King County Metro RapidRide 2013 New Flyer DE60LFR 6090

The Slog had a well-reported piece Sunday on whether or not Move Seattle is a “slush fund.” That’s a loaded choice of words by the opposition, meant to imply a lack of democratic or public process. If you think that implication is plausible, then this is your first month following Seattle politics.

To actually construct a measure that would neutralize this talking point, Seattle would have to write a package that literally could not adjust to changing conditions. If a federal grant were available but we had to provide matching funds — multiplying the return per dollar — or if growth skyrocketed along one particular corridor, SDOT could do nothing about it. It would be an idiotic way to run the city.

This is all part of a disturbing trend in local politics. Voters tightly constrict the expenditure of any block of revenue, limit the growth of the general fund, and then complain that worthwhile projects require special levies.

The best reason to think that levy funds won’t be “hijacked” into some grossly contrary purpose is that the Council and Mayor that direct these funds are accountable to the same voters. If you don’t think levy funds will go to worthwhile projects, them vote for a new mayor and council! You have an opportunity for the latter as early as tomorrow. This is how budgeting in a representative democracy is supposed to work.

That’s what’s really happening here: the Move Seattle opposition hates bikes and transit investment, and favors absolute primacy of the car. But they can’t win an election against the consensus ever so slowly turning the ship of state from absolute car dominance. So their hope is to sow enough fear, uncertainty, and doubt among well-meaning voters to deny our leaders the tools to do what we elected them to do.

104 Replies to ““Slush Funds” Used to be Called “Representative Democracy””

  1. I’m not a Faye fan and don’t like people that try to buy an election, but for the Mayor to say he ‘guarantees’ all the projects on the list will be built – really? It’s a 10 year levy.
    When was the last time an elected official was held accountable for promises made during their tenure after leaving office?

    1. So don’t vote for him.

      That there is an expectation that he provide the guarantee is the problem. Or maybe the problem is that he succumbed to that expectation.

    2. The real question is: who do you trust to best implement at least some of your priorities, with a reasonable efficiency.

      The way to the anarchic Tea Party rabbit hole is the reflexive answer of “nobody.”

    3. Who would be a better mayor? Schell, Nickels, McGinn, and Murray all seem(ed) pretty good and take(took) their responsibilities seriously, so I find it hard to buy the argument that we needed a change at any point.

      1. Schell, to the best of my knowledge, never did anything to push Light Rail or any other rapid mass transit for the city and Nickels undermined the monorail West Seattle to Ballard initiative and blew off any suggestions to expand LR to West Seattle. He also screwed the pooch on the snowstorm back in 2008. Also, neither Schell nor Nickels had any issues with Seattle’s Police accountability problems.

        McGinn showed a bit of a rubber spine on Police Accountability like his predecessors, however, he was an advocate of LR implementation all over the city.

        Jury is still out on Murray, in spite of his amorphous “regional” approach toward LR implementation.

    4. This is another tactic I find disreputable from transit opponents: Taking a project list or projection, and calling it a “promise”.

      The Mayor tried to avoid that trap this time, by providing a project priority list.

      1. He may have avoided that trap but he fell into the “people won’t vote for spending $1B if they aren’t assured of getting something” trap. And that is where I think Move Seattle goes to die. I am voting against it because the 8 was not one of the BRT corridors. I would have taken the chance on it getting built by voting yes if it were on the list. Especially instead of BRT a block from LINK.

        I don’t want SDOT to have flexibility, I want to know what I am getting for my money so I can judge whether or not the list of projects is good.

      2. I do not believe voting No will cause route 8 to get more priority treatments. I don’t see your logic here.

      3. Joe, if we already had the projects that are promised, what would there be left to fund? :)

      4. I do not believe voting No will cause route 8 to get more priority treatments. I don’t see your logic here.

        Spite, probably.

      5. The subtext is that the 8 is the only corridor that needs improvement or is worth paying for. That is either a distorted view of city needs, or somebody who lives, works, shops, and recreates along the 8 and doesn’t care about anything else. (That has been the argument for keeping the 2 unchanged, that it has a complete variety of destinations, and rewriting it would only detract from its usefulness and force transferring in an unsafe area.)

        “Promising” is what the Monorail tried by specifying the specific streets and station locations. That pinned down the measure too much, and precluded more detailed engineering reviews and public outreach before fixing the alignment and stations as ST does. ST specifically does not promise streets or station locations after seeing what happened with the monorail: the stations on the ballot map are essentially must-serve transit markets rather than specific locations or the maximum number of stations.

      6. Yes, I see your point that a promise would be more binding than a guarantee. Yeash!
        When politicians spew out that rhetoric, and agencies spend big bucks to have PR firms roll out their message, I generally vote no because I’m never sure how much is just BS and if the warts all got cosmetic surgery.
        There’s a reason congress has a trustworthiness factor nearing single digits.

      7. Districting. They only care what their constituents think about them. Thanks, for inflicting that on Seattle, Faye!

      8. I would vote for Move Seattle even if bus routes I use were not on the list, even if the routes I think were the most important to improve were not seeing improvement.

        I think this way because I know that every major bus route we improve mobility on improves getting around the city, increasing my access to the rest of the city I live in.

      9. It’s premature to guess the results of redistricting. The expected result was that councilmembers would vote parochially and NIMBYs and anti-growth activists would have more power, but we really won’t know the actual result until we see what the next council does, and the council after that.

