Sound Off: Don't blame Senator Haugen

By Al Williams

Several have written taking Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen to task about the Keystone ferry situation. As chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, she probably has the most influence on how the state’s transportation funds are spent. But she doesn’t own either the committee or the Legislature. Her role seems largely to try to keep order and sanity in it. She’s only one of several on the Senate’s Transportation Committee and then the House has its own Transportation Committee. Final say comes from the Legislature as a whole. Blaming Sen. Haugen for how transportation priorities are set and money spent seems a little hasty if not ignorant.

A few things need to be considered in rendering judgment. One is that for years she has been an ardent advocate for safety on our highways both in this district and statewide. Even though it is the responsibility of other state agencies, she has taken the lead in demanding investigations of the need for improving freeway median barriers in places where cable barriers have failed. Just this year she saw to it that the stripes on Highway 20 were repainted here on Whidbey Island. She has spoken to prevent heavy truck companies’ efforts to make Highway 20 through Whidbey Island through the city of Oak Harbor a truck route for traffic to-and-from the Olympic Peninsula to Bellingham and Canada.

She has been an advocate for protecting our farmland from overdevelopment. She has been sensitive to the needs of our elderly and disabled people. She has worked to give property tax relief for senior citizens and declared that our state’s tax system needs an overhaul. She has been a stalwart for improved education in this area. She started the fight and is continuing it for having another state college established in our area. Clearly the senator has been diligently representing us for over 20 years now in Olympia first in the House and now the Senate. She doesn’t make a lot of grandiose promises, She just goes to work. And she doesn’t forget that her roots are right here with us. Her record and reputation deserve appreciation and respect.

We all have been beset on by the seemingly unnecessarily abrupt removal of our ferry transportation which by all accounts lacked decent advance notice. After all, the ferries have been in service for over 70 years during which periodic repairs and maintenance have been routine. You would think that they could have given us at least a few weeks or a month to make other arrangements. It seems childish to blame Sen. Haugen for what a novice ferry administrator did?

It well may be true that funds that had been allocated to ferry replacement have been diverted to other needs, but blaming Sen. Haugen for it is a sadly presumptive knee-jerk reaction that is unfair and detrimental to finding out what really did happen and what we can do about it.

Al Williams, a retired truck driver, lives in Oak Harbor.

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