Friday, November 27, 2020

Bugged by vehicle fee's ballot death

| November 6, 2020 1:00 AM

When a proposal goes down by a 2-to-1 margin, that’s not a subtle hint.

It’s a bug taking on a semi going opposite directions at 90 mph.

“Splat” went the ballot measure intended to improve some of the region’s most neglected motor transportation infrastructure — big words meaning better and wider roads to help handle the rapidly increasing traffic around here.

For those paying attention to the road signs, here are some of the reasons we have one fewer healthy bug cruising the freeway today.

TOO MUCH MONEY, TOO MANY YEARS: The measure called for a $50 registration fee per vehicle, per year for 20 years. It also included motorcycles and off-road vehicles at a slightly lower rate for 20 years. That was sticker shock that in some cases converted quickly to anger.

LATE TO THE PARTY: Some voters expressed frustration that the plan was unveiled late, in their opinion, without time for broad community absorption and discussion. Many in the general public weren’t aware of the ballot request until September. Thanks to COVID-19, supporters of the measure were unable to take their explanation show on the road — typically a key part of selling funding requests like school bonds and levies to the public.

UNEQUAL BURDEN DISTRIBUTION: Visitors from outside Kootenai County use our roads and highways, so why shouldn’t they help pay for the improvements they helped necessitate? Why should it fall only on the shoulders of residents?

PORK BARREL POSSIBILITY: Some voters suggested $7.5 million for a regional traffic management center was proof that they were being sold a bill with unnecessary goods.

Now that the bug is dead and buried, where do we go? Virtually nobody argues that our transportation is fine and dandy as is. Everyone’s frustrated with traffic jams and rapidly diminishing road quality because of the region’s astronomical growth. And that’s the key. Tackle growth and you handle this problem.

The Press has recommended political, business and other community leaders get together early in the new year to work on a comprehensive plan to manage growth. Affordable housing is one of the keys, but transportation should be right up near the top of the priority list. Put together enough minds that are sharp and hearts that are passionate, and solutions can be found.