As a matter of general principle, I vote no on citizen initiatives. There is usually no nuance; they are often pushed by one special interest group (or person); and I’m skeptical of direct democracy on the scale of statewide law.
In November, Washingtonians have several initiatives to consider. I made up my mind on two of them today.
First, the insurance issue, Referendum Measure 67. This is an initiative to the people from the Legislature, “concerning insurance fair conduct related to claims for coverage or benefits.” I’m voting “yes” — and it’s not the firefighter ad series, per se, that swayed my vote. It’s because this came from the Legislature (Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5726), and it looks like the only group opposing is the insurance lobby.
Because it came from the legislature, it has already been subject to public debate, input from various affected groups, and, one hopes, review for unintended consequences. And it’s also because I know someone who, like the firefighter, got jerked around for more than a year by a self-insured business that refused to cover surgery for what L&I ruled — over and over and over — was a work-related injury.
Second, and the more difficult decision: the transportation measure.
I’ve been vacillating because I think it’s very important to focus infrastructure dollars on mass transit, not highway expansion: highway expansion doesn’t scale, the price of gasoline has no where to go but up, and there are emissions to worry about as well.
But I’m not crazy about the compromises that were made to put the plan together. After all, it was put forward by three county councils — King, Pierce, Snohomish — so we know compromise ruled the day. This process, however, puts the measure in the same category as I-67 — one that has been publicly vetted, yadda yadda yadda.
So I’ve decided to hold my nose and vote “yes” here, too.
What was my tipping point? Today’s plain talk column by Danny Westneat of the Seattle Times:
Project A is the widening of the Eastside’s Interstate 405. The plan is to spend $10.9 billion (in 2002 dollars) laying four new freeway lanes and a bus rapid-transit route.
When done, the road will be 67 percent wider and carry 110,000 more trips than now. In some parts it will flow more freely. In others — such as the evening rush hour between Bellevue and Renton — it will be as jammed as it is today. (All this is from the state’s studies.)
Project B is Sound Transit’s light-rail plan. For $10.2 billion (in 2006 dollars), it would extend rail north to Lynnwood, east to Bellevue and south to Tacoma. The whole system, including the line being built now, is projected to carry 300,000 riders daily by 2030.
Yet this is the plan that people are saying is ludicrous.
Around here it’s like we’ve jolted back to the ’50s, to relive the allure of the highway era.