Hutchison at the Washington Policy Center dinner. Image from Publicola.
Hutchison at the Washington Policy Center dinner. Image from Publicola.

There is no doubt that the most important election concerning transit this year is between Dow Constantine and Susan Hutchison for King County Executive. The Executive runs Metro transit, nominates 10 of the 18 Sound Transit boardmembers, and signs off on land use policies throughout the county.

Constantine serves on the Sound Transit board and chairs the Regional Transit Committee. His master’s degree in urban planning bolsters his wonky side — he noted at our last meet-up that “infrastructure creates demand,” a fact that escapes most politicos. Constantine is a great advocate for our two largest transit agencies and will be an effective leader. We have endorsed Constantine for Executive, and we urge those who want a better future for our region’s transit to donate to his campaign. But this election is notable not just for Constantine’s impressive credentials, but also his opponent’s reckless misunderstanding of transportation and transit issues. Susan Hutchison is wrong on transit.

Read on after the jump…

Susan Hutchison is wrong on light rail:

  • Hutchison mocked our light rail line by saying that the train “takes longer to get to the airport than a cab.” But it’s also about $40 cheaper. The “than-a-cab” metric is not how serious transportation policies are formed.
  • Hutchison thinks East Link should go over the new SR-520 instead of I-90, a horrible idea from an engineering and capacity perspective that would make East Link costlier and delay it by many years — if the line could ever be finished.
  • Hutchison defended a lawsuit that would block construction of East Link overruling a vote conducted just last November.
  • Hutchison believes light rail should have went to Bellevue first — fair enough. But The Stranger points out since she wants the new 520 span to handle light rail, we’d be waiting on our first trains for a decade or more.
  • Hutchison promoted and endorsed a backwards, highway-loving Washington Policy Center report which claimed that increasing general purpose highway capacity “will help move the most people at the least cost and least impact on the environment” but derided rail investment as “ineffective.” The report suggested a vote to cancel light rail construction years before it was finished.
  • Hutchison has little knowledge of our light rail, but constantly attacks the line. In one display, she spoke of visiting the Mount Baker light rail station on opening day and noted, “The buses have not been integrated to serve our light-rail terminals.” Publicola reports that Metro’s General Manager, Kevin Desmond, pointed out his agency “built a big, nice transit center right across the street” from the station. That transit center was under construction when she made her remarks — a candidate should know that.
  • Hutchison has support from notable anti-light rail figures such as Kemper Freeman, Bruce McCaw, Michael Ennis, and Bruce Agnew. That should scare us.

She is wrong on buses:

  • Hutchison doesn’t understand the 40-40-20 bus service allocation formula that favors new service allocation out of the Seattle. She thinks even more service should go to “the outskirts of the county,” where bus service is the least cost-effective as well as the least environmentally efficient.
  • Hutchison believes the $213 million Metro deficit can be seriously addressed through cracking down on fare evaders. How much do those evaders cost the county? Around $2.7 million — or 1% of the deficit.  It’s not even clear that Metro could recover the cost of increased enforcement in a crackdown.
  • Hutchison didn’t respond to the Transit Riders Union questionnaire, while nearly all other local candidates did. Her lack of engagement is revealing.

She is wrong on transit. For a woman who is running for a position so important to transit and land use, Hutchison maintains too many backward views. She is too critical of our light rail system and its planned expansion to the Eastside, and she doesn’t appear to have a handle on the serious issues facing Metro.

Vote Dow Constantine for County Executive.

Read about all of our endorsements with our endorsement cheat sheet.

24 Replies to “Editorial: Hutchison is Wrong on Transit”

    1. The thing about the Survey USA poll is that its methodology is shaky. I don’t know how the Washington Poll does things, but Survey USA uses land-line surveying, and as we know, many of Constantine’s younger supporters no longer use land lines.

      1. yeah the wa poll just says “phone numbers” with no specifics like land lines or cells. But those numbers look promising regardless. If those results didn’t include the younger voters with cells, then it’ll just get better for dow.

  1. A post I can throughly agree and endorse, not that I count for much in these parts, but well put and well argued and we can go forward on this assessment of where things are at.

    Thanks John.

  2. did you hear whatshername’s latest commercial? Constantine wants to spend money on the sea wall!!!!!! What waste!!!!! How dare he plan on something like that!

    1. I saw that and laughed, too. He’s concerned about the waterfront falling into Elliot Bay? What a bastard!!! ;)

  3. I don’t live in king county but I made sure my sister, my coworker and her mom voted for Dow. 3 undecideds now for Dow!

  4. Could we please get the numbers right. The King County Executive nominates 9 members of the ST board. The tenth member from King County is the Executive himself. There’s also the “largest city requirement” which defacto means the mayor of Seattle.

