Jim Vesely has a silly editorial in the Times today about the future of transportation in the area. Of course he is for the Rice-Stanton Governence machine, seemily for the sole reason that the current system is a “flop” and we don’t know who’s in charge.
We know the current system is a flop. It grows from county councils and executives and local mayors and city councils named to a federated board. Maybe it works in theory, but it leads to the most damning of conclusions about government: Who is in charge?
Maybe it works in theory? Who’s in charge? Is that anymore than we know about the Rice-Stanton plan? Does it work in theory? I’m not even sure. The most similar agency to what Rice-Stanton perscribes is the Port of Seattle: an unaccountable agency that is the most corrupt in the region. It wastes money like no other. But I guess at least we know who’s in charge. Right?
Vesely devolves from vague concerns about creating unaccountability into smearing Sound Transit: “Certainly, the current politically inbred structure of Sound Transit will oppose the most radical changes in its governing body.” Yikes.
This quote is the one that bothers me the most:
Meanwhile, there are ideas about deep tunnels under downtown Seattle; questions of a five-year boring-and-tunneling task right next to UW’s Husky Stadium and the havoc it would bring; the now-uncertain funding of the most distant Sound Transit rail lines; and the near-collapse of the Washington ferry system.
What havoc is that? He doesn’t describe it at all, or give any indication of what it would be. Vesely just brings up the fear, uncertainty and doubt that is destroying the public discourse today. The havoc? It’s tunnel boring. A few buildings will be razed, some dirt will be taken out of the staging area on Broadway, and part of the parking lot at the UW is going to be destroyed, but that’s hardly havoc. The construction of new condos all over town is a similar “havoc” but on a much larger scale.
It’s not obvious that voters want any governance scheme, and it’s not obvious that implementing Rice-Stanton is going to lead to faster improvements in infrastructure. What we’d get is more bureaucracy, more elected political positions without any accountability but to the voters, and yet another agency in the region, this one seemingly modelled after our region’s worst example.
This governance scheme is a terrible idea and hugely premature. Voters should get the chance to approve or reject rail by itself before a new agency is crated to build roads. If Olympia wants us to build more roads, they have the power to tax us and build them, using the gas tax or the nickel tax we approved in 2005. Creating a brand new agency in charge of transportation is not the answer to any question but “how can we add more politics and prostering to our transportation debate?”