Commenter “railcan” illustrates what can happen when your humble correspondent only really started paying attention in 2007…

“The results were terrible” This is a very short-sighted view. I don’t expect everyone on this blog to have a long memory, but Ed can credibly make the claim to be one of the people with foresight who helped save Sound Transit at its greatest moment of peril. Sure the agency turned itself around with good leadership at the local level and strong support from Patty Murray in DC. But at its darkest moments, Ed Murray saved ST by killing every attempt in Olympia to gut the agency in 2001-2004 as chair of the House Committee. He was mano-a-mano against the Kemper crowd in a very lonely fight when ST had zero friends in Oly. Jim Horn sent a bunch of anti-ST bills out of the Senate when ST was trying to convince FTA to restore federal funding for Link. Ed buried every one of them. You don’t always get a lot of credit for playing defense, but it is not a stretch to say that without him, we may well not have the Link system you see today.

And former State Rep. (and STB all-star) Geoff Simpson:

Ed Murray has done more to provide funds for transit in this state than any single person has ever done to my knowledge. I served with him as his vice-chair of the House Transportation Committee from 2003-2007. It doesn’t take much research to find the genesis of the State’s Regional Mobility Grant program. It was Murray’s 2005 legislation, HB 2124 ( It’s provided $143.5 million since 2006, which has leveraged a lot of other funding – not sure any single person in state history can match that. That bill just barely scratches the surface of Murray’s transit credentials. Some of it can be attributed to behind the scenes efforts, like the First Hill Streetcar. I know for a fact that Murray himself made that happen. Ed Murray has probably forgotten about more of his personal transit successes than all of his opponents have actually delivered, combined. I won’t take any shots at the current mayor or his ability to get things done, but at least get your facts straight about Murray.

For reference, the “Congestion Relief Charge” was supposed to generate about $27m a year entirely for King County, vs. about $20m a year statewide since 2006. It’s not transformative, but it is a bill that has helped transit while not attached to huge highway spending, and has funded King County projects like Route 120 improvements, Brickyard P&R expansion, and  the South Lake Union Streetcar.

51 Replies to “Dissents of the Day: Ed Murray”

  1. There’s a healthy dose of politics and people talking past each other going on here.

    McGinn’s talking point is all about how aggressively he pushes projects/issues forward, which he certainly has done. He is consistently pushing harder than the council and that is great. On the flip side Ed has done a lot of work in Olympia to help transit and would likely be able to continue that, something McGinn could never do.

    So each candidate has their strong points and weak points. McGinn pushes hard on the details that matter but I think he will have a much harder time winning Seattle more tax authority and I don’t see that changing. Ed is at home in Olympia but hasn’t shown how much he will prioritize transit and related issues. Aggressive adviser and SDOT/DPD staffing could address this but it’s something that is outstanding at this point.

    Combined they would make a great candidate but short of that you have to pick which set of strengths you see as more important and therein lies the rub.

    1. And Ed’s work was in his previous position – he doesn’t have that ability now in the Senate.

      1. Influence doesn’t always come in the form of decision making power. You of all people should know that.

    2. Ed will have more push in Olympia as a high-ranking state senator than as Mayor of Seattle.

      1. His only significant claim to fame is getting marriage equality passed. How has been any benefit to the Seattle constituents over the years? Where is our real representative/legislative benefits under his representation? He’s as bad as Frank Chopp. Lame “progressives” if you ask me.

      2. He got civil rights laws passed that go far beyond marriage equality. Though the whole situation with TFK getting almost no punishment for discriminating against African Americans in employment, while working under a contract covered by Title VI, makes one wonder whether these laws have any teeth.

        I admire legislators who work for laws that benefit society broadly rather than focus on bringing home the pork. Imagine where we’d be if bringing home pork is all any legislator cared about. I don’t see his failure to use earmarks more when he had the chance as a reason to say he isn’t dedicated to transit.

      3. It’s not just about bringing home the pork. I have yet to see any reason to give the WA Dems praise for *anything* they’ve done in the past decade. Sure, they’re not demonic like the WA Republicans, but they have hardly achieved a bloody thing. Murray is the poster child of incredibly unimaginative WA Dem policies. I have more than enough pent up distaste for mediocrity present in the party and its an utter shame that we Seattle is terribly under represented by actual progressives.

      4. Ed will have more push in Olympia than McGinn *regardless* of his elected position. People lets remember Olympia is why we’re having problems in Metro and where we need more funds for an ST3 to be approved.

