James Vesely, the man with the confusing title “Times editorial page editor”, in his editorial today argues that he cannot support the Roads and Transit ballot because it’s difficult to find a responsibility chain among bureaucracy
It’s tough for anyone, even those immersed n the public process, to tick off the names of all the seated members of the Sound Transit board, or the board of directors of the Regional Transportation Investment District. It’s easier to remember the names of the county executives of King, Snohomish and Pierce counties, but their direct responsibility for a successful roads-and-transit program is limited.
Certainly true. But the problem here is not with the package, but with the way we raise money in this state. Our leaders have no way to create the locally, and the legislature in Olympia is not willing to fork over the whole state’s cash for transportation projects in our area, even if we are more than half the state’s totally population. While Sound Transit is actually a regional government organization, Prop. 1 (aka Roads and Transit), is a funding mechanism to pay for capital projects. Who’s responsible for the package? For the transit side it’s obvious: Sound Transit, and ultimately its CEO Joni Earl, and its Board of Directors, 17 elected officials and the Washington Secretary of Transportation.
… That doesn’t mean the voters won’t accept the tax burden — but I think we are entitled to focus the responsibility on a few individuals and hold them accountable. Accountability eventually shattered the Seattle Monorail. Those who were accountable were discovered to have an overly optimistic financial plan. Accountability made a mess of the political decision over the viaduct. People knew the mayor, the governor and the speaker of the House were sometimes together, more often at odds about what to do next. They were accountable and we knew who they were. No one seems to be accountable for ST2/RTID. Even the name doesn’t conjure a face. It is a vote for bureaucracy.
Maybe it’s public relations that’s missing, maybe it’s hype, maybe it is the personalization of the political process. But, I have yet to find anyone who can tell me specifically who is in charge.
I’m not exactly sure what Veseley wants. A directly-elected regional transportation officer? I think that would just serve to expand the politicking surrounding the process. We already have enough politics when it comes to transportation and I don’t see the value in that sort of position. Having the board made up of elected members from within the region helps ensure that everyone’s needs are at least heard and considered, and having the board’s chair rotate from the county executives seems fair. Transportation is one of the most important local issues and part of the jobs of our elected officials. Setting up some sort of transportation czar would be passing the buck away from those who have it as part of their job already. So much for accountability.
It’s almost a Bush Administration type argument that we need some person responsible for the bill; “Brownie’s doing a heckuva job”. I certainly hope Joni Earl is doing a heckuva job, I’d rather than Sound Transit as a whole were.