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.