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October 08, 2007

Environmental organizations excited about Roads and Transit measure

Leaders from the environmental community are stepping up their advocacy of the Roads and Transit ballot measure.  A broad coalition of environmental organizations is supporting the Roads and Transit measure because it will reduce sprawl, curb greenhouse gases, and will be the largest investment in transit in our region in decades.  The Roads and Transit package is being supported by Washington Conservation Voters, Washington Environmental Council, Cascade Land Conservancy, Transportation Choices Coalition, Environment Washington, Futurewise, Tahoma Audubon and Bicycle Alliance of Washington. 

Jessyn Farrell, Executive Director of Transportation Choices Coalition explains, “we must change the patterns in our transportation system. The Roads and Transit package is a huge step forward in fundamentally changing how we get around in this region.  The package will dramatically change our land use in this region.”  She goes on to say, “the process it took to get this measure crafted and on the ballot was an enormously complicated political process.  To imagine this happening again anytime soon, feels very unlikely.”

There are two parts of this ballot measure.  On the transit side, we are investing in over 50 miles of new rail lines, creating new bus corridors, making major improvements to our HOV network and making a major investment in new park and ride lots.   The roads measure, the smaller part of the overall package, is primarily focused on safety, maintenance and freight mobility of different regional highways, but also includes an investment in infrastructure for pedestrians and bicycling.  Do the highways collapsing in 1989 Oakland and present day Minneapolis give us any sense of urgency for our own region?

The local major media, in a typical media circus fashion, would have us believe that the environmental community in this region is split on supporting this ballot measure.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  There are a few organizations, each opposing different parts of the package in an effort to draw attention to different environmental issues including the issue of global warming and the need for mass transit.  Lets remember that car exhaust is the leading cause of carbon emissions in this region.  All environmentalists support the long-term strategy of shifting people out of solo driving and into transit, walking and bicycling.  However, voting against this measure, a measure largely focused on transit, as a protest vote against our auto dependent culture and the long-term political disregard we’ve seen for the environment doesn’t make any sense at all.

The local major media is acting irresponsible with its assertion that this package is far larger than 18 Billion, because of interest and inflation. The suggestion that Sound Transit and the RTID are intentionally misleading the public about the costs of these projects may make splashy headlines, but couldn’t be more inaccurate.  The media keeps playing with numbers and adding various amounts of inflation and interest over several decades.  That just doesn’t make sense. Every government bond and private loan has interest.  We could never have the tax money to pay for major capital projects up front.  I could understand a chart in a news article showing for example the cost of housing, gas, milk and other costs to explain inflation, or an article examining how we end up paying double for the houses we buy and schools we build because of 30 year interest.  To try and wrap our thoughts around this package we need to look at it in today’s dollars if we are to understand it at all.  When I see an investment of 11 Billion in transit, it feels so amazing.  I just don’t see any downside to that.

Gene Duvernoy, from Cascade Land Conservancy says, “stopping sprawl and strengthening the Growth Management Act must remain priorities for environmentalists, and this ballot measure will do just that.  By investing in transit we can stay connected in our built environment.” The investment in light rail alone will create thriving urban centers, where people will walk and bike to work and for play.  This is the kind of investment we need so badly in this region.

In advocating for transit, I often feel like I repeat myself in these pages, yet when I hear the rhetoric from the opponents of this measure, be it an SUV driving energy hog or a well meaning but misguided environmental type, rather than pull out my already thinning hair, I guess I’ll say it all again!  We need to invest in transit.  Our transportation infrastructure is decades behind other areas of the country.  Our highways are unsafe.  We must change our development and stop sprawl and plan for the million or more new residents moving here in the next couple of decades.  Does this ballot measure go far enough, in dealing with global warming and building transit infrastructure?  Not by a long shot.  We need funding for transit from the state government, just like we had before it was sliced out of the budget by the silly $30 car tabs idea.  The people in this state bought an anti-tax gimmick, big surprise.  We need better and fairer sources of taxes, and tolling and congestion pricing will do just that.  We need to get smart about energy use and the environment.  We need to change who we are and how we live.  Subsidized condos built on top of light rail stations anyone?

