Writings and observations

The I-985 opposition

There are sound enough reasons for opposing Washington’s Initiative 985, the Tim Eyman-backed proposal which would shake up the state’s transportation system. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer (one of the majority of papers to endorse against it) summarized that it “invites Washingtonians to encourage red-light running, make the streets more dangerous, demolish a good option on the financing of a new Highway 520 bridge and rob the state of the ability to provide for schools and other general fund responsibilities. This inanity, nastiness and shortsightedness are being presented as a guise to reduce traffic congestion.”

Okay. But you can understand why there’s some sympathy for it out there: Parts of the system are dysfunctional, borderline corrupt, and 985 does at least shine a spotlight on some of them.

This slice from an e-mail send out today by Eyman suggests some of that point:

“Photo Red companies top anti-985 donors” reads the jump on today’s homepage of the Spokesman Review. Over 1/4 of the total money raised from I-985’s opponents ($160,000) has come from a red light camera company: Signal Electric $40,000 so far. “Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions” has donated $10,000 so far.

But their political contributions to the No campaign weren’t business-related; they contributed for altruistic reasons.

As the story notes: “Jerry Vosberg, vice president of Signal Electric, said the company’s $40,000 contribution was not motivated by the potential of lost profit.”

The same selfless reason explains the other contribution: “Josh Weiss, spokesman for American Traffic Solutions, said the company contributed money in solidarity with communities it serves.”

How admirable. Note the rhetoric from these companies matches what we hear from politicians: it’s not about the money, it’s all for the “greater good.”

Just because these companies profit millions of dollars every year from these cameras, that’s not why they’re in business. Just because cities profit millions of dollars every year from these cameras, that’s not why they’re putting them up. Just because EVERY camera contract has a provision that allows the company to move the cameras to a different intersection if revenue isn’t being maximized, no, no, you’ve got it all wrong, it’s not about the money.

I-985 removes the profit motive for photo red light cameras and photo speeding cameras. As a result, we read comments like this from Wenatchee’s mayor: “(Mayor Dennis) Johnson said the city’s incentive to install cameras is gone if I-985 passes.” Oops, looks like the ‘no’ campaign hadn’t distributed its talking points in time for that Wenatchee World story.

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