Last Sunday, KING 5 TV’s Up Front with Robert Mak discussed the East Link debate in Bellevue, covering things like conflict of interest accusations, B7-Revised, the I-90 lawsuit, and Build a Better Bellevue’s “expert-written” report alleging that Sound Transit jacked up the costs of B7. For the most part, the program does a fair job of bringing more exposure to the issue. Nonetheless, you can still detect a pretty shallow understanding that doesn’t reflect the deeper dynamics of the debate, like how a significant portion of South Bellevue residents actually oppose B7.
If you missed the show, I’ve attached the video of the full program above. Some thoughts below the jump.
A bulk of the show was spent covering the pro-B7 Build a Better Bellevue’s allegations that Sound Transit gouged B7 costs unnecessarily, just to make it “look bad.” ST is planning to respond to these allegations as part of the ‘FAQ’ section of the EIS when it’s publicly released later this year. Some of them are pretty ridiculous, including a claim that the multi-use trail along B7 was an unnecessary element intentionally put in by ST to add costs.
The facts alone prove poor research done on BBB’s part. Federal railbanking laws actually require that a trail be put along the BNSF corridor to act as a ‘preservation easement,’ if you will, in case freight service were ever to be restored. Joe Rossman, the BBB representative who was interviewed, said that it will be a “cold day in hell” when that happens. Ironically though, when Kevin Wallace was initially concocting his plans for B7-Revised, he acknowledged the importance of the corridor’s railbank status. It shouldn’t go without mentioning that a rails-to-trails conversion is a high priority between the King County-Port of Seattle partnership.
Probably the ugliest quote that stood out in the show came from Rossman, who said something to the effect of light rail making it easier for “folks who are not always welcome” to get to Bellevue. Yikes. Thankfully, VeloBusDriver, an STB regular, has already jumped on it:
This quote neatly encapsulates one of the more offensive and incoherent arguments I hear against light rail. According to Build a Better Bellevue, Sound Transit’s East Link will make it easier for miscreants, from the wretched hive of scum and villainy that is Seattle, to descend in hordes upon our pristine shores. Being a user of transit as well as a bus driver, I can authoritatively say that this line of thinking is complete bunk.
I don’t have anything to add to VeloBusDriver’s nice summation of the matter except to say that Rossman’s comments will probably come back to bite BBB, particularly after Kemper Freeman’s unflattering admission about Southcenter customers a few years back. Nonetheless, I do acknowledge that there are plenty of other reasons why people choose to support B7 so it would be unfair to make sweeping generalizations. Still, it’s pretty clear that Rossman’s slip will be a poor reflection on his organization.
The best comment of the program, however, goes to councilwoman Claudia Balducci’s response to the conflict of interest accusation of her employment for King County:
Well, I work for the county jail system. And jails and transit don’t have a whole lot in common. We do have a van service. We transport inmates from place to place.
Okay, that clears things up. From some of the claims made by BBB, you’d think the King County Jail were the ones building East Link. But seeing as they do believe that light rail happens to transport criminals and other unwelcome figures, I guess it explains the reasoning behind accusing Balducci for working for the jail system. The transport-criminals-by-transit agenda… I would have never made the connection otherwise.