This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.
Ballot measures account for most of the action in this off-year election, including gargantuan media battles over a couple of them.
Voters beware: All three initiatives on the state ballot have something in common – each got nearly all of its funding from a single source. A summary of our past recommendations:
Commercial fortunes are at stake with I-1183, which would privatize the sale of hard liquor in Washington. It promises immense profits to Costco, which has broken state spending records promoting it.
On the other side, the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America – representing business profiting from the status quo – is funding a ferocious opposition.
Also in the mix are unions out to protect the employees of state liquor stores who could lose their jobs if Costco has its way with the electorate.
Amid the flurry of confusing ads, it’s easy to overlook the fundamental issue: Should the sale of liquor be tightly controlled or greatly expanded under a profit-driven model? We’re swayed by the U.S. Centers of Disease Control, which has concluded that privatization increases the abuse of alcohol and the social problems it fuels.
This measure is the handiwork of a single union, the Service Employees International Union, which is again exploiting the plight of elderly and disabled to advance its interests.
I-1163 would increase training requirements for home care workers from 34 to 75 hours. The training is provided by a SEIU affiliate and is free – funded by the state – for SEIU members. The guarantee isn’t extended to most nonmembers, creating an incentive to join.
This self-dealing might be excusable if the SEIU had included some mechanism for funding the training. Instead, I-1163 would dump that problem in the lap of a Legislature facing a $2-plus billion shortfall – potentially forcing legislators to subsidize the SEIU agenda at the expense of other critical state services.
This is one of Tim Eyman’s more clownish productions, a hodgepodge of attacks on state highway funding, mass transit and congestion-management measures. Its theme is anti-toll; it threatens to dry up bondholder investment in critical transportation projects by politicizing toll-setting decisions.
Artfully concealed in I-1125 is a bomb designed to kill a voter-approved extension of light rail to Bellevue. By some strange coincidence, Bellevue real estate magnate Kemper Freeman – a fanatical opponent of light rail – turns out to be the money behind the measure.
Pierce County Proposition 1
Pierce County’s emergency dispatch services have a structural problem and a technological problem. Proposition 1 would fix them both with a sales tax increment that would add a penny to a $10 purchase.
Structurally, the existing system is fractured into a patchwork of dispatch agencies run by jurisdictions jealous of their turfs. Four separate “primary call centers” take the county’s 911 calls; calls for fire and medical emergencies are in turn handed off to two additional centers run by fire departments.
Over the years, the different agencies bought different radio systems; some are already obsolete, and some will be obsolete in a few years. One result: First responders cannot communicate with each other at times, resulting in hazardous situations.
Proposition 1 would purchase digital emergency communications systems, ensuring that the entire country is covered by state-of-the-art radio technology. It would also create a seamless, countywide dispatch agency – another advance into the 21st century.
Tacoma Initiative 1
This measure would order Tacoma police to make adult marijuana offenses their “lowest enforcement priority.” Yet the Tacoma Police Department already treats minor pot possession as its lowest priority or something close to it. Police Chief Don Ramsdell has said that the initiative wouldn’t make any difference in the way officers dealt with marijuana cases.
The real effect of the initiative’s passage would be a political statement marijuana advocates would use to undermine other city restrictions on the drug. Like a lot of the ruses surrounding medical marijuana, this looks more like subterfuge than an honest discussion of decriminalization. Just say no.