Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos (D-Rainier Valley)

Last year Zach reported on a Republican bill in the legislature that would replace the current, appointed Sound Transit Board with an elected one. Politicians don’t mess with an agency’s governance when it’s on the right track, so we can only assume HB 1029 is an attempt to fundamentally change ST’s trajectory from the one voters approved last November. Zach’s post makes several cogent arguments why electing the Sound Transit board is a terrible idea, and links to a couple of my essays on the same subject.

The newest wrinkle is a Democrat, Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, who has joined seven Republicans to sponsor this bill (along with 8 senators – all Republicans – on the Senate version). What’s more, Rep. Santos represents the 37th District (CD/Rainier Valley/Skyway), the heart of the light rail system. 68.7% of 37th District voters voted yes for Prop 1., third among all districts. Voters there are broadly happy with the agency’s path, so it seems odd for Rep. Santos to cross party lines to pursue the longtime Republican objective of  disrupting Sound Transit’s progress.

Rep. Santos’s office did not respond to my request for comment. If you live in the 37th, as I do, you should contact her and let you know what you think about her sponsorship of this bill.

98 Replies to “SE Seattle Representative Sponsors Anti-Sound Transit Bill”

  1. This is incredibly surprising. Wow. The Rainier Valley is benefitting from Sound Transit and she wants to change how its run? Absurd.

    1. Southeast Seattle has long been less pro-transit than central Seattle, and more pro-car and P&Rs and less pro-density. There’s a pattern in Pugetopolis and across the US that lower-income, working-class areas think they can’t afford transit taxes or car-tab fees, and need cars and P&Rs to get to work. You look at Rainier Valley, Renton, and Des Moines, and see the same thing repeatedly, just differences of degree. Southeast Seattle voted for Mallahan, for the Deep-Bore Tunnel, against several Metro propositions over the years, and its ST3 vote was probably less than other precincts. This is also the area where Save Our Valley opposed light rail and wanted P&Rs for it, and where Mt Baker got only the tiniest of upzones, and the residents east of the high school won’t hear about upzoning their houses there.

    2. It’s pretty obvious her grudge against ST is related to those RPZs the city set up near Link stations – but that misguided hardcore NIMBYs blamed on Sound Transit.

      Blatant examples of political pandering like this make people cynical about politics.

      God knows Santos has bigger issues than “100% free parking” going on in her district

    3. Maybe an elected board would not have floated a bloated $53b measure that increases 3 taxes for decades and does nothing to fix the problem. Maybe not as well. The Seattle City Council is elected and it has become totally unhinged; homeless everywhere, “democracy vouchers”, avowed socialists, shooting galleries, SDOT destroying the ability to move around the city, elimination of parking on a nearlybrandom basis, pot holes that destroy bikes, cars and lives.

      1. Thank for illustrating the kind of viewpoint that an elected board would actually empower.

      2. Lukey, ain’t it the truth. Property values are simply TANKING in Seattle because of all the dysfunction.

      3. I liked the part about elected city councils causing homelessness. The reason we have homeless is the skyrocketing housing prices and the fact that the community mental health facilities that Reagan said would replace the inpatient institutions don’t exist.

  2. >> Voters there are broadly happy with the agency’s path

    Says who? The voting on ST3 largely followed the left/right divide. Areas that will get nothing out of it still voted overwhelmingly for the proposal, in part because they saw no alternative. There was no discussion or vote on other options. At least the viaduct replacement proposal gave the voters three choices (even though the wishes of the voters were ignored).

    Her district got practically nothing out of ST3, unless you think folks there are thrilled that they finally get a 30 minute ride to Federal Way. Maybe they don’t want to wait 20 years for a simple, street level station on Graham. Maybe people in Rainier Valley want better service to the Central Area (an area she represents). Perhaps something like the Metro 8 subway, which would outperform 80% of the ST3 projects by any meaningful metric (such as time saved per dollar spent). Or maybe she just wants a board that will actually study such things, instead of simply picking arbitrary lines on the map and saying “wouldn’t that look pretty”.