      10. The logic is, why should I vote for such a huge levy that won’t benefit me at all? When Move Seattle fails, maybe what they come up with as a replacement will be better.

        If you want me to vote to spend money on something that may never happen, at least make sure something I want is on the list. People wouldn’t voluntarily donate more money for education but give them a slight chance of getting something that benefits them out of the deal and you get the lottery which makes money hand over fist.

      11. We just had a discussion about the difference between Skytrain and Link, and I said it comes down to the Vancouver’s starting point being “What kind of system would serve the most transit riders and best facilitate urban villages which is our priority?” vs our starting point being, “What’s the common denominator between what North King, South King, East King, Snohomish, and Pierce want?” Move Seattle is the city’s opinion of what the greatest needs are. Making Route 8 as a litmus test is equivalent to asking Pierce County what it wants and taking it as gospel even if it leads to a less-than-optimal overall network.

      12. I don’t want SDOT to have flexibility, I want to know what I am getting for my money so I can judge whether or not the list of projects is good.

        Not that it makes any difference since both of us already cast our ballots, but I voted yes because I do want SDOT to have flexibility and for all of the reasons Martin writes above. If the City Council and Mayor had the ability to do these kinds of levies without a public vote, I would be fine with that, again, because of what Martin writes about representative democracy.

        The people are very bad with the power of the purse and letting us have it, in addition to our legislators, makes these kinds of outcomes where our elected representatives can simply hide behind a vote. We elect these people to make the hard decisions on our behalf, explain to us why those decisions were made, and face our judgment of those decisions at the next election. If we’re so damn smart with running the city, county, or state finances through direct elections, why have a legislature in the first place?

        I voted yes because I trusted that the people for whom I voted were telling me the truth when they said that this levy is needed and important and because I trust them to execute it to the best of their ability. Evaluated against what was previously delivered in Bridging the Gap and balanced by economic factors not within local control, I believe that trust to be correctly placed. If it is not, I will reevaluate my choice at the next election for the people who made that declaration.

      13. The logic is, why should I vote for such a huge levy that won’t benefit me at all?

        I’m very glad to live in a world where straight people didn’t view LGBT rights policy they way you view transit policy.

      14. I agree with Mike. I agree with Martin. I agree with mic and Bailo. I agree with d. p. (I’ve contacted him via email). We all agree. When the hell has that ever happened?

        Seriously, you have some of the most opinionated, knowledgeable, argumentative people on Seattle Transit blogs all agreeing. You have the entire city council endorsing the measure! This isn’t that hard, people. Vote Yes.

        If not for fucking Tim Eyman, this would already be funded. Most cities across the country just fund this sort of thing. This is how they build things. This is how they maintain things. Of course the city will fix potholes on some other street before fixing the one next to your house. Get over it. Don’t be a Tim Eyman idiot and vote yes.

      15. Promising BRT on the 8 would be folly for the city – how could you create transit priority on that route everywhere it needs it without massive property acquisitions? Instead you should be fighting for light rail in a tunnel that serves a lot of the trips currently made on the 8 and an effective frequent feeder bus system to complement it. It would likely be pieces of some shorter routes, so delays would not be compounded.

    5. The discussion concerning using Move Seattle funds for Bertha cost overruns has been pretty weak. Somehow depending on the City Council to keep that from happening is not particularly assuring. I’d like to see some resolution to the current transit fiascoes before we embark on any new ones.

  2. “This is all part of a disturbing trend in local politics. Voters tightly constrict the expenditure of any block of revenue, limit the growth of the general fund, and then complain that worthwhile projects require special levies.”

    Not specifically local politics – the tax limit is a Washington State law. I doubt Seattle voters support a strict 1% tax limit. I’m more fiscally conservative than the average Seattle voter, but I think this limit is far too low. I’d be fine with ~5% per year or some inflation-linked formula. And I’d be fine with making some of these levies permanent – particularly 911 and the school operations levy. It is absurd that we have to actually vote on those.

    Unfortunately, there seems to be little interest in raising the actual limit, or even carving out an exemption for “cities with more than 500,000 residents” to allow Seattle to go it alone. I wish our politicians would focus on the root cause, not an endless stream of complicated temporary fixes.

    1. The 1% was specifically intended to shrink government over time, because inflation was running at 2% and had previously been 5%, and it hadn’t been 1% since the 1930s (or 2009, but that was after the initiative). We’ll see tomorrow if the 2/3 majority thing passes; I’m afraid it might because so many people will do anything to cut general taxes (as opposed to a specific tax that they might make an exception for). A gradually-decreasing funding supply is especially bad when the population is rising, need for services is increasing, and there’s a large backlog of deferred maintenance. But the people who support the tax decreases think there’s nothing in the budget that matters to them, and essentials can be funded by cutting out fluff (again meaning programs that don’t matter to them; or that do matter to them but they don’t acknowledge them).

    2. Why would you support a policy of limiting property tax growth by an inflationary factor? Do you not believe that communities can choose to invest more into themselves in real terms?

      1. Sorry, I didn’t make that very clear.

        I was thinking of a cap that factored in inflation and added a kicker, say inflation plus 2-3 percentage points. Whatever special levies were needed would be above that, but hopefully we’d have a lot fewer levies because basic needs could be funded with the regular collections.

