By JOE ULATOSKI
For The Beachcomber
The Washington State Ferry Advisory Committee will hold a public hearing on Vashon next week to seek Islanders’ opinions on potential service cuts, pricing strategies and other proposals contained within the ferry system’s newly released draft long-range plan.
The hearing must be viewed against the backdrop of Gov. Christine Gregoire’s proposed budget, which calls for a reduction in service on the south end by permanently replacing the 48-car Rhododendron with the 34-car Hiyu. Service cuts could also extend to the north end if one of the proposals in the long-range plan — the reduction of three boats to two on the so-called triangle run — were to go into effect.
During the past two Ferry Advisory Committee meetings on Vashon, David Moseley, who heads Washington State Ferries (WSF), solicited community input regarding recommendations he will make to the Legislature regarding ferry service. Attendance was marginal, and several WSF staffers and residents expressed disappointment about the apparent level of interest on Vashon. Generally speaking, this was countered by our own survey and “White Paper.” However, we need to do better!
Since it is obvious the lives of almost everyone on Vashon will be affected to some degree by the proposals, the only question seems to be how drastic those impacts will be. With this in mind, we must take advantage of this last chance to voice our opinions before WSF makes its recommendations to the Legislature. Therefore, it is extremely important that every element of the Vashon community is not only represented, but is represented in force at the hearing. Large opinionated crowds count big time in the political arena!
WSF representatives need to hear about the impact of the proposals from the community council, the school district and the PTSA, the fire district, the medical community, the business community, the real estate community, the elderly and others who must work or keep medical or other appointments on the mainland. They need to hear from contractors and businesses that use off-Island labor and from individuals who, for a variety of reasons, may be forced to drastically alter their lifestyles.
This is no longer an academic exercise. The few Islanders who have been trying to stave off changes, while very capable, often cannot envision the impact of the proposals on all aspects of the community. Cogent and specific opinions need to be expressed by those who will be affected by potential decisions.
It is time for everyone who will be affected and who, to date, may have been conspicuous by their absence to step forward and voice their opinions at this hearing. And, if our opinions are not heeded as a result of this hearing, we hope those who are adversely impacted will go to Olympia with us so they can express their opinions directly to the Legislature and/or the governor.
To come to the meeting fully informed, Islanders can review the draft proposals via the Internet at www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/planning/ESHB2358.htm, then under “Ferry Financing Legislation” refer to “Draft Long Range Plan.” Thus opinions can be directed at specific issues or points.
Remember that once a bill is passed, it is too late to do anything but complain and then no one will listen — until the next election approaches.
— Joe Ulatoski is a member of Vashon’s ferry advisory committee.