Can we restrain ourselves next time?
Chasan: Proposition 1 was toast the minute King County Executive Ron Sims broke ranks and opposed it. The measure was just too expensive and too complex to pass without a united front, at least among those regional leaders who would normally have been expected to support it.
But "no" on Proposition 1 doesn't translate into "yes" on anything else. Opponents argued that passing the roads-and-transit measure would be worse than nothing. At this point, nothing seems like a real alternative.
The non-solution to the Alaskan Way Viaduct problem might have made sitting on one's hands and hoping for the best seem like a viable course of action. It isn't. Sooner or later, the region's leaders will have to lead, and the region's voters will have to say yes to something. Ideally, that something will include solutions to the Viaduct and 520 bridge problems and recognition of the fact that, by itself, building more infrastructure will just add to the backlog of deferred maintenance. The next campaign should also acknowledge that congestion is here to stay, and that rail transit makes sense primarily as a way of shaping development. Clearing up a few bottlenecks on Highway 167 and elsewhere could be part of the package, too. And while they're at it, why not a few local road projects and a new bypass or two, and an extra lane on the arterial nearest me? Pretty soon we'll be back to something-for-everyone-and another big zero at the polls.
Less can be more, and it will have to be
Berger: I think Danny Westneat makes an important point about thinking small, which used to be the hallmark of environmentalists and conservationism. New Dealism and Big Dealism appear to be dead for now – no surprise since the feds aren't picking up the tab for projects like they used to. So what about a return to Small Deal liberalism?
The electorate has embraced positive incrementalism: the first phase of Sound Transit, expanding Metro bus service, fixing Seattle's roads and sidewalks, making the city more bike-friendly. We the taxpayers are spending – and are willing to spend – if it seems like a good, sensible deal. The Prop 1 boosters like John Landenburg and Julia Patterson would be making a huge mistake to think they can win by pouting for a while, then start putting lipstick on a Prop 2 pig. Pushing for pork packages that please no one by trying to buy off everyone isn't going to work.
Global warming, of course, is a global problem, but the solutions will also be local, regionally unique in some cases, and will involve us adapting to do more with less: Westneat suggests road rationing or tolling as options. Another is to stick with the reality of direct democracy and put on the ballot a steady stream of smaller, smarter, more-targeted improvements, such as infrastructure repair. The voters like being part of the process. The Seattle Monorail Project was a great example of the electorate having a say in every step in the process, including pulling the plug when it didn't pencil out. An expensive lesson, but not as expensive as taxes that never end or trying to build your way out of a congestion problem.
Small might be a good model for the replacement of the 520 bridge. Instead of massively increasing its footprint, find ways to keep it limited. Like a four-lane bridge with one lane devoted to buses, carpools or eventually rail? Same with the Viaduct, where, since the no-no vote, what amounts to a stealth rebuild is already under way. Well, for safety's sake, that's probably a good idea.
Puget Sound's Big Dealers should stop trying to find and fund a Great Leap Forward and focus on small, innovative, practical stuff that will make a difference.
David Brewster has begun a discussion with readers about small ideas.
A demand for pragmatism more than rejection of the Establishment
David Brewster: I come down more on Casey Corr's side than with the populist interpretation of yesterday's election put forth by Knute Berger and Chris Vance (all below). It's not so much the Establishment that was in play, except maybe on Prop 1. More apparent to my view was a longing for pragmatism and experience, to get things done better (with or without the elusive Establishment).
On my side of the argument that the voters were rejecting the amateurishness of the past four years in favor of more moderation and experience are the following races:
- Seattle School Board. The Naderite and radical reformers of the Class of 2003 were all purged. The insurgent group this time had lots of backing by businesses, centrist organizations like PTSA, and middle class parents.
- Seattle City Council. The two winners, Harrell and Burgess, were clearly the more centrist, business-friendly candidates. It marks a shift from the politics of the council, representing various splinter interests, to something more like the public interest. That's not anti-Establishment.
- Port of Seattle. Mixed bag, since the races are up in the air. The main test is how well the "blue-green alliance" of labor and environmentalists can hold together against the coalition of the usual economic forces (shippers, economic development interests, longshoremen) that has run the Port. Alec Fisken and Gael Tarleton both have support from the alliance, and both might win, but Tarleton is a complex mixture of that reform group (worried about the lack of openness on the commission) and the coalition of economic development interests such as the University of Washington.
- King County Council. No signs of populist unrest here, as nearly all the incumbents had either no opponent or only token ones. Jane Hague would have cruised to victory had she not stumbled in her handling of the DUI arrest, but still won easily.
Put these factors against the anti-spending, don't-trust-em votes in the ballot measures, and you get a mixed message. I like Casey's point (below) that people are feeling hard-pressed by the high cost of living around here and are therefore prone to vote to save money where they can, for example against billion-dollar ballot issues (especially when groups such as the Sierra Club give liberals permission to oppose them). Voting one's wallet is not the same as distrusting government.
Is there a new power broker in Seattle politics?
Corr: With the defeat of Prop 1, keep an eye on the Sierra Club and its prominence in civic affairs.
By opposing Prop 1, the club broke with the coalition supporting the roads-and-transit measure, a group that included environmentalists who wanted funding for more transit.
In recent years, the club has gained power as a much-desired endorsement in Seattle campaigns. Now the club may be viewed as a power broker as more and more issues are played in the context of climate change (example: a proposed garage at Woodland Park Zoo).
It could go the other way, too. Enviros who worked for Prop 1 may try to push the club to the sidelines.
The school-levy issue is dead for the foreseeable future
Vance: The biggest loser last night was the education community. For decades, they tried to persuade the Legislature to give voters a shot at eliminating the supermajority and turnout requirements on school levies. They finally muster the necessary two-thirds vote in both houses for a constitutional amendment, face no significant campaign opposition - and lose.
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