John Laird: Amateur sleuths, myths and rivalries

By John Laird, Columbian Editorial Page Editor

Published:

 
photoJohn Laird is The Columbian's editorial page editor. His column of personal opinion appears each Sunday. Reach him at john.laird@columbian.com.

Notes, quotes and anecdotes while wondering if Jon Huntsman should become the GOP presidential nominee simply because he was the first of many candidates smart enough to bypass the Donald Trump “debate”:

Speaking of debates — One quick way to lose an argument is to start citing anecdotal evidence. And one local example occurs often in debates about C-Tran. Joe Blow (predisposed to hate C-Tran) spies an empty bus and automatically starts yammering about an inefficient transit system.

Memo to Joe: I saw an empty school bus the other day. It was on its way back to the bus barn. I’m not gonna advocate abolishing school transportation systems. Another time, I saw a fire truck moving along slowly, with no sirens blaring or lights flashing. Guess what? I still love the Fire Department.

C-Tran devotes great expertise and technology toward researching ridership statistics, all for the purpose of maximizing efficiencies. In my mind, that scientific scrutiny trumps the work of all the amateur sleuths.

Myth No. 1 — Washington state is spending more of the people’s money than ever, you say? Not according to per capita spending figures from the conservative Washington Policy Center. During 2011-2013 the state is scheduled to spend $3,780 per capita, the lowest in nine years and down from $4,515 just four years ago.

Bring back the melodrama — Remember back in the good ol’ days when Royce Pollard and Betty Sue Morris battled tooth and nail as Vancouver mayor and Clark County commissioner, respectively? Ah, yes, those were good times for columnists, with their nonstop epic showdowns (mostly over city plans to annex sacred county grounds), all resulting in a feud that simmers even to this day.

Sadly, the city-county spat appears to have stabilized, with the city establishing the upper hand on at least two matters. The county’s ghastly notion to build a biomass power plant in west downtown Vancouver was pretty much zoned into oblivion by the city council, and the county’s baseball stadium dream died when city councilors made it known they would oppose the admissions tax. Come on, county, what happened to your titanium spine? It’s rally time. Let’s get nasty again!

Myth No. 2 — Washingtonians are in no mood for a sales tax increase, you say? Not according to pollster Stuart Elway, whose firm discovered that 54 percent of 408 registered voters who were contacted in late September said they approve of a higher sales tax to help balance the state budget.

Experience? We don’t need no stinkin’ experience — Often during a long losing streak, a thin-skinned coach will taunt a critical sports writer with, “So, tell me, did you ever play (fill in the sport) yourself?” Well, as an inspiration to all football fans who never strapped on shoulder pads or hit a blocking sled, along comes one Mike Leach, new head coach at Washington State University. Leach, considered an offensive genius — uh, make that a genius of offense — never played a down of college football. In fact, according to a 2005 New York Times story, the closest Leach ever came to varsity football competition was riding the bench as a high school junior back in Cody, Wyo. Leach has a law degree and is a researcher and admirer of pirates. Argh! Throw the ball, matey!

Myth No. 3 — Americans prefer “Drill, baby, drill” over expanding alternative energy sources, you say? Not according to the Pew Research Center, which learned last May that poll respondents nationwide prefer growth in wind, solar and other alternative energy sources over growth in oil, coal and natural gas sources … by a percentage margin of 63 to 29.

Pot, meet kettle — In 1998, when Democrat Hillary Clinton complained about a “vast right-wing conspiracy,” Republicans argued it’s crucial for Americans to hold their president accountable even for personal behavior. In 2011, when Republican Herman Cain complained about “the machine to keep a businessman out of the White House” and “probably a network of them,” Democrats argued it’s crucial for Americans to hold their presidential candidates accountable even for personal behavior. Meanwhile, members of both parties wonder why so many Americans remain independent.