by THE INLANDER & r & & r & Sales Tax for Emergency Communications and Crime Check & r & & r & YES & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & E & lt;/span & verybody has a story of a crime left unpunished -- a bike taken from a garage, a purse stolen from a car, graffiti sprayed on private property. Such petty crimes are too often ignored by local law enforcement, which often claims to lack the manpower to tackle every little incident. The problem is that when taken one at a time, such transgressions can seem insignificant, but in total they add up to a less lawful community. The broken-window theory Rudy Giuliani subscribed to held that if you punish the little stuff -- fix those smashed windows right away -- you can turn a city around, and it worked in New York in the 1990s.
This is why Spokane County's request for new funding to start up Crime Check again is such welcome news. We need the community's eyes and ears to crack crimes, from the very worst to the seemingly innocuous. But if Crime Check is just a shoulder to lean on -- a place where tips go to die -- then it's a waste of time and money. Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich argues it will be much more. He says tips generated by Crime Check will result in more busts and more prosecutions of more crimes. To be successful, it has to. It will also catch the overflow from the 911 system, which is so jammed that, at times, callers can get a busy signal in a life-or-death moment. (Of course the issue of funding the prosecutions and incarcerations is a problem, too -- not to mention the fairness of always adding things to the regressive sales tax -- but for this election, Crime Check is the question.)
The majority of this one-tenth of 1 percent addition to the sales tax will fund new communications equipment. We all saw how important communications can be when bad radios contributed to the massive loss of life among police and fire responders on 9/11. Perhaps funding this requirement should rightfully be in someone else's budget -- the state, the feds perhaps, or even part of the county's own ongoing general fund -- but in this era of austerity, it appears to be this or nothing. Yes, it is expensive, but we need to properly equip those who put their lives on the line for all of us.
Continuation of Sales Tax for Public Transit
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & t would be nice to bestow complete trust in the Spokane Transit Authority, which is what voters would be doing if they make permanent the STA's three-tenths of 1 percent sales tax stream. But the STA just isn't quite there yet. After the debacle of the Plaza, the STA did right its ship, with more open-minded management. And the proof is also in their level of service, rated by many measures as the best in the state.
But we still don't know what they have in mind for the Plaza, which remains underutilized as a building and poorly located. And while the STA has continued to work on right-of-ways, their intentions on the concept of light rail seem incoherent. Light rail is the future, and the STA should get fully behind that vision.
So the STA has come a long way, and the region depends on it to keep people moving -- especially as gas prices continue to rise. A no vote will not jeopardize routes until next summer, so the STA has time to run another request, this time with issues like the Plaza settled. The STA's funding stream has been the only leverage voters have held over the organization, and for now they should keep it.
Election Day is Tuesday, May 20; all ballots must be postmarked by then. You can mail your ballot or drop it off at one of 18 drop-off locations. For details, go to wei.secstate.wa.gov/wei/spokane.