Politics, Monorail, and Tacoma

POLITICS

Does Ron Sims have a political death wish? The King County executive and Democratic gubernatorial candidate constantly reminds people how much he loves Sound Transit's troubled light-rail project. Just last week, Sims was using the bully pulpit to urge business, political, and environmental leaders to include $2 billion in new local taxes for light rail in an upcoming transportation ballot measure. Didn't he notice that in the most recent election, opponents used light rail to help defeat Dave Earling in the Snohomish County executive's race, Seattle's Cynthia Sullivan in a contest for King County Council, and Mary Gates in the race for the Federal Way City Council? "Those elections weren't about light rail. Those elections were about wanting new faces," says Sims' campaign manager, Tim Hatley. In fact, Hatley says, the campaign's polls show light rail is not a negative with the voters at all. "We are not going to back away from it," he says. GEORGE HOWLAND JR.

MONORAIL

Seattle techies attending the Consumer Electronics Show last week could only ogle, but not touch, the most expensive exhibit at the Las Vegas Convention Center: the $650 million Las Vegas monorail. Elevated tracks snake four miles from the Sahara hotel through not-quite-completed stations at the convention center and other hotels before ending at the MGM Grand. Though service doesn't begin until March, test trainssome wrapped with adsparade slowly above the convention center, moving so quietly that sometimes the only sign they are overhead is a moving shadow below. And the system is under budget and roughly on schedule. While it might be tempting to draw positive parallels to Seattle's planned system, the Las Vegas situation is different. There aren't a lot of great views the system's elevated tracks can block. The Las Vegas route doesn't block the unnatural scenery of the Strip, either, because it runs behind the casinos. And in a city chock-full of conventions, it's designed to ease tourist-caused traffic congestion more than to serve commuters. This isn't lost on cabbies. Said one 14-year veteran of trade shows in the town where taxi-line waits can exceed an hour: "I'm going to lose a lot of money." FRANK CATALANO

TACOMA

According to BestPlaces.net, Tacoma is America's most stressful city in which to live. The City of Destiny elbowed out New York, Miami, Dallas, and Detroit, among other very high-strung locales. The stress index the Web site created was based on unemployment rate, divorce rate, commute time, violent crime, property crime, suicide rate, alcohol consumption, self-reported poor mental health, and weather. Says the Web site: "Tacoma residents contend with one of the highest divorce rates in the country as well as one of the highest unemployment rates. It's cloudy in Tacoma much of the time, and the suicide and property-crime rates are high. On a brighter note, Tacomans can feel safe from bodily harm thanks to the low violent-crime rate." That's a load off our minds. Albany-Schenectady, N.Y.go figureis the least-stressful place to live. SAMANTHA STOREY

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