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The Daily Troll: Gas tax increase gets a boost. Step away from that computer, Mr. County Executive. Starbucks' Manga Man.

A new transportation package starts with broad support. The political melodramas involving Snohomish County's Aaron Reardon take a new turn.
The cover of a cartoon book on Starbucks' Howard Schultz.

The cover of a cartoon book on Starbucks' Howard Schultz. Bluewater Productions

Boeing has a plan

Boeing will offer an interim fix for the 787 battery problems on Friday, according to an Associated Press report this afternoon. The company will reportedly float its suggestion in a meeting with the head of the Federal Aviation Administration, Michael Huerta. A Boeing spokesman wouldn't comment to AP.

Hands off the computers

The Snohomish County Council this morning took authority over the county's computer systems away from County Executive Aaron Reardon. His staff stands accused of concealing their identities while requesting public records about his critics. The Herald described the unanimous vote to yank his tech oversight as "a stinging repudiation of Reardon's ability to manage the county's day-to-day operations — and evidence of the deep distrust other elected officials have for the embattled executive." There was no immediate comment from Reardon.

Transportation package

House Democrats unveiled a transportation tax increase and construction package today that could draw broad support — and significant opposition, at least in its present form. The plan provides money for big highway projects in Eastern Washington (particularly around Yakima and Spokane) and all over central Puget Sound (particularly for east and south King County), as well as Pierce and Snohomish counties. But there's also lots of transit money, which will warm the environmentalist hearts of Puget Sound voters. Labor and the Washington Business Roundtable are cheering too.

So, is passage by the Legislature and voters an easy Job One for new state Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson? Not at all. Smart money says the Legislature and new Gov. Jay Inslee need a year to build support among voters for this or any transportation plan. A 10-cent hike in the existing 37-cent state gasoline tax would indeed provoke a lot of questions from voters. As details were about to be released, the conservative Washington Policy Center sent out an email warning against a "transit bailout." And then there's the Tim Eyman factor: The current version includes an increase in the motor vehicle tax statewide. Some urban areas have proven quite willing to impose local motor vehicle taxes for transportation. But a larger state take on vehicle registrations each year?

The Roundtable's savvy leader Steve Mullin expressed hope that Mercer Island Rep. Judy Clibborn's proposal would be the "start of a robust conversation." Count on it, big guy.

One transportation tangle

The House Democrats' package would include money to ease traffic problems around Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Here's one look on YouTube at traffic there.

Shooting pigeons

A new bill aims at a rather surprising tax target: a sales tax exemption for non-profit gun clubs buying clay targets. Crosscut's John Stang reports:

Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, introduced a bill Wednesday to exempt nonprofit shooting clubs from paying sales and use taxes when they buy clay pigeons. The bill's co-sponsors are Sens. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, and Pam Roach, R-Auburn. Roach is an expert marksperson who keeps shooting contest awards on one wall of her office.  

Howard Schultz: The cartoon edition

A Vancouver (Washington) company has a new cartoon book featuring Howard Schultz. Bluewater Productions quotes the author of its book, CW Cooke, as saying, "I am in awe of Howard Schultz. What he managed to accomplish in such a short period of time with Starbucks made him a legend. And reading his book made me desperate to tell his story to the world in comic book form.” See, someone actually read Schultz's "Onward: How Starbucks Fought for its Life without Losing its Soul"? But speaking of Schultz's accomplishments (and there are quite a few, bitter Sonics fans), his contribution to the development of the Japanese yen for coffee certainly won't be hurt by becoming a manga character.

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Joe Copeland is political editor for Crosscut. You can reach him at Joe.Copeland@crosscut.com.


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Comments:

Posted Wed, Feb 20, 5:54 p.m. Inappropriate

So, how much transit money is in that transportation bill, and why are motorists paying for it?

Lincoln

Posted Wed, Feb 20, 6:34 p.m. Inappropriate

Transit benefits motorists by taking vehicles off the road allowing said motorists to get to where they want to go quicker. Besides, a large portion of transit users are also motorists.

DavidA

Posted Wed, Feb 20, 9:34 p.m. Inappropriate

Transit does not reduce traffic congestion at all, as even Sightline has reported:

http://daily.sightline.org/2011/02/25/can-better-transit-reduce-congestion/

"But in general, based on what I’ve found I have to align myself with Anthony Brooks and transit planner Jarrett Walker, who both argue that transit investments have little impact on how much driving goes on in a crowded urban area. To quote Walker:

"To my knowledge…no transit project or service has ever been the clear direct cause of a substantial drop in traffic congestion. So claiming that a project you favor will reduce congestion is unwise; the data just don’t support that claim."

