Bring on the auditor
It's election time again as city officials and their challengers face the voters.
Transportation is a perennial issue in every municipal campaign. Candidates talk about all of the streets that need repaving, the bridges that need strengthening and the sidewalks that have never been poured, much less deteriorated to the point of needing replacement. The cost runs into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
While these are problems for city government, Seattle residents also are deeply affected by some massive transportation projects that are the responsibility of state government. High on the state list is the Alaskan Way Viaduct. There's also the 520 Bridge across Lake Washington and improvements to Interstate 405.
The Washington Legislature approved a 9.5-cent state gas tax increase to pay for them. That increase would provide about half the money needed to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
Lurking in the political backdrop to this election season is Initiative 912, which would nullify the state gas-tax increase. The initiative has strong support. Signature gatherers supporting Initiative 912 collected 420,000 names. That's nearly twice as many as they needed to qualify for the November ballot.
So despite a lengthy list of projects to improve transportation, we refuse to tax ourselves to pay for them.
The obvious conclusion to be drawn is that we do not trust the highway and structural engineers when they tell us our infrastructure needs attention. Nor do we believe the politicians who say they will spend gas-tax money on transportation problems.
Neither the city of Seattle nor the state of Washington can move forward to improve our transportation system without the faith of the voters. No matter how eloquent the arguments offered by the candidates, regardless of the logic explained by the engineers, if the voters don't believe there is a problem or if they discount the validity of proposed solutions, nothing will be done.
So we suggest, bring on the auditors, accountants and bookkeepers. Hire the efficiency experts. Contact the private investigators. Conduct performance audits of every department of city, county, state and federal government having to do with transportation. Include every public authority, such as the Seattle Monorail Project and the Port of Seattle, that pertains to transportation too.
Dig into each waste basket. Comb every hard drive. Peer through each filing cabinet. Do whatever it takes to find all of the inefficiency, procrastination, ineptitude, bribery, theft, laziness or whatever other bureaucratic sins people seem to think are going on. Do whatever it takes to open up and explain yourselves to the voters. Because until the voters are convinced their money is being used wisely, Seattle's transportation problems will never get better.