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.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Poll Watch: SurveyUSA and Elway on the Roads & Transit ballot measure

There has been some interesting discussion about the recent SurveyUSA poll commissioned by KING5 Television (a subsidiary of Belo Corp.) showing little support for Roads & Transit. Many opponents have gleefully touted the poll as evidence that the package is sinking. Unfortunately for them, the poll is flawed.

The team at NPI has had a longstanding tradition of taking polls with a huge grain of salt. Polls can be deceptive and inaccurate.

A single poll is a snapshot in time and is difficult to draw conclusions from. Trends (looking at groupings of polls over time) are more useful, but still, the only meaningful poll happens on Election Day.

The results of this SurveyUSA poll are inconsistent with the many public and private polls that have surveyed Puget Sound residents about Roads & Transit.

Those polls (like this one) asked questions that were much more neutral, and all of them have found support at fifty percent or higher, with some above sixty percent.

Not all of the SurveyUSA questions in this poll were actually about the package. Only Questions 3 and 4 were. They were asked in a way that all but guarantees a negative result, and were as follows:
Would you support or oppose raising the sales tax by point-five percent to pay for proposed 50-mile extension of Sound Transit light rail?

56% oppose, 37% support, 6% not sure

Would you support? Or would you oppose? Creating a car license tab excise tax of $80 on every $10,000 of a car's value, in order to pay for improvements in state highways, bridges and local roads?

65% oppose, 30% support, 5% not sure
Notice the questions don't even talk about the specific details of the projects. The question about light rail doesn't say where the light rail will go!

(There are later questions asking about how often residents might ride the system which describe the hubs served, but that information was not incorporated into Question 3). And the question about roads and bridges doesn't identify a single project. It's just generic.

All the emphasis is on costs, without any specific explanation of what voters are getting for their money.

SurveyUSA says it interviewed "600 adults" for this robo-poll, and 513 of them "identified themselves as registered voters in Washington".

(Note that robo-polls can't actually verify the identity of the respondent, because the questions are asked of whoever answers. The respondent could be a teenager or out of state visitor - the computer can't tell who presses the buttons.)

The responding households were all from King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties, but it appears not all of them live inside the boundary of the Sound Transit/RTID taxing district, which only encompasses the urban areas inside the three counties.

And that's a problem. Asking people who live outside of the boundaries of the district what they think of the package is kind of like asking Idahoans what they think of Governor Christine Gregoire. Idahoans don't get to vote for Washington's governor, so why does it matter what they think of her?

The SurveyUSA poll is flawed, plain and simple, and does not fit the trend. It's a total outlier and shouldn't be taken seriously.

The most recent Elway poll, by contrast, does correspond with the trend. Conducted September 10th-13th, it affirms what previous polling has already shown: after a barrage of attacks against the package in recent weeks, support has held up remarkably well. Overall support was holding steady at 54 percent, within the margin of error of the previous Elway poll, which had it at 57 percent.

Support is broad, and the package has more than a majority in all geographic subareas. The takeaway? Voters know our transportation system is underfunded and they want change. The Roads and Transit package will deliver that change, in a comprehensive, balanced package that offers choices and options.

The polling indicates that neither component of the package musters more than a majority by itself. People seem to like the combination, despite what the Sierra Club has claimed. They want a mix of solutions. And, in fact, many of the RTID projects are explicitly designed to benefit transit.

A no position on Roads and Transit means saying no to an expansion of light rail, HOV lanes, and bike lanes. It means no to improvements in Sounder and ST Express bus service. It's a vote against building a regional network of transit. That's the wrong choice for our future.

Transit Digest - September 21st, 2007

Today, we're debuting a new feature on the Official Blog, similiar to In Brief and Blogworthy. Transit Digest will run weekly on Fridays and cover brief transportation news items from the previous few days. Here's the first edition!

WSA Board of Directors votes to Support Roads and Transit Measure: WSA, the largest statewide association of technology companies and executives in the world, came out this week in support of Roads & Transit. In doing so they recognized that this plan represents our best chance to build transit, improve roads, and get people moving.

Traffic in eighteen cities is apparently worse than Seattle's congestion:
Seattle's rating has improved since 1999 when its congestion ranked second-worst in the nation. Transit use and ridesharing are relatively high here, and recent studies take that into account.

This year's report says Seattle commute times are not deteriorating as quickly as they are in some areas.
Transit works. It reduces congestion and it makes commutes reliable. People all over Puget Sound are clamoring for mass transit service - especially rail.

Sims refuses to adopt stance on Roads & Transit measure: The King County Executive won't take a position despite pressure to do so.
Four years ago, when Sound Transit asked the federal government to approve construction of a Seattle light-rail line, King County Executive Ron Sims was the chairman and public face of the agency.

King County Executive Ron Sims, long an advocate of light rail transit, said Tuesday he'll remain neutral on the $47 billion, three-county road-and-transit ballot measure to be decided by voters Nov. 6.

Sims said he's been "vigorously" approached by both sides in the ballot measure issue for his backing but has decided not to take a side.

"I've always taken this position," Sims said Tuesday evening. "I've told people in political circles I won't support or oppose it. It's a very significant proposal that voters are really going to have to dwell on and think about."
Seattle gets a glimpse of its transit future: The Downtown Seattle Tunnel is reopening for public use after Sound Transit retrofitted it for Link service and made numerous improvements.
The reopening is one of several projects coming soon to better move commuters throughout the region.
  • In the South Lake Union area, a red streetcar arrived by truck Monday afternoon, the first of three to begin service in December.
  • Two Sounder commuter trains will be added Monday between Seattle and Tacoma, and one will be added to Sounder's Everett-to-Seattle line.
  • Link light-rail trains begin service from downtown to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in the second half of 2009. Train tests inside the tunnel will start in October, on nights and weekends, Sound Transit spokesman Bruce Gray said.
  • And high-occupancy lanes are being added in Everett, Tacoma, and Highway 99 south of the airport and on the Interstate 90 floating bridges.
Have something to add? Please leave a comment.

