Page Two articles are from our reader community.

The world isn’t a fairy tale, and it could be more brutal than we want to acknowledge. Equally, it could be better than we’ve been led to believe, but either way, we have to start seeing it exactly as it is, with all of its problems, because it’s only by seeing it with all of its problems that we’ll be able to fix them and live in a world in which we can all be happily ever after. — Heather Brooke
(SOURCE)

Photo of Island Transit Bus Without A Driver

Beginning with another Heather “Newsbrooke” Brooke quotation because folks, we could sure use one.  Many, including I, thought last Friday’s supposed end of the Martha Rose era was not the beginning of the end but a finite end of the beginning to play off of a famous Winston Churchill quotation.  The Wednesday afternoon Island Transit Board Meeting, being held under the cloud of the Island Transit Acting Finance Director’s insubordination and outrageous allegations, did not resolve the issue to the point where a long sortie full of detail is now necessary.

At least Common Sense and Island Politics took video of the latest Island Transit meeting and provided commentary.  The mainstream media hasn’t launched a response yet.  I have helpfully clipped the video to the most important part of the meeting – namely addressing the solvency of Island Transit and the epic failure of Island Transit’s Acting Finance Director to report to the Island Transit Board on the status of Island Transit’s deferred payments to the Washington Transit Insurance Pool.

Before posting the video, I would like to note as a lapsed Washington Coalition for Open Government member that for the record Island County Commissioner Helen Price-Johnson was right in citing RCW 42.30.080 on special meetings that states, “Final disposition shall not be taken on any other matter at such meetings by the governing body.”  However Oak Harbor Mayor Scott Dudley was also right in stating the meeting’s agenda said only “Management Transition” and “Executive Session if necessary” arguably giving him clearance to address the Island Transit Acting Finance Director issue.  Clearly clarity from the state legislature or from a set of Attorney General’s Office Model Rules on the Open Public Meetings Act or a more finite Island Transit Board Meeting agenda would be constructive.

That said, here’s the clipped video – originally from Common Sense:

If I may be snarky, perhaps there’s a reason why the picture for this news story is of a driverless Island Transit Bus.  While writing this story, Island Politics got part of the scoop on an e-mail the Acting Financial Director sent to many if not all Island Transit employees defining McCarthyism.  But Seattle Transit Blog obtained an e-mail sent this morning from Oak Harbor Mayor Scott Dudley to the Island Transit Acting Executive Director Bob Clay confirming an Island Transit response to a Seattle Transit Blog public records request there still is no Executive Director Martha Rose resignation letter – fueling suspicions Martha Rose didn’t resign and certainly creating more chaos at a bad time.

As if this crisis needs to be put into more stark relief, recently Seattle Transit Blog received a comment stating in part with my emphasis:

The employee manual section 2.03 prohibits any employee from speaking out for fear of being terminated. This is a bizarre code of ethics section which is ambiguous enough to be used against anyone attempting to reveal just how badly Island Transit is mismanaged. Any employee questioning anything is quickly silenced and counseled not to ask disruptive questions. Senior drivers who are not in jeopardy of losing their stature also defend the regime without question, to show loyalty in order to save their paycheck. Fear and intimidation are the workplace standard.
Martha has help in the blame game with former finance manager now reinstated finance manager Sandra Kuykendall who also made statements against Barbra Savary. Martha stated in the newspaper she brought in Kuykendall after Barbra Savary was fired. This is a complete lie. Barbara and Sandra worked side by side for two weeks during the transition period of Barbara’s voluntary resignation of the position. If the Board of Directors wants to investigate and audit, simply look at the days on payroll for both of the financial managers and question the overlapping time period.

According to the Island Transit Personnel Policies Manual, section 2.03 contains in part, again with my emphasis:

Actions of an uncivil, immoral, or indecent nature and use of profanity or vulgar language while on duty (on-the-job) or on ISLAND TRANSIT property are prohibited. Employees must remember that, as public servants, they are expected to present a favorable public image and to cooperate with the public and their fellow employees. Employees are reminded that disruption of the workplace with loud, obnoxious, unruly behavior will not be tolerated.
. . .
Reporting to management suspicious, unethical, or illegal conduct by coworkers, customers, or suppliers

I’m sure the Kuykendall sortie served as a strong validator of allegations of a hostile work climate in Island Transit – and those of other former & current Island Transit employees posted to multiple websites.  I’m also sure the fact the Island Transit Board does not know if its payments into the state insurance pool – with no less than two lawsuits having been field – is equally unsettling.  No wonder Oak Harbor Mayor Dudley has grave doubts about the solvency of Island Transit and made the public allegation the Island Transit Board with a “lack of accountability and lack of responsibility” is “responsible for the financial situation we find ourselves in today”.


