03/19/2010: "NEV Bill Controversy Intensifies"
The controversy over allowing NEVs (Neighborhood Electric Vehicles) on county roads is growing, and there is uncertainty if the governor will sign or reject the bill this week; or in response to conflicting opinions from county officials and the public, continue to review the matter.
Councilman Bob Myhr sent out an email asking all Democrats to support the Ranker bill , and to: “Also let the governor know that a small, vocal group of Republicans are trying to undermine this progressive legislation.”
The Myhr email pointed out that even SJC Sheriff Bill Cumming had supported the bill when it was before the Senate Transportation Committee, stating, in part, “I believe passage of this bill will enable our citizens to move about the islands safely while protecting our environment. The truth is, we deal in mopeds in large numbers in this county, and our safety record with these vehicles has been very acceptable.”
But other first responders, who like Cumming, are also Democrats, are opposed to the bill, concerned that it will impend the response time of firefighters and EMTs who are rushing to a station house to respond to emergencies. A firefighter, and a Captain, said he was concerned about becoming trapped behind an NEV, unable to pass, as he rushed to an station house to respond.
Because it was intended for San Juan County only, Senator Kevin Ranker’s bill had sailed through the senate with no opposition, but it was clearly controversial in the county, even back in 2006 when the first NEVs started showing up on SJI, but and it was a non-partisan issue with split opposition and support from county officials; first responders; Democrats, Republicans, independents; and with letters to the Editor and emails from both sides sent to the newspapers and, more importantly, the governor’s office.
At least it seemed the bill was a non-partisan issue to the casually observer, with the county council split in their support (Past Story), with Councilman Rich Peterson (R) sending a letter to the governor in opposition to the bill, and a statement in support of a council letter by Howard Rosenfeld (D), but then Councilman Gene Knapp (D) supported Peterson's opposition to the council sending an official letter of support to the governor.
However, based on the email sent out by Councilman Bob Myhr (D), it appears that contrary to the evidence, he had early on decided the NEV issue was a partisan issue.