    Every time I said the ST3 projects were terrible, the strongest counter-argument people made was that we had no choice. These are the political realities. You can’t change the way the board thinks, so you either have to accept the proposal, or live with nothing. Well, this is an attempt to change the board. Of course it could backfire, and we could get something worse. At this point, I’ll take my chances.

    1. You also voted “no”, which means that you are maybe not the best person to divine the state of mind of people who voted yes. If they thought all the stuff you describe was basically worthless, as you suggest, they always had the choice to vote no. But two-thirds of them voted yes.

      If you could have learned anything from last year, it’s that most voters don’t share your particular policy micro-priorities.

      1. Meh, as someone who voted yes (but not in her district) for ST3 because there were no other options, ST surveys (which polled all the different Ballard options) indicated the most popular vote getter was Ballard to UW (second only to West Seattle, which had only one option listed). Yet, we wind up with the Interbay option in order to scoop up Expedia and Amazon.

        Would an elected board have selected Ballard to UW–which could have been built faster than the current Interbay routing (and ignoring SDOT’s radioactive Ron Kubly)? Or would Amazon and Expedia pour campaign funds/free X Boxes into the reelection campaign of mythical ST Board member mdnative in order to get the current routing that will take 20 years?

      2. I never said it was worthless, I said we could do better — a lot better. But I am the first to admit that voting no as a means to do better is a risky strategy, we could end up with nothing, or something worse.

        I talked to a lot of people who voted yes. Very few of them knew the particulars of the projects. They simply support transit, especially light rail. You would be hard pressed to find people, for example, that said they supported this plan even though they liked a lot of the other proposals better. Because most people were simply unaware of the other proposals. There was no real debate. The Stranger wrote article after article about how great light rail is, yet there was nothing in there about what we should build next. Put it this way — how many people who supported this measure could even mention projects like the Metro 8 subway? Most simply voted (and I quote my friend) “with The Stranger”, which meant they voted yes.

      3. I’m happy with the ST board as it is, but if Olympia politics mandates a change, I would suggest a combined board composed of 9 members appointed under the current mechanism and 9 elected from single-member districts, + the WSDOT secretary. Keep the interlocal cooperation provided by the current system but add the accountability measures that people perceive from direct elections.

      4. Maybe some of you need to understand what the 37th District boundaries are.

        The CD and Renton are also in the district, and ST3 threw them bones (an already partly-funded Madison BRT which is on the edge of the district and a giant Renton garage which is more strategic to users south of the 37th District) but no rail station except for Graham, which was halfway promised already before the vote. In preparing for ST3, ST told Renton residents that they have to go through TIBS and Burien and then West Seattle for a direct ride to Downtown Seattle as their only studied rail route alignment, and ST summarily dismissed trying to get rail between Renton and Bellevue through an already-congested 405/ERC corridor by not trying to optimize any alternatives like stopping in Factoria and requiring transfers at Wilburton — yet ST supported 7 miles of rail to an uncongested I-90 corridor to Issaquah instead, which is taking lots of the Eastside subarea funding.

        These things affect interests in Santos’ district. You have to be pretty naïve if you think that this 37th District neglect and derision wouldn’t come up in the community.

      5. Also as Marten said in a podcast, Rainier Valley has already “got theirs” with light rail . It’s not like it was going to get a second line when other neighborhoods have nothing.

      6. Under that logic, Mike, you could also say that Ballard, Fremont and Lake City also “got theirs” because we’re building Northgate Link. There are many parts of the 37th District that are at least 1.5 miles — if not 2 or 3 miles — from an existing or proposed Link station. On top of that North Seattle gets a tunnel while SE Seattle gets surface rail. Your “got theirs” argument is invalid as it applies to the entire district here.

      7. No, Rainier Valley has had light rail right in the valley since 2008. That’s not remotely comparable to Ballard or Lake City. Ballard’s closest station before ST3 was three miles away in the U-District, and Lake City’s was Northgate and 145th. 130th Station does not “serve” Ballard any more than the 520 flyer station serves the U-District and the 70th & 405 flyer station serves Kirkland. They’re stopgaps for desperate passengers during times of skeletal service, nothing more.