    1. Regarding the Mayor of Seattle, that’s what I thought too until someone pointed out that it says any representatives from the City of Seattle, not necessarily the Mayor.

      1. It doesn’t have to be the Mayor but given Seattle’s political structure it pretty much guarantees it unless the Mayor deferred. No way a rouge pick would be approved by the full council. But with Dow polling 49% to 34% I don’t think you have anything to worry about. Except of course Seattle choosing a mayor you don’t like.

    2. I don’t read the RCW as saying the Executive has to seat themselves, although it would be a strange decision not to.

      1. Ugh! I haven’t dug into the RCW. Searches are painful. I just took the ST charter at it’s word that says the King County Exec is an automatic position on the board. My understanding is that position does not have to be confirmed by a vote of the council? I’m sure there’s something in the code which would account for the Executive being unable to serve. For example, Kurt Triplett being “assigned” (don’t know if there was a confirmation vote) when Ron Sims became inelligible. But in that case the “ex” county executive had no role in the “appointment”.

      2. Sorry, didn’t see your comment here before commenting below, but no, the statute requires that all ST board appointees by the respective county executives be confirmed by the county councils, even if the appointment is the executive himself or herself.

        Triplett did have to appoint himself to the ST Board once the Council appointed him executive. And the Council had to confirm his self-appointment to the Board–Motion 2009-0365, which you can find here

        In a hypothetical parallel universe where the County Council decides to have a more combative relationship with the executive, it’s legally possible for the Council’s 5 Democrats to hold up a hypothetical Executive Hutchison’s ST Board appointments. Extremely unlikely in this universe, and if they did, she would likely leave the seats vacant.

      3. OK, I stand corrected. It appears that the exec has to appoint themselves to the board and be voted on. I can’t find the ST charter wording and I’m not going to search the RCW. Practically speaking though the county exec from Snohomish, King and Pierce has always been on the board as has the mayor of Seattle.

      4. It’s also worth noting that all three county executives have served continuously on the Sound Transit Board ever since it was formed, so it’s a pretty academic question. Not a statutory requirement though.

    3. No, that’s not correct. Nothing in the RTA statute says the executive himself/herself has to be on the ST Board.

      But the fact that the executive gets to make the appointments means that he or she will almost certainly be on the board.

  5. The problem w/Dow is that he never met a taxpayer dollar he didn’t like to spend. He seems completely oblivious to the concept that managing to a budget must include cost control as well, not just more revenue hikes. If he spent even half as much energy on cost control as he does on figuring out where next to raise taxes, we wouldn’t have anywhere near the deficit this county currently faces (and which will only get worse in 2010). His constituents apparently seem to think that money grows on trees, or that our region operates in a bubble, oblivious to the realities of a global economy. Government programs are all fine and fun until other people’s money runs out. A better transit infrastructure is not the silver bullet that will cure the ills of this region (just ask Portland). The reality is that commerce-generating, job-generating endeavors find the greater Seattle area an expensive and un-business friendly place to set up shop. In spite of the lack of a state income tax, our overall tax burden is one of the worst in the country, and not getting any better. What company in their right mind would establish themselves here? Boeing is slowly-but-surely leaving for greener pastures. Microsoft continues to find other places to add positions, rather than locally. Dow is just more of the same old un-business-friendly problem. It really isn’t alarmism to point to Detroit as an example of where we could end up continuing along the same old path.

    So many of you are making the point….Hutchison lacks Dow’s experience. That’s a good thing!

    1. Susan hasn’t a clue how to budget. Getting your rich friends to write checks is hardly a valid strategy for a county budget.

      I’m not going to pick this rant apart point by point, but you are quite incorrect about the tax burden here. Washington ranks 35th according to the conservative Tax Foundation in terms of state and local tax burden.

      1. Obviously, Dow has richer friends. He’s raised more in campaign funding (just look at his support among trial lawyers).

        I wouldn’t hang your hat on the Tax Foundation report. It’s been widely debunked. These are just a couple of the methodological problems that significantly affect Washington’s position on the list:

        • The misleading use of averages in the calculation of the tax burdens. The
        Congressional Budget Office analysis shows that most families pay considerably
        less in taxes than the Tax Foundation reports, particularly in states with state income taxes.

        • Taking into consideration tourism, severance, and business taxes, but leaving out leaving out gas taxes. Leaving out property taxes when adjusting for taxes paid by people who live out-of-state. Leaving out state death taxes.

      2. Boo! Dow is supported by trial lawyers, he must be the spawn of the Devil!

        In any case I was referring to Hutchison ballancing the Symphony budget by having the Charles Simonyi foundation write a check to cover the shortfall.

        I don’t see where the Tax Foundation’s numbers have been “widely debunked”. If you have another reputable source please provide a link.

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