By JEFF JOHNSON
BELLEVUE (Sept. 18, 2013) — It was standing room only at Stevenson Elementary School as more than 400 people squeezed into the gym for the first Republican Majority Coalition Caucus/Senate listening session on transportation. The take away: Pass a significant, comprehensive transportation funding and project package this fall, including local option taxing authority and make practical “reforms,” not ideological ones.
After a presentation from Washington State Department of Transportation Secretary Lynn Petersen, public testimony was kicked off by King County Executive Dow Constantine followed by 71 other speakers representing citizens, cities, counties, labor, environment, transit riders, retirees. The hearing began at 6 p.m. and ended at 9 p.m. with only half of those wanting to testify having the opportunity.
David Freiboth, Executive Secretary of the M.L. King County Labor Council, led off the labor testimony representing both the MLKCLC and the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. He reminded all of our state’s track record of working together on big problems and that organized labor represents nearly half a million family-wage jobs in Washington that we must invest in keeping and growing. Other labor presenters included Machinists 751’s Larry Brown, International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s Dan McKisson, and Jimmy Hahn and Terry Tilton of the Carpenters.
The public response was overwhelmingly positive for a transportation funding package this fall. The arguments given over and over again were that a transportation package will strengthen economic growth, foster economic development, create much-needed jobs, improve safety, improve our environment, reduce congestion, etc.
Only one presenter had negative testimony accusing others of using scare tactics to try and win a gas tax increase. She claimed that we can live within our means and that there should be no more tolls. But she was the exception.
The Transit Riders Union presented an “award” to Sen. Rodney Tom of Medina for the special role he played as Majority Coalition Caucus leader for stopping the transportation package during the legislative sessions. The award was a 3-foot high cardboard cutout Grievance Bus stuffed with more than 1,000 petitions for a transportation package and transit funding. Sen. Tom initially looked stunned and then accepted the award.
Nine other listening sessions are scheduled over the next three weeks with the next one taking place tonight in Everett. Here is the schedule (all are 6 to 9 p.m.):
Wednesday, Sept. 18 in Everett – Snohomish County, Robert Drewel Building, 3000 Rockefeller Ave., 6th floor
Monday, Sept. 23 in Wenatchee – Chelan County PUD Auditorium, 327 N Wenatchee Ave.
Tuesday, Sept. 24 in Yakima — Yakima Area Arboretum, Garden View Rm., 1401 Arboretum Dr.
Thursday, Sept. 26 in Pasco — Columbia Basin College, Gjerde Center, 2600 N. 20th Ave.
Wednesday, Oct. 2 in Spokane Valley — Central Valley High School theater, 821 S. Sullivan Road.
Monday, Oct. 7 in Vancouver — Department of Transportation Southwest Region Office, 11018 Northeast 51st Circle
Wednesday, Oct. 9 in Tacoma — Evergreen Tacoma Campus, Lyceum Hall, 1210 6th Ave.
Monday, Oct. 14 in Seattle — King County Courthouse, Room 1001, 516 3rd Avenue, 10th Floor
Tuesday, Oct. 15 in Bellingham — Port of Bellingham Cruise Terminal, 355 Harris Ave.
Also, the Senate has created a new website to submit feedback. Visit senatetranspofeedbackforum.org and urge them to approve a robust transportation funding package.
Jeff Johnson is President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, the state’s largest union organization, representing approximately 400,000 rank-and-file union members.