A heartfelt thank you to Senators Murray, Cantwell, and Wyden

All three of our Pacific NW Democratic senators did us proud yesterday in refusing to support the Cornyn amendment to condemn MoveOn's newspaper advertisement. Senators Murray and Wyden voted no, while Senator Cantwell registered her protest by refusing to vote, joining Senators Joe Biden and Barack Obama, who also abstained.

(The other Democratic presidential candidates in the U.S. Senate, Hillary Clinton and Chris Dodd, voted no).

We are proud of all of them for showing their resolve to stand up to the Republicans' tricks in the U.S. Senate. Many Democrats ran for the hills, but our Northwest Democrats stood up to the GOP's theatrics.

Olbermann slams Bush in Special Comment: "Your hypocrisy is so vast"

Our favorite TV host delivered another outstanding Special Comment last night:
Terrorizing your own people in hopes of getting them to vote for your own party has never brought as much as a public comment from you?

The Republican Hamstringing of Captain Max Cleland and lying about Lieutenant John Kerry met with your approval?

But a shot at General Petraeus, about whom you conveniently ignore it, was you who reduced him from four-star hero to a political hack, merits this pissy juvenile blast at the Democrats on national television?

Your hypocrisy is so vast that if we could somehow use it to fill the ranks in Iraq you could realize your dream and keep us fighting there until the year 3000.
And then:
Mr. Bush, you have hidden behind the General’s skirts, and today you have hidden behind the skirts of ‘the planted last question’ at a news conference, to indicate once again that your presidency has been about the tilted playing field, about no rules for your party in terms of character assassination and changing the fabric of our nation, and no right for your opponents or critics to as much as respond.

That is not only un-American but it is dictatorial.

And in pimping General David Petraeus and in the violation of everything this country has been assiduously and vigilantly against for 220 years, you have tried to blur the gleaming radioactive demarcation between the military and the political, and to portray your party as the one associated with the military, and your opponents as the ones somehow antithetical to it.

You did it again today and you need to know how history will judge the line you just crossed.
In today's era of the Republican Noise Machine, with right wing pundits saturating the airwaves, it's so nice to have at least one guy who speaks truth to power. The full Special Comment is here, you can follow the same link and launch the video player to watch it, or download it from Cooks & Liars.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The stupidity of our healthcare system

Yesterday I wasted a small slice of my evening watching the local news at 6:30 PM, and I caught a story about two men (Tony Murphy and John Preston) who had heard a woman screaming for help in front of her burning home because her son was trapped inside. With no other help apparently in sight, these two rushed into the home, risking their lives, and managed to evacuate the son to safety.

They suffered only minor injuries (including smoke inhalation) but were taken to the emergency room as a precaution. Here's the part that makes me angry: that ambulance ride and hospital visit came with a $2,200 bill.

And the kicker:
Because he had just started his job at Precision Door and Cabinet, Tony's health insurance hadn't kicked in.

"He puts his life on the line and now he's having to deal with financial ramifications of that," said former co-worker Patti Olson.

"I didn't get out of the truck and go 'how much money do I have? How much is the hospital?'" said Tony. He was thinking about the man whose life he and John were about to save.
This is the stupidity of our health care system. You can run into a burning house, save someone's life, be a hero - and get stuck with the hospital bill! It's insanely ridiculous! America is the richest country on Earth, but we don't have universal healthcare. We don't have universal coverage.

This situation is a travesty and something needs to be done about it.

I'm tired of hearing these lame excuses from the right wing about healthcare, like the scare phrase socialized medicine - that's just pure nonsense. We've already got socialized firefighters and socialized libraries. If the private sector can do everything, why do we have government?

Oh, that's right...because it can't!

And one of the things the private sector cannot do is provide universal health coverage. Why? Because it's a fundamental human right - and private businesses aren't about protecting human rights, they exist to make money. Insurance companies can't make money protecting every person in America.

Since every person needs healthcare, providing that coverage ought to be the responsibility of government.

A few days ago I was watching an ABC special on Michael Moore's SiCKO, where John Stossel took it upon himself to go talk to the executive of the health insurance industry's association.

I didn't catch the whole interview because my phone rang in the middle of it, but in the first part, this executive was replying to one of Stossel's questions by deriding all the "unnecessary claims" made by patients.

That was the point where I wanted to shout back, slowly and clearly: You...don'!

If I need a procedure done, that decision should be made by me and my doctors. I shouldn't have to get permission from some corporate bureaucrat who is trying to look out for his or her company's bottom line.

Those who are fortunate enough to belong to a union are lucky, they're probably covered. And that's one of the huge benefits of belonging to a union: thanks to the power of collective bargaining, you can actually get decent healthcare insurance. But only a small percentage of America's workforce belongs to a union.

The undeniable truth is that the healthcare system in this country is broken and needs to be fixed. As Democrats across the country begin voting or caucusing to select a presidential nominee, we must ask ourselves: which of the candidates will have the strength to push for the real change that is needed, and not fold to pressure from the right wing, the D.C. establishment, or the corporate cons?

