Friday, January 23, 2015

Washington senator should switch to decaf

Police brutality. A widening socioeconomic gap. Global warming. Erecting a statue of a local hero.

These are things that politicians are expected to be concerned about. You know, important issues. Top to bottom is a great way to tackle the issues. For one state senator in Washington State, working bottom to top seems to be preferred. And we’re talking scraping the bottom of a barrel … or coffee pot.

Washington State Sen. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe, has recently filed legislation to make sure everybody knows about free coffee. More specifically, he wants to erect road signs along the highways notifying drivers when and where free coffee at the state’s rest areas is available.

Pearson states his concern that volunteers who serve the coffee are losing donations from travelers. His other concern, of course, is driver safety. According to Barbara LaBoe of the Washington Department of Transportation, the state quit replacing the “free coffee” signs back in 2012. By 2015, the signs have all disappeared. LaBoe explained that 35 signs plus two electronic ones will need to be replaced. Each sign costs $400, with the electronic signs costing $6,000 apiece, bringing the grand total to $26,000 … to inform people about free coffee.

That’s a lot of taxpayers’ money for caffeine jolt awareness. Last year, Washington’s state debt was more than $89 billion (16th worst), with a per capita debt of $12,988 (32nd worst), according to nonprofit organization State Budget Solutions. More than 70 percent of that debt stems from unfunded pensions. A lot of hardworking people may not receive a pension because expenses like “Free Coffee Ahead” signs are taking priority.

Don’t get me wrong; coffee is good – nay – nectar of the gods. Nancy Gagliano, Chief Medical Officer of CVS MinuteClinic, noted that caffeine is known to restore mental alertness when people are experiencing fatigue. In the short term, it can improve the ability of sleep-deprived individuals to learn and make decisions.

“I think it’s reasonable for a professional driver to stop for a cup of coffee when fatigued, but if sleepiness is not resolved, the driver should pull over for some ‘zzz’s,’” Gagliano told Land Line in an email.

No doubt coffee is helpful for drivers everywhere, but do we need to spend thousands of dollars for coffee signs? If safety is the issue here, aren’t there more significant aspects to focus on?

Perhaps Sen. Pearson should grab a cup of joe when making future decisions.