Seattle Works

A blog that documents all things Seattle Works…and much much more!

Russian Roulette, Submarines, David and Goliath, Red Herrings – so just your average Thursday night… August 8, 2011

Filed under: Election,Influence — seattleworks @ 9:06 pm
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Boy what a night it was!

Last night we kicked off elections season with ‘Cheers to the Primary’ – we got a chance to mix and mingle with panelists, and even more importantly – you!

We had various elections materials on hand to guide you to make your own decision about the tunnel referendum, as well as the help of the campaign managers, Dan Nolte (from the Let’s Move Forward – Approve campaign) and Esther Handy (from the Protect Seattle Now – Reject campaign) who were on hand to offer last minute advice and information!

See Bevin, Angela (from City Club) and me above at the event! This image is from Earica Brown Photography, and all of her photos from the event can be seen here: Earica Brown Photography

Our political evening began with two debates, sponsored by City Club at the Seattle Public Library, about the legislative process and the tunnel. And things got slightly heated! Over 100 people turned up to listen to the panelists discuss the issues. Afterwards we headed to Fado to talk it out, meet new people and get the inside scoop!

We’ll forgive you if you weren’t able to make it this time, but we still want all of our Seattle Works friends to get the update! Check out below this link Publicola for the Publicola report of the evening, and check out below for my notes/points that we found particularly interesting!

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Tim Eyman and Senator Adam Kline – The Initiative Process

Senator Kline wants people to be heard independently of their legislatures. He talked about the issue of getting support, and argued that voters are often too quick to give their signatures to different causes – *real* elections fraud is committed when people forget signatures on those pieces of paper. Kline doesn’t like the idea of signature gatherers being paid – they should be spontaneous and grass roots operated. The purpose of not paying signature gatherers is to try to enforce honesty and accountability.
He also drew an analogy of a bus. It has 20-30 people and they vote who will drive the bus. People nominate themselves and eventually someone is elected. After driving for a while, the people at the back of the bus don’t like it anymore. They want to go a different route. This leads to an inherent tension between democracy and efficiency. Legislators have been elected to drive the bus, not because they are elite, but because they were chosen by their peers. But you can’t drive the bus normally when people at the back are arguing about which direction to go. There needs to be democracy, but a controlled, efficient democracy. Not an authoritarian control with a whip, but with order – legislatures need time to make policy work.
There is a difference between quantity and effect when it comes to initiatives. Initiatives are the big things that get voters to the polls. Although there are many bills that are looked at and Washington residents only get to see a few of those, the numbers should not look like David and Goliath. The pieces of legislature that were passed by the voters were huge and influential.

Tim Eyman appealed to Senator Jacobson who described the current legislative process as Russian roulette: a bad gamble that we need to take from our state’s constitution. He does not like that people are trying to introduce difficult hurdles to the process. Eyman commented that in 13 years there was only 1 case of voter fraud – Josh Feit, the Publicola moderator, points out that Eyman had voter fraud in his own Spokane office – but Eyman retorted that people need to police themselves.

The initiative process is not just about passing laws, but is about putting the spotlight on issues. Out of 3000 bills in our legislative session, only about 500 become law. Washington residents get to see about 3 of those. All we can do is vote for those initiatives as citizens and the legislators have the power to ignore us, but at least our voices get to be heard. Government is like a battleship; try to move the ship in one direction or another and get some impact. We, as voters, are innocent bystanders but yelling ‘Hey you’re off track!’ is better than sitting at home eating potato chips.

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Councilmember Mike O’Brien and Kate Joncas – The Viaduct Referendum

For O’Brien the question is simple: do we want to spend our money on education or transport? He thinks we should step back and work on our priorities in the city. People in this region like transit and yet want to fund education. There is a 2 billion $ gas shortfall on tolling. We cannot spend all of our money on everything that we love – he views the viaduct as a silver bullet system which will not work, and that there must be a better way to spend our money. The debate is exhausting, but it is irresponsible to walk away from a disaster.
The tunnel is a transportation solution that doesn’t solve a problem. Why don’t we spend smaller amounts of money on fixing I5? Diversification of projects and money will work more efficiently. It is hard to get on a bandwagon for 2 years and then suddenly say no, but this is the chance for citizens of Seattle to step away from the table.
O’Brien also comments that there is zero money in the tunnel: having a toll will simply make people drive downtown or choose other options – this will worsen the traffic options. There will be a clear picture after the referendum and he will work for the tunnel if that is what the voters want – but he wants to spend the money on priorities and the real problems that need a solution.

Kate Joncas disagrees and argues the tunnel is great for the environment and will bring jobs to Seattle. Most importantly, there are no other options. The surface option is terrible as it will increase both traffic and pollution, and if people vote for this it is unclear what they are voting on. After all, it is a state highway so it is up to the state about whether they will move forward. If there is a toll, worst case 60,000 cars will use the tunnel rather than 100,000 – but she does not see this as a tolling issue. Ultimately, having no plan is not an option for downtown. Although drawn out by O’Brien, the cost overruns are not a big issue, according to Joncas, and says they are red herrings in the whole debate. Joncas says it is unfortunate that we cannot use gas tax money for education. Ultimately the Viaduct project is already underway and they are 6 months ahead and under budget. She says the problem with the no campaign is that they are promoting a project which has no money and no plan.

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So that’s a lot of information! I’m still thinking on it. We’re not going to tell you which side to take, but what we *will* encourage you to do is to research the issue, think about what it means for you and the residents of Seattle, choose a campaign, and go out and vote!!

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