2 UPDATES BELOW — Keep Scrolling.
We’ve been warning you for quite some time now about governance reform, most recently here.
Well, Josh Feit reports that the chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, Sen. Haugen of Camano Island, has written a bill that dissolves Sound Transit and replaces it with an elected board.
As he points out, this threatens the $750 million grant that University Link depends on.
I believe this is the bill. I haven’t had time yet to fully digest it, but Section 310 is the one that deals with Sound Transit and incorporates it into the new organization, which would pretty much hire all of Sound Transit’s old employees and assume its responsibilities.
Here’s the procedural history of the bill. I see that other sponsors include Ed Murray of Capitol Hill and Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles of Belltown, Queen Anne, and Ballard. Why Sen. Murray wants to mess with an organization building light rail through the heart of his district is beyond me.
Anyway, it’s time that we mobilize to make sure this thing is dead, dead, dead. Briefly, why it’s a horrible idea:
(1) Sound Transit consistently passes audits with flying colors. Special-purpose organizations with directly elected boards (Port of Seattle, Seattle Monorail Project, Seattle School Board) have a recent history of graft and incompetence. Why would we seek to replicate that governance model here?
(2) The Sound Transit board is filled with politicians dedicated to delivering real rapid transit. Lord knows who could get on an elected board with a few bucks from Kemper Freeman and the road lobby. Tim Eyman, everyone? I’m not a lawyer, but if I read Sec. 305(2) correctly, a new transit plan will require unanimous approval by the commission to be put before the voters, meaning one commissioner elected by people in Monroe can stop the entire region in its tracks.
(3) This creates some risk for the University Link federal funding agreement.
(4) The “Regional Transportation Commission” has a dual focus of roads and transit. Haven’t we been through this already?
We have a Democratic super-majority in Olympia — it’s unbelievable we have to fight off our state government like this. If Governor Gregoire signs this bill, I will vote for Rossi this fall, simply so that the Democrats come up with a leader that is merely neutral to transit, instead of actively hostile. If this passes, there isn’t anything left for Dino Rossi to screw up.
Contact your legislators.
UPDATE: Sen. Murray has once again placed a thoughtful response in the comments. The bill I cited is now dead as of today, assuming that’s what a “Senate Rules ‘X’ File” means.
It’s not clear to me how that relates to the Haugen proposal that Josh Feit mentioned. Remain vigilant, but I don’t see it listed anywhere under Sen. Haugen’s sponsored bills.
UPDATE 2 (1/21/08): Sen. Kohl-Welles also replies in the comments, reaffirming her support for transit.
I firmly believe that the Seattle delegation considers themselves pro-transit and pro-rail. To be anything else would be both foolish and politically suicidal. However, to this layman it appears that their names keep on ending up on bills that we here at STB consider to be hostile to Sound Transit, and therefore hostile to rapid construction of new rail capacity. This probably has something to do with the proverbial sausage-making in Olympia, but it’d be nice if for once the maneuvering was over providing funds to accelerate or extend projects, rather than coming up with cheap administrative fixes that can be manipulated by the road-building lobby.
However, I promise to do a bit more homework on these bills. No more flying off the handle at Josh Feit rumor-mill posts. I owe that to the readers if I ask you to contact your legislators.