City Council Position 8 candidate Robert Rosencrantz has repeatedly claimed that his opponent, Mike O'Brien, wants to "toll all city streets."

O'Brien calls that allegation "absurd."

And, it turns out, Rosencrantz himself has taken the same pro-tolling position as O'Brien.

This morning, at a debate sponsored by the Downtown Seattle Association, Rosencrantz said he was "taking tolling off the table"—i.e., dropping it as a campaign issue.

Except—whoops—Rosencrantz just happened to send out a mailer to 100,000 voters earlier this week headlined, "MIKE O'BRIEN WANTS TO PUT TOLLS ON ALL SEATTLE STREETS" above three images of toll booths in neighborhoods.

The mailer, which features an unflattering image of O'Brien, also quotes O'Brien saying, "I support tolling...everywhere!"

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Rosencrantz also repeats the "tolls on all city streets" at the top of his web site, linking to an edited version of O'Brien's Friends of Seattle endorsement interview that seems to indicate O'Brien wants tolling "everywhere," starting with a "per-mile system because it catches everything" and leading up to "systemwide tolling for city streets."

Not so fast, says O'Brien, who calls the contention that he wants to toll all city streets "absurd." O'Brien points to the the unedited version of the video Rosencrantz excerpts. In it, O'Brien explains that he'd support tolling the region's freeways and limited-access highways—in part as a way to keep drivers off neighborhood streets.

And part of O'Brien's "position" was actually a paraphrase of a proposal the city's transportation department studied.

Here's O'Brien's response (edited for length, but feel free to check out the whole video for yourself):
Friends of Seattle: Where would you support tolling?

O'Brien: I think everywhere, ultimately. Clearly 520's most likely going to be the first place we do it. [...]

When I was on the Viaduct Stakeholder Committee, we eventually studied eight different plans. And in one of the plans that we looked at, we said, "Why are the travel times so good on this one plan?" ...  The [Seattle Department of Transportation] folks kind of under their breaths said, "We've modeled systemwide tolling for city streets."[...]

I recognize that there's a lot of different models out there about how we do it. We're probably going to start with 520, and then go to I-90, and then pretty soon we'll get  to all the limited-access freeways in the region.

But I think whether it's a cordon system like they do in London or a per-mile price—I think per-mile is probably a better system because it just catches everything. You don't get people trying to game the system by getting off on an earlier exit and driving through the neighborhoods to save 50 cents.

Not quite the same thing as "tolls on all city streets."

Rosencrantz, in response, points to remarks O'Brien made at a candidates' forum in Ballard and on the show "Seattle Inside/Out." At the Ballard forum, O'Brien said, "Yes, I support tolling. The question was, 'Where would you put it?' and I said, 'I don't know, everywhere.' That's a little different than every single road in Seattle."

On "Seattle Inside/Out," O'Brien went a little further, telling host C.R. Douglas that he would "start with freeways" and, "long-term," move toward congestion pricing on arterial streets in certain areas, the way London and Stockholm have done. That's a little less mainstream in the US (although O'Brien's right: It works) that's still far from the blanket all-city-streets policy Rosencrantz accuses O'Brien of promoting.

Moreover, at his own Friends of Seattle interview, Rosencrantz took a position on tolling that was virtually identical to O'Brien's. Asked where he stood on tolling, Rosencrantz responded,

"It is a good idea. Corridor tolling, systemwide, is something that we're going to have to have not only to have the revenue but also to regulate the demand. ... Tolls, great. Systemwide, yes. ... It's coming."

Rosencrantz says he's taking down the video clip from his web site. But the damage from his mailer (as O'Brien is doubtless keenly aware) has already been done.