David Irons had some rare, positive news last week when the Alki Foundation, the political wing of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, awarded him their “recommendation” in the race against sitting King County Executive Ron Sims. Sims had received the foundation’s endorsement in 2001, and has always enjoyed fairly strong support from the region’s business community.
So why the change of heart? Joel Connelly suggests that problems in KC elections, and Sims’ backing of Southwest Airlines’ proposed move to Boeing Field, may have had a lot to do with it. But from what I hear, what put Irons over the top with the Alki board members was his private assurances that he opposes the gas tax rollback initiative, I-912.
Both Alki and the Chamber, like most of the region’s pro-business groups, understand how vital these transportation improvements are to the local economy. Indeed, Alki refused to endorse either Steve Hammond or Reagan Dunn for county council, because both support I-912.
“These gentlemen support Initiative 912. Transportation improvement is such a central issue to the business community that we decided to make no recommendation.”
While Irons has repeatedly refused to take a public position on I-912, my sources tell me that he has been much more talkative in private. This is a very important issue to Alki members, and to earn their endorsement Irons apparently told them what they wanted to hear.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that Irons hasn’t been privately telling I-912 supporters what they want to hear, too.
Irons can easily settle any lingering doubts over where he stands on the initiative, simply by clearly stating his position the way Ron Sims did. (Sims opposes it.) Indeed, he must come clean. I-912 could have a huge impact on the economy of the county he wants to govern, so reporters owe it to their readers to keep Irons feet to the fire, by bluntly asking him where he stands, and at every opportunity.
If Irons believes that the county can get by without replacing the Alaska Way Viaduct and the 520 floating bridge — both past the end of their useful lifespan — or if he believes we can replace both structures solely with local funds, then he needs to explain how. But if Irons supports the statewide transportation package and acknowledges that the gas tax hike is a reasonable way to finance it, then he needs to be upfront with voters.
Yes, Irons is between a rock and a hard place on this issue. His own polling shows that while two-thirds of his own base supports I-912, a large majority of King County voters do not. Still, running a county as large as King often requires taking unpopular positions on controversial issues… something Sims has had to do repeatedly throughout his tenure.
I find it ironic, but not surprising, that even Irons’ official campaign website (soundpolitics.com) saw fit to ask US Senate candidate Mike McGavick to clarify his position on I-912, but refuses to demand the same of its own candidate. It is absurd to believe that Irons doesn’t have an opinion on an initiative that will have such a huge impact on King County’s quality of life. And it is even more absurd to believe that he should be allowed to keep it to himself in such a dishonest and disingenuous effort to walk both sides of a controversial issue.