Mild-mannered landlord and serial City Council candidate Robert Rosencrantz is stepping up his game with an attack mailer that accuses rival Mike O'Brien of wanting to impose tolls, literally, "everywhere." "It's hard to believe," reads the hit-piece that landed in voters' mailboxes yesterday. And indeed it is. Surely the quotation from O'Brien on the mailer, which has an ellipsis between the statement "Yes, I support tolls" and the word "everywhere" is missing some crucial qualifier. Actually, nothing is missing; that's exactly the sentiment O'Brien expresses in a July interview with the enviro civic group Friends of Seattle that is shown on a YouTube video.
"You've mentioned you supported tolling, where?" the questioner asks, laughing for some reason, perhaps because she believes it's a touchy subject.
"I think everywhere, ultimately," O'Brien replies. "Clearly [State Route] 520 is most likely going to be the first place we do it, and the first place in the county where we put tolls on existing roadways, and I think that's a great first step." After that, he says, "I'm guessing we go to I-90 and pretty quickly then I'm guessing we go to all limited access freeways in the region."
It's true: Tolls are coming fast and furiously. As O'Brien states, they're almost a sure thing on 520. And, as few have noticed despite the tons of ink and political rhetoric spilled on the question of whether to build a tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct, the state recently revealed plans to charge up to $4.20 each way on the roadway.
Rosencrantz doesn't say in the mailer how he intends to stop tolls, and a call placed to his campaign has not yet been returned.
O'Brien suggests in the interview that people are ready to pay fees for every little piece of road on which they drive, on top of the taxes they already shell out for transportation work. "I think the public is ready for leadership to stand up and say, 'hey guys, roads cost money and we've got to start paying for them,' " he says.
A 2008 Stuart Elway poll seems to offer lukewarm support for that idea. Twenty seven percent of state voters polled said they consider tolls the best way of paying for transportation improvements--roughly the same percentage that considered it unacceptable. Forty three percent weren't crazy about the idea but deemed tolls "acceptable."