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News / Opinion / Editorials
The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.

In Our View: Just to be clear: Vote ‘no’ on Initiative 976

The Columbian
Published: October 24, 2019, 6:03am

We messed up. And we learned at an early age that when you mess up, you admit it and work to correct it.

So, to clarify, The Columbian Editorial Board strongly recommends a “no” vote on Initiative 976 for the Nov. 5 election. The statewide ballot measure would limit vehicle registration fees to $30 and prohibit local jurisdictions from increasing them without voter approval.

We made our opposition to the measure clear in an Oct. 13 recommendation to voters. The measure “imagines a fantasy world in which Washington’s highways, roads and bridges either come without cost or are already and forevermore complete,” we wrote. “Instead, an adequate and efficient transportation system that is the foundation of the state’s economy depends on funding from vehicle fees that would be gutted by I-976.”

So far, so good. But when it came time to provide a recap of our recommendations, we inexplicably recommended the opposite. Dumb mistake; we admit it. So we quickly corrected the error online and published a correction in the following day’s paper.

We also explained the mistake to dozens of readers who called or emailed and were, understandably, bewildered. Rather than provide clarity for readers, we created confusion, which is one of the deadly sins of journalism.

So, because we typically publish our election recommendations multiple times, we are taking this opportunity to clear up that confusion and reiterate those recommendations. As always, these are merely recommendations; we trust that voters will study the candidates and the issues and cast an informed vote.

In the case of I-976, voters should be aware that passage would short the statewide transportation budget, including funds for highway construction and the Washington State Patrol, by an estimated $4 billion over the next decade. In Vancouver alone, the city would lose more than half the $9 million it spends annually to carry out its street funding strategy; it also would miss out on transportation grants that require local matching funds.

The arguments against I-976 greatly outweigh the arguments in favor, a situation we made clear in our original recommendation — before we messed up. We apologize for the error.

Here is a recap of the editorial board’s recommendations for major races on this year’s ballot:

• Referendum Measure 88: Approved.

• Initiative Measure 976: We strongly recommend a “no” vote.

• Advisory votes 20-31: These votes are nonbinding and, therefore, a waste of time. We recommend that you ignore them.

• Senate Joint Resolution 8200: Approved.

• Clark County Council, Dist. 4: Gary Medvigy is the clear choice.

• Vancouver City Council, Pos. 2: Erik Paulsen is the clear choice.

• Vancouver City Council, Pos. 5: Ty Stober.

• Vancouver City Council, Pos. 6: Sarah Fox.

• Evergreen school board, Dist. 2: Rob Perkins. Bethany Rivard also is a strong candidate.

• Evergreen school board, Dist. 4: Divya Jain. Rachael Rogers also is a worthy candidate.

• Vancouver school board, Pos. 1: Kyle Sproul.

• Vancouver school board, Pos. 4: Kathy Decker, although Lisa Messer is equally qualified.

• Vancouver school board, Pos. 5: Tracie Barrows. Chris Lewis also is a strong candidate.

• Port of Vancouver commissioner, Dist. 3: Jack Burkman is the clear choice.

• City of Vancouver charter amendments: We recommend a “yes” vote on each of seven proposals.