Joni Balter just can't believe it. She's been a Seattle Times political commentator long enough to know a thing or two about how politics work, but still, she simply cannot believe, as she wrote in a breathless editorial on March 7, that people contributing to a campaign to stop the deep-bore tunnel... don't even like the tunnel.
What? Yes. Apparently, in order to uncover this shocking scandal, Balter dug through the financial disclosure reports on the first wave of donors to Protect Seattle Now, the new campaign to let voters weigh in on the fate of the $4.2 billion tunnel project. Her verdict: The campaign can't be a "grassroots effort" because all the contributions are "obvious contributions."
Consider what she's arguing: There must be something undemocratic about people who oppose something going out and, well, opposing it.
For instance, People's Waterfront Coalition director Cary Moon donated $300 (she opposes the tunnel because it would usurp money for improving waterfront traffic). People who support bicycle infrastructure donated some money, too (they oppose the tunnel because it would take away money for transit and bike improvements downtown). Oh, and someone who worked on the campaign for the mayor—for those keeping score, that's the mayor who campaigned against the tunnel—also gave $4,500 to the campaign to stop the tunnel. Who could have ever guessed?
Balter then hurls out the charge that these people are "not grassroots average citizens." (Sounds like they're not part of "Real America," eh?)
So: If you dislike a tunnel project that fails on every metric—massive costs, liability for the city, meager auto capacity at the expense of street improvements and quality transit—you're a subaverage citizen.
Why are Balter and the pro-tunnel Seattle Times resorting to second-class-citizen ad hominem rhetoric?
For the same reason the eight pro-tunnel members of the city council are trying to block a public vote (they refused to vote on a resolution that would send the tunnel to the ballot). They're afraid of losing.
Polling shows that most city residents oppose the tunnel. While the project may have seemed like a swell idea at first, in the end, the data shows it costs too much and delivers very little (most cars that currently use the Alaskan Way Viaduct won't use the tunnel). There are better alternatives.
Which is why the referendum is on a tear, gathering upwards of 600 signatures a day, gaining nearly $30,000 in pledged support, and bringing on Ainsley Close, who had been a strategic adviser in the mayor's office since January 2010, as campaign manager. Of course, Close and her colleagues hardly have it in the bag. After all, there's only a 30-day window to get the signatures and the deadline is March 28. But they're clearly making tunnel cheerleaders like Balter desperate.