The state Attorney General weighs in on transportation fees, as some Puget Sound communities prepare to fight proposed ferry service cuts; and sky watchers get a view of last night's total lunar eclipse.
McKenna: Commission Can't Raise Ferry Rates
Last month, state voters approved an initiative requiring increases taxes to be approved by a two-thirds majority of the state legislature. It's that new law that should prevent the state's Transportation Commission from raising the price of a ticket for a ferry ride, according to Attorney General Rob McKenna. The commission hiked ferry rates 2.5% after the election to address budget shortfalls.
The News Tribune reports the ruling endorses initiative-backer Tim Eyman's argument that the action violated the voters' will, because unelected officials should not be able to set fees:
The decision is a victory for Eyman – but only a partial one. Even as it takes away the Transportation Commission’s fee-setting powers, it keeps the door open for state lawmakers to restore them.
McKenna's view is an informal 'opinion,' rather than an official ruling.
Port Townsend, Whidbey Island Could Lose Ferry Run
As officials debate how ferry fees are decided, passengers and businesses that depend on the vital transportation link are reacting to proposed cuts that could eliminate one Coupeville-Port Townsend run. The Herald of Everett reports the Gov. Chris Gregoire's proposal would eliminate a second boat in the tourist-heavy summer season:
“It's not acceptable,” state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island. “People were promised two boats, and if I have anything to do about it, they're going to get two boats.”
Haugen is a powerful member of the legislature on transportation issues. The new Salish ferry is being readied to join the Chetzemoka on the Port Townsend route. They are the state's newest ferries.
Lunar Eclipse Inspires a Late Night Watch
Eyes were on the sky all around the region late last night, as people waited to view the total lunar eclipse. Clouds were out, but parted long enough for some to get shots of the event. (If you got one, we'd love to share it!)
We offer you two videos, the first from a time-lapse series from an observer in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood:
This second video was shot by a watcher from a backyard in Northeast Florida, and offers a clearer view.
You can get a little background on the lunar eclipse and it's coincidence with the Winter Solstice here.