    2. [ah]

      Her district got practically nothing out of ST3, unless you think folks there are thrilled that they finally get a 30 minute ride to Federal Way.

      Yeah, practically nothing. Except a new station and improved access to First Hill, SLU, Ballard, West Seattle, Redmond, etc. Plus added reliability thanks to the second downtown tunnel.

      Aside from all that, yeah, practically nothing. Which is why it failed in the 36th.

      Oh wait, it didn’t, it passed my more than a supermajority.

      1. First Hill? A First Hill station was part of ST1, but ST killed it. Do you mean the First Hill BRT? That is a Seattle project, and would have happened anyway. Same with the Graham Street station. Yes, it is nice that pennies on the dollar are being spent on these projects, but they would have been built anyway (because they are cheap).

        West Seattle? Have you ever tried to get to West Seattle from SoDo? Pretty easy, actually. You don’t need a train to avoid traffic because the only traffic that is a problem is for folks who leave West Seattle in the morning. So now people from, say, Rainier Valley, will have a three seat ride to their destination in West Seattle, instead of two. Yippee!

        OK, it will be easier to get to Ballard. No one is disputing that. But added reliability? What a joke. It really isn’t hard to send trains through a tunnel every three minutes.

        Compare what was built to what The Urbanist proposed just for Seattle. Ignore the great trains to far off lands, and just build the Metro 8 + Ballard to UW + a bunch of buses in the suburbs. Don’t you think that would be better for her district, as well as the area as a whole? Don’t you think it is possible that she wonders why areas like West Seattle get a starter line, when areas that are more densely populated — in her district — don’t?

        Oh, and as far as areas that benefit voting for it, compare the voting maps with the project map. Densely populated, more urban areas voted overwhelmingly in favor of this, while suburban areas — even ones very close to the new stations — did not. The vote had nothing to do with the particular projects. You could have simply had a generic ballot — spend 50 billion on mass transit, we”ll tell you later what it will be for — and you would have had the same result.

      2. There are already “a bunch of buses in the suburbs” and the results are — ahem — “unexciting”. Your proposal would always have been Dead on Arrival and the autoistas would have been dancing on its grave.

      3. There are two major problems with the regional buses in the suburbs: their infrequency and unreliability. Link will increase the off-peak frequency by 66% to 600%, extend the span, and make departures and travel times more predictable. By regional buses I’m including routes like the 150 and 255. Local buses like the 180 and 164 are more punctual because there’s less congestion but their service level is still limited. Of course we can add six times more buses but we can’t increase reliability without HOV 3+ lanes on the freeway, which is outside ST’s or King County’s control.

    3. Connections to other places are a huge benefit to people living in Rainier Valley. A one seat ride to Federal Way or Northgate might be valuable to some. An easy transfer to Ballard, West Seattle, or Bellevue might be valuable to others. And even better all of that future connectivity doesn’t even require further construction in the valley.

      1. >> Connections to other places are a huge benefit to people living in Rainier Valley.

        No one is disputing that, but ST3 added very little in the way of improving those connections. Ballard is pretty much it. Northgate and Bellevue were part of ST2. It will likely be slower to get to most of West Seattle then it would be if they just beefed up the bus service. You are forcing a transfer for people that actually never experienced much of a traffic problem (getting to the peninsula is easy, it is getting from it in the morning where you experience congestion). So, yeah, they get Ballard — which everyone (including me) says is the only decent project with ST3. That is why I said “practically nothing”. One of the most densely populated parts of the state gets a faster ride to Ballard — nice, but not exactly what is appropriate for the area. They should have gotten a lot more.

      2. And SLU, and Lower Queen Anne, and Federal Way — all of which will be far better than with existing buses.

      3. To be clear that the ST3 train configuration will require a two-seat ride from RV to Northgate. Riders will have to switch trains at SODO, Stadium, IDS or Westlake.

