November 07, 2005

Frinklin's Washington State Voter Guide

This is a big off-year election in the state of Washington. Between a series of big initiatives and (in my mind) misguided attempts at increasing the ease of voting, the state is expecting huge turnout, maybe as much as 60%.

Yes, I’ve railed against the dumbing-down of elections before, and I’ll stick with it. Voting should take effort. It shouldn’t be as easy as voting on-line or by mail. If you’re too damned dumb or lazy or both to figure out the issues and head to the polling place, please don’t bother.

Now, onto the issues:

Initiative 900
This initiative, the latest by Tim Eyman, would require the State Auditor to earmark .016% of the state budget for performance audits for all local, state and regional government entities. I-900, which, honestly, will pass by a large margin, is a bit of a boondoggle, a one-size-fits-all solution to a problem that really doesn’t exist.
Vote No on I-900

Initiative 901
This slightly totalitarian measure, brought to you by the “We SO know better than YOU” Brigade would ban smoking in public places including areas up to 25 feet of doorways and “ventilation openings”. Stuff like this just makes my teeth hurt. Look, there are smoke-free restaurants and bars in every city in the Pacific Northwest. If you want a smoke-free environment, go to them. This is an unnecessary, unwanted infringement on personal liberty.
Vote No on I-901

Initiative 912
This is the big one here in Washington. This measure would repeal the gas tax increase enacted by the legislature in a rather impressive act of political courage. The tax is 3 cents in 2005, 2 cents in 2006 – 2007 and 1.5 cents in 2008. This is a difficult issue in Washington, with the initiative forced caps on car registration and property taxes, money for infrastructure is lacking. You know, infrastructure, one of those things government is supposed to do. Unfortunately, transit is a big issue here, and all of the gas tax money is set for transportation projects. Opposition to the gas tax centers on four points

Gas already costs too much.
Ummm…no, no it doesn’t. Despite the recent increases, adjusted for inflation, gas was still more expensive in the early-80s. Plus, Americans pay less, usually by about $1.00 - $2.00, than any other first-world country.

The measure is too Seattle-centric.
Two giant Seattle projects do dominate all talk about I-912. First, the Alaska Way Viaduct, one of the main arteries through and out of the city is in desperate need of replacement. The Viaduct showed serious signs of stress after the 2001 Nisqaually earthquake, and its fait accompli that it would collapse in another earthquake of comparable size. The other problem is the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge across Lake Washington. This is one of two bridges connecting Seattle with its east King County suburbs. Again, this bridge could sink in another earthquake. These projects are the easiest to identify with the measure, and matters aren’t helped by Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels demanding that an expensive, Big Dig-stye tunnel replace the Viaduct.

The truth of the matter is that while the Viaduct and floating bridge are the easiest to identify, there are 900 obsolete bridges in this state. Transit infrastructure is sadly lacking all over the Washington.

The increase in gas taxes does nothing to improve congestion.
This one is true. The gas tax is more to improve current roadways and replace crisis situations. To make matter worse, what congestion relief that is included in this package are HOV lanes and mass transit, despite the overwhelming evidence that isn’t what the majority of the electorate wants.

Transit money has been wasted in obscene amounts in this state
There is some truth to this as well. The Puget Sound region has been amazingly profligate at spending needless amounts of money on transit projects. To wit: the Seattle Monorail Project, up for its fifth citywide ballot measure, is currently projected to spend $10-15 billion on 12 miles of track. Now, the Monorail wouldn’t actually be connected to the LINK light rail system currently in place in Tacoma and under construction in Seattle. The SMP is city, LINK is SoundTransit. That would be the regional transportation district that encompasses CityTransit, Community Transit, Pierce Transit, Metro Transit, and Everett Transit. These fine folks built the Sounder commuter train that I take each day. It did go over budget and they have been caught several times overestimating ridership, but they did get the damned thing built. They also had to close the Seattle Metro Bus Tunnel for the next two years. That would be the tunnel built under 3rd Avenue downtown. They have to expand the tunnel to add light rail capabilities, despite that when it was built in 1989 it was guaranteed to be light rail capable. Oh yeah, they’re closing the tunnel from 2005-2007 despite the fact the LINK system won’t be in the downtown area until 2010. Don’t ask… I don’t know.

So, Washingtonians have some right to be worried. The difference is that the money spent from the gas tax will be spent by the state DOT. They have a better reputation that the SMP and SoundTransit.

That isn’t particularly difficult, though.

Overall, this isn’t the best situation to be in, but with such crying infrastructure needs, I think this gas tax is a necessary evil.
Vote No on I-912

Initiative 330 and 336
This is what I hate about the Initiative process. I-330 would cap medical malpractice claims and I-336 would “reform” the malpractice system altogether. One was written entirely by the trial-lawyers, the other by the insurance industry. Basically, these two initiatives take two of the most complex issues in America today, dumb them down so it’s virtually impossible to tell what either them do, let alone why they would be necessary, and present them to an electorate way too interested in But Can They Sing? to figure this out.

Hell, I work in the healthcare industry and I don’t get it. I do know this though: the one thing the two Initiatives agree on is that Washington is loosing doctors at an alarming rate. Except that isn’t quite true. The number of registered physicians has gone up each of the last five years. Malpractice insurance rates have kept fairly stable. So why do we need these? Oh yeah, trial lawyers and insurance companies.

Vote No on I-330 and I-336

Tacoma Proposition 1
This local proposition would add 18 cents additional property tax per $1,000 for Tacoma homeowners, of which I am one now. This would be used to fill the Housing Trust Fund, raising $15,000,000 over the next years, to be used to rehabilitate 750 housing units citywide. Tacoma is a city of renters, with a homeownership rate of 45%, far behind much of the state. Getting people to own homes is good, but I’m wary of this proposition. There seems to be little in the way of controls set up for this. I’m voting for this, but very reluctantly.
Vote Yes on Tacoma Proposition 1

Tacoma Metro Park Proposition 1
Way to name these propositions, fellas. You have to admire the cojones of the Tacoma Metro Parks Department. Last year, Tacoma voters narrowly voted down a $60 million bond to improve our park system. This year, we get a bond for $84 million. It was needed then and it is needed now. Tacomans are rightly proud of our cities parks, but some sprucing is order.
Vote Yes on Tacoma Metro Parks Proposition 1

Tacoma Mayor
This is a foregone conclusion, as incumbent Bill Baarsma is running virtually unopposed. His only opponent is Tacoma gadfly Will Baker, best known for getting himself thrown out of City Council meetings. Baarsma is a bit of a non-entity, lacking any real media attention, especially in a town with both a Mayor and City Manager. He seems a decent sort though.
Vote Bill Baarsma Tacoma Mayor

Posted by Frinklin at November 7, 2005 08:50 PM | TrackBack
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