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No on I-976 member debates Dori on Aurora Bridge, commercials, Eyman

Dori and guest Andrew Villeneuve debated the appropriateness of using the Skagit River Bridge collapse in a "no on 976" commercial. (File photo)

On Monday, Dori posed a theory that the current lane closure and repair work on the Aurora Bridge could be a ploy by the Washington State Department of Transportation to get people to vote no on I-976 next week.

The ballot initiative would take car tab rates down to $30, but the “No on I-976” campaign has emphasized through its ads how this would take away funds from infrastructure necessities, including bridges in need of repair.

National Progressive Institute founder Andrew Villeneuve, a member of the No campaign, wrote a piece at the Northwest Progressive Institute calling Dori’s monologue an “absurd, silly conspiracy theory.” In response, Dori invited him on the show for a lively debate.

Dori: ‘No on 976’ ads sleazier than anything Eyman has done

Dori: Aurora Bridge repair about voting no on I-976

Villeneuve said that the timing of the bridge inspection and subsequent repair with the election is just one of the many “coincidences in life.” The department’s goal, he said, is to ensure every Washingtonian is safe on the road, not to illegally get involved in a campaign for an initiative.

“The Aurora Avenue Bridge opened in 1932 — this is a really old bridge. So when the DOT shuts down a lane or when they close a bridge, it’s because it’s a public safety concern,” he said. “It’s that simple; there’s no evidence to suggest otherwise. And so that’s why I called your rant a conspiracy theory.”

Dori: Skagit River Bridge commercial manipulative and dishonest

Dori challenged Villeneuve on the “No on I-976” commercial that features images of the 2013 Skagit River Bridge collapse and points out that 160 bridges around the state are classified as bridges in “poor condition” by WSDOT.

Dori argued that the ad was a blatant lie because an oversize truck, not regular wear and tear, caused the bridge to plunge into the river.

“The bridge collapse was a result of bridge strike — the ad doesn’t say otherwise,” Villeneuve said. “The ad is very clear that the bridge collapse was a wake-up call.”

He said that the bridge had been hit before the May 2013 collapse, and while WSDOT knew about the previous incident, the bridge was not repaired.

Dori asked why the ad did not show any of the other 160 bridges in poor condition.

“The bridge collapse of the Skagit River is perhaps the best-known failing of infrastructure in our state,” Villeneuve said. “A truck hit it, but if the bridge had been retrofitted before the truck hit it, the bridge would not have collapsed.”

Dori: State trooper ad broke WSP rules

Another ad from the No campaign showed a Washington State Patrol trooper in uniform urging people to vote against 976. Dori pointed out that Washington State Patrol Regulation 8.00.230 prevents employees from political action while wearing their figurative WSP hats.

Villeneuve acknowledged that WSP requested the wording displayed on the screen be changed to comply with this, and the campaign fulfilled the request.

“She is allowed to speak as a private citizen and give her opinion,” he said.

Dori: I-976 an initiative of the people, not Eyman

Dori feels that it is wrong for opponents of $30 tabs to tie 976 to controversial initiative sponsor Tim Eyman. The measure would not have reached enough success to make it on the ballot without hundreds of thousands of citizen signatures.

Villeneuve countered, “The initiative wouldn’t exist without Tim Eyman — he’s the author, he’s the strategist, he’s the chief spokesman. And if we’re to believe him, he put his own money into the signature drive. There wouldn’t have been a signature drive if Eyman hadn’t put money into it.”

He pointed out that Eyman tried to get the same initiative on the ballot multiple years in a row and failed.

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from 12-3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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