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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

November 28, 2008 at 2:10 PM

Washington state ferry-building contract

Try to stay afloat

Washington is a proud supporter of labor and the long-standing industries that helped make the state an economic powerhouse. If we weren’t, Boeing wouldn’t be making airplanes here anymore and our government officials wouldn’t have stepped up to keep the majority of the company’s airplane construction here.

Given that, it’s a shame The Seattle Times would seriously suggest that hundreds of jobs in our shipbuilding industry, which has professionally constructed hundreds of ships and watercraft over the last century, should be sacrificed to supposedly save a buck [“Grab savings in Washington ferry contracts,” Editorial, Nov. 24]. This kind of nearsighted thinking threatens our state’s future. After all, your newspaper quoted the state Legislature’s consultant declaring the costs “reasonable” when all things are taken into account.

The only bid the state received to build two ferries was higher than the ferry system’s estimate. That’s not surprising, given the unrealistic timeline on which the ferry system insisted, rising costs on other public projects and the mountains of red tape anyone has to wade through to secure a state contract.

There are at least a half dozen shipyards in this state. It should be noted that this was a blind bid in which many shipyards appeared interested at the bidder’s conference. Bidders do not know who else is or isn’t bidding, so the suggestion that Todd Pacific Shipyards’ bid was high due to the lack of other bidders just isn’t accurate.

As unemployment rises and our economy becomes more uncertain, we shouldn’t think about throwing away our long-term stability for a short-term gain. If they go, these shipbuilding jobs won’t ever come back.

These boats must safely carry millions of people over our waters for a life span of up to 75 years. The decision regarding who builds them should rest on trust and quality, rather than a half-baked notion that we are “saving money” while we push our family-wage jobs elsewhere.

— Gary Powers, Seattle

Buy local

When considering awarding a contract for building ferry boats, the state of Washington must factor in the taxes paid by in-state workers, as opposed to no revenue from out of state or out of country workers and where those worker wages will be spent.

It is a simple economic loss to have the taxes that in-state wage earners pay go elsewhere. Buying locally is simple economic common sense.

— Carl Schwartz, Sammamish

Down with outsourcing

It could not possibly be a waste of public money to restrict the bidding to Washington shipbuilders, as their employees will be, for the most part, keeping the money in the state and spending it in Washington businesses.

It would be as wrong to let that work go out of the state as it would be to raise money for schools by installing cigarette machines in junior high school cafeterias.

Keep the money in state; keep the jobs in state. A pure competitive bidding process should be of secondary importance.

— David Feldman, Vancouver

What’s right for Seattle

As we understand it, Todd is the only Washington state company to bid on the new ferry — a bid that had stringent requirements. You say Todd probably built the late penalties into their bid. However, you fail to take into account that having the ferry construction here in Washington, brings revenue to the local area, giving the local people buying power. This will then increase the state sales tax that Washington needs so desperately now.

Building locally is good for all, and maybe the terms of the contract could be outlined more realistically.

Over the years, Todd has been a good neighbor for all of us in the Puget Sound region.

— Pauline Anderson, Mountlake Terrace

Comments | More in Washington Legislature, Washington State Ferries

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