        My reluctance to allow fully uncapped property taxes is that it removes an incentive for local governments to run efficiently. But the 1% cap is plainly the root problem here, so I think it can and should be raised or calculated differently.

      2. There are different tax ceilings operating simultaneously. The 1% ceiling is state spending. The city’s base property tax has its own ceiling, and it may be inflation-based. (I forgot about that above.) Then there’s a total property tax limit, which is the county’s, city’s, and levies combined.

    3. Maybe we are on the cusp of a deflationary spiral!

      That’ll teach Tiny Tim.

      And also our economic growth, but that’s a minor issue.

  3. Similarly, I find the call for more accountability a fig leaf of the highest proportions. What do these accountability crusaders want? Jail time for the mayor when a project goes over budget? The accountability comes from oversight committee reports plus the media during the election process, ultimately.

    It’s a fig leaf because Seattle people don’t want to admit they’re really anti-tax conservatives

    1. Anti-tax conservatives would not have voted for more Metro service or ST2. The rhetoric is by anti-tax conservatives and those who don’t think we need non-SOV investment, but the population as a whole believes differently from that. Even if Move Seattle fails, it won’t be for these reasons. It will be because of sticker shock at this particular proposal, or the other tax measures around it and anticipated next year, or that “promise” thing, or something like that. Not because Seattlites have suddenly gotten anti-tax-and-service religion.

    2. Seattle anti-tax conservatives? Really?
      I think this is less a anti-tax issue, it’s a issue with how this city spends it’s money and what it tells the tax payers.
      We also have a city that has consistently under represented the true cost of projects. (for example, take a look at the Times article about the SFD station rebuild project. Or the current seawall project)
      45% the money in this levy is Maintenance and Repair.
      32% for Congestion Relief
      22% for Safe Routes
      I suggest you read the League of Women Voters analysis and why they are recommending a No.

      1. The LWV no vote reasoning is laughable. Their argument boils down to “we don’t like levys doing basic maintenance, so vote no.” when they don’t even acknowledge that Eymen prop tax initiatives require levys to do basic maintenance.

        And maybe the LWV Seattle branch are anti-tax conservatives. I don’t recall ever reading anything about them until the anti-tax conservative types brought up their no-vote recommendation for Prop 1.

      2. Yeah, to my mind the focus on basic maintenance is a serious selling point. More common is politicians promising us shiny new stuff at the expense of basic maintenance. Prop 1 treats voters like adults.

      3. Most of the same critics would complain if it funded megaprojects instead of maintenance, saying that we can’t trust SDOT to spend general transportation dollars to do the maintenance. What it comes down to is that some people want to say no to taxes when they have they option, and will say no and find reasons to justify that choice. Saying no will not complete any projects any faster. Especially since we’re on the 3rd mayor and maybe 4th transportation director since the last levy.

    3. It’s a fig leaf because Seattle people don’t want to admit they’re really anti-tax conservatives

      Exactly. Many of these people aren’t idiots; they know you can’t control future costs with 100% accuracy. Insofar as it’s a critique made by people with a modicum of understanding of the constraints government agencies work under, it’s not an argument that can be made in good faith.

  4. So, help me here. Faye Garneau buys a new city council election system, complete with a map she paid for to be drawn. Then, she complains that Move Seattle is unaccountable because the spending decisions would be controlled by a body of officials elected through a system she designed, including in districts for which she got to decide the boundaries.

    What am I missing?

    1. How big are her crown jewels?

      I’m hoping that she’s like those senile shut-ins spending their kid’s inheritance on the Home Shopping Network, except she likes to buy politicians, and that they’ll shut her down when she can’t pay her credit card bill.

      But maybe not. How much property does she actually own?


        Answered my own question.

        “Garneau accumulated her wealth the old-fashioned way, working alongside her husband who opened several body shops in the neighborhood. Over a 53-year marriage, they invested in commercial property and, after his death in 2010, she created a foundation whose assets, as she sells off property, could total $20 million.”

        Sounds like finite resources. Cubic Zarconians, not diamonds.

      2. $20 million to buy out Faye’s properties, so she can retire to the mansion of her choice far away from bike lanes, sidewalks, and buses?

        Let’s do it!

        Issue councilmanic bonds, buy all her estates, and build high-rises!

      3. And given that Faye’s properties are centered on Aurora, that’s precisely where a countinuous row of TOD is most feasable and wouldn’t disturb anybody’s precious single-family house. The existing businesses could be incorporated, with housing above big-box stores. There’s also plenty of land for nonprofits to buy up a few parcels at a city-subsidized discount for existing low-budget small businesses and future startups. And the RapidRide stations are already there.

  5. I’ve been a supporter of Move Seattle, in one case failing (not for lack of effort!) to persuade my colleagues in a civic organization that went on record opposing the levy. But I can’t quite agree with Martin that lack of specific projects/commitments is a non-issue. This is a very large financial commitment, over a very long time, and one thing the levy DOES do is commit the city to collect the tax, and spend it in some fashion on transportation. So legislators do NOT have the scope to decide, for example, in 2020 that less spending is needed, or that it is needed instead for non-transportation items.

    If we are going to take those decisions (and responsibility!) out of the hands of legislators, then there IS a good argument for a specific project list. On balance, the announced plans, as far as they go, are in the right direction, and we are trapped by the consequences of anti-tax initiatives from truly giving that responsibility to legislators, so Move Seattle deserves our support. But the slush-fund criticism has some merit.