      5. Right. It is more likely that Ed is the heir-apparent to Jim McDermott who likely will retire at the end of his term

      6. It is more likely that Ed is the heir-apparent to Jim McDermott who likely will retire at the end of his term

      7. So we replace a useless national Democrat with a useless state Democrat? There’s no hope for this city, state, or country. Sigh.

      8. Given that Ed doesn’t seem to have any pull in Olympia right now on behalf of public transportation, what does it mean to say that he’ll have “more push than McGinn”?

        Something has changed about the political environment and politicians who haven’t caught up with that change may be well-meaning but are not useful.

  2. How much of that $143m went to Seattle or even King County versus that given to the rest fo the state? I don’t think anyone is challenging Ed Murray’s ability to take Seattle money and spread it around. What we’re challenging him on is his record on delivering FOR SEATTLE.

    As to what he did 10 years ago, if true (is there any documentation?) great, thanks, I owe you a beer. However I DON’T owe you a vote unless you can tell me what you are going to do for SEATTLE (not regional or Washington) transit TODAY.

    1. Ding! Almost none went to Seattle. ST gets quite a bit, but it’s mostly for HOV or P&Rs.

      1. The state gives about $30 million per year to fund Sound Transit, and it is mainly in the form of subsidized fares. It is very costly

    2. I think I have to agree with this point.

      If Ed Murray did a great job 10 years ago… great. Now he can retire and rest on his laurels, and good for him — full credit for that.

      But in recent years, he appears to have absolutely no pull in Olympia at all, despite being committee chair! So how is he going to do anything for Seattle, given those facts?

      I believe the political environment has changed in the last 10 years.

      Politicians who claimed that they could “get things done” in the US Congress based on 10-year-old or 20-year-old records have proven totally ineffective in today’s political environment, and we see that the same is true in the Washington State Legislature.

      Nowadays, we need politicians who understands the CURRENT political scene, which means a different kind of politician. Your record from 10 years ago is meaningless in terms of *effectiveness today*.

      Now, if Murray was using his old record merely as proof of good intentions, that’s fine and well, but he’s trying to use it as proof of effectiveness. And it is outweighed by his *recent* record of *ineffectiveness*.

      In the very small village where my parents live, they tossed out three mayors in a row — all good, decent people — because of ineffectiveness on the issue of the day. That’s no slur on their characters, but none of them had the arrogance to run on a platform claiming that they had been effective.

  3. This may just be me and my high standards but:
    If you’re chair of the Transportation committee and you spend 144 million dollars on puget sound transit over 7 years, well…
    Im just not impressed.
    If its true that the figure is the biggest state transit spending ever, that just says that Olympia sucks. That figure is nothing in the state budget picture. Claiming to be a champion of transit because of that is silly. Thats like giving a homeless guy a quarter and claiming to be a major philanthropist.

    Thanks for the quarter but its not nearly enough.

    1. I think that 144 million is statewide. Most of it might be puget sound, though.

  4. My objection to Ed Murray is about style as much as substance.

    From Ed Murray’s campaign page:

    Lead the charge to bring Sound Transit 3 to the ballot by 2016 by rebuilding relationships and leveraging his connections to turn the unfulfilled, go-it-alone light rail promises from the current mayor into a successful partnership to expand rail and connect more neighborhoods in Seattle.

    Notice how Murray doesn’t actually say what ST3 should look like; he simply asserts that he can use his “relationships” and “connections” to build a “successful partnership”. And, in the same sentence, he attacks McGinn for “going it alone”.

    I’ve got to say, when you try to attack someone in the same sentence that you talk about rebuilding relationships, it doesn’t read well.

    To me, it sounds like the alleged “divisiveness” is fairly one-sided. McGinn is actively working with Sound Transit to accelerate planning; Murray is the one trying to foster conflict.

    1. What’s fascinating to me is that he thinks that would stick when it’s McGinn’s *partnership* with the rest of the ST board that made it possible for ST3 to happen in 2016.

  5. And the state still provides zero capital support and zero operational support for transit in its major urban center and primary economic engine.

    And the First Hill Streetcar still sucks.

    Everything else is splitting hairs.


    1. Is the 120 not part of the urban center now? Let’s not resort to hyperbole!

      1. I suppose you can squint sideways and see a minor roadway modification as a capital expenditure “for transit”.

        That’s not what those other 48 states have done. In all relevant examples, state funding has meant either: “Here’s $, run your service with it”; or “Here’s $, build something permanent and tangible with it”.

  6. All you really have to do to evaluate Ed Murray’s priorities is answer this question: how much state money, while he was by his own description a powerful, collaborative insider in the legislature, went toward highways (i.e. 99 and 520) in Seattle, and how much has went towards transit?

