let's hear what he thinks. Otherwise he can stay a private citizen and not run for office again.
Keep Washington Rolling has tested various messages to see how they'll fly with voters. You can expect to hear a lot in the coming weeks about projects in your area that won't be built if I-912 passes and how much more money it would cost to complete the same road projects in the future if voters pass the measure.
And that is a smart idea. Voters need to understand how this package affects them. It's not just public safety in Seattle - it's public safety for all of Washington. It's not just jobs in Seattle, it's jobs for all of Washington.

Finally, the Times had an editorial this morning which sounded some good notes:
Long-term lessons of Hurricane Katrina will be debated for years. In Washington state, one message should be that when it comes to shoring up infrastructure, you snooze, you lose.

Proponents of Initiative 912, the measure to roll back a recent 9.5 cent gas-tax increase, say the hurricane's aftermath will help convince voters to reduce gas prices pronto. It may do that. But voters taking a longer view will recognize a more important reality. Two Washington roadways are in danger of falling down or failing: the Alaskan Way Viaduct and the Highway 520 bridge across Lake Washington.

The gas-tax increase passed by the Legislature this year provides $2 billion to begin replacing the viaduct and $500 million for the aging 520 bridge.

Backers of I-912, which wipes out those funds, say they must be assured the investment reduces everyday congestion. They demand accountability. They will await another proposal another day. La di da di da.

If an earthquake levels the viaduct or a storm renders the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge useless, citizens will have postponed the inevitable.


For now, a lesson of Katrina is that postponing investment in roads, bridges and infrastructure — wistfully awaiting another day — is shortsighted public policy.
We agree entirely. Congratulations to the Times for that spot-on editorial.

Learn more about fighting Initiative 912 here.

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