    1. Can’t future city councils decide not to collect the full amount authorized by voters?

      Realistically, this levy won’t run out of projects to fund, as our maintenance backlog is much longer than the priority list, we are way behind on the sidewalk network, and we are way behind on carving out some priority ROW and signalization for major transit corridors.

      One thing the campaign has not played up is the potential matching funds that the City will be able to go after, leveraging the money from this levy, potentially getting an overall 2-1 match of outside-to-local dollars. It’s an optimistic estimate, but we’d be dumb not to have our matching money in hand so we can go after those matches.

    2. It’s inconceivable that the city would run out of worthwhile projects to fund, since it covers only part of the known needs and backlog. In the hypothetical case that it runs out of transit/ped/bike projects, there’s a ton of missing sidewalks in north Seattle that would absorb any excess funds and still not be completed.

      And yes, I believe these levies “authorize” taxes; they don’t require the full amount to be collected. ST does not use all of its tax authority, partly to have flexibility (e.g., avoiding the unpopular MVET in ST3), and partly to have a reserve line of credit in case of emergencies or cost overruns.

      Also, legislators are not involved in Move Seattle. It’s a city project, so the relevant bodies are the city council and mayor. The legislature is responsible for the tax ceilings that the city and initiatives operate under, but that’s a larger-scale issue.

      1. Sorry for imprecise language – I understand the city council to be the legislative body for the city.

        And yes, deciding not to collect the full amount of tax would be a legislative decision, so I overstated my point. But deciding to underspend by a large amount would still be very unlikely, given the mandate, and (for Eyman reasons) the council could not on its own decide to tax instead for another purpose.

        The governance issue I’m complaining about is at the bottom due to the tax limitation that forces government-by-levy. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a governance issue. The size and duration of the levy was a negative for me that was outweighed by the need and the welcome direction. FWIW.

      2. Mike, forgive one more comment – the ST2 package included pretty specific project commitments. So when those commitments can be met at less expense than planned for, ST can quite naturally adjust to that by not exercising full tax authority, and perhaps even has a fiduciary responsibility to do so. I think this is actually strengthens the argument of those who think Move Seattle should have more commitments.

      3. “when those commitments can be met at less expense than planned for, ST can quite naturally adjust to that by not exercising full tax authority…” Um not really. Tell that to people in Federal Way. It would be helpful for Sound Transit to have more flexibility with projects; the reason we have a 145th station and not 130th is because the ballot language was so darn specific.

    3. Jim, there’s a world of difference between a lack of projects and a lack of commitments. The project list provides a very good indication of the kind of projects SDOT will deliver; I would be surprised if it weren’t substantially honored.

      But things happen,and it’s inappropriate to make it illegal to adjust the package.

  6. Seeing the same kinda crap against Community Transit Prop 1. I just hate them trolls up there, I so wanna sick an EA-18G Growler in afterburner on their sorry whiny crybaby butts.

    It’s a MUST-WIN GAME tomorrow night for CT Prop 1. Sad so many comment here, but so few sortie to the local newspapers. Looks to me like this is going to be too close for comfort.

    1. So, you’re the sort of conservative who wants better transit to leave more gas for jets? ;)

  7. I totally would vote for a new council or new mayor but 1) the mayor isn’t up for election this year and 2) my choices in the council elections aren’t going to make a difference. In district 6, we’ve likely got O’Brien coming back for another term — so more of the same-old-same-old. In the at-large positions, we’ve got some chance for some fresh blood, but nothing quite as hard-hitting as we really need. So, what are my choices now?

    Full disclosure: I’m voting yes on Move Seattle and I’m totally fine with voting for special levies that will build a specific project.

    1. In district 6, we’ve likely got O’Brien coming back for another term — so more of the same-old-same-old.

      In other words, voters are largely happy with the current consensus.

      1. I can’t really argue this point without making it seem like the entire voting public are a bunch of idiots. But what I don’t get is that Seattle politics has been like this for probably a hundred years. And people complain about it. Why don’t people get sick of it and throw the whole council out and start over? Is it just that Seattle is afraid of big change or is it that Seattle just likes to complain?

    2. You forgot to mention what’s wrong with the mayor or how fresh blood could make things better. Without specifics, the complaint seems kind of vacuous. (“Throw the bastards out and things will be fixed.” “Oh, what’s wrong with things and how will a new crop of politicians be better?” One might add, “How did that Tea Party change in Congress work out?”)

  8. I don’t think that’s fair, Martin…

    1) Like it or not, we’ve established through Parks and School building levies that voters here should expect to see a list of priority projects that will be built (often almost in priority order) to keep the spending “accountable.”

    2) Bridging the Gap made some promises of some significant projects in their campaign materials that were not only unfunded, but are appearing again in the new levy. so, supporters of those projects have good reason to be wary.

    3) This is not supposed to be an Operations levy, like some Schools levies, the recent Parks District, or even the County’s Starts for Kids on the same ballot. It’s supposed to be addressing more of the maintenance backlog that we couldn’t cover in BtG. I think it’s reasonable for folks to want to make sure it doesn’t become a “slush fund.”

