Monday, September 14, 2009

Tolling is NOT the Only Answer!

In the Editorial section of the September 9 Columbian, Tom Koenninger writes that tolls on the new I-5 crossing are a foregone conclusion, and insinuates that anyone who claims otherwise is a fool or a liar.

Indeed, since Mr. Koenninger and the current Mayor of Vancouver, among others, have been stubbornly trying to force tolls onto our community for years now, one can hardly expect that they'd suddenly come to their senses.

It's because of this hard-headed refusal to do what is right for our community, and to defend the very people who need it most, that I am running for Mayor. Our community really does deserve better ideas, better leadership, and a stronger commitment to our citizens.

We DO need to replace this bridge. But we must also fight against tolls to pay for it. Mr. Pollard calls this viewpoint “naive.” To that I counter: if fighting for our community's common good, if refusing the status-quo, if actively seeking creative solutions to problems our incumbent officials have been unable to solve makes me na├»ve...then I suppose I am guilty as charged.

The only relevant comment in Mr. Koenninger’s opinion piece is that from Paula Hammond, Washington Department of Transportation: “No state money has been assigned for the project.”

To expound on that: No Washington State money, no Oregon State money, and no Federal money.

We're looking at plans to improve a $4 billion interstate asset, and not a single elected official has managed to secure federal or state funding. Instead, my opponent and his supporters have our community in their crosshairs –- how high can they set the tolls before our citizens can no longer handle it?

I've said it before and I'll say it again: this is a federal asset that benefits every single person living in this region. Governor Gregoire insists that we must have “user fees,” but her understanding of who exactly the “users” are is flatly incorrect. One-third of Vancouver's population commutes to Oregon each day. Not because they get a kick out of sitting in traffic, but because their home state has not created sufficient family-wage jobs. Incumbent politicians and Koenninger now want to burden these same people with the entire cost of the bridge project. They can't secure federal funding; they can't secure state funding; the only thing they can secure is a commitment from Pollard to tax our working class into perpetuity for the "privilege" of having to commute.

As Mayor, I will not roll over and abandon our community right when it most needs to be defended. Unlike our current Mayor, I will not continue to add bells and whistles and push for 12 lanes at all costs, when I know that we can't afford it.

I WILL support and work toward plan modifications that make the project effective but affordable.

I WILL continue to argue for federal and state funding commitments, and

I WILL seek equitable, reasonable revenue streams to fund a manageable local commitment.

The days of 'spend first, ask questions later' are long behind us, as our current economic situation has shown. Now more than ever, we need leadership that recognizes the regressive inequity of tolling; that is interested in supporting, not penalizing our citizens; and that understands that we shouldn't be spending the public's money without a much better idea of where it's going and what it's buying.

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