Now that KC executive wannabe David Irons is on the record opposing Initiative 912, it is time for a few other Republican “leaders” to fess up and make that wrenching Sophie’s Choice between their fervently anti-tax base, and their pro-infrastructure patrons in the business community. I have emailed the twelve other members of the King County Council (Democrat and Republican), asking them the same question I posed to Irons… and I plan to query other lawmakers and candidates as well. But at the top of my list must surely sit the state GOP’s putative figurehead, Dino Rossi, who skated within an inch of redecorating the Governor’s Mansion, largely on the strength of his don’t-ask-don’t-tell approach to public policy.
Rossi’s 2008 gubernatorial campaign started way back in December of 2004, about a week before King County completed its hand recount, when trends in other counties and reports from observers made it clear to campaign insiders that Christine Gregoire would likely be declared the winner. (Indeed, he technically formed his “Rossi for Governor 2008” committee way back on Dec. 8, 2004.) Perhaps there was a point when Rossi truly believed he had a shot at prevailing in court, but the election contest transformed into the opening round of an anticipated rematch long before it was forcefully “dismissed with prejudice.”
But if Rossi is going to wage the longest political campaign in state history — if he is going to wear the mantle of WA state GOP savior for four more years — then it is only fair that he be asked to publicly comment on controversial issues of the day. And none could be more controversial at the moment than I-912 and the state transportation package it would repeal.
Indeed, nobody owes the public an explanation of his position on I-912 more than Rossi… not just because of his role as de facto GOP leader, or his established record supporting pro-business issues (like the transportation bill)… but because it was his futile election contest that John Carlson and Kirby Wilbur successfully co-opted as a sort of political sweeps week. KVI astutely rode the election controversy to its highest ratings in years, and as it came to an end, John and Kirby launched their next on-air promotion, I-912, during the two-week trial, and the peak audiences it delivered. But they didn’t just cleverly exploit the bump in ratings Rossi’s contest gave them, they exploited Rossi himself, adopting him as a martyr of the anti-tax movement, and urging listeners to sign the petitions as a backlash against Christine Gregoire’s victory at the polls and in the courts.
Many, many people who go to the polls to vote for I-912 will do so in the name of Dino Rossi, and if, as I suspect, he privately opposes the initiative, then he owes it to his supporters to set the record straight. If on the other hand he really does support I-912, then his financial backers in the business community, whose interests he claims to represent, deserve an explanation as to why he opposes a transportation improvement package they deem so vital to the economic interests of our state. And more importantly, he owes us all an idea of what he might propose as an alternative.
If the gas tax hike is repealed, if desperately needed improvements are not made, and aging infrastructure is allowed to slip further into disrepair, then a Governor Rossi might someday have to deal with the consequences… consequences that include not only the economic impact of ever more suffocating gridlock, but potentially the loss of hundreds of lives and thousands of jobs should the worst case scenario occur.
As the Seattle P-I editorial board succinctly concluded: “When mobility, traffic congestion and thousands of local jobs are at stake, we’d hope for stronger leadership.” If Dino Rossi wants to lead our state, now is the time to demonstrate some strong leadership by taking a clear public position on the most important issue on the November ballot.