    Unfortunately, the Mayor and others have campaigned on the “promise” of getting a number of these projects built, even though the levy either doesn’t fully fund them or they’re dependent on other entities to build. And they have made public comments which suggest that they purposely want the flexibility to fund other items as necessary. This isn’t about choosing the best projects and maintaining proper oversight. Don’t you think there’s some pretty wide-ranging flexibility in restricting to only three “pots” of money? Our City budgets are tighter than that.

    1. I agree with Mickymse. I feel disenfranchised when I’m painted as anti-bike anti-transit because I don’t support this initiative which provides funding for the same things that didn’t get done in the last round. I wouldn’t be reading this blog regularly if I was! Yet time and time again I see posts here and on other local new sites about how you must hate transit if you don’t support Move Seattle. It’s basically, write a blank check which we promise will meet your needs, don’t ask questions.

      Sorry I’ll continue to ask questions because I’m not convinced that the city of Seattle has a clue how to properly build out these things or manage them or the money. I have a great many examples of why I feel this way which I’ve mentioned in the past.

      1) Useless BAT lane painting north of the Aurora Bridge. It was financed and implemented before anyone in the city realized there were no buses that actually travel that corridor.
      2) 2nd Ave Bike lane gets added in a completely odd new design that makes no sense and which people have constantly said they don’t even use when they bike downtown because of it’s odd layout.
      3) 23rd Ave corridor is already over budget and includes multiple problems with SDOT and Seattle City Lihgt not properly communicating.
      4) First Hill Streetcar already years late and over budget because of manufacturing issues since SDOT insisted on battery powered cars to go up hills due to a lack of coordination with Metro.
      5) Bike lane on Broadway that goes unused because they didn’t properly lane separate it and inter mixed it with the first hill streetcar tracks.

      So let’s just give them another billion so they can rinse and repeat the same mistakes and make promises that under up never getting done. Oh but we’ll have a bunch of random thought up projects 5 years from now that go unused such as extra bike lanes that weren’t planned correctly, BAT lanes that are not even needed, and street redesigns that don’t actually move more people.

      1. This sounds like an argument to not trust SDOT, period. So then what? No city projects anymore?

      2. I feel disenfranchised when I’m painted as anti-bike anti-transit because I don’t support this initiative which provides funding for the same things that didn’t get done in the last round.

        “I feel disenfranchised” is such a weird phrase. You’ll be disenfranchised if you are prevented from casting a ballot. You want to cast a ballot against the best chance we’ve got to make significant improvements to our cities’ bike infrastructure, without that choice having any impact on how others view your “pro-bike” bona fides. But that’s obviously, transparently, an absurd expectation. To be enfranchised has never meant to be able to control how your vote effects how others see you; such an expectation can have no place in a deliberative democratic society. To state the blindingly obvious: of course, if you’re voting no, you just are anti-bike, for all intents and purposes. I don’t see why you should get credit for asserting you’d be pro-bike in some alternative universe with better, more transparent political processes, but you’re anti-bike in the actual world in which we live. Seattle bikers live in this world, not the one in which you’re pro-bike. Who cares if you have a pro-bike philosophy? This is politics, which means evaluating options and plans against the status quo/likely alternative scenarios not against some abstract ideal not presently on the table.

      3. Unfortunately these labels can be twisted and construed in some really tortured ways. I don’t think it is helpful to the overall discussion to conflate criticism of SDOT’s project management ability with being “anti-bike” or anything else. If anything, Move Seattle spends more money on cars, so voting no could also be construed (wrongly, IMO) as being “anti-car” as well.

        Also, not every transit supporter is politically “liberal” in the traditional sense. If we would prefer rigid ideological purity for transit support, I guess I can take a step back to allow the echo chamber to function properly.

      4. conflate criticism of SDOT’s project management ability with being “anti-bike” or anything else

        Criticizing SDOT is not anti-bike. Voting against Move Seattle, which contains lots of bike funding, because their management falls short, is. We’re not going to get a new SDOT. So if you oppose bike projects because SDOT will manage them you are functionally indistinguishable from a bike opponent.

      5. Also, not every transit supporter is politically “liberal” in the traditional sense.

        What good is your “support” if it doesn’t translate into a vote for more transit?

      6. 1) Seriously? A mistake costing a few hundred dollars that was fixed within 24 hours is a major argument against a billion-dollar capital levy?

      7. “what BAT lanes on Aurora are unused?!”

        The ones with cars parked in them, thanks to Faye’s lobbying.

      8. I feel like the comments for the Move Seattle articles are showing an odd “Fox News” style bias – many commenters basically implying that if someone doesn’t approve of this ONE particular ballot measure, which isn’t exactly a small one, that the person isn’t a transit supporter. It isn’t either/or. I’m finding the accusatory tones of some of the PRO supporters to be off putting (and I voted YES).

      9. “what BAT lanes on Aurora are unused?!”

        The “unused bus lanes” story is that during the RapidRide E implementation SDOT painted bus lanes on a stretch of northbound Aurora next to Green Lake, which no buses actually use in revenue service (it’s where the E Line is on the Linden deviation). It was, by any measure, a small and quickly corrected error.

      10. No conspiracy, it’s just that the decision to route the E on Linden was made after the lanes were painted. Originally it was going to run both ways on Aurora, but the neighborhood complained that they didn’t think the Aurora crosswalk next to the northbound stop was safe enough for everybody to cross, so Metro reverted the route to Linden.

