The bus stops here
Well. It looks like we might get a bus system.
It has to be acknowledged as somewhat surprising that predominantly “red,” tax-despising, government-distrusting Okanogan County would choose to tax itself, even a little bit, for something so urbanistic as a regular transportation plan that’s likely to be publicly subsidized, like most transit systems.
But there you go. By a substantial margin, the county’s voters adopted a proposed four-tenths of 1 percent increase in the retail sales tax. Income from the tax increase will support a transportation system that should reliably connect the most populated areas of the far-flung county.
It was a thoughtful, generous and beneficial decision by the county’s voters – one which will have positive effects that may be a bit squishy to quantify but will nonetheless make a big difference in many residents’ lives.
Supporters of the proposal, Proposition 1 on last week’s general election ballot, pointed out that much of the additional revenue will be generated by visitors taking advantage of Okanogan County’s bountiful tourism attractions.
In the tourism-dependent Methow Valley, support for the proposal was overwhelming – in general higher than elsewhere in the county. That’s not surprising. Regular bus routes in and out of this still-remote area will create opportunities for many who can’t afford or aren’t physically able to easily reach jobs, educational opportunities and medical facilities outside the valley.
Tax-hiking proposals that promise a tangible, visible benefit for the community at large often seem to draw more voter support than things like mega-stadiums or empire-building edifices. Okanogan County voters considered and endorsed a forward-looking idea that will require a lot of efficient effort to make happen. Now it’s up to the transit organization to justify that faith.
Two thumbs down
There were other surprising outcomes in last week’s election. Both statewide initiatives – I-517 related to initiative signature collection and I-522 related to labeling on foods with genetically modified organisms – were rejected by voters, and it wasn’t even close in either case. What’s curious is that both seemed to have the potential for widespread populist support.
But I-517, another Tim Eyman contraption of indignant intent, was ultimately a clumsy, overreaching solution looking for an undocumented problem. I-517 was flawed, and voters recognized that (though it did win approval in Okanogan County).
More intriguing was the defeat of I-522, a philosophically sound idea that seemed to have solid support – which was clearly eroded by the doubts and questions raised in a gazillion-dollar “anti” campaign that blitzed the state. But the concept is gaining momentum and won’t go away. Let’s hope the corporate giants won’t be able to buy their way out of it for much longer.
Filling a need
Accolades to Room One, the Methow Valley School District and generous local donors for stepping up to keep an important community role going. When the school district lost its funding for a student and family advocate, Superintendent Tom Venable and Room One shared ideas about how to keep the position going.
The outcome: a new position for a social worker at Room One, which is being funded entirely by local grants and donations. Lois Garland, who held the school district position, was hired to fill the new role at Room One, which will supervise her activities. Garland will be involved with the schools but also will be responsible for other community needs.
Coordination and creativity produced a solution. Now that’s a model for community action.
– Don Nelson