Here's the line in the sand: City needs power for the future | EDITOR'S NOTE

I love being the editor of the newspaper in the city in which I live.

I love being able to focus all of my energies on the issues that actually affect my life and my family instead of filling my brain with information about the happenings of some other town, maybe in a county over, perhaps at the expense of following my local news.

I love getting out in the community and talking to residents and readers, volunteers and newsmakers.

I even, generally speaking, enjoy going to the City Council meetings every week.

The only problem is that as a reporter and the editor of the paper, as someone who is sitting in the back working as an objective, professional journalist, I cannot speak my mind at the podium in front of the council.

I know I live here too and I know my voice and my opinion is at least as valid as any other resident’s. It’s just that it isn’t done. It’s kind of frowned upon professionally.

But sometimes it’s harder than others to hold my tongue.

This Puget Sound Energy “Energize Eastside” issue, for example.

As a person who lives in the city and is hoping to raise a family here, I have to say there are some dangerous – and generally silly – ideas, half-truths and pure ridiculousness going around about this plan.

My main concern is the idea put forth by a city councilmember literally talking about leaving Renton out of PSE’s plan to upgrade transmissions lines in preparation for the future.

Since he first said it, the idea has been picked up in the echo chamber of the council’s public comment portion of its meetings. Enough is enough, they say. The growth is all up north, they say (conveniently ignoring Renton’s growth and instead focusing on larger growth elsewhere). Leave us alone, they say.

In my opinion, this is dangerous bordering on dumb.

This councilmember is literally saying “No, please do not update our infrastructure for future growth. Please leave Renton in the 1960s while the rest of the region/state/country is preparing for the 21st century.”

And this is a councilmember I generally respect and trust. One who knows what he is talking about and is secure enough in his seat not to have to pander to a particular election block.

But can you think of anything – ANYTHING – that hasn’t been upgraded in the past 50 years?

Think of all the electronic devices in your house today. How many of them were there in the 1960s? Multiple televisions, computers, DVRs, cable boxes, video game systems, tablets, smartphones? All of those things use power and  have become standard in homes since the power grid was built in this region.

Now multiply all of that by a factor of five, which is how much this area’s population has grown since that system was built.

It’s insane to think that the system does not need upgrading. Worse than that, it’s willfully dumb. It’s purposefully putting Renton’s head in the sand.

Renton, a city that prides itself as “Ahead of the Curve,” where Boeing just increased production of the world’s most popular aircraft to a record shattering 42 airplanes per month.

No, that increase won’t require additional electricity either.

Meanwhile, the very same councilmember is concerned that Interstate 405 is not big enough to handle the increases in population and usage since it was first built.

Interestingly enough, the first section of I-405 was opened right around the same time as the transmission lines we’re talking about. And it’s been upgraded since then. And it’s still not big enough because the population and usage keeps growing.

Think about that: the highway built at the same time as the power grid needs upgrading to deal with the population, but the power grid doesn’t? What kind of message does that send to any business looking to move to or upgrade a facility in this city? Frankly, if I was looking to open a new business, I’d make sure to base it in a city that is primed for growth, not trying to hold it back.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I too am not at all thrilled with how PSE has handled this whole deal. Personally, I would have preferred them to simply replace the current lines with the new lines and then say “Oh, by the way, we just upgraded the system for the 21st Century. You’re welcome.”

Why they didn’t do that, I’ll never know. I mean, they can. It’s their lines, it’s their land and it’s their responsibility as a power provider to make sure the lights stay on. And honestly, most of us probably would have just looked up and gone, “Hey, new towers. What’s for dinner?”

Instead, PSE has set up this ridiculous false choice of either replacing the lines where they presently stand or adding new 100-foot transmission towers along Lake Washington (while leaving the old ones in place anyway, we learned this week).

Now who in their right mind wants those towers along the lake? Even the people who live near the “M” route have said the lake route is unacceptable.

And I feel for the folks along the “M” Route, I really do, but it seems to me that considering the lines were installed 50 years ago, most if not all of the people presently living near the lines moved in with the lines there. If you move next to a PSE right-of-way with powerlines on it, I am not sure you can complain too much when PSE wants to put powerlines there again.

Now, there are many other issues surrounding this project that I may or may not weigh in on in the future.

But that’s not what this column is about. This column is about the fact that this needs to be done for the future of this city and its residents.

So please, councilmembers: Stop telling PSE to leave us out of their plans. Just because a handful of the same people show up every week to complain does not mean the other 95,000 people in the city agree with them. Let’s make sure Renton is poised to remain a major player in the 21st Century and upgrade our infrastructure.

We can talk about the details later (we have all year), but let’s at least stop asking the future to pass us by.

Either that or we have to start working on a new city slogan.

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