Transit users should pay for their own transportation, as motorists do. I didn't get any tax subsidies when I bought my car, or buy the gas for it, or pay for the maintenance on it, etc. But I PAY taxes every time I spend money on my car, including sales tax on the car itself, plus license fees, MVET's, parking fees and taxes, etc.

Transit users are just freeloaders off the taxpayers. Taxing motorists to subsidize transit freeloaders is a disgrace.

Lincoln

Posted Thu, Feb 21, 9:01 a.m. Inappropriate

First, I like transit. I use it. I think it's okay for people driving cars to help pay for transit. But! Unless I know that the state would NOT rely on an inaccurate way of calculating any Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET), I will vote against my own interests on any transportation package. I want the state to use an MVET that is accepted commercially--like Kelly Blue Book.

After all, it was the original unfair, inaccurate MVET that the former watch seller from Mukilteo used in I-695 which helped us get to the sorry state of roads and ferries today.

m-t-e

Posted Thu, Feb 21, 10:31 a.m. Inappropriate

In my judgment the "sorry state of roads and ferries today" can be laid at the desk of departing WSDOT secretary, Ms. Paula Hammond, and also to the Democratic led House Transportation Committee. These are the ones who pushed for massive highway projects with the goal of "positively influencing the future of communities and the health of their residents" (SR 520, Health Impact Assessment, Seattle and King County Public Health, 2008) From this lot came the massive lids on SR 520, topping $2 billion in non-highway amenities, along with the Deep-Bored Tunnel of SR 99 - a facility that fails to meet five (5) highway safety design standards that came out of the 1966 Highway Safety Act (Lane widths, grades, shoulder widths, vertical clearances and left-hand ramps) that has less capacity than the viaduct it is replacing (85,000 ADT vs 115,000). If you also consider the so called I-5 Columbia River Crossing (CRC) at some $5 billion you can see that for a total of about $14 billion WSDOT is rebuilding less than 10 miles of existing highway. That is inexcusable. Include the cost of the Washington Built Only new ferries and you can see why that agency has severe financial issues.

The need to replace the CRC is often stated as an earthquake driven requirement. What WSDOT failed to notice is that Tacoma, also situated in an earthquake zone, only last week reopened the 11th Street Bridge over the Foss waterway, a bridge of identical design as the CRC that is to be replaced, albeit 2 lanes in width. But, note that the 11th Street bridge also celebrated its 100th anniversary!

Why must WSDOT replace perfectly good structures that for a lot less can continue well into the future. Is it the new urbanism? The highway beautiful? At what price?

And when you consider SR 520, note too that it comes into I-5 with its overcapacity functioning and zero room for expansion. Do you know anyone who will spend a fortune to connect a 12 inch pipe to a one inch pipe? That is what SR 520 is all about.

What makes all of these billion dollar projects highly questionable is that WSDOT has failed (actually, ignored) the mandates of Title 23, USC Section 106, as reiterated in OMB Circular No. A-13, Value Engineering. But, with so much money available, why try to economize?

seebee

Posted Thu, Feb 21, 9:23 p.m. Inappropriate

Also to consider is that the current gas tax collections are not enough to pay for the bond debt service on the projects from the last tax increases.

Posted Thu, Feb 21, 9:48 p.m. Inappropriate

The simple failure of leadership by hobbyists, public officials and WSDOT who, while in service to special interests, have created a miasma of problems and hardships for tax payers and the community at large. The entire region will have to pay for these misguided, enormously expensive, incompatible transportation projects that in most cases actually REDUCE capacities and access for commerce and commuters while providing expensive amenities and beautification for a few affluent neighborhoods. Things like replacing the viaduct (110,000 cars a day) with a tunnel (50K to 70K cars a day plus TOLLs) means that we’re spending billions to INCREASE congestion downtown. Straightening Mercer ($200 – $400 million) to please developers has reduced its capacity and increased commute times. And we are preparing to spend an extra 2 billion dollars and endure expanded tolling to pay for burying the 520 bridge termination under a park to please the Montlake neighborhood.

When you add up the wasted billions, this is almost reaching the point where it qualifies for a spot on "60 Minutes." I’d rather see a follow-up to this article with the rest of the story posted in Crosscut in 2009 about how these transportation transgressions really happened.

Read it here: http://crosscut.com/2009/03/26/crosscut-blog/18899/When-Chopp-speaks-parse-closely/

jmrolls

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