    4. “Areas that will get nothing out of it still voted overwhelmingly for the proposal, in part because they saw no alternative.”

      As you know, I live in an area that will benefit from ST3 (in 15 years), but if the 130th station wasn’t included, I would still have voted for ST3. There’s a thing called “greater good of the society.”

  3. I realize that the STB editorial board is generally against a directly elected board, but euphemistically calling it “anti-Sound Transit” is crazy, borderline click-bait. It makes it sound like a Tim Eyman measure. Personally I would have loved to elect a board that cares about working escalators, or puts Federal Way Link near people and not freeways. Are you going to call me anti-Sound Transit?

    1. Look at the other sponsors, and tell me that this group has the best interests of quality rail transit at heart.

      I would also to love to have a board that matches my precise policy preferences. But that is not what this bill does — other people get a vote, too.

      1. Look at the people supporting this rather than the content, and make your decisions based on an ad-hominem fallacy. This is why bipartisanship is dead.

      2. If you want a substantive rebuke of the idea, you could clink on any of the linked posts. But if none of the legislators with a record of caring at all about transit issues are nowhere near this bill, that’s a pretty strong indicator.

      3. Richard;

        I grately admire Martin H. Duke for his service to country and then to the transit community. Definitely TCC Hall of Fame.

        But I think fearmongering is not going to work with me. I want my local board elected. I talked to one of the key voices for this and the plan is ST first, then the other transit boards.

        I’ve got my issues with SB 5001. See please.

        So I’m neutral on the bill. But we need transit boards elected and directly accountable. Otherwise, a bunch of insulated technocrats are gonna do whatevah to us.

    2. Considering that elected transit boards tend to turn transit agencies into political boondoggles, where even getting simple things like maintenance can be an uphill battle, then yeah I would call HB 1029 an “anti-ST” bill.

      An elected board is not going to magically make the alignments better or fix the escalators. Hell, the reason for the lackluster alignments north of Northgate and south of Kent-Des Moines is BECAUSE of political pressure.

      The current board may not make the best choices in some situations, but at least they are making choices and moving forward.

      1. But at least there is a debate. The problem I have with Sound Transit is that no one is chosen for the board based on positions they hold on transit. Not a single member has to explain their philosophy towards transit, let alone what they consider their priority. They never even bother with mentioning transit, because it really isn’t part of their main job. Dow Constantine – the chairman of the Sound Transit board — is also the King County Executive. That means he overseas enormous budgets, and can’t possibly be bothered with figuring out what makes sense for transit and what doesn’t. All he basically does is go around to each area, and ask “what do you want’, and those representatives are as ignorant as him. How else do you think we end up with silly projects like Issaquah light rail before we even bother to fund a study on a Metro 8 subway?

        The debate happens here, but at the end of the day, it is meaningless, because no one actually runs on these issues. Electing a board might mean we get people who are worse, but at least we would have the opportunity to elect people that are better.

        I also find it bizarre that folks are sure that we are going to elect an anti-transit board, when people obviously are pro-transit when it comes to voting for projects.

      2. Even if not a majority, a few boardmembers fundamentally disinterested in spending money on transit can do a lot of damage.

        Moreover, all it takes is an election at the moment Sound Transit is least popular to derail the project.

        Moreover, I’m curious why you believe that having board members elected from suburban districts will result in less suburban invesment.

      3. I have no problem with suburban investment. I have problems with silly suburban investments. If someone in the suburbs runs on a “more buses, less rail” platform, that sounds good to me. That would mean better bus service in Snohomish County, instead of light rail to Marysville, for example.

      4. “light rail to Marysville”

        LOL! LOL! LOL!

        Everett Station is a lot more south and actually in the Sound Transit District.

        That said, I support the principle of elected transit boards. I think SB 5001 is problematic.