Personally, it would take serious changes arguably on Island Transit’s behalf to convince me to ever again sortie to the Washington State transit advocacy community and ask the 38 other counties of our state to rescue any services of Island Transit It’s time we in the transit advocacy community started openly discussing options what to do with Island Transit and keeping Island Transit’s reputation separate from other transit agencies’ reputations.  In military aviation, they’d call it “Response Options”.  Response Options we’re going to need as the State Legislature restarts in about three months in January…

One of the things the transit advocacy community is going to need to do is explain Island Transit is the outlier, not the ‘new normal’ of transit governance.  That politics on Island County are bordering on dysfunctional – Exhibit A being the Beyond Stupid land use policies around NAS Whidbey Island’s Ault Field and Outlying Field Coupeville that sparked the progressive anti-Navy insurgency in Central Whidbey.  That Island Transit has suffered from Leaderism for some time.  That we in the transit advocacy community are open to new vaccines to keep another bout of “Island Transit cancer” from spreading to our local agencies.

So here are four ideas for transit advocates to consider:

  • Perhaps we would be willing to grudgingly accept having all of Washington State’s transit boards elected by their district elected statewide instead of appointed in return for Sound Transit 3/ST3?
  • Perhaps we should let Island Transit go down the tubes if the Island Transit Board and/or Island Transit Administration reacts inappropriately to the upcoming release of the Washington State Auditor’s Office Audit and continues to react inappropriately to the issues of the Island Transit Acting Finance Director’s insubordinate misconduct?
  • Perhaps we could demand transit administrators forgo the company cars and use the transit system they administrate to commute to/from work at least 75% of the time each month?
  • Perhaps we should sign a petition demanding a study be done within 365 days of the logistics of collecting a fare on Island Transit – not saying I’m pro a fare, but I’m pro an updated conversation.

Just attempting to spark a conversation among the wider transit advocacy community… one we need to start having.


Finally, just an editorial note of reassurance that at some point I need to insert: I am doing some research on Paine Field’s transit situation.  Non-financial research that is so Everett Transit & Community Transit you may exhale.  Please do.

Once the Island Transit crisis simmers down, I will pick up where I left off on my Sound Transit Sounder North research as well.  However, we do have a crisis that is being closely monitored in Olympia and it seems happily ever after is bordering on impossible here.

At some point, I also want to poke around Washington State Ferries…

18 Replies to “North by Northwest 19: Island Transit Still in a Storm”

  1. “Perhaps we would be willing to grudgingly accept having transit boards elected statewide instead of appointed in return for Sound Transit 3/ST3?”

    First, I’m going to hope that this is poor literacy on my part and that you didn’t actually mean that transit boards for one area of the state should stand for statewide election, similar to how the governor is elected. Going on the presumption that you meant that any transit board in the state should be subject to a local election:

    No. For one thing, we have too many “local elections” in the Puget Sound region, much less the rest of the state There’s local control and then there’s local lunacy. Who knows or cares or is even informed on what, say, the Port of Seattle board is up to at this moment? The illusion of choice is no choice at all because making an ill-informed choice under the guise of “hey, I voted” gets us nowhere. As an example and as an exercise to King County residents: Without looking, do you know where King County Fire District #43 is, are you in it, and what impact did Bill VanRuff have on your government over the past year? What about Public Hospital District #2? Or the King County Airport District?

    Sound Transit is able to act impartially and expediently because it is not subject to ever-shifting political whims. Having directly-elected boards–with office holders who have to face campaigns by, say, a small minority of residents who like how route 2 is currently situated–gets us King County Metro. Having a one-off, where voters elect our representatives and then our representatives hire people to get the job done is how our government is supposed to work. Besides, I have little interest in handing anti-transit advocates yet another cudgel to use to inhibit transit growth.

    Island Transit screwed itself by not having the most basic of financial and systemic controls in place. The person who authorizes the checks for payment of bills should NEVER also be the person who signs the checks. That’s horrible local management, not cause for upending well-run districts in other parts of the state.

    (I deliberately left your other questions alone. If the residents of Island Transit’s taxing district want to have that discussion, great. I don’t live there so I feel it inappropriate for me to comment on how their local government handles its affairs. Sound Transit’s district does cover me, so I stuck with that question.)

    1. I trust the county and city leaders as ST boardmembers more than I trust people who might come through district elections. The city/county leaders understand transit’s role in the entire city/county, and how more transit and denser downtowns are becoming more and more essential to the city’s/county’s economy. It’s the city leaders who made Seattle’s, Bellevue’s, and Lynnwood’s transit master plans which are pretty good, and Save-Route-2-type folks and NIMBYs who are likely to get on district-elected boards and make things worse.

