On Friday, September 14, the Cascade Chapter of the Sierra Club lost its battle to have its antiroads argument included in the voters' guide for this November's roads-and-transit ballot measure. In a statement Friday, the Sierra Club lamented the decision, which will result in a "con" statement that is entirely antitransit—a message that won't hurt and could even help the measure in pro-transit King County.
"It seems the pro-roads lobby that is attempting to 'hide the highways' behind Sound Transit will get their way," Cascade chair Mike O'Brien said. "We're disappointed—the entire voter guide on this issue will be slanted."
The Sierra Club and others who oppose the roads and transit measure must have been heartened, however, by a SurveyUSA poll released last week, which showed that a strong majority of voters in the region oppose increasing sales taxes and license fees to build new roads and transit. Tellingly, voters opposed the roads part of the package by a much larger margin than they opposed building light rail. Meanwhile, 45 percent had a "favorable" opinion of Sound Transit generally. ERICA C. BARNETT
State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-36) says she's drafting legislation that would exempt Flexcar drivers from King County's rental-car tax, which, under a new rule from the state Department of Revenue, they will have to pay starting this October. The DOR's proposed tax hike, which comes on top of sales taxes Flexcar members already pay, would bring the total Flexcar tax to 18.7 percent. Supporters of car-sharing companies oppose the tax because car sharing takes cars off the road, reduces congestion, improves the climate, and boosts public-transit ridership. Taxing Flexcar thus penalizes good behavior. The challenge, Kohl-Welles says, is "to provide an exemption for Flexcar... without creating a loophole that [rental-car companies] would be able to take advantage of... for example, by changing their name to a car-sharing agency." ERICA C. BARNETT
On Monday, September 17, Tom Fitzsimmons, Governor Christine Gregoire's chief of staff, announced he was leaving his job. Fitzsimmons, who has not announced any future plans nor said exactly when he's leaving, broke the news in Monday's regular meeting of the state's agency director heads.
Fitzsimmons was also the chief of staff for Gregoire's predecessor Governor Gary Locke during the last two years of Locke's administration. And that should be the first clue that his departure could be good news for young, progressive Democrats who are frustrated with the hand-wringing, nervous Democratic approach that dominated the Locke administration, hobbled Gregoire's tepid '04 campaign, and has lingered in her administration. JOSH FEIT