The real masters of political theater

You want political theater? They'll give you political theater:'s "General Betray Us" advertisement was condemned today by the U.S. Senate.

Voting 72-25, senators passed a resolution sponsored by conservative Republican John Cornyn of Texas.

The anti-war group's full-page ad appeared in The New York Times last week as Gen. David Petraeus testified on Capitol Hill. It carried the headline "General Petraeus or General Betray Us? Cooking the books for the White House."

Presidential candidates Sens. Hillary Clinton and Christopher Dodd voted against the resolution. Sen. Barrack Obama did not vote.
Republicans love to complain about spending time discussing the disastrous consequences of the Iraq occupation, but when a group of Americans places an ad in a newspaper, watch out! The Republican Noise Machine is on full-blown howl mode, while prominent Republicans such as John McCain have declared that MoveOn should be "thrown out of the country" - proving once again that the right wing secretly despises freedom of speech.

Think about the significance of that remark. You say something "disgraceful" (as Republican Gordon Smith of Oregon characterized the MoveOn ad) and the consequence of that is that you get thrown out of the country? That's not free speech, nor is it the American way.

MoveOn has ridiculed the amendment, noting:
The U.S. Senate just told you to sit down and be quiet when they passed a Republican amendment condemning MoveOn.

Every day, our brave men and women are dying in a bloody civil war this Senate has done nothing to stop. Yesterday, they couldn't even pass a bill to give soldiers adequate leave with their families before redeploying. But they're spending time cracking down on a newspaper ad?

So, we're making clear where America stands. We're releasing a statement from MoveOn members — and anyone else who feels the same way — saying, "We will not be quiet, we will fight back. We will keep speaking out until Congress forces an exit plan for this awful war."

Maybe you liked our General Petraeus ad. Maybe you thought the language went too far. But make no mistake: this is much bigger than one ad.

It's part of a larger campaign by Fox, the right-wing echo chamber, and Republicans like John McCain (who said we should be "thrown out of the country").

They're doing it because they're hurting: Polls show last week's Bush Administration PR blitz increased the number of Americans favoring withdrawal5 and vulnerable Republicans are sinking lower and lower in the polls (or announcing their retirement).

And it has one purpose: to intimidate all of us. To send a message that anyone who speaks unpleasant truths about this war will pay. To make everyone — especially politicians — think twice before they accuse the administration of lying.

If it looks like we're on the run, people will think twice before they speak out. Will you send a message today to Dick Cheney, Fox, Bill O'Reilly, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Karl Rove — and the Democrats without the guts to vote against this — that it's not working?

We've changed our home page to just run the names of people who sign on. We'll report the totals to the media all day. And if we can find an electronic billboard in Washington, D.C., we'll run the names there, too.

And after you add your name, you can go one step further. We've put together a fair but hard-hitting ad that highlights how, yesterday, Republicans blocked a bill to give our troops adequate family leave before going back to Iraq. If we can raise enough money, we'll air this ad across the country and take the fight back to the real issues — this terrible war and its impact on our troops and the Iraqi people.

This morning, the Senate didn't pass an exit strategy for Iraq. They didn't pass a bill to cover millions of uninsured Americans or combat the climate crisis. Nope — they condemned 3.4 million Americans for speaking out against the war.

Let them know them it's not going to work.
If voting to condemn a newspaper ad is not "political theater", then somebody tell me what is.

Republicans complain about "political theater" one week, then turn around and insist on meaningless votes that waste the Senate's time. All they've proved today is that they are the real masters of the art they profess to despise.

UPDATE: ThinkProgress has more.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Another GOP congressional retirement

Proud wingnuts who previously boasted that the Republican Party will retake Congress in 2008 must be wincing these days:
Another Congressional Republican is headed for the door. Congressman Jerry Weller will reportedly announce tomorrow that he is not seeking re-election.

President Bush carried his district with 53% in 2004, and Weller was re-elected with 55% in 2006. With those non-landslide margins in a district that simply was not targeted, we might just see the Democrats trying for a pick-up in a possible wave election next year.

Weller is perhaps best known for a series of land deals in Nicaragua and for his marriage to Guatemalan Congresswoman Zury Ríos Montt, daughter of former right-wing dictator Efraín Ríos Montt.
On the Senate side, Republicans are defending 22 seats, while Democrats are only defending twelve. Democrats are poised to pick up seats across the country, in Oregon, Colorado, Virginia, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Maine.

I smell another fresh breeze on the horizon - a second blue wave rushing forward to clean the stained sands of government that need a new round of disinfectant (as today's unacceptable GOP filibuster of habeas corpus restoration so clearly illustrated - Washington, D.C. is not Democratic enough).

Help prevent a dirty coal plant from being built in Kalama along the Columbia River

The last thing we need is another fossil-fuel burning, smoke belching facility:
Seeking to stop a power plant that would spew millions of tons of global-warming pollution into Washington skies, several leading environmental and clean-energy groups have filed to intervene in the permitting process for Energy Northwest’s proposed 680-megawatt coal-fueled facility in Kalama, Wash.

The organizations – including the Washington Environmental Council, the Sierra Club’s Cascade chapter and NW Energy Coalition, all represented by attorneys from Earthjustice – are urging members of the public to insist that state regulators reject Energy Northwest’s permit application, beginning with comments at the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council’s public hearing this Thursday evening, September 20th, in Kalama.
Energy Northwest, incidentally, was formerly known as WPPSS - the Washington Public Power Supply System. WPPSS, also known as "whoops", is famous for defaulting on $2.25 billion worth of bonds (the largest municipal bond default in the history of the United States) after its proposal to build a network of nuclear power plants across Washington State was scrapped.