      Hopefully the districts would elect transit professionals who understand all the issues, but there’s a risk of “transit tea partiers” who are more concerned about about an express stop in their neighborhood or eliminating trains or privatizing the agency than about making the entire transit network better.

      1. Good arguments all around and I welcome them. I see your point-of-view.

        But when it comes to the Tea Party on transit boards, there was already an Island Transit Boardmember carrying the Tea Party standard. Her name was Kelly Emerson and when I spoke of more revenue for Island Transit to provide county connectors she was making faces. Also Kelly was incredibly silent about the growing crisis on Island Transit’s books. So yeah, there’s always going to be that risk no matter what system you have. I just want us transit activists to have seats – preferably a majority coalition of seats – in the Boardroom.

        FINALLY: This is NOT a slam on the current Island Transit Board, but speaking in general…

    2. lakecityrider, here goes:

      First, I’m going to hope that this is poor literacy on my part and that you didn’t actually mean that transit boards for one area of the state should stand for statewide election, similar to how the governor is elected. Going on the presumption that you meant that any transit board in the state should be subject to a local election:

      I made a correction to make my view more clear.

      No. For one thing, we have too many “local elections” in the Puget Sound region, much less the rest of the state There’s local control and then there’s local lunacy. Who knows or cares or is even informed on what, say, the Port of Seattle board is up to at this moment? The illusion of choice is no choice at all because making an ill-informed choice under the guise of “hey, I voted” gets us nowhere.

      I respectfully disagree, having folks elected makes them directly responsible. It makes those of us who are transit activists more able to serve on transit boards than have to deal with other issues as well such as First Responders, parks, permits and the like.

      Sound Transit is able to act impartially and expediently because it is not subject to ever-shifting political whims. Having directly-elected boards–with office holders who have to face campaigns by, say, a small minority of residents who like how route 2 is currently situated–gets us King County Metro.

      Well since voter turnout is so low in general, perhaps that’s an issue for other boards.

      Having a one-off, where voters elect our representatives and then our representatives hire people to get the job done is how our government is supposed to work. Besides, I have little interest in handing anti-transit advocates yet another cudgel to use to inhibit transit growth.

      We do that and it rarely works out. But when you elect somebody – for instance, to run elections => you get accountability and accessibility.

      Also almost all anti-transit advocates are anti-government and will inhibit transit growth more without transit activists on a transit board.

      Island Transit screwed itself by not having the most basic of financial and systemic controls in place. The person who authorizes the checks for payment of bills should NEVER also be the person who signs the checks. That’s horrible local management, not cause for upending well-run districts in other parts of the state.

      Island Transit also “screwed itself” by having nobody on the Board watch the district’s finances, nor make sure workers could report issues to management in a friendly environment, by having an insubordinate acting Financial Manager, and by having a Board literally “phone it in” or take vacation at the worst possible time. For starters – just wait until the State Auditor’s Office is done.

      Finally, I do however welcome your participation in this debate and I think you make many great arguments. Not the least of which being you don’t want to upend other transit agencies because of Island Transit. I just have the biases I’ve listed above and the wish to serve on a transit board as a transit advocate.

      1. I disagree completely about the idea that elections make people directly accountable to the voters. They make people directly accountable to the voters who scream the loudest in that it is human nature to want to protect what one has so directly-elected boards will pay the most attention to constituents who threaten to “rally the troops.” That’s both a feature and a bug of direct elections and for something like transit, I consider it a bug.

        Just because you want to be a transit advocate on a transit board doesn’t mean that having transit advocates on transit boards is the right way to go. I’d like to advocate for more funding to go to space but that doesn’t mean I have the first clue about how to run NASA.

        Also, your earlier point about “there was already a Tea Partier on the Island Transit board” and “she was making faces” when confronted with the idea of raising taxes (that is, more revenue). That is the LAST person I want to see elected to a transit board. It isn’t because I want to raise taxes all of the time for any reason but to have a person visibly opposed to what could very well be a reasonable course of action is not tenable. That said, based on King County TBD Prop 1, the Pierce County TBD election in 2011, or the first couple of attempts to pass Sound Transit, what do you think the likely outcome of putting districts directly in the control of voters, especially from areas like South or East King?

