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Opinion >  Column

Spin Control: A plan to delay the N-S freeway? So what else is new?

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee holds a news conference on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022, to announce the end of emergency orders related to COVID-19.  (TVW)
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee holds a news conference on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022, to announce the end of emergency orders related to COVID-19. (TVW)

Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposed delay in funding for the north-south freeway brought to mind a saying of one of his predecessors – and not in a particularly positive way.

Former Gov. Mike Lowry, a native of St. John even though his political career was anchored on the West Side, used to say that his father had a way of judging whether things were really old.

“He’d say, ‘That’s so old it was before they talked about the north-south freeway,’ ” said Lowry, who often used the yardstick while campaigning for the U.S. Senate in 1983 and governor in 1992. Like his father, he knew that people would realize whatever he was talking about was way back.

The freeway was first discussed in the late 1940s, and went through a number of controversies and revisions before it got money. The Spokane legislative delegation was often divided on it, which made it easy for lawmakers from other areas who controlled the highway funds to delay support.

The process took so long that when it was rebranded the North Spokane Corridor, it was sometimes necessary to explain to people in Olympia, who assumed the project had to have been completed, that Spokane wasn’t asking for another freeway.

There were times when a lack of clout added to the division that delayed or diminished the progress on the freeway. But Inslee can’t count on that for his plan to string the project out for another six years.

The members of the 3rd Legislative District, through which most of the freeway runs, are united on it.

The district’s senator, Andy Billig, is Senate Majority leader, and its senior House member, Timm Ormsby, is chairman of the Appropriations Committee. Although highway projects go through a different committee, it’s a sure bet members of that panel have things they want to get through Appropriations. Rep. Marcus Riccelli is also on Appropriations, and is the chairman of the Health Care and Wellness Committee.

The freeway is also designed to connect the eastern end of the 7th District to I-90 without the hassle of driving on Ruby and Division. All of its members are minority Republicans but in positions with some clout, with Sen. Shelly Short as the GOP floor leader, Rep. Joel Kretz the assistant minority leader and Jacquelin Maycumber the minority floor leader.

So it wasn’t too surprising the governor’s recent comments on his transportation proposal – which is never adopted as is by the Legislature – emphasized that programs across the state would be delayed, and his hopes for creative ways to pay for the freeway.

2023 elections around the corner

There are some early signs of a spirited election this year in Spokane, but probably nothing like Seattle voters could face.

Public Disclosure filings show five candidates have filed paperwork with at least some intention to run for mayor. Incumbent Nadine Woodward, who has reported more than $52,000 in contributions, is the only one reporting any money so far. Would-be challengers Deece Casillas, Jonathan Legault, Keith Kleven and Timothy Archer haven’t brought in any money yet.

Voters across the Cascades in Seattle don’t have a mayor’s race but are girding for a wild election with seven council seats up for election and four incumbents so far announcing they won’t seek re-election. Among those stepping away is Councilwoman Kshama Sawant, an avowed socialist who is a favorite of the city’s progressives and the bane of conservatives and business interests.

A socialist replacement has not yet emerged, and in announcing she would not run, Sawant predicted “a parade of bland candidates.”

2024 around the corner …

The big election, of course, is just under two years away, with all the statewide executive offices on the ballot. Inslee hasn’t announced he will seek an unprecedented fourth term, but he’s been raising and spending money like a candidate. PDC reports show more than $920,000 in contributions and nearly $1.5 million in expenditures. He has nine announced opponents, although none with significant name identification or, more important, money.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson has raised more than Inslee – reporting more than $1.5 million – and spent less than $600,000. His money could be converted to the governor’s race if Inslee doesn’t run again.

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