Longview voters on Tuesday shot down a $20 car tab proposal to fund street maintenance and gave a thumbs up to keeping speed cameras in school zones.
Both issues were on the ballot as advisory votes. According to preliminary election results, 73 percent of voters don’t want to pay an additional $20 a year for their vehicle license tabs to generate an additional $500,000 a year for repairs to city streets. The extra revenue would have doubled Longview’s street budget to $1.1 million. About 27 percent supported the measure.
According to a recent evaluation of Longview’s streets, the city should be spending $2.8 million annually to keep them from deteriorating further. The Longview City Council could have imposed the $20 car tab without voter approval, but four of the seven council members refused to do so without the public’s blessing.
Councilwoman Mary Jane Melink, who had argued that the council had a responsibility to protect the city’s infrastructure regardless of public opinion, wasn’t surprised the proposal went down in flames.
“It’s tough to have it fail, but I certainly understand it,” she said Tuesday night. “It’s tough for people to want to spend more money on things like roads when they’re having trouble paying their mortgage payments and putting food on the table.”
Councilman Mike Wallin, who had been insistent on holding the advisory vote even though he thought the street revenue was critically needed, speculated it failed because people don’t trust the government to efficiently spend their tax dollars.
“We’ve got to convince the people we’re doing the best we can and maybe they’ll support more revenue in the future. Until then, we’ll have to get by on less,” he said.
Sixty percent of Longview voters favored speed cameras in school zones, but a high level of support for the proposal was hardly a shocker. In the November 2011 election, 58 percent of voters had favored keeping the speed camera program. Voters also approved a ballot measure last November requiring the city to hold an advisory vote if it ever again wants to use traffic cameras. Because the speed camera initiative passed, Tuesday’s advisory vote was necessary. (Also a year ago, 60 percent of voters supported getting rid of Longview’s red-light cameras, and the city turned them off Feb. 13.)
Speed cameras already are in place at Columbia Valley Gardens Elementary and Mint Valley Elementary school zones. The Longview City Council is considering putting speed cameras in three more school zones where police say hundreds of vehicles a day are being driven more than 5 mph above the 20 mph speed limit: Broadway School, Northlake Elementary and Mark Morris High School.
Wallin, who led a citizens’ campaign to get rid of both red-light and speed cameras before he was elected to the council last fall, said Tuesday he’s clearly gotten the message that Longview voters support school zone cameras. If the council wants to expand the program, though, he said it should focus on school zones where children walk to school and not just on high-traffic school zones like Broadway Elementary, where few students walk to school and “the risk is pretty low.”