Opinion

Another session and no Burley-Olalla fix

When Bob Oke ran for re-election a couple of years back, the veteran Port Orchard state senator and former naval officer played one tune over and over.

I have experience down here, Oke said in so many words, every time somebody talked to him. I know how to get things done, he said repeatedly.

Well, he obviously knew how to get his bridge built — the Bob Oke Narrows Bridge, that is.

The only problem for his fellow Kitsappers is that they might get killed on the way down to the bridge as they try and negotiate the infamous Burley-Olalla/State Route 16 interchange.

Once again, despite his knowing how to get things done, his experience and his allegedly knowing where all the bodies are buried in Olympia, Bob’s efforts to get some safety help for Kitsap drivers and pedestrians forced to use one of the state’s most dangerous intersections have failed.

I like Bob Oke. He’s one of the few genuinely nice guys I met while covering state politics.

Agree or disagree with Lois the Mac’s often strident political approach, you can’t call her a nice gal if you’ve ever crossed her path on the wrong side.

But Bob Oke doesn’t do angry calls, or tell you one thing about, say, a prayer by a muslim cleric, and then say another when the bomb drops. Bob just always seemed sorry I didn’t see what he was trying to do when I covered his earlier political career.

He stayed friendly and, for that reason, it’s hard not to like Bob.

But it’s about time somebody else takes a run at the Burley-Olalla interchange.

Whether Oke and our other legislators just didn’t make the case strong enough is something we will probably never know. But what we do know is Burley-Olalla, a dangerous bottleneck garnering newspaper headlines with wrecks and near-crashes when I started working for the Independent way back in 1996, still hasn’t really been made significantly safer.

If you’re going that way, rather than counting on Bob Oke, take a prayer card, a St. Christopher medal or some lucky rock. You’ll need it.

I don’t know anybody down in Olympia except an ex-girlfriend’s mom, who never liked me anyway, and a Latino lady I counseled convicts with for the state of Washington way back in 1985.

Even so, I could have helped you all as much on the Burley-Olalla interchange problem as Bob did.

-- Tim Eyman’s latest attack on the state’s property taxes seem to attract most of the headlines, but the tax-related story that touched me most recently was about the elimination by the South Kitsap School Board of the school’s driver’s education program.

On a national level, all the tax cuts that really matter go to the folks who already have all the money that really matters. And if Eyman and his supporters have their way, there will be a lot less public money in the state’s coffers, too.

Now anyone who reads this column knows I’m non-partisan toward those we elect. I don’t like many of them on either side of the political aisle. But I still believe we need taxes — income federally and property locally — to keep our society moving forward.

All the previous funding cuts have eliminated driver’s ed. Despite any mumbling technical explanations, the truth is there was tax money somewhere in the downward trickle available for it, and now there’s not.

So our kids, who need driver’s ed — it’s scary enough driving out here with some of the folks already on the roads who either can’t read, or can’t see most of the traffic signals I’m obeying, like yellow lights which do not mean speed up, stop signs, which mean stop — won’t get it.

-- Finally, I applaud our state senate for passing a bill lobbied for by the Washington Restaurant Association. The bill, the Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act, will curb lawsuits by diners wanting to claim their favorite local and chain restaurants made them obese.

As a lifelong people watcher, who still weighs no more than 10 pounds more than I did in Army basic training 35 years ago, I can tell you why there are more and more fat people around as the headlines all over the state have been trumpeting lately.

They supersize their intake, they don’t eat their vegetables, they don’t stop at one serving per meal, and their idea of exercise is yelling at their television.

I may want to pay some extra taxes for our kids to learn how to drive, but I sure don’t want to bankrupt our state to pay for other folk’s unsightly lack of willpower.

Do your situps and push yourself away from the table instead of calling a lawyer. Your at-ease Dockers, or whatever they call those special-made pants, are not my fault.

Dennis Wilken is a former Port Orchard Independent reporter.

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