This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.
In the middle of the hardest economy most of us have known, the citizens of Pierce County on Tuesday approved a new tax. A sales tax, no less, to pay for better 911 system.
OK, it wasn’t a big tax – just an extra penny on a $10 purchase. But it wouldn’t have had a meatball’s chance in a pack of Rottweilers if citizens hadn’t been persuaded they were getting value for their money.
In this case, the value was considerable:
A unified countywide dispatch system to replace the balkanized hodgepodge of agencies that now handle emergency calls. A 21st-century digital radio system to replace aging and obsolete technology. Police, firefighters and dispatchers who can locate and talk to each other across Pierce County in a seamless communications system.
Proponents were selling something easy to understand – public safety – and voters bought it.
Like the election results or lump them – and we lump some of them – Washingtonians were persuaded by clarity when they filled out their ballots.
Marijuana the lowest enforcement priority for Tacoma police, as proposed by the city’s Initiative 1? Simple possession by adults should be a low police priority. We saw ulterior motives, but the voters saw simple ballot language that few would disagree with.
Privatize liquor sales, as proposed by Costco’s Initiative 1183? It took longer to explain the virtues of state control than it did to make a clean libertarian argument: Governments should not be in the retail business.
Initiative 1163 – which will require more training for home care aides – likewise forced its opponents into a complicated argument.
No, it doesn’t provide any funding for the training; yes, it would suck money from higher priorities; yes, it serves the interests of its sponsor, the Service Employees International Union. But that was all fine print on election day.
As far as most voters were concerned, it all came down to whether untrained boobs should be taking care of Grandma. The KISS principle – “keep it simple, stupid” – carried the day.
The one big ballot measure that appears to have lost – Initiative 1125 – was an incoherent mess concocted in Tim Eyman’s mad laboratory.
It was basically against toll funding of highway projects. But some tolls were OK, and some weren’t; revenue bonds were bad, but tax-backed bonds were kind of OK (except that there weren’t taxes to back them). A mandate to politicize toll rates was thrown into the stew. So was a bizarre scheme to sabotage a voter-approved extension of light rail across Lake Washington.
Election night revealed a fascinating pattern: The people who’d mostly wind up paying the evil tolls – King County citizens – shoved Eyman’s measure into the dumpster and jumped up and down on it.
But many voters in the hinterlands – including people who’d rarely if ever part with their quarters – were glad to throw a monkey wrench into King County’s congestion-relief plans.
In the end, the ballot measure that most deserved to die, did.