NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

Live from Whatcom: Senate Republican Transportation Listening Tour

It’s been a fog­gy day here in Belling­ham, but the low vis­i­bil­i­ty has not kept peo­ple from com­ing to the Belling­ham leg of the Sen­ate Repub­li­can’s lis­ten­ing tour, because this place is packed. As we cov­ered ear­li­er this month, Belling­ham was not orig­i­nal­ly a place sched­uled to be part of the tour, but the size of the audi­ence shows no indi­ca­tion of that. 

It’s not all Repub­li­can leg­is­la­tors who are here, but in atten­dance are Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader Rod­ney Tom (who prob­a­bly still thinks he’s a Demo­c­rat), Sen­a­tor Cur­tis King (co-chair of the Sen­ate Trans­porta­tion Com­mit­tee), the insuf­fer­able Sen­a­tor Doug Erick­sen (42 LD) , the “road­kill” Demo­c­rat Sen­a­tor Steve Hobbs, and Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Jeff Mor­ris (D‑40) and Vin­cent Buys (R‑42).

Trans­porta­tion Sec­re­tary Lynn Peter­son spoke first after intro­duc­tions to give con­text about trans­porta­tion issues, and then they went straight into pub­lic comment. 

[6:28] It seems like a lot of union mem­bers are here in atten­dance, I spot about 6 or 7 peo­ple in the orange shirts they nor­mal­ly wear.

[6:30] It looks like one of the was just called up for com­ment. A mem­ber of the labor­er’s local, he advo­cat­ed for a gas tax increase as crit­i­cal to the state. 

[6:34] A con­trac­tor from Sno­homish coun­ty advo­cat­ed before the leg­is­la­tors a 10 cent gas tax increase and the crit­i­cal infra­struc­ture projects it would fund. When Repub­li­cans would­n’t pass a trans­porta­tion bud­get last ses­sion, they were hurt­ing the busi­ness­es they claim it’s their mis­sion to help. 

[6:36] Two mem­bers of the audi­ence in a row just advo­cat­ed for sep­a­rat­ed bike lanes and bet­ter pub­lic tran­sit. As a bike-heavy town, this is not a sur­pris­ing sen­ti­ment at all. One of the com­menter also plugged Seat­tle Metro being able to raise their own levies. Tru­ly a state whose res­i­dents cares about each other.

[6:43] A few peo­ple it very pol­i­cy-spe­cif­ic con­cerns just spoke, advo­cat­ing minor changes in spe­cif­ic pol­i­cy areas which did­n’t have much impact into oth­er parts of the trans­porta­tion sys­tem. More peo­ple spoke in favor of increas­ing the gas tax.

[6:46] Chris John­son, the busi­ness agent for the labor­ers union in the area, asked leg­is­la­tors not to save mon­ey on the backs of work­ers, that tak­ing mon­ey out of work­ers’ pock­ets is not real­ly sav­ing mon­ey at all. He’s afri­ad the Sen­ate Repub­li­can’s will try to take away the pre­vail­ing wage, which would be a major blow to work­ers across the state.

[6:53] Local fund­ing options for tran­sit dis­trict has returned as a point by the com­menters. In Belling­ham, just as in Seat­tle, cit­i­zens want to make deci­sions in their com­mu­ni­ties about impor­tant issues like mass tran­sit, instead of being held back by the state.

[6:56] Com­mu­ni­ty activist Stoney Bird came up to speak, speak­ing about chang­ing trans­porta­tion trends and “cli­mate dis­rup­tion” and “cli­mate cat­a­stro­phe” being large pres­sures which required the leg­is­la­ture to act on a trans­porta­tion package. 

[7:00] The chair of the Ana­cortes Fer­ry Advi­so­ry Com­mit­tee first thanked Rep. Jeff Mor­ris for his sup­port of the fer­ry, and then launched into the need for a ded­i­cat­ed source of rev­enue. Prac­ti­cal­ly no one has spo­ken against rais­ing the gas tax, it seems most peo­ple rec­og­nize there’s a prob­lem, the leg­is­la­ture just actu­al­ly needs to do some­thing about it. 

[7:03] Anoth­er mem­ber of the car­pen­ters union spoke against get­ting rid of the pre­vail­ing wage. Labor seems to be very afraid of pre­vail­ing wage pro­vi­sions going away, and expect a lot of mobi­liza­tion if the Repub­li­cans pro­pose it this session.

[7:12] Some­one just spoke against the gas tax but sup­ports liv­ing wages. And get­ting bicy­clists to pay some sort of gas tax them­selves. Inter­est­ing, but her com­ments are unique in that she’s the only one so far to have said any­thing like it.

[7:22] More and more union mem­bers have shown up, show­ing that this is an issue that’s impor­tant to them and their livelihoods.

[7:28] In an inter­est­ing turn of events, the chair of the state Lib­er­tar­i­an Par­ty showed up to speak, advo­cat­ing for…what lib­er­tar­i­ans nor­mal­ly advo­cate for. How stark­ly dif­fer­ent he was than the rest of the speak­ers was appar­ent as he called for pri­va­tiz­ing the fer­ry sys­tem, cre­at­ing trans­porta­tion vouch­ers, and gut­ting mass transit. 

As the meet­ing end­ed, it was appar­ent that most peo­ple want­ed more invest­ment in our infra­struc­ture while pro­tect­ing decent jobs and alter­na­tive trans­porta­tion. While there were a few naysay­ers, and no Tim Eyman to boo, it showed that at least in this part of Wash­ing­ton, peo­ple want the leg­is­la­ture to invest more in trans­porta­tion and in actu­al solu­tions, instead of push­ing half-mea­sure that decrease our qual­i­ty of life and hurt our shared society.

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