      5. The ST district ends at Everett and Mill Creek. However, annexing Marysville is an issue that the board will likely face in 10-20 years, around the same time that a new board structure would be in place. Marysville is the fastest-growing area outside the ST district, and it’s comparable to parts of Pierce County that are inside (Spanaway, Bonney Lake). It’s a legitimate question whether this imbalance is tolerable, and whether it’s wise to leave Marysville, Snohomish, and Monroe without a regional transit plan when they’re growing so much. That kind of growth without transit is what caused the car-dependent mess in Canyon Park.

      6. Mike;

        My only problem with Marysville joining the ST District is all ST could do for them is either extend Sounder North or provide the same express buses CT does to Everett. But if Marysville folks want in, I’d be very happy at the ideal of bringing more ST awesomeness to more people!



      7. OK. “Light rail to Marysville” is simply an allegory — a continuation of the absurd, mixed up priories of an agency equally adept at screwing over suburban areas as urban ones. Here are some projects that will likely be coming down the pike:

        I-405 Light Rail — This fits the model to a ‘T’. Traffic is terrible, this looks great on a map — the obvious answer is light rail.

        SR 520 Light Rail — Traffic isn’t an issue (the buses run just fine here), but it looks great on a map. Since mileage equals quality in the eyes of Sound Transit, you can pretty much bet on it.

        I don’t know about the former, but ST3 actually funded the study of the latter. So rather than build things that would benefit thousands of people now, they want to work for years building completely unnecessary projects that if built will only benefit a handful. Ah, progress.

      8. RossB;

        Thanks for clearing up the light rail to Marysville piece. I’d rather ST4 be Seattle-centric and funded by Seattle for Seattle.

        Light rail for I-405? Where’s the demand?

        SR 520 Light Rail? Agree, not so sure that’s a great idea.


      9. Ross is back, geez.

        The legislature set up ST this way on purpose, to get things done. It was well aware of Seattle process and the inertia that can build against anything happening, and it specifically wanted to avoid that trap. So the revenues were made subject to voter approval, to be over seen by a federated board. It’s hard to argue their intent hasn’t played out as planned: ST is building a mass transit system that connects the centers where regional and local land use plans are channeling employment and residential growth. Success, for which many will never get due credit.

        The structure is one of the reasons Oly was so pissed off when things went bad initially: they couldn’t get at the agency or the board they had created to administer punishment. Instead, everyone had to endure the bumpy ride while ST righted the ship and delivered the first segment, and then the successes began to snowball. Next ST fought and won the war to have mass transit serve the east side, and now they’ve leveraged that success into a system that will serve the whole region. That was the original intent of the statute, the Joint Regional Policy committee’s original Long Range Plan, and each successive PSRC plan since. And lo and behold, the legislature recognized this and doubled down on revenue authority in 2015. Why? Because unlike so many other things in government, they rightly saw a high functioning institution that was actually working.

        Now you don’t like that, because you think it’s too expensive and doesn’t go to the right places. I don’t agree. The lines go exactly where the region is planning for the people to be, now and in the future. 30, 40, 50 years from now it will be seen as a drop in the bucket.

        As to the governance of the agency, you charge they aren’t asked for their views, or don’t know enough to ask the right questions. That’s not true. Half the transit board must be made up of members of the local transit boards, and you know this. That’s nine board members plus the DOT Secretary (and the current one is pretty darn good), with direct expertise directing policy and planning for five other transportation agencies.

        Your alternative is something cheaper, sooner, better. So easy to be a member of the skeptics caucus when you’re not actually accountable for doing anything real. Graham St is cheap and easy, you say. That’s just plain wrong. It may look easy because it’s on the surface. But it’s a very complicated puzzle that requires reversing prior decisions by the city and ST, buying out property on each corner of the intersection, relocating the businesses, demolishing and re-building brand new street, rail, and utility infrastructure, disrupting service in the process, and then rebuilding the streets, the rail line, utilities and systems, and the new station. Not easy, and not fast. And that whole debate misses the fact that the neighborhood never wanted a station in the first place. Only after they saw trains going by for a few years did the change of heart settle in.