        Frankly, and I reiterate, direct elections of every little thing are a boondoggle not a feature (that Washington has the initiative and referendum capability is of questionable value to me). I elect representatives to look out for my interests, not have the ability of someone in Spokane to vote on whether Seattle has a $15 minimum wage or someone in Bellevue to vote on a board member responsible for region-wide projects. For the first, we have the Seattle City Council, for the second we have the three counties who agreed to form the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority. Those people are the ones running the joint; if we don’t like how they do it, we vote _them_ out, not layer yet another board or yet another election or yet another initiative on top.

        (Here’s my final thought on converting Sound Transit to an elected board: Why are people in the legislature who have been so vehemently anti-transit for so long the ones primarily pushing to make this change? If they think that it’s “good for transit,” why have they not done anything else “good for transit” until now?)

      2. lakecityrider,

        Sorry if I’m offending you by being late in response. Some pretty horrific news has broken regarding Island Transit last night that Island Transit is either on the verge of or already bankrupt.

        That said:

        I don’t consider it a bug for transit users to have a voice at the table. It’s a bug to me Island Transit users can’t serve on the board to help turn Island Transit around.

        Your NASA analogy is nice. Seems to me you have a technocratic bias and that’s great, but sadly most current elected officials serving on these boards just see transit as not a priority.

        I would prefer boards elected at-large rather than by district. We already have Tea Party folks on transit boards – at least once elected we transit users can hold them accountable.

        I’m sorry you’re against direct democracy. But direct democracy is the only way we get to vote on universal gun background checks and other controversial issues. Why? Most politicians are WIMPS who only care about getting reelected and if they can punt to voters, THEY WILL.

      3. I’m not a huge fan of having transit agency boards be directly elected. I think Metro Transit suffers too much from political interference from the County Council. One of the best run transit agencies in the state if not the entire country (Intercity Transit) has an appointed board.

        The disease of one small transit agency going off the rails does not need a cure that punishes many other agencies without the same problems.

      4. Thanks, Chris; that’s the exact point I’m trying to make. Direct democracy doesn’t solve everything or, when it comes to money and taxation, it doesn’t solve even a majority of things. We, as a populace, are bad at running a government and the people who set up our system of government knew this. (I’m not at all sorry that I don’t favor Washington’s initiative system, for what it’s worth, Joe.)

        Asking that Sound Transit’s board be directly elected as a consequence of Island Transit’s mismanagement is asking to undermine a district–Sound Transit–that has done many good things and survived political and financial problems of its own simply because another district couldn’t get it together. Nor has Sound Transit demonstrated the kind of staggering ineptitude that got IT where it is now. We didn’t ask to reconstruct Bellevue because Gold Bar fell to pieces.

        Joe, I get that you want to be a transit advocate on a transit board, but as someone who lives in and pays taxes to the Sound Transit district, I can’t see what good it would do us, nor do I have any wish to see even *more* conditions placed on a possible ST3 vote. In the end, Island Transit has a board that screwed the pooch. Make that a directly-elected board if you really want it, but leave Sound Transit alone.

      5. Chris, lakecityrider;

        I think both of you are right we shouldn’t let Island Transit be used to judge other transit agencies. I appreciate both of you do appreciate my desire to get into the good fight for transit, means a lot.

        Also I have few criticisms for and of Sound Transit. Most of which revolve around two things: Sounder North and wanting more WiFi on Sound Transit buses.

        But I would like to see ALL transit boards filled with transit advocates laser-focused on transit. Intercity Transit with some appointed citizen members, some elected and a labor rep might be an alternative I could support if we’d all rally around it. I also like the idea of a citizen advisory committee – but it seems that’s just for show up here at Skagit.

        Finally, I want to be clear: I’m all for making sure we have transit board members who actually use transit and advocate for it.

  2. What’s the Beyond Stupid (TM) land use policy around the naval station? And hasn’t south Whidbey been anti-navy for decades? (And anti-density and anti “those people” in the navy, which are all the same thing.) What are progressives riled up about, and why now?

  3. I can’t see any sane person believing that all the counties’ transit agencies are run like this. The libertarians will say it because they don’t believe any government can run efficiently, but their minds were already set.

    It does sound like Island Transit is at risk of just shutting down and then islanders would have no transit unti they do something else. The state could step in with something minimal, most likely for paratransit. But this is a legislature that couldn’t even pass a transportation bill or keep its promise to Metro for funding beyond the 2-year temporary measure. So I could see it never getting around to Island County’s transit situation.

    1. If Island Transits’ board is any indication of other transit board, all transit should be privatized. All of it. Let the profiteers come in and charge what they will.

      Vouchers can be issued from the cities, counties and state funds to users of whatever transit they choose, based on income.

      1. Something to consider but I could see many interests against a voucher

        Island Transit is the exception not the norm

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