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Sen. Haugen meets with north County residents
SMOKEY POINT Washington State Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, of the 10th Legislative District, met with members of the local community at the Stillaguamish Senior Center April 19, to discuss issues that concerned them, with transportation being chief on the list.
"Our transportation session could be summed up in three words: ferries, floods and freezing," Haugen said. "We're leasing three smaller boats from Pierce County to replace the ones we've lost, but that's obviously not adequate. It'll take two years to build new boats, but our lease with Pierce County is only for one year. We'll try to convince Pierce County to use their boats longer, but those are their newer boats, so they want them back."
Haugen plans to rebid for a ferry-building contract, since the previous deadline of one year put "too much pressure" on local contractors.
Haugen echoed the calls of Sen. Patty Murray and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen for more vocational education, linking the shortfall of newer blood in technical skills professions to contractors' inability to complete projects such as ferry-building within shorter amounts of time.
"We've got a lot of gray hair in the shipyards today," Haugen said. "That needs to change, if we're going to retain a viable maritime industry."
Among Haugen's priorities in health care and public safety are more money for nursing home workers and increased funding to keep track of sex offenders.
Arlington resident Elwood Barker expressed concern over the placement of a new college in Everett, noting that Everett already suffers from severe traffic congestion. Haugen agreed, arguing that placing such a campus so close to the city's transportation center would both negate the benefits of the transportation center and ill-serve the needs of North County residents.
"It's already hard enough to find parking there," Haugen said. "Sometimes, I have a hard time getting Snohomish County to recognize that there's more north than just Everett."
Haugen has suggested adding high-occupancy vehicle lanes and putting more money into telecommuting to decrease both the commute time and the wear and tear on roads.
"We can't build enough highways, because just adding more lanes will simply mean more people driving," Haugen said. "We have to give them options. If they want to drive, they should be able to, but they should also have regularly running buses available. Right now, we have a lot of little transportation districts, but nobody cares what color their bus is."
Haugen cited the 172nd Street overpass as a great example of the city, county and state governments working together well on a common project. She then closed the meeting by arguing in favor of treating drunk drivers differently, to make the roads safer and avoid punishing their families in the process.
"If you take away their licenses, they'll just drive anyway, because it's hard to work otherwise," Haugen said. "If they get arrested again, they go to jail, but it's their families who often suffer without income. Interlock breathalyzer devices prevent them from starting or driving theirs cars if they've been drinking, and they have to pay for the devices."
"It's the only thing I've ever seen work, to stop this problem," said area resident Tom Nichols, receiving nods of agreement from his fellow attendees.