Cross Posted on The Urban Environmentalist

Posted by EzraBasom on October 8, 2007 at 10:02 PM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (1)

October 01, 2007

Sex Scandals Have Consequences

One of the many pleasant upsides to the Larry Craig sex scandal and his subsequent removal from leadership positions (in addition to a healthy helping of schadenfreude) is the fact that he's no longer able to obstruct efforts to restore salmon habitat on the Columbia and Snake Rivers.

Senate Democrats, exercising their slim majority, have waded into two contentious issues — both related to Snake River salmon.

First, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada asked federal regulators to require passage for salmon and steelhead for relicensing of the Hells Canyon Complex, a series of dams on the Snake River between Oregon and Idaho.

Reid says the passage would allow salmon to return to their historic spawning grounds in northern Nevada, where the fish used to run thick nearly a century ago.

Meanwhile, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., has asked her colleagues to undo Craig's bid to use a federal spending bill to dictate water flow for Snake River fish.

Salmon advocates were thrilled at the actions of the two western Democrats, which they say could go a long way to protect and restore salmon and steelhead in the Snake River Basin, which spans Idaho, Washington state, Oregon and Wyoming.

Posted by Jon Stahl on October 1, 2007 at 11:59 PM in Environment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Children's Campaign Fund - A PAC for Children's Issues

We have a PAC in this state dedicated to supporting those legislators who fight for children.  The Children's Campaign Fund was  founded in 1990 to support legislators who support children.  They raise money and donate to an increasing number of legislators, both Democratic and Republican who vote to provide good health coverage for children, improved services for children and families on welfare and other measures that focus on the well-being of all our children.  Rodney_tom_at_charity_fundraiser_2 The PAC provided $50,000 to legislators in the 2006 election.

I attended a fundraiser for the CCF last week at the home of State Senator Rodney Tom and his wife Deborah.  I was very impressed with that this group exists and with the impact they have had focusing attention on children's needs. 

Mary_helen_roberts_2 In addition to Tom, other state legislators present included Rep. Ruth Kagi from the 32nd, previously the co-chair of CCF; Rep. Mary Helen Roberts of the 21st, another previous chair of the CCF; and Representatives Mary Lou Dickerson of the 36th, Larry Springer of the 45th, Roger Goodman of the 45th, and Judy Clibborn of the 41st.  Alec Fisken, Port Commission, was also at the fundraiser.  Photos are of Rodney Tom and Mary Helen Roberts. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on October 1, 2007 at 10:30 AM in Policy | Permalink | Comments (1)

If There Weren't Already Enough Needs for Another Blue Wave

According to Jeffrey Toobin, the three most moderate Supreme Court justices are stacked up waiting to leave the court once there is a Democrat in the White House.  Joel Connelly writes about Toobin's new book, "The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court"

Connelly quotes from Toobin and adds his own chilling analysis:

"Through the tense standoff of the Burger and Rehnquist years, a powerful conservative rebellion against the court has been building.

"It has been, in many respects, a remarkable ideological offensive, nurtured at various time in such locales as elite law schools, evangelical churches and, most importantly and most recently, the White House.

"Its agenda has remained largely the same over the decades. Reverse Roe v. Wade and allow states to ban abortion. Expand executive power. End racial preferences intended to assist African- Americans. Speed executions. Welcome religion into the public sphere."

With the naming of Alito and Roberts as chief justice, the right's agenda is within reach.

I'm pretty sure we're going to get that Democratic president.  But this possibility should make us ever more intent on getting a solid 60 Democratic votes in the Senate so we don't have to get squishy on who is nominated.  If those three Justices retire, we need three equally stalwart, replacements.  Or, even better, a couple actual liberals.

Posted by Lynn Allen on October 1, 2007 at 09:12 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)