      11. Al and Mike, thanks for the backstory. This was seriously a paint stripe for a few blocks that was easily changed. as for #2, more people are riding on 2nd than were before. #3 The scope of the 23rd project was changed to implement the Complete Streets policy the city has had on the books for 8 years #4 again, no streetcar funding in this levy, not sure how starving the government and firing staff improves coordination with metro on project delivery…

    2. 1) Seriously? A mistake costing a few hundred dollars that was fixed within 24 hours is a major argument against a billion-dollar capital levy?

  9. 1. Judging from the reputations of the city governments of several larger cities I’ve lived in, Seattle is so clean you can hear the “squeak” from, say, Chicago or New Orleans.

    2. From a couple decades transit politics I think that main obstacle to progress here is a widespread mentality that considers a firm decision from the person who’s being paid to decide, as a form of tyranny. Main obstacle to getting anybody better voted in.

    3. If my only objection to a measure is leaving out a favorite item of mine, I’ll generally think which vote will make it more or less likely my item will make the next ballot. Also, I’d keep my plan sharp, clean, and polished in case more money comes available.

    4. What percentage of the electorate can be depended upon to vote at all? This country’s founders, even the ones that owned slaves, intended that government be a machine more or less like Ben Franklin’s printing press, made to be operated by voters supervising skilled trades people. With a school system that trained and motivated citizens to fit their job descriptions by the time they turned voting age.

    Also, the fact that women got the vote in the same anti-corruption-and-drunken stupidity Progressive era proved in that though fat, inebriated, and brain-damaged, the Age of Reason was still alive. For veritably, it is Self Evident that women are Endowed by their Creator with the Unalienable ability to deal with mens’ inability to either Mop a bathroom Floor or aim well enough to prevent the Necessity.

    5. After all these years, why hasn’t one single voice from any quarter pointed out that the citizens who sank the tea in the harbor would have nailed their idiot mis-imitators into the barrels like Earl Grey gone stale?

    The people who won the war for independence- which to Europe definitely was a revolution- wrote measures into the Constitution for dealing with internal insurrection. Including by people raising arms and pitchforks against taxes levied by their own elected representatives!

    The “Well-regulated Militia” clause had items like this a lot more in mind than the right of the village idiot to fill up his own basement with gunpowder and grapeshot. In 1792, Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, a combat soldier in the Revolution, sent the army into the Appalachians to explain that freedom doesn’t mean murdering your freely-elected government’s Internal Revenue agents.

    The fact that after almost ten years both the citizenry and its media, Public Radio being the worst, has even noticed the discrepancy. Which belatedly proves Hamilton’s own Historically Documented belief that every citizen besides himself was a Moron..

    Mark Dublin

  10. “the Move Seattle opposition hates bikes and transit investment, and favors absolute primacy of the car.”

    So everyone who opposes this levy is now pro-car. I’ll value your opinion when you value others.

      1. Well Martin should have worded his opinion piece a little better then, since grouping everyone opposed to it into the actual campaign group is misleading.

      2. I think a link to a story about the no campaign’s funding, plus a clear context that they’re seeking mislead pro-transit, pro-bike voters into voting no, is pretty clear, although you apparently don’t think so.

        You’ve come up with a lot of criticisms of SDOT to justify your no vote. What would it take for a yes vote? What specifically, would SDOT have to do and for how long?

    1. A vote for Prop 1 is also a vote for continuing the pothole quick response program, a highly-acclaimed effective, but largely unnoticed and unappreciated element of the soon-to-expire BtG levy. So a Yes vote is also pro-car.

      1. Sorry, but I’m not big on the pothole response program. Streets in good repair get few if any potholes. Resurfacing city streets so they don’t get potholes, now that’s a priority. Bicycles and transit both depend on city streets for travel, not just automobiles.

      2. You’re right. And that is precisely why we should be proactive, not kick the can down the road so Faye can get lower taxes for a couple more years.

  11. ‘”Promising” is what the Monorail tried by specifying the specific streets and station locations. That pinned down the measure too much, and precluded more detailed engineering reviews and public outreach before fixing the alignment and stations as ST does.’

    Very sad and very true, Mike. In 2005, toward the end of the project, I started attending Board meetings regularly, because I thought the project had one realistic hope: A single elevated line from, say, the parking lot on the west side of King Street Station to around West Seattle Junction.

    Unfortunately, the Board insisted that ballot language absolutely forbade anything but building the whole line. Whether it could be financed or even built. Just as the design was locked into such details as not only elevated-a good idea-but number and material of the track. And rubber tires on the wheels.

    There are reasons other than engineers’ backward ignorance that the world has so few rubber tired monorail systems. However: this is not an argument that either elected politicians or engineers have the right to inflict their own prejudices on voters.

    Exactly the opposite: that as part of an education for citizenship in a democracy, every student should learn at least enough civil and mechanical engineering to understand, vote intelligently on, and oversee as a citizen, a project exactly like a citywide elevated rail system.

    Whose builders, at the drafting boards or under a hard-hat and ear-protectors, are never handed multiple-choice fill-in-the-bubble tests. No matter how loud bureaucrats and privatizers howl for them.

    Mark Dublin

    Mark Dublin

  12. “Also, not every transit supporter is politically “liberal” in the traditional sense. If we would prefer rigid ideological purity for transit support, I guess I can take a step back to allow the echo chamber to function properly.”