(If you ever drive Highway 12 past Satsop you can still see the giant cooling towers rising above the line of trees, dominating the landscape, remnants of one of the abandoned plants that WPPSS never finished).

As Earthjustice attorney Steve Mashuda says, "This is a 19th-century solution to a 21st-century problem. People in the Northwest want bold action to turn the tide on global warming, not more polluting fossil-fuel technology."

We need to step up our conservation efforts and focus on the development of renewable energy sources like wind and solar. This WPPSS Energy Northwest proposal is a perfect example of what we shouldn't be doing.

This plant, if built, would produce pollution equal to the emissions of 70,000 additional cars on Washington state roads!

If you want to voice your opposition, you can show up at tomorrow's hearing, which begins at 6:30 PM tomorrow in the Kalama Community Building, 126 N 2nd Street in Kalama. The Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council will also accept written comments on the plan until October 20th.

Comments may be mailed to:

Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council
Attn: Stephen Posner
P.O. Box 43172
Olympia, WA 98504-3172

To send an email instead, and/or learn more, visit the NW Energy Coalition.

GOP filibusters habeas restoration

This is what Republican values are all about:
A Republican filibuster in the Senate today shot down a bipartisan effort to restore the right of terrorism suspects to contest their detentions and treatment in federal courts, underscoring the Democratic-led Congress's difficulty with terrorism issues.

The 56-43 vote fell short of the 60 needed to cut off debate and move to a final vote on the amendment to the Senate's annual defense policy bill. But the measure did garner the support of six Republicans, a small victory for its supporters.
Why should you care about habeas corpus? Because it's our greatest constitutional right. Senator Patrick Leahy explains:
Last year, Congress committed an historic mistake by suspending the Great Writ of habeas corpus — not just for those confined at Guantanamo Bay but for millions of legal residents in the United States. The Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing in May on this bill illustrated the broad agreement among representatives from diverse political beliefs and backgrounds that the mistake committed in the Military Commissions Act of 2006 must be corrected.

The Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007, S.186, the bill on which this amendment is based, has 30 cosponsors. The Senate Judiciary Committee reported it on a bipartisan basis. I hope Senators will review the Committee report on this measure.


The Great Writ of habeas corpus is the legal process that guarantees an opportunity to go to court and challenge the abuse of power by the Government. The Military Commissions Act rolled back these protections by eliminating that right, permanently, for any non-citizen labeled an enemy combatant. In fact, a detainee does not have to be found to be an enemy combatant; it is enough for the Government to say someone is "awaiting" determination of that status.

The sweep of this habeas provision goes far beyond the few hundred detainees currently held at Guantanamo Bay, and it includes an estimated 12 million lawful permanent residents in the United States today. These are people who work and pay taxes, people who abide by our laws and should be entitled to fair treatment. Under this law, any of these people can be detained, forever, without any ability to challenge their detention in court.

This is wrong. It is unconstitutional. It is un-American.
The only Northwest senators voting to filibuster were Larry Craig and Mike Crapo of Idaho. Senators Murray, Cantwell, Wyden, and Smith voted in favor of ending debate, joining 52 of their other colleagues, mostly Democrats.

Republican senators supporting the filibuster who are retiring included John Warner of Virginia and Wayne Allard of Colorado. Susan Collins also supported the filibuster - we hope Tom Allen doesn't let the people of Maine forget that.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Fed slashes interest rate

Today's move was expected, but the intensity was surprising:
The Federal Reserve today lowered its benchmark interest rate by a half point, a forceful policy shift intended to limit the damage to the economy from the recent disorder in the housing and credit markets.

While an interest rate cut was widely expected, there had been profound uncertainty about whether the Fed would choose a more cautious quarter-point reduction. But the bolder action and an accompanying statement, both approved by a unanimous vote of the central bank’s policy-setting committee, made it clear that the Fed had decided the risks of a recession were too big to ignore.
Bonddad and Mark Thoma have already posted their take on today's news.

Gregoire approves wind power project

Well done, Governor:
Governor Chris Gregoire today announced that, after extensive review and careful consideration, she has approved the Kittitas Valley Wind Power Project.

"It is clear that Washington is growing and with that growth our demands for energy resources also grow. It is the clear and compelling policy of the state to prefer new resources that have the least impact on our state’s natural environment," wrote Governor Gregoire in her letter to Jim Luce, chair of the Washington Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC), dated September 18.

"Our legislators and our citizens have recently articulated their strong preferences for renewable resources. Those policies are not in doubt and I remain committed to them...The benefits of this project are considerable and will accrue to the citizens across our state."
Last month, we strongly urged the Governor to take this course of action, and we are delighted that she has followed through. Once again, Chris Gregoire proves what a capable and wise leader she is.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Mr. Hegdahl Goes to the Other Washington

Yesterday afternoon, I arrived in our nation's capitol after an uneventful flight from Seattle for a VoteVets event with veterans from across the country.

I participated in a fun evening gathering at the Arlington McCormick and Schmick's, which was highlighted by a pep talk and some advice for the 40 OEF/OIF veterans by retired general and former presidential candidate Wesley Clark.

VoteVets flew dozens of veterans into town for a two day training and lobbying effort to support the troops by advocating for an end to the Iraq occupation (and preventing a possible invasion of Iran).

The featured speaker at today's training (during the luncheon) was Paul Begala, political consultant, commentator and former advisor to President Bill Clinton. It was a very casual but entertaining lecture on messaging.

