Stranger Election Control Board Report from the Pro-Prop 1 Party
posted by November 6 at 21:27 PMon
I’m sitting at the Westin Hotel, trying to cool down from the slam-packed room that hosted the pro-Roads and Transit party. With the measure failing by a strong margin (about 44 to 56 percent) in all three of the region’s counties, it was a grim scene, reminiscent of the pro-R-51 party in 2002, when that roads measure failed in part because of opposition from environmental groups. This time, of course, enviro groups were divided.
Pierce County Exec John Ladenburg spoke first. He told the crowd that he was “certainly not conceding defeat at this point—a couple of years back at this point, Gore was president.” But he acknowledged what everyone in the room was thinking: The measure appeared to be sunk. “The question is, what now?” he said. “Well, now you’re going to get up in the morning and you’re going to be stuck in traffic, and that’s going to go on for a while.” He called opponents of the measure, who include both some environmentalists and some light-rail opponents, “aginners”—“they’re against everything. They don’t have a plan, they don’t have a solution, but they’re agin’ it.” Ladenburg, of course, was the official who most strongly supported the Cross Base Highway in Pierce County that was so hated by environmentalists—one reason groups like the Sierra Club opposed the roads and transit proposal.
The question “What next?” was palpable. The environmental community has been divided on roads and transit, and proponents of the measure have spent so much time saying it’s our last chance to get light rail that it’s hard to imagine them turning around and stumping for a new package next year. Nonetheless, that’s exactly what some elected officials, including King County Council members Larry Phillips and Julia Patterson seemed to suggest should happen. “I’m just concerned that if we don’t keep this coalition going.. we won’t get anything done,” Patterson said. “We need to roll up our sleeves and come back and do it again.” Phillips, who thought voters were rejecting the package because of the cost and the possibility of tolls on some of the roads it would pay for, said that although it would be politically difficult to get something on the ballot next year, “I think there’s a good chance we could win in a presidential year” like 2008. Governor Christine Gregoire (who was not here) reportedly doesn’t want any tax measures on the ballot in 2008, when she will be up for reelection.
Transit supporters seemed divided between sanguine and pessimistic. Bill LaBorde of Environment Washington said he didn’t expect to have a problem getting together with environmental groups that opposed the package and uniting in support of a new proposal. He said he was intrigued by King County Executive Ron Sims’s proposal to pay for roads and transit improvements with tolls and congestion pricing, but added, “I’m pretty skeptical that you can get voter approval” for it. “If it’s viable, that’s great.” Ric Ilgenfritz, communications director for Sound Transit, was more gloomy. “There is no Plan B,” Ilgenfritz said. “Our job is to be something about the transportation problem, and the transportation problem is going to be there tomorrow, just as it was today.”