    All I can think about here is that there was a significant portion of Seattle voters opposed to building a massively expensive new highway tunnel downtown. As I remember (and please correct me if I am mistaken), absolutely nobody in the legislature, including Murray, in whose district the tunnel was to be built, was willing to oppose it. Meanwhile there is another highway that terminates in the same district, which is going to be expanded when they replace a bridge. Murray evidently believes that it is possible to be pro-transit and pro-driving at the same time. Either that or he had no power over transportation projects in his own district.

    Admittedly McGinn has had a lot trouble getting good policy approved by the council. But the special way Seattle elects council members (citywide, requiring tons of money just to build name recognition, and in odd years, when only old people vote) virtually guarantees that they will always be an obstacle to positive change.

    1. It is quite possible to be pro-transit and pro-driving at the same time. The issue is that the evidence that Murray is pro-City of Seattle-transit is a bit thin on the ground. He can tout the FHSC (hmm…) and his support of Sound Transit in the pre-Joni days, and that’s about it. Meanwhile, he has gone heavily to bat for the highway projects you promoted and also for a bunch of transit projects in other parts of the metro area and the state.

    2. In fairness to State Sen. Murray, Greg Nickles was mayor at the time, and the tunnel was a top lobbying priority for the city. The place to point the finger for that failure of priorities is the former mayor and the city council. The city council acted precipitously to approve a contract with the state and thereby attempt to influence the outcome of the mayoral election about two weeks before the election. I wrongly accused Sen. Murray of being involved in that. My apologies.

    3. There is nothing “special” about the way the city elects councilmembers, any more than a 7/2 districting system is “special”. It is a fairly common election system.

      If we judge election systems by unusualness, no electoral reform will ever be entertained.

      1. Different election systems have different biases.

        If you want a system which actually represents the people, you want something like what Cambridge Massachusetts has: a party-proportional representation system.

  7. I’ll give all the candidates credit. They’ve all put themselves out there, stuck to debate on issues, style and qualifications; and avoided digging into the mud of each others’ personal lives or accusing each other of ulterior motivations.

    Peter hired a consultant who has an ugly history of “going there”, but he has resisted. I’ll give him at least ten style points for that.

    Still, it is up to the candidates to make their case why they have been just as good or better than the incumbent on transit issues, and how they will do a better job for transit than the incumbent. Geoff’s letter is a hopeful start to getting there.

    1. Thoughtful comment. Thank you. Agree, no mud-slinging, yet, even though Murray predicted it will get dirty by November.

  8. A candidate’s history is something to be considered, his style less so. But what I’d like to hear from all of the candidates is their ideas as to how Seattle can become the kind of city I want to live in.

    Maybe it’s memories from the east before its Belt Rusted, but I’d like a city that manufactures more than it shops. And where nobody considers loans-and fare arrangements to be “products.”

    I’d also like to live in a place where the Democratic Party becomes, or is succceeded by, a party that doesn’t avoid saying “working class” because it thinks “middle class better resonance”. Quote from contestant for Jay Inslee’s old seat, though thankfully not one from Seattle.

    And a city where its transitworkers can afford to live and raise families, as they run a system that lets them live wherever in the region they want.

    And a place where citizens consider their government to be not a home shopping network, but a machine in whose driver’s seat they sit, equipped with the knowledge and motivation to make every shift leave something good built.

    Ed? Mike? Peter? I’m listening…

    Mark Dublin

    1. Sorry, Mark, Puget Sound and Lake Washington guarantee that the Seattle of the past will never be again. As one of the dozen or so most spectacular city locations in the world it will continue to attract wealthy people who want to live there. They will push the poor who serve them a minimum of three miles back from the coast line, and farther where there are hills with a view.

      Three miles plus the hills with a view is pretty much all of the City of Seattle except Georgetown.

      It’s just the simple economic truth. The service providers for all those wealthy people will be living in Kent, Sea-Tac, and Lynnwood and commuting to their jobs in the low floors of various office towers.

      “Things” will be made in Tacoma, possibly, but not in Seattle.

      1. I get what you’re saying, and I’m a huge Seattle homer, but one of the 12 most desirable cities in the world Seattle is not. Heres a list of twelve just off the top of my head.
        New York
        I just don’t Seattle as fair competition for those types of towns.
        Saying all that stuff *will* happen is a bit nostrodamus

      2. With: Climate change resilience, the tech start-up incubator, the high level of education, the massive amount of outdoor beauty and activity and low cost of entry to the Seattle market I’d say Seattle has the potential to be one of those 12 cities quite easily. It’s not, yet, but it’s well on it’s way. It needs a subway with sustainable power to be world class… even Mumbai is building one.