Tonight we had a happy hour meet-and-greet with several members of Congress including: Joe Sestak (PA-07), Patrick Murphy (PA-08), Tim Walz (MN-01), John Hall (NY-19), Dave Loebsack (IA-02), Shelley Berkley (NV-01) and Albio Sires (NJ-13).

The food and the company were outstanding. It was wonderful meeting our representatives and getting real face time with many of the leaders that veterans rely on to make well informed decisions.

Tomorrow's schedule includes a grand finale, during which we will assemble for a press conference (a time and place has not been finalized yet) with members of both houses. We will demonstrate that Iraq veterans stand firmly with our Democratic leadership in our united wish for an end to an unjust war - and to return our military's focus to actually fighting terrorism where it exists rather than continuing to perpetuate a conflict that creates it.

I will post a follow-up on my return Wednesday.

In Brief - September 17th, 2007

Here is today's quick news digest:
  • Europe's second highest court today upheld a sweeping 2004 antitrust ruling against Microsoft, which fined the software company $613 million and ordered it to share confidential networking protocols with rivals as well as offering a version of Windows without a built-in copy of Windows Media Player. Several of Washington's U.S. representatives have issued statements condemning the decision, including Dave Reichert, who blasted the effects of the ruling as a "new European tax on American innovation". According to the Wall Street Journal, European regulators "hailed the court decision as a victory for consumers, who, in the words of Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes, are 'suffering at the hands of Microsoft.'"
  • Democratic preisdential hopeful John Edwards has announced a bold proposal that would cut off healthcare for the President, Congress and all political appointees in mid 2009, if a universal health care plan for all Americans has not been passed by then. Good to see that Edwards means business.
  • George W. Bush today nominated former federal judge Michael Mukasey to succeed Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General of the United States. Mukasey's nomination surprised many observers who expected the administration to nominate someone with a closer connection to Bush. Democrats have largely expressed satisfaction with the pick, and Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy says their focus now "will be on securing the relevant information we need so we can proceed to schedule fair and thorough hearings. Cooperation from the White House will be essential in determining that schedule."
  • Neil Modie has a comprehensive report on Dino Rossi's possible candidacy for Governor in 2008 (Rossi run for governor? All signs point to yes) in this morning's Seattle Post-Intelligencer, including an amusing anecdote about Rob McKenna's assurance to the Tacoma News Tribune that Rossi was "definitely going for it." David Horsey has followed with a cartoon for publication in tomorrow's P-I.
  • Republican Congressman Jim Ramstad, who represents Minnesota's 3rd District, announced today that he won't seek a tenth term in office. MN-03 is now up for grabs and is considered a key pickup opportunity for Democrats. MNPublius has more.
If you have something to add, please leave a comment.

More nonsense from Van Dyk

In a recent column, Ted Van Dyk has some choice words for the upcoming Proposition One, also know as the Roads and Transit Ballot Measure.

The local establishment reflexively scorns Eyman. It, too, reflexively endorses proposals opposed by Eyman. Keep Washington Rolling, the front organization backing the Proposition One ballot measure, has drawn big dollars from the contractors, subcontractors and others who eat at Sound Transit's trough. But it also has gotten $200,000 from Microsoft, $75,000 from the Seattle Mariners, and $50,000 each from PEMCO Insurance Co. and the Washington Association of Realtors, among other donors.
I’m not entirely sure what Van Dyk's point is aside from the fact that people and entitites give money to support things they like and will benefit from.

What Van Dyk fails to note is that the contributions of those corporations directly involved with Sound Transit’s clearly nefarious projects are minuscule compared to the contributions by businesses, individuals, and organizations that have the foresight to see how important this plan is, even if they won’t help build it.

Van Dyk goes on:
Urban analyst Joel Kotkin, in a recent Wall Street Journal essay, related the experience of other metro areas with light rail systems that have "minuscule ridership but consume a disproportionate share of transit funds that might go to more cost-efficient systems, including bus-based rapid transit." That is precisely the outlook for the proposed regional system here. It would eat the major share of the $38 billion, over 20 years, to be allocated to the Sound Transit-RTID package, which neglects vital bus transit, bridge and highway needs. Yet corporate sponsors are heedlessly backing the scheme, which would further snarl transportation and harm the economy. They make Eyman seem sensible.
Van Dyk seems to be under the impression that the Roads & Transit package must solve every transportation problem in our region, from rebuilding SR 520 to filling the potholes in front of his house. No plan can do everything, but this regional package has been specifically designed to augment existing and future investments at the local, regional, and state level.

(Van Dyk also says nothing about the mountains of public input that went into drafting this plan: all the countless workshops, briefings, and feedback sessions held by Sound Transit and the Regional Transportation Investment District).

Bus rapid transit and other solutions are an important part of an effective system, but they can’t do it alone. Fixed rail is a critical component of the transportation systems of almost every major city in the world.

Where light rail has been built, communities generally decide to expand their systems after construction - because rail works. I'd like to see Van Dyk come up with examples of municipalities that have ripped up their light rail tracks because the system was a waste or failure.

It also seems that Van Dyk has forgotten that voters in King County recently approved Transit Now, which funds bus rapid transit and other bus improvements around King County. Roads and Transit supports this. The addition of 30 miles of HOV lanes funded by the plan is essential to a functioning bus system.

Opponents of this package (like Kemper Freeman Jr.) like to say that light rail will only carry a “miniscule” portion of "daily trips" - such as taking the kids to soccer, going to a movie, shopping at Costco, and so on.

