Bernie Zuccarelli of Seattle responds to a comment I posted here about his P-I op-ed about cars in Singapore. The first part of his comment concerns the editing down of his piece from 1,500 words to 800, which he says “bleached it of all color and individuality.” I suppose it did, but I was once a copy editor, and remember the task of cutting 1,500-word epistles by half. It is not easy. My best advice to writers is to find out how much space the editor has, and if it is 800 words, write that many. It can save a bale of grief.
He also compliments me for calling him “Mr. Zuccarelli” rather than “Zuccarelli,” as the news columns would. I did it because I thought it sounded better. Blogging is different from newswriting. It sometimes approaches a conversation, and I think it needs to be personalized more.
Now I can comment directly on Bruce's answer. Singapore also got it right in that the people understand that taxes aren't penalties. Taxes are the price you pay for things. To pass an initiative that says car tabs should not cost more than $30.00 should be considered just as foolish as passing an initiative that says The Metropolitan Grill should be able to charge no more than $5 for a steak dinner. Do you want a decent steak? It's going to cost you. Do you want to drive a decent car on decent roads? It's going to cost you. That's what Singapore did. And that's what someone -- or a few someones -- ought to go take a look at. I also admitted that it would be difficult to do this in a national economy that has been based on cars and gasoline for over 100 years. I also admitted it would be difficult to do in King County, which has an "auto row" (not "auto way" another of the editor's changes) in every city. I said “a transit system so good that it all but forces people to leave their cars at home” would be difficult. Bruce says that "no such transit system is possible." Where? Here in Seattle? Maybe. But that is because just as editors hold such slavish devotion to stylebooks, this city holds a slavish devotion to process. It doesn’t matter so much that the job gets done as it is for the process to be followed. That’s why it takes so long for something to happen around here. But I think that such a transit system does exist. I think it exists in Singapore. And all I asked for was for somebody to go take a look at it.
By the way, I don’t own a car. Just by circumstance, I haven’t owned one for over 20 years.
I thought long and hard before I moved here from the East Coast in 1996. Two factors that most influenced my choice were that there was a major league baseball team whose stadium was in the middle of downtown - -having Lou Piniella here was an even bigger bonus -- and the excellence of the transit system. I still believe that Seattle Metro is one of the finest transit systems in the country. I can’t wait till the bonds of process are removed so that trains and monorails can be built and get moving. I have seen Seattle do such great and wonderful things in the nine years that I’ve been here, that I can’t wait to see what a big, vast, and efficient transit system Seattle can put together when it really puts its mind to it.
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