    The New Electric Railway Journal was far and away the late 20th century’s best periodical on exactly the level of public transit STB deals with.

    It was also the creation of the late Paul W. Weyrich, head of the Free Congress Foundation, which would have cut off King Louis XVI’s head for being a more dangerous radical than the famous French Revolution guillotine- advocate Maximilien Robespierre.

    Who actually did cut off the king’s head, but that’s for another posting. Paul Weyrich’s position was that this country’s explosive shift to private cars as its main form of public transit was the largest and most wasteful piece of socialism history has ever known.

    He therefore urged-and in one essay pretended to be a Spanish Inquisitor-that properly run light rail was the only truly conservative form of transportation. For those of us who use the words “conservative” and “liberal” to mean outlooks and approaches rather than political labels- he’s got a point.

    While he didn’t put heavy-rail such as BART or the New York subways in same category as Interstate highways, he felt that in some cases, LINK’s present approach of using different degrees of reservation on the same line was the best for both the money and passengers’ needs.

    The magazine, abbreviated “TNERJ”, also carried articles on all forms of electric transit. Putting me in a difficult political situation. In, I think, the Spring 1992 issue- it’s got some guys in a tunnel on the cover-my friend Jeff Doppmann and I got published with a defense and explanation of the DSTT.

    Thereby undoubtedly being listed on some Twittery Face-Book as noted right-wing authors. And since Paul’s dead, along with hands-on electric transit editors even older. we’ve got nobody to testify whether Louis or Maximilien would have got us.

    Check out TNERJ. I know the Internet will help you find it, and the whole world of SRB needs to start reading it.


    1. Typo. Don’t know what SRB stands for.

      Sir Robert Borden, the eighth Prime Minister of Canada?
      Sir Richard Branson, a British industrialist, known for his Virgin brand of companies?
      Daniel Srb, Croatian politician?
      Sonic’s Rendezvous Band, a rock and roll band from Ann Arbor, Michigan

      Personal Wikipedia favorites:

      Simulated rope break, a training maneuver for Glider (sailplane) pilots.”
      Also useful, incidentally, when you de-wire just east of the Ballard Locks and your right-hand trolley-pole rope wraps itself around a street-sign pole just as the retriever triggers. Though don’t think modern retrievers do that, do they?

      But best of all:

      “Solid rocket booster, such as those found on the US Space Shuttle.” Which unfortunately got struck from the Breda order, because it would have been the only way for the go-cart size diesel to get the coach to freeway speed.

      Though wonder how Daniel Srb looks at electric transit. Croatian capital Zagreb has streetcars. I think Sarajevo still has street rail and trolley buses as well. Ok- back to STB!


    1. Morgan, there’s a book everybody in this country needs to read before they leave middle school: “The Good Old Days- They Were Terrible!”

      Written by the founder of the Bettmann Archive, a huge collection of manuscripts and other literary items from centuries past, Otto Bettman published a compendium of contemporary newspaper articles, posters, and other reading familiar to average people in 1870 to 1890.

      Arranged in chapters by category, his book proves that by every single measure, especially corruption, crime, and abuse of children, life for most people in our country was worse than any of us can imagine.

      Nobody who didn’t experience the Great Depression-meaning even still alive- has ever seen anything go wrong with our country that inflicted life-changing hardship on our vast majority. Except for our soldiers killed and wounded, and their families, effect of World War II on the United States was to pull us out of the Depression and leave all our international competitors in ruins for a quarter century.

      Examples, incidentally, of real hardship the like of which we haven’t seen since the Civil War. Not a single hostile foreign boot-print on our soil since British marines burned DC in 1812. Not a single shell or aerial bomb. Same for our every succeeding war.

      The 911 attacks could just as easily been three simultaneous plane crashes. Miracle we have so few. And could also have been prevented by searching people for blades, and locking cockpit doors. Most important of all,though, we the American people were furious, but not thrown off our bearings one bit.

      So I really think at in the backs of our minds, both people and elected reps have, thank God, never seen any serious need to bother out representatives over anything they’re doing or not.

      Because as Otto Bettman’s book clearly illustrates, our every period of serious concerted political action takes place precisely when, and because, people’s trust in their elected officials has died the same violent death as members of their own families.

      So present depressingly stagnant scene this election: thank God for it! Disgusting as this campaign is, I wouldn’t wish a much more exciting one on anybody reading this.

      Mark Dublin

    2. Or we’re finding out that American freedom leads to oligarchy. If the founders really believed in unlimited campaign spending a la Citizens United, then it’s hard to include otherwise. Their concept of a voter was white male landowners, after all. Isn’t that an oligarchy?

  13. I totally agree with the proposition of this post. Representative democracy is better than promises of 10 year project lists never to change. Further, some of the items on the project list are brainstorms that have had *zero* public discussion, I would be very upset to find they are not negotiable at the implementation stage.

    ** But ** I also sympathize with the slush fund argument — because there is no mechanism in Seattle’s annual budget process to review the projects and priorities SDOT will pursue each year, and Seattle has a poor record engaging neighborhoods and citizens in projects at the point when input could make a difference. Seattle’s budget only addresses big projects as line items; other budget items are programmatic with no project list provided.