If you adopt that misleading view, most of our important highways don't carry much of our traffic either. For example, the Alaskan Way Viaduct currently carries 110,000 daily trips out of 12.6 million - that's less then 1%.

Most of the congestion in our region occurs in key highway corridors, not the neighborhood streets that run in front of our houses. Roads & Transit is a powerful set of projects targeted largely at these corridors. You could say the package is an investment in a reliable commute.

Comparatively, fully built out, with trains running every few minutes, light rail can carry 12,000 passengers per hour. That's the equivalent of six highway lanes operating at peak efficiency, which in our hilly and curvy region, rarely happens. And without the congestion and pollution that roads bring.

David Goldstein has more on Van Dyk's perplexing admiration of Tim Eyman.

Say goodbye to TimesSelect

Well, now we can all read Frank Rich and Paul Krugman online again:
The New York Times will stop charging for access to parts of its Web site, effective at midnight Tuesday night, reflecting a growing view in the industry that subscription fees cannot outweigh the potential ad revenue from increased traffic on a free site.

The move comes two years to the day after The Times began the subscription program, TimesSelect, which has charged $49.95 a year, or $7.95 a month, for online access to its columnists’ work and to the newspaper’s archives. TimesSelect has been free to print subscribers to The Times, and to some students and educators.
Glad to see they've realized their mistake.

Now, if only the Spokesman-Review would do the same...

Water Taxi to run through October

Metro announced today that the Elliot Bay Water Taxi will continue to run through October this year. Yet again, a transit based solution has experienced record breaking ridership. In each month of this year, more people road the service compared to last year.

The Water Taxi will run during peak morning and afternoon hours during October. Service will also be available late Friday night and for special events.

The King County Council recently formed a King County Ferry District to operate passenger only ferry service in our region. Potential routes include: Vashon Island to Seattle, Kirkland and Renton to Seattle, and Des Moines to Seattle. The District is also considering taking over operation of the Elliot Bay Water Taxi from Metro.

The District is in the process of adopting bylaws and a business plan. The next step is to prepare a levy proposal to be placed before the voters of King County. Water borne transit can play a significant role as we transition from single occupancy vehicles towards transit based solutions.

The cost of commuting by bicycle

David Neiwert has an interesting column in today's Post-Intelligencer defending bike commuters. What I found most interesting was his reference to a study on the relative costs of bikes vs. cars.
A 1995 study titled "Whose Roads?" by cycling advocate Todd Litman laid all this out in detail. The study estimated that automobile users pay an average of 2.3 cents per mile in user fees, including fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees, while they actually impose 6.5 cents per mile in road service costs. Who pays the difference? It's picked up by general taxes and property assessments. So while bicyclists pay an equal share of those taxes, they impose costs averaging only 0.2 cents per mile in road service costs.

The amount bicyclists overpay leaps out when you look at the costs of local roads, the roads cyclists use most. Litman found that only a third of the funds for their construction and maintenance comes from vehicle user charges; local property, income and sales taxes pay the rest. Automobile user fees contribute only about 1 cent per mile toward the costs of local roads but simultaneously impose costs more than six times that amount.
It makes sense when you think about it. A car weighs upwards of 3 or 4 thousand pounds, whereas a bike, with person, only weighs 200-250 tops. Not to mention the external costs of air pollution, global climate change, and unfortunate Middle Eastern encounters, that are caused by cars.

Even if we ourselves don’t cycle, we benefit from others doing so. The recent accident near the University Bridge underscores the risks facing cyclists. One way we can better protect them is through more segregate lanes. Another is by simply being more careful when we drive. We all have an obligation to watch out for cyclists and give them a safe amount of room.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Clark County might charge school districts for traffic creation

What's not really stated in the linked article here, but obvious to long-time observers of the growth struggles in Clark County, is that Democratic county commissioner Betty Sue Morris is trying to find traffic capacity for her developer pals anywhere she can before she presumably retires next year. And she's now stating for the record that the county will take it out of the hides of the school districts if it can, and couch it in environmental terms to boot:
Morris wants the county to charge new high schools a fee, likely in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, based on the traffic they generate. All other developments pay that traffic impact fee, but the county has always given schools a pass. In the new system, schools might get a discount by building smaller parking lots or taking other measures to cut driving.
When I lived in the Evergreen School District, and that board some years ago looked into what could be done to have some kind of "concurrency" system for schools similar to that for roads, I was told by at least one school district official that wouldn't work because the districts have an unofficial understanding with the county. Basically, the county wouldn't apply traffic concurrency standards to the schools, easing their ability to site and build new facilities that have been so desperately needed due to growth. That sort of worked for a while, but now the value of traffic capacity is becoming so high that it's going to be in the interests of the pro-developer county government to not leave anything on the table, even for something as worthwhile as schools.

So if the county ever decides to charge school districts for the trips they generate, look out. All bets are off, and the first thing people should demand of their school district officials is that children be given the same consideration as asphalt when it comes to financing needed infrastructure. Think about it. Roads have to be at least planned and financed when traffic capacity is used up, but there is no similar provision for schools. Taxpayers pick up the bill and the Republicans blame us. It's fiendishly clever, if underhanded and destructive to quality of life.

Clark County is about to enact the Great Land Grab of 2007, only three years after the supposed 20 year growth plan was enacted, but there's never going to be enough transportation money to fuel the developers' dreams. Which is why school districts in Clark County now find themselves being greedily eyed by the seemingly unstoppable forces of endless sprawl.

Note to school board members in Clark County: Betty Sue Morris is issuing you a warning, right there in The Columbian. You don't need to pay the county to encourage more environmentally friendly commuting options by students. Taxpayers agree to fund schools for education, not to subsidize developers.

