Thursday, April 3, 2014

Stanwood Citizens Respond to their State Legislators at March Town Hall .

On Saturday March 22,  Our 10th District  State Representatives -Norma Smith and Dave Hayes - along with our 10th  Legislative District State Senator - Barbara Bailey - held a town hall meeting at the Stanwood Middle School  for local citizens.  About 50 men and women showed up.  All three legislators were Republicans, friendly, approachable and willing to answer questions.  Their main focus was on the supplemental operating budget passed for 2014 which made minor changes to the larger State budget passed last year

 In spite of my Democratic predilections I appreciated some of their efforts.   

As a member of the House Higher Education Committee, Norma Smith commented on the 1000’s of Jobs in WA that go unfilled for lack of qualified workers. To provide the education that HS students need to  qualify for employment, both Reps Smith and Hayes plus Senator Bailey (on the Senate Education Committee)  supported Senate Bill 6552  which would allow School districts the flexibility and resources needed to upgrade their educational standards to met the job requirements in nearby communities.  The bill passed by an overwhelming majority in both houses and was delivered to the Governor on March 13 this year for his signature.  It will be interesting to see if this vital  legislation is successful in meetings its goal.   

As a patrol Sargent for Snohomish County Representative Dave Hayes is involved with legislation affecting public safety.  In his first term in office Hayes sponsored House Bill 2057   that passed and was signed by the Governor.  The Bill enables police officers to better help each other in making arrests.  

My main quibble with Rep Smith and Senator Bailey concerns jobs and the economy.
Both have repeated the Republican mantra that lower taxes and lower minimum wages (or no minimum wage) would create jobs.   I am not convinced by the data that this is true.  Washington State has lower unemployment even though it has a higher minimum wage than many States.  Also, if we are to provide the resources to educate students for higher tech jobs we will need to retain our level of taxes.  We will also need taxes for what was the overwhelming concern of the 50  citizens who attended the town hall meeting i.e. Public Transportation to Everett.  

 Even if you can afford to drive,  I-5 can barely accommodate the rush hour traffic.  Citizens were begging that full service be restored to the Community Transit’s  Camano Island to Everett connector.  Most comments and questions were about transit even though the legislators wanted to discuss other issues.  Many citizens stood up and spoke of their need either to get to work or their need to get to medical and other facilities because they were too old or poor to drive a car.  I need transit to see my daughter in Seattle.  The last time I drove I was stressed by the traffic south of Lynwood going 60 mph only 2 car lengths apart.  Potentially as dangerous as a mudslide.  Public Transit would relieve  some  I-5 traffic making it safer for those who do drive. 

1 comment:

  1. Our State Representative Dave Hayes published this excellent review of the current situation with regard to the Everett Connector in the July 1 edition of the Stanwood Camano News.


    By Rep. DAVE HAYES

    Recently after church, a constituent came up to me and asked, “Why did you cut funding for the Island Transit Everett Connector route?”
    It’s a question my 10th District seatmates and I have been getting a lot lately, after Island Transit decided to end its Everett Connector Route 412 commuter bus trips between Camano Island and Everett, beginning June 27, “due to funding losses.”

    Accusations that local legislators cut the funding are not true.
    I explained to the gentleman that I proposed an amendment last year in the Legislature that would have provided an extra $858,000 of state support for the Everett Connector.

    This would have been in addition to millions in state temporary “start-up” grants received by these agencies for years.
    But, because Island Transit and Skagit Transit were in line to receive yet another grant of nearly a million dollars to operate the two Everett Connector routes for the current two-year budget cycle, while other transit agencies across the state received less or nothing, the amendment was rejected.

    Even so, Skagit Transit will keep operating its portion of the Everett Connector — Route 90x between Burlington and Everett, while Island Transit has now discontinued Route 412.
    It leaves many riders asking, “why?”

    Some history is in order.

    These two routes began July 2006 after Island Transit and Skagit Transit partnered, applied for and received a state Regional Mobility Grant of $1,970,000. This grant is intended by the state as initial seed money, and the application states, “other funding sources must ultimately replace Regional Mobility Grant money.”

    Even Island Transit’s Executive Director Martha Rose clearly understood this, saying in an email to me, “It is correct that the Regional Mobility funds are considered to be ‘start-up’ funds.”
    Yet, the two transit agencies began to rely on this temporary grant as a permanent funding source for the Everett Connector routes. They received a second Regional Mobility Grant of $1,440,000 for the 2007-09 state budget cycle, and a third grant in the 2009-11 budget cycle of $1,624,000.

    In that third application, the agencies wrote: “Upon expiration of this grant cycle, Island Transit and Skagit Transit will maintain funding for this service through locally approved sales taxes and other various funding sources. This grant will allow the time necessary for both of our transit agencies to identify future funding sources to ensure we have the funding to continue this service after this grant, enabling us to bring the operating costs of this vital service ‘in house’ after the 2009-2011 grant term ends.”

    Unfortunately, after five years of receiving what was meant to be start-up funds, future funding sources were never identified as promised.