Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Tag: transit


Pierce Transit tax needs sunset, not a gerrymander

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

Pierce Transit has a credibility problem with the citizens who live within its taxing district. It should solve that problem at home, not do an end run through the Legislature.

Twice in the last two years, the transit agency has put a sales tax proposal on the ballot only to see it shot down by voters. In November, the second measure came within a cat’s whisker of success, falling short by barely more than 700 votes.

That tiny margin demonstrated that the agency could win the revenues it needs to prevent a drastic cutback in bus service. But it would have to abandon its insistence that the tax be chiseled into stone in perpetuity.

Had last fall’s measure contained a reasonable sunset clause – requiring a new vote after, say, six years – there’s little question it would have passed.

All is not lost. Pierce Transit’s leaders could still secure passage of a new sales tax by holding the agency accountable through a future vote. But transit supporters are seeking to game the process in Olympia to avoid another reckoning with the district’s electorate.
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Yes on Prop 1 – because transit is a necessity for all

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

At the heart of Proposition 1 – the transit measure on the Pierce County ballot – is a question: What kind of community do we want?

Prop 1 would impose a 0.3 percent sale tax increase (3 cents on a $10 purchase) within the transit district, which encompasses most of the county’s urban areas. The revenues would keep the system from rolling off a cliff with many of the county’s neediest citizens on board.

Most of Pierce Transit’s income comes from the 0.6 percent sales tax it already collects. But sales tax revenues continue to falter as economic recovery eludes the South Sound. At the same time, a recent downsizing of the transit district’s boundaries will cost the agency another $8 million a year.

Pierce Transit has already cut its bus and paratransit runs by roughly 40 percent. Without additional revenue, it expects to cut what remains by a crippling 53 percent.

Those aren’t just numbers on a page – they are human beings who depend on the bus to get to jobs, stores, school and doctor appointments.

Many don’t have any reliable alternative. The agency’s surveys indicate that 56 percent of its riders have household incomes of less than $20,000; they include the poorest of the poor. Close to half – 45 percent – do not have working vehicles.

Many have grave disabilities and depend on specially equipped paratransit vans. Paratransit service only extends along existing bus routes; when a route disappears, so do the vans.
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Connect the dots: Iranian nukes and American cars

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

The ayatollahs lost the last shreds of plausible deniability Tuesday when the International Atomic Energy Agency documented Iran’s drive for nuclear missiles in damning detail.

Nuclear weapons in the hands of this extremist, unstable theocracy would be uniquely dangerous. Iran’s foreign policy consists of intimidating its Arab neighbors, spreading its revolutionary Shiite dogma, sponsoring terror attacks and destroying the state of Israel – which is capable of mounting a catastrophic nuclear pre-emptive strike.

This threat has a foundation deeper than Shiite radicalism. Follow the oil.

Without the intense global thirst for petroleum, Iran’s theocracy might have been gone the way of Moammar Gadhafi long ago.

The theocracy is funded chiefly by Iran’s oil sales. It uses that money to subsidize food and energy, and otherwise keep the Iranian people dependent on government largess.

Oil revenue pays for Iran’s military and for its “peaceful” nuclear program. And the ayatollahs use petroleum to insulate themselves against outside pressure.
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Five highways endangered by one Seattle mayor

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Every so often you read about a 2- or 3-year-old who crawls behind the wheel while the engine’s running, drives off in Mom’s car and soon winds up in the ditch.

That’s looking like a painfully apt metaphor for Mike McGinn, the new mayor at the wheel of the City of Seattle.

When elected, McGinn – an environmental activist – had neither the experience nor the expertise needed to run a large city. Now it’s becoming clear he also lacks the temperament and political savvy.

That might not be such a big deal to most Washingtonians if the damage could be contained inside the 206 area code. But five major state and federal highways run through or around Seattle, and the mayor is displaying a petulant obstructionist streak that could threaten every one of them.

Since taking office in January, McGinn has been working to undo a settled multi-city agreement for replacing the Evergreen Point floating bridge, which carries state Route 520 across Lake Washington. Time is of the essence in getting that project moving. If the decaying bridge collapsed in a storm or earthquake, as engineers say it might, Interstates 90 and 405 would wind up paralyzed with traffic.

McGinn also opposes the hard-won deal to replace the earthquake-damaged Alaskan Way viaduct with a tunnel.

He has championed a surface boulevard that would cut the route’s existing capacity by perhaps 50,000 cars a day. In his utopian world, Earth-friendly mass transit would make up the difference. In the real world, that stretch of state Route 99 would become hell, and desperate commuters would jam downtown Seattle and Interstate 5.
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Special records access for media? No thanks

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

A curious thing is happening in the state Legislature. It seems lawmakers believe they can pick off public disclosure supporters by granting some of them special privileges to information.

Twice now, legislators have answered concerns about denying access to public records by establishing a new class of citizens: members of the news media.

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New transit tax? Who knew?

Shame on me for not being aware of it until now, but a fairly significant vehicle license fee is sailing through the Legislature without a whole lot of public attention or debate.

House Bill 2855 would empower local public transit boards to enact $20 annual license-tab fees for four years without voter approval. The state House of Representatives looks poised to pass early next week; it then goes to the Senate.

Andrew Austin – an advocate and member of the pro-transit Transportation Choices Coalition – says the measure would help Pierce Transit and its counterparts in other counties get through a funding crisis. Pierce Transit, he says, now faces the possibility of cutting back its bus service as much as 50 percent because of the recession-driven drop in sales taxes.

Tim Eyman, who made his name demolishing Washington’s license-tab fees with Initiative 695, is predictably vitriolic. As he sees it, the voters’ first line of defense against unwanted taxes is requiring that tax measures be put up for a vote. Absent that, the second line of defense is letting voters hold elected officials accountable for imposing taxes by either re-electing them or throwing them out office.
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Too few stood up for boy beaten on bus

Pierce Transit and Wilson High School aren’t to blame for the senseless, cruel beating of a medically fragile boy by another boy on the No. 16 bus. But they share responsibility for the disturbing aftermath.

As reported by The News Tribune’s Kathleen Merryman, a Mason Middle School eighth-grader named Casey was attacked Sept. 23 by a Giaudrone Middle School student on a Pierce Transit bus as it sat at the Tacoma Community College transit station.

The attacker’s brothers, students at Wilson High School, were accomplices. One apparently served as lookout – the attack took place when the driver was away from his bus on break – and the other photographed the beating.
Both boys are back at Wilson and have not been charged with anything. The attacker faces fourth-degree assault charges. Read more »