It's an outrageous suggestion on the face of it, and we can at least hope some brave school board members in the county will call Morris on her threat.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Throw bills from the balcony

I know it's dangerous to read more into one event than it warrants, and you have to watch out for those dreaded media and conservative narratives, but this AP story about today's protest in Washington, D.C. certainly has a Vietnam-era feel to it:
Several thousand anti-war demonstrators marched through downtown Washington on Saturday, clashing with police at the foot of the Capitol steps where more than 190 protesters were arrested.

The group marched from the White House to the Capitol to demand an end to the Iraq war. Their numbers stretched for blocks along Pennsylvania Avenue, and they held banners and signs and chanted, "What do we want? Troops out. When do we want it? Now."


About 13 blocks away, nearly 1,000 counterprotesters gathered near the Washington Monument, frequently erupting in chants of "U-S-A" and waving American flags.

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Robert "Buzz" Patterson, speaking from a stage to crowds clad in camouflage, American flag bandanas and Harley Davidson jackets, said he wanted to send three messages.

"Congress, quit playing games with our troops. Terrorists, we will find you and kill you," he said. "And to our troops, we're here for you, and we support you."
Well, Buzz, we all want good things for our troops and bad things for terrorists, so mainly you've stuck it to us with your fashion choices. I'll raise you a Charles Manson tattoo and call you on Altamont. Let me know when you enter the 1980's and start buying Izods and argyles.

My crystal ball needs a new needle because the albums keep skipping, but it seems we are in some kind of calm before the storm. I don't mean that all hell is going to break lose tomorrow, but given the fact that nothing in our Iraq policy changed after the ballyhooed Bush Report, I give it two years tops before a whole lot more people are willing to go into the streets. I could be wrong, naturally, but I do sense a change.

The caution that must be raised is that today's protests, even with relatively substantial numbers of arrests, are tame compared to the 1960's. One interesting aspect is that the vastly lowered transaction cost of organization and communication wrought by the internet has not led, so far, to the use of the medium to organize strategic, nation-wide protests designed to ratchet up pressure on the government. In short, there is not a broad-based direct action movement outside the ANSWER coalition, and whatever one thinks of ANSWER, it seems unlikely that after four-plus years ANSWER is the answer.

That's not a slam at those who currently organize protests, but a recognition that things simply have not gotten to the point where public opinion has shifted enough. Organizers can only do so much. There has to be a shift in public opinion towards that direct action. It's worth considering whether the obvious lack of progress in the small step of starting to end the occupation of Iraq will mark the beginning of such a shift.

By comparison, the civil rights movement in the 1950's and early 1960's was engaging in civil disobedience rather than simply demonstrating, with all that entails. There was a commitment to be arrested over unjust laws and a willingness to endure great physical hardship, and even death, without resorting to violence one's self. A person would have to be pretty sure that elections alone are never going to achieve one's goal before going that route. There's no doubt that Martin Luther King and the myriad other people in the civil rights movement understood they had to go that route, but even they had their doubts at times.

Doubts about electoral politics were, to my way of understanding, a tremendously sad aspect of the tragedy of the 1960's regarding the Vietnam War. As much sacrifice, blood and terror that civil rights advocates endured, they had won an historic and ultimately lasting victory. The franchise had been secured for blacks, but within a few short years the peace movement that sprang forth from nuclear freeze, civil rights and free speech roots on (mostly) white college campuses had come to believe that electoral politics was not going to end the war. Shut out from the levers of power in the Democratic Party, and with the Republican Party, as now, not an option, what was to be done?

I oversimplify, of course, as any short discussion of the time period must, but I believe that basic tension between "establishment politics" versus "direct action" was real and that we face the potential of such a tension reappearing among Democratic activists. There are notable signs of growing frustration within the netroots, much as there was among young activists who formed such initially democratic organizations as SDS.

That being said, old-fashioned street protests have become entirely predictable and are mostly underplayed or ignored by the media. Police forces are far, far more professional than a generation ago when it comes to dealing with protests, meaning that the mindless savagery of a Bull Connor or a Richard J. Daly is not on display. To be clear, there may be individual acts of inappropriate police behavior, but it sounds like today's protesters had to work pretty hard to get arrested.

I would hasten to add that the progressive blogosphere has tradionally eschewed street protests, by and large, but given that the stakes are rising I believe there will be a greater willingness in the future to consider them.

It's easier said than done, but perhaps what is needed is a form of direct action that is more creative, less directly confrontational but far more subversive of government legitimacy over the occupation of Iraq. If you've heard of "freeway blogging" perhaps you'll forgive the clumsy appellation "Daily Show Direct Action." (And I can hope, anyhow, that Jon Stewart would forgive it and recognize it for the compliment it is.)

If anyone could come up with something against the war as brilliant as this account of a counter-demonstration against white supremacists in North Carolina they would be lionized forever:
White Power!” the Nazi’s shouted, “White Flour?” the clowns yelled back running in circles throwing flour in the air and raising separate letters which spelt “White Flour”.

“White Power!” the Nazi’s angrily shouted once more, “White flowers?” the clowns cheers and threw white flowers in the air and danced about merrily.

“White Power!” the Nazi’s tried once again in a doomed and somewhat funny attempt to clarify their message, “ohhhhhh!” the clowns yelled “Tight Shower!” and held a solar shower in the air and all tried to crowd under to get clean as per the Klan’s directions.

