By JOE ULATOSKI
For The Beachcomber
A hearty “thank you” to all of the approximately 900 of you who braved the elements to turn out for Washington State Ferries’ hearing on Vashon last Wednesday. The turnout was most impressive and stimulating. Since the hearing room could only hold 500, somewhere between 300 and 400 of you had to be turned away. To those, we offer our most profound apologies. We were overwhelmed by your response, and please know you counted.
During and after the hearing, a number of you asked what the hearing accomplished or would accomplish. To be perfectly honest, we don’t know. Hopefully, WSF will modify its plans somewhat to reflect our concerns. However, what WSF can do is limited by funding considerations, and those are the purview of the governor and the Legislature.
It is now time to take some additional steps to persuade those who control the purse strings, the governor and Legislature, to take the ferry-related actions they have been avoiding over the past several years and do something positive about providing long-term funding for the ferry system instead of the “patchwork” efforts that have led to the current utterly deplorable situation. Some of us have already started to work on an action plan that includes:
• Writing letters to the governor, legislators and our congressional delegation in Washington D.C. urging their support for the repeal of the current law requiring ferries be built in Washington. This will make Washington eligible for federal grants that could become available under the Obama administration’s economic stimulus package. While this could cost some jobs in the state if our state’s industries are not competitive in the bidding process, it would at least ensure ferries can be purchased at the least cost to us, the taxpayers.
• Submitting an emergency request to the Vashon-Maury Island Community Council asking it to send letters to the governor and Legislature requesting the proposed cuts in ferry service to Vashon be removed from further consideration. The request would also include a letter to King County Executive Ron Sims asking him to formally add his support to Vashon’s request not to cut service.
• Conducting a petition drive asking the governor and Legislature independently, or in conjunction with the other ferry-served communities, to recognize the value of the ferry system to Washington, to reaffirm the ferry system is part of Washington’s highway system and to provide long-range, equitable and statewide funding to enable WSF to again provide efficient and effective service to its customers.
• Conducting a mass rally in Olympia on Tuesday, Feb. 17, while the Legislature is in session, that we hope includes significant participation from other ferry-using communities where the petitions can be presented to the Legislature and the governor.
Because time is critical, we’ll need the help of almost every resident of Vashon to accomplish these actions. We’ll need people to write letters; to solicit signatures of Islanders and friends and families who live off-Island in all parts of Washington state for the petition (both in person and via the Internet); and to help organize the rally. If you are willing to help organize the letter-writing campaign, please contact Liz Otis at 567-5348 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are willing to help organize the petition or rally, please contact me, Joe Ulatoski, at 463-1321 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
For those of you who have asked whether such actions will help or whether our governor or Legislature will listen, we can only say we hope so! However, nothing is guaranteed, so we’ll never know unless we try. And, if we don’t try, we know what will happen and then complaining won’t do any good at all.
Our thanks to all of you for your interest and involvement and, hopefully, your participation in this effort.
— Joe Ulatoski is a member of the VMICC transportation committee.