Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

NO on 912: There is no free lunch

We've been having a friendly exchange with a conservative blog from Eastern Washington (Sagebrush) over Initiative 912. Yesterday I wrote a post entitled "Seattle P-I's Daily NO on 912 annoys initiative proponents".

Sagebrush writer Hindu yesterday posted a response to my comments. After reading that response, I have readied my reply to Hindu's reply.

Let's start with the first, wait make that the first sentence:
A Seattle website has taken issue with our sarcasm towards the PI's inane daily no on I-912.
That's funny. The last time I checked, the tagline at the top of our blog read:
Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog.
Note to Hindu: Redmond is not part of Seattle. You have to cross or go around Lake Washington and pass through several other communities to get here. We are our own town with our own unique identity.

Perhaps there is a tendency to think that all progressives come from Seattle, but we can assure you that's not the case. Redmond and other communities have a strong progressive presence as well.

Redmond's current mayor is a progressive who has fought for environmental protection and adequate funding of public services to ensure a high quality of life of Redmond's residents.

There seems, however, to be some kind of crusade or campaign by local conservatives to drive a wedge between Seattle and the rest of Washington State. Conservative commenters who have stopped by here seem to think of "Seattle" as a dirty word - it's the home of that "evil liberalism".

A few conservatives who have dropped by have smugly told us our ideology is a "mental disease". Sorry - we must be pretty sick people for believing in freedom and the First Amendment.

Seattle and the rest of Washington State are not at odds with each other on everything, or even a majority of issues. There appears to be an attempt to create an artificial conflict, to create division. And why?

Is it because some conservatives think, perhaps, that Seattle controls the direction of Washington? That's a mistake, of course. Seattle has been outvoted by its fellow Washingtonians on many recent occasions. However, the rest of the state has also agreed with Seattle on many occasions as well.

The bottom line? We have our agreements and disagreements. But we're all one Evergreen State. Every region is interdependent. Every region has something to offer the others. There need not be an East vs. West, or urban vs. rural, conflict.

Back to Hindu's comments:
Apparently we Eastsiders, in addition to being poor spellers, should have more gratitude for the blessings King County bestows upon us. And a little more respect for the ferry system as well. From the Northwest Progressive Institute (providing much needed leftist ideology to the ultra-rightwing Pacific Northwest):
It's "truely" not that big of a deal to make a spelling mistake or typo. Everyone does it. Just lightening the mood.

We are serious, though, about urban areas subsidizing rural ones. Recently the Seattle Times noted in its guide to Initiative 912: "For years, King County drivers have paid more in gas taxes than the state put back into road projects in the county."

It is true the 2005 transportation package is weighted somewhat heavily towards urban areas, but that's fair. We helped you Washingtonians out in the rural areas - now it's your turn to help us. We are one state.
Nothing against ferries, we like them as much as the next guy. We just doubt Olympia needs 9 cents more a gallon to keep them afloat.
It seems you doubt government needs any money to operate at all. We keep hearing that government can do exactly what it's doing today with less money. All we have to do is cut the fat out of government.

If only that myth were true.

There is no free lunch. Services cost money. Ferry fleets and terminals don't last forever. They need to maintained, upgraded, and eventually, replaced. (It's also worth noting that the entire package does not go to the ferry system. In fact, the ferry system really doesn't receive a lot of money from the package).

Government is not wasting taxpayer money on all these extravagant expenses. Since we're talking about transportation, why don't we look at the Department of Transportation. The state DOT is bringing in practically all of its projects on time and under budget. Taxpayers can trust the state DOT to invest public money wisely.

In fact, DOT's record is so impressive that it convinced conservative Republicans from Eastern Washington (like Rep. Joyce Mulliken, R-Ephrata) to vote for the 2005 transportation package - and the gas tax increase.

You don't have to take our word for it...take hers:
What persuaded her, Mulliken said, was the state's performance with the money raised from the nickel tax that lawmakers approved two years ago, despite her opposition. It paid for a westbound truck lane on Interstate 90 in her district, and the project came in $300,000 under budget and 30 days ahead of schedule.

"I said to the regional manager, 'If the public puts on enough pressure you can come in under budget and early,' " she said.
Reacting to our warning about the consequences of Initiative 912, Hindu wrote:
That'll teach us. We better jump off the I-912 wagon while we still have passable roads!

Maybe it's King County who should worry - how do you think all those coffee beans and apples get to the Westside ... Monorails?


Mariners probably want a Monorail directly to safes Field. Less congestion when all the fans leave after the 5th inning.
912 proponents have continued to drag the Seattle Monorail project into this as a campaign tactic. The problem for them is that the monorail is irrelevant to this debate. It has nothing to do with the 2005 transportation package or the gas tax. Seattle voters will decide the future of the monorail project themselves.

If a majority of Eastern Washington is not interested in maintaining safe roads, fine. We are, and we'll keep our dollars here so we can do just that. Your infrastructure is going to rot and crumble away if you ignore the problems. Will you raise taxes on yourselves to finance your own road improvements? We doubt it.

Finally, addressing your closing comments:
It's always carpool lanes isn't it?

Bottom line:

To alleviate Seattle-Tacoma corridor congestion, Westside politicians believe we need to pay higher taxes to change our behavior.

Is driving your car to work that evil?
First, let's talk about HOV lanes. There are other reasons for building HOV lanes besides encouraging people to carpool, although that is a good reason. Consider that buses need to be able to get through traffic in order to meet their schedules. HOV lanes help keep our mass transit system functioning and on time. HOV lanes might as well be bus lanes, except they're open to any vehicle carrying multiple passengers, which is even better.

DOT doesn't build lots of new general purpose lanes in urban areas because new lanes do nothing to relieve congestion. In fact, new pavement and more lanes just makes congestion worse.

To transportation engineers, it's known as the induced traffic phenomenon. Here's an aphorism that explains it more clearly: "Trying to cure traffic congestion by adding more capacity is like trying to cure obesity by loosening your belt." It just doesn't work.

I found this comment to be very puzzling:
To alleviate Seattle-Tacoma corridor congestion, Westside politicians believe we need to pay higher taxes to change our behavior.
Why don't you get this? Why is it that proponents of Initiative 912 simply do not get this? They seem to ignore it entirely. This package isn't about congestion or changing driving behavior.

It's two simple words: PUBLIC SAFETY. Leaders in Olympia are rightly concerned about public safety. It's not just a Seattle-Tacoma area problem, either. It's a statewide problem.

This package finances 274 projects (241 wholly, the rest partially) to improve public safety across Washington State. Every region of the state has an unsafe bridge, intersection, or stretch of roadway that needs maintenance, repairs, upgrades, or even replacement.

Washingtonians' lives are at stake. Public and private property is at stake. We can make an investment now at a low cost or we can pay a lot more later when a disaster wipes our crumbling infrastructure out.

The risk cannot be emphasized enough. Let Hurricane Katrina and what happened in New Orleans be a sobering lesson to all of us. A failure to invest in basic infrastructure can result in tremendous consequences.

Every region of Washington State benefits from this package. Every single Washingtonian taxpayer benefits from this package. That's just not arguable. It doesn't matter whether you live next door to a project or not.

We need to put safety first. We need to invest in our own future. We need to vote NO on Initiative 912.

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