At this point several of the Nazi’s and Klan members began clutching their hearts as if they were about to have a heart attack. Their beady eyes bulged, and the veins in their tiny narrow foreheads beat in rage. One last time they screamed “White Power!”

The clown women thought they finally understood what the Klan was trying to say. “Ohhhhh…” the women clowns said. “Now we understand…”, “WIFE POWER!” they lifted the letters up in the air, grabbed the nearest male clowns and lifted them in their arms and ran about merrily chanting “WIFE POWER! WIFE POWER! WIFE POWER!”

It was at this point that several observers reported seeing several Klan members heads exploding in rage and they stopped trying to explain to the clowns what they wanted.
I can't easily find an account of this clown-ter protest anywhere in the traditional media, but it's so brilliant it doesn't matter whether it actually happened as described or not. If it did, it should go down in progressive annals as one of the greatest direct actions ever, and if it didn't, whoever wrote it up should get a special award and a lot of money to keep doing it. What we need is not more arrests, but more white flour, combined with continued efforts to change the Democratic Party.

Ideas are more powerful and valuable than anything else, you know. Something has to give sooner or later, and the later it occurs, the higher the cost to our national security, our troops and our country's unity.

Jane Hague faked academic credentials

Whatever credibility and respect Jane Hague may have once had is now gone:
King County Councilmember Jane Hague [who represents the 6th District], in the midst of an already troubled re-election campaign, said Friday she takes full responsibility for widely circulated reports that she has a college degree that she doesn't have.
This is pretty serious: Hague already had a DUI and rude conduct towards the police hanging over her. Now comes another humiliation.

You'd think Hague would take the opportunity to completely own up to her shortcomings. But nope...she remains defensive:
"What is the point here? Are you trying to call me a liar?" she asked at one point...Friday's telephone interview came nine days after Hague publicly apologized for speaking rudely and profanely to a sheriff's deputy and two state troopers who arrested her for alleged drunken driving June 2. She has pleaded not guilty to a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol.
I'm starting to see an increasingly powerful pattern here.

Embarrassing news about Jane Hague breaks, Jane Hague maintains that she's somehow innocent, and blusters that somebody else is responsible. Yeah, right. So somebody forced Hague to drink too much that night she drove drunk? Somebody else created her resume for her? Please. (And those incidents are just the tip of the iceberg, as David Goldstein recounts.)
Hague, 61, attended Western Michigan University between 1964 and 1968 but didn't graduate, the registrar's office said Thursday. The reports that she earned a degree in business or business and economics were published between 1991 and 2000.

"I'm willing to say that if there were erroneous reports, then you may call me guilty. You can call me guilty because the buck stops here," the Bellevue Republican said.

Asked why several "Who's Who" books said she had a bachelor's degree from Western Michigan, Hague said at first, "Beats me." She then speculated that her staff members may have inadvertently filled out forms with incorrect information.
Sure, we believe you, Jane. It must have been somebody else who submitted those erroneous reports. It would be below you to fake having a degree.

Oh, wait:
Jon Gelberg, senior managing director of special projects at Marquis Who's Who, said Hague submitted the information printed in that company's publications.

If you live in the 6th District and Hague is your councilmember, you might want to learn more about your other choice in the November election: Richard Pope, who won the Democratic nomination in the August 21st primary.

Rudy "Matt Foley" Guiliani jumps three sharks!

My name is Rudy Giuliani and I am a motivational speaker.

The only thing more sad than motivational speakers are the childish fools who would take seriously a person who shirked the Iraq Study Group to be a motivational speaker.

It's bad enough our debate over Iraq is so uninformed in this country.

The last thing we need is a guy who should be living in a van down by the river pretending to be president. I guess since the cowboy-actor thing has run its course, the Republican children need a new kind of "corporate daddy."

Guiliani might ditch the family, but at least he gives the discipline they so badly desire. How nice it would be for the rest of us if conservatives would seek some counseling for their strange compulsions rather than trying to foist them off on everyone.

Might as well just elect Zig Ziglar himself. Corporate propaganda designed for mid-management suckups is not a political philosophy, although it does seem to bring in rather astounding sums of money.

September 11th! September 11th! Repeat as needed.

And by the way, if the best this guy can do is accuse Democratic candidates of being silent, he might as well pack it in now. Rudy has not said anything today about Fred Phelps, so I must assume he endorses Westboro Baptist Church. What a maroon.

Sierra Club loses bid to change voters' guide

Yesterday, two King County Superior Court judges denied the Sierra Club's reuqest to augment the Roads and Transit con statement with their critique of the RTID component, and to change the membership of the con committee.

The judges, ruling in two separate suits brought by the Sierra Club, found that Sound Transit had followed the law in both instances.

The Sierra Club is the only major environmental organization to oppose the measure. The Washington Conservation Voters, the Washington Environmental Council, Futurewise, and other groups dedicated to a sustainable Earth strongly support Roads & Transit.

They believe, as we do, that by investing in fifty miles of new light rail, thirty miles of new high occupancy vehicles lanes, enhancements to Sounder commuter rail, and Park & Ride expansions we can decrease single occupancy vehicle use and improve our transportation choices.

Additionally, by removing dangerous choke points that cause congestion, we can improve the reliability of our bus system and make our roads safer.

We agree with the Sierra Club that the climate crisis must be addressed, and that includes changing our habits. But opposing this transit-heavy package simply because it contains a few road projects is senseless. This is one of the greenest transportation proposals ever sent to voters. The RTID portion of the package includes an unprecedented amount of money for environmental mitigation.

Roads and Transit is good for the environment and good for our region.