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Home » Archives » December 2006 » Halliburton Could Run The Ferries!

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12/22/2006: "Halliburton Could Run The Ferries!"


OK, we have toll ferries, but do we have toll roads in the State of Washington?

These days it seems the destruction of anything can simply be accomplished by asking questions which cast doubt upon an otherwise stable target. Our public transportation system known as Washington State Ferries is a case in point. The first questions surfacing years ago about a self-sustaining ferry system should have amassed humongous red flags descending upon the capital steps from San Juan County from day one. This past summer when one of the ferries routinely ran on half power for days (or was it weeks?) I knew we were close to winning "the race to the bottom."

Oblivious to obvious facts, there is still a misguided march led by a blind faith in raw market force and naivet by those who want to over-apply an otherwise acceptable profit motive philosophy upon something that can be nothing more than a good old fashioned duty, responsibility, and service to the public at large.

Our national failures to fund the most basic and important infrastructure and service responsibilities to our citizens has reached epidemic proportions at the same time we as a nation are forcefully promoting our version of democracy and free market around the world. The ironies and double standards are not going unnoticed.

Many "foreign" ferry goers this past year have given me an earful as to the astounding inefficiencies, obvious lack of maintenance, and generally disappointing nature of our "third-rate rust bucket fleet." "Everything in America seems to be under attack" said one Peruvian-Japanese student of a Canadian university - "under attack not by terrorists, but by Americas own neglect and unwillingness to be truthful and responsible in their own backyard."

Embarrassing as it may be, there are many many public transportation systems fully funded and affordable to the general public in the third world. I even found in Nepal, one of the poorest countries in the world, that a public bus will show up at least twice a day at the end of most dead end dirt roads, and the ride is usually free.

"The disconnect between financing and spending is astounding" correctly stated Alex McLeod, Chair of the San Juan Ferry Advisory Committee. While his statement was solely pertinent to our State Ferry system, what is even more astounding to me is the reckless misplacement of financial priorities generally running roughshod in our nation. The state of Washington has already paid well over an $8 Billion dollar bill for a failed adventure of choice in Iraq ($69.5 million in Bellingham alone) at the same time we can't pay for the rebuilding of the viaduct in Seattle, decide on how to replace the floating bridge, or fund the ferry system.

While it may be easy for some to dismiss any form of connection here in recognition of various levels of government and jurisdictions, I say we had better pay attention to the elephant(s) in the room! They are all related through choice and or complacency.

The economic hardship already imposed upon this county by the ferry not being funded "as roads" is obvious. Either or the doubling of the cost of a ticket or the elimination of frequent user fairs will push many of us small businesses and service providers off the islands permanently. Individuals, from the elderly who suddenly must make frequent trips for medical reasons, to a family of 4 who want to do a day hike at Mt. Baker, will find the cost of the quality of life on the islands simply isn't worth it, or simply impossible. The economic burden upon the citizens of San Juan County will be unbearable if we allow such social and economic gerrymandering to take place.

Within the fundamental responsibilities inherent in being a citizen of the State of Washington is for all to chip in a few pennies across the state to support the wellbeing of the entire state's transportation system, which includes the ferries. This after all is also the mandate given to our state government, and to "cut and run" from this obligation is to simply fail both legislatively and administratively.

As the shifting sands of fancy studies, peak-hour gimmicks, and snazzy electronic cards replace basic service, I can only imagine the sigh of relief in Olympia if the entire ferry system were handed over to Halliburton. Just imagine, spending with wild abandons, special favors, and absolutely no accountability requirements except for the occasional slap-on-the-hand token fee for all to see. We're already paying for it by the billions around the world in foreign lands - why not here too?

Jeff Bossler
Westsound


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