    I’ve long been involved in community councils and did two stints on one of the modal advisory boards – and during all that time I’ve never found the recipe for getting involved in projects before their recommendations are finalized or in project selection before they’re delivered. The net result is a sense that SDOT decides what it wants to do with little input or collaboration. So to me there is a trust issue, and it could be remedied through more proactive and collaborative engagement during project development processes and more open and transparent budgeting. Trust is built through collaboration and buy-in, not through inflexible ten-year project lists.

    1. Thanks, Rob. And Morgan, I didn’t mean to be dismissive. Especially since for this election, the fact that Dave Ross is no longer on the air makes the current toothless condition of public radio ghastlier than Donald Trump’s worst.

      In stagnant-seeming times like this, people with some technical knowledge- like a fair number on STB-or willing to learn some- can start developing plans as technically detailed as possible for the changes and projects we want to be ready to make happen in public transit. Whenever the time finally comes.

      Soils, ground water, geology, gradients. Structures and station architecture. Surrounding properties to be avoided or acquired. Recalling my dual-power tunnel with fury- detailed plans for minute to minute transit operations.

      Including first line worker training. Look at this like the underlay for exactly the platform the Democrats keep losing elections. Not broad and inclusive, but focused to shovel readiness before we publicly say word one.

      In my experience, professional engineers have sworn an oath like soldiers to tell politicians the truth about likely results of courses of action- but never to tell them what they should do.
      But if we can find enough transit engineers as pissed as we are about stagnation, we’ll promise them we won’t use their names when we speak with electeds.

      Instead of sweating public hearings with every decision already made- goal is to make SDOT come to meetings where the agenda is a lot broader, and very little under their control.

      So whenever the fans starts getting tell-tale brown spots, we already have every blade adjusted in the direction we want.

      Mark Dublin


    2. I am grateful for Rob’s efforts on various groups. But I don’t consider neighborhood or district councils to be my representative when it comes to “buy-in”. I prefer my elected representatives to be the ones who represent my interests.

      If we need the “buy-in” of every district council, we will never get it for pedestrian and bicycle safety projects from the Queen Anne Community Council. Indeed a longtime Queen Anne neighborhood activist who for years had called for more and more studies of the Nickerson St pedestrian safety improvements, changed his tune into saying “We repeatedly told the City not to do it.” during this campaign.

      1. Brent, it’s not a good idea to insult any citizen group. The people in these neighborhood organizations have often spent fortunes in their own doing the work, and really think they’re doing the right thing.

        But since these groups really don’t have very many members, it’s very likely that there are many residents in their neighborhoods who disagree with their conclusions.

        And no one can say it’s disrespectful or insulting for other neighborhood residents to hold their own meetings- with any elected official of their choice invited.


      2. Thanks Brent. I’d just say that revenue measures will fail unless the city’s willing to do the hard work to get community buy-in and support. And I think they should do that work. I have more faith than you do that real engagement results in better projects. If you get the bunker mentality that says neighborhoods = selfish closed minded anti transit nimbies, then you’ve already lost when you go out for public support and revenue. Seattle, and STB too, need more faith that engaging the community is a best practice, and that the public will support the best choice when given the chance.

      3. I don’t fear neighborhoods. I just don’t see the neighborhood associations as representing them.

        When I was in Lima, I saw what handing sovereign power over to neighborhood associations does. The transportation system is an incoherent patchwork mess. Granted, the neighborhood associations probably are more representative, since they have real power, and are elected.

        I suppose the point of getting association-by-association buy-in is because that is what is required to win a city bond election (though I don’t see that as at all clear, given how few voters actually participate in neighborhood associations, and how badly neighborhood association leaders did in the primary).

        It is not clear to me that getting votes of affirmation out of every association necessarily produces a superior final product. Rather, I think neighborhood associations should realize that when city staff visit them, staff is taking notes, and those notes get considered when drafting up a citywide project list. If city staff totally fails to show up at a neighborhood association, then the group has a legitimate claim they aren’t being heard. Other than that, it is disgruntled hyperbole.

  14. And should be: “Look at this like the underlay for exactly the platform the Democrats keep losing elections because they don’t have.” Including, at the level we’re working, wasting no time whatever on the political implications of the work.

    How much of this can any of us personally do? We’ve all got lives. But to me, this is the direction that will let people like us take best advantage of a situation where nobody else sees any advantage at all.


  15. Move Seattle is not a slush fund. You want to know what a slush fund looks like? Look at the NY/NJ Port Authority. The (bipartisan!) crook tag-team of Cuomo and Christie and PA leadership don’t even bother pretending anymore. The chronic (but it’s bipartisan corruption, so yay?) out-in-the-open corruption out there is one of the reasons so many of us got the hell out.

  16. The real fear is that property owners who benefit from infrastructure might actually have to pay in proportion to that benefit with fairly valued property taxes. Then it’s game over for the Longtimers and Fat Cats.

    All the rest is just Reefer Madness style scare tactics

  17. Very good post, Martin. I think a lot of people don’t understand this. It is important to remember that the mayor and every single member of the city council endorses this. It would be law right now in most cities in most states. But because of Tim Eyman initiatives, we have to vote on something that is normally simply enacted.

    We shouldn’t even be voting on this, any more than we should be voting on basic education. But we have to, and so the obvious vote is Yes.

    By the way, Martin and I disagree on a bunch of things. If you follow this blog closely, you know this. The man known here as “d.p.” and Martin used to fight like cats and dogs (until he was banned). I’ve contacted d. p. via email about this measure. All three of us support this measure enthusiastically.

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