  9. As readers of this blog are quick to point out, public transit is not just about buses and trains. It is about density. This means that zoning should be a hot issue. So far, no major candidate has tried to move to the left of McGinn on zoning. If there are policy differences, that is where they are. With the exception of Steinbrueck, no has has bothered to mention any policy differences (and he has run to the right). Basically, none of the candidates has suggested anything that will provide for better transit than the mayor.

    They all claim, however, that they will be better leaders and managers. Fair enough. But if that is your claim, than you better be able to back it up. But Murray can’t. Furthermore, even if he could, it would probably not be enough to warrant an organization like this one to endorse him, over a solid sitting mayor. Maybe if Murray (or someone) actually ran as a more transit friendly mayor, then he or she would stand a chance. But you can’t simply make a claim like that without being able to specify major policy differences. Murray hasn’t.

    1. Correct. King County and Sound Transit operate transit services and systems here, not the City, and they must serve a broader area and jurisdictions. It might be time for Seattle to contract with them to provide additional intra-city service.

  10. The only major candidate with a chance of winning who would be seriously bad for transit, infrastructure, and economic development in Seattle is Peter Steinbrueck. As long as you are voting for ANYONE but Steinbrueck you are doing your part to lower the possibility that Steinbrueck will make it through the primary and be the next mayor. You can scoff at this post and say that Steinbrueck would probably be trounced in a head to head match up with either Murray or McGinn but there is at least a 30% chance he would be our next mayor if he makes it through the primary. Would you drink a glass of water if you knew there was a 30% chance it would give you Montezuma’s revenge? Better to vote for anyone else and to convince everyone you know to vote for anyone else just to make sure the final ballot doesn’t have Peter Steinbrueck on it.

    1. I agree, but I’m not sure there is any way to vote that way. Vote for Murray or Harrell and there is a chance that both beat out McGinn. That is basically what happened last time. I don’t think it will happen again because McGinn has a pretty solid base. But there is really no way to specify that you want anyone but Steinbrueck, which means he has a decent chance of surviving the primary (and thus winning the general) election.

      1. That’s why approval voting is the best election method for single-winner elections.

        Because with approval voting, you CAN vote “anyone but Steinbrueck”, and it will be counted as such.

      2. Nathaniel,

        Have you spoken to the folks at The Center for Election Science? We’re working hard to promote Approval Voting for US elections. One of our board members just succeeded in getting a law passed in Arizona which creates a committee to study Approval Voting as a mechanism to pick the top two finalists for their general/runoff elections. We have a discussion group on Google.

        Clay Shentrup
        Berkeley, CA

    2. I do not know why anyone would think that Steinbrueck would be “bad for transit, infrastructure and development.” Peter Steinbrueck appears to have the best qualifications to lead the city and direct it through the coming growth spurt. His background makes him uniquely to ask the right questions and guide us through major projects like planning the redevelopment of he waterfront, the expansion of transit service into and between neighborhoods, the replacement of 520 ands its effects on the city. I have seen that some developers support him. He has owned a small business and has an excellent track record on the City Council and as its President.

      1. Kathy as a general rule of thumb architects as a profession tend to be pretty misguided on transit planning and Steinbreck is no different.

      2. I would say that most urban planners I have encountered know much more about public transportation and the various options than the average decision-maker. And suggest with that background Steinbrueck has as much or more knowledge and experience with transportation issues than the other candidates.

      3. Just spitballing, but my guess is that it’s because every time he opens his mouth to talk about a transportation or development issue, something bad for transit and/or development comes out.

      4. Please, god, no, not Peter Steinbrueck. He has NIMBY written on his forehead. He thinks BRT is a good substitute for real high capacity transit. He thinks density is bad. He thinks close-in single family homes are PERFECT. If he does understand that cars aren’t the end-all-be-all of transport, he doesn’t say so. He’s appealing to the only group that hasn’t seen a reduction in driver’s licenses owned: the over 70 crowd. Unfortunately, they vote.

    3. UNfortunately, Seattle does NOT use approval voting to elect its mayor.

      If Seattle used approval voting, everyone could vote for all their favorite candidates, and the most popular candidate could win.

      Since Seattle does NOT use approval voting, it is quite possible for the “good” vote to be split five ways and for the worst candidate to win.

  11. It is kind of sad when there is a candidate who has a long history of fighting for transit, but he doesn’t run on his accomplishments. For some reason he leaves defending his actually record on transit to STB commenters.

    1. That’s because his transit-related accomplishments aren’t all that relevant to the voters in the City of Seattle electorate, even though he represents a Seattle district in the Senate.

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