        You say Graham and Madison would happen anyway. Wrong again. Move Seattle doesn’t come close to funding either, and the city doesn’t have a source to fill the gaps. And FTA is skeptical of Madison because it isn’t grade-separated on half the corridor. So, no, it is not going to happen anyway, especially without a significant regional contribution.

        You say a better plan would be an east-west subway and more buses in the burbs. Well guess what? Seattle could never afford a subway on its own, and the suburbs don’t want buses. They live with that awful traffic every day; would you rather sit on a crowded crawling bus for more than an hour, or your own, air conditioned, music filled car? The answer is neither; excepting the 1%-ers, they want grade separated rail.

        So what we have is a compromise: a regional body capable of raising and deploying the capital required to deliver major infrastructure on a game-changing scale. It seems to me you’re unwilling to accept that compromise as valid, which is either a failure of imagination in being unable to see the bigger picture common good, or just a self-imposed limitation driven by your own day-to-day experience of the transit system. My advice is lift up your head and show a little empathy toward others. There are millions of people in this region trying to get by, hundreds of thousands of commuters whose trips are the worst part of their day. We’re growing in leaps and bounds, which will only make these challenges worse.

        We can either live with it, and keeping playing small ball and falling further and further behind the mobility curve, or we can change the game. It is in the history and the culture and the DNA of this region to always change the game. Thank goodness.

      10. “the neighborhood never wanted a station in the first place”

        The neighborhood wanted the station all along. ST deferred it due to cost; it didn’t fit into the original ST1 budget. It remained as a deferred station on the map for a long time and then was removed when it didn’t look like it would happen. But the neighborhood wanted it because it’s over a half-mile walk to Othello and longer to Columbia City., and as a small commercial hub it should have a station.

      11. Ross, because people like Kemper Freeman and auto mega-dealer will buy all the seats needed to control the board.

        You are by no means a stupid man, but were you born yesterday?

      12. Yeah we all know how the last time Kemper Freeman tried to stop Sound Transit worked out?

        OK, we know.

        Sound Transit Board Chair Dow Constantine: “This election offered voters a choice between the gridlocked status quo and creating a transit network that will rival any in the world. Tonight, our region chose to move forward with a rail system connecting millions of people in communities across three counties. This milestone moment in our history will help ensure we can continue to grow our economy, protect our environment, and improve our quality of life, now and for generations to come.”

        Yeah, so please don’t invoke Kemper Freeman to me. Or anybody else.

        Frankly I’d be more worried about Alex Tsimerman getting more democracy vouchers. You know that guy who harangues the Sound Transit Board:

      13. Rapid, and Roger, I think you remember when King County took over Metro in 1992. And the campaign that led up to it. Because I think we’ve got a perfect cased study of an appointed board going elected. What does everybody think of the results to date?

        Mark Dublin

  4. I don’t understand Democrats in this state. Basically a disguise for NIMBYism. The state obsession with direct democracy keeps us from thinking about electing good leaders for our legislative offices.

  5. Do we fear an elected board can say, no light rail to Issaquah, West Seattle or Paine Field? (I don’t think that could happen).

    Do we fear elected board might want to do politically popular things like extend weekend hours or a freeze on fare increases which could result in a WMATA service issue/maintenance problem? Possibly.

    1. I think it is unlikely that any project that passed with ST3 will be killed. Delayed indefinitely (as with previous projects) sure, but not killed. But a board could, for example, change the order in which things are built. So, for example, you could build the infill stations Graham and 130th) a lot sooner.

    2. So, shake up the furniture by changing the governance model. It doesn’t matter what the shake-up is. Just shake it up for the sake of shaking it up because the current board is isn’t following Ross’s priorities. That reason in itself helps sell me on the status quo.

      And then, somehow, the shake-up will magically lead to Ross calling the shots. Definitely not happening, thankfully.

  6. Thank you for the heads up and providing a link to contact her. I voted for her in the last election, and this position came out of a blue. I have just sent a request to her and asked to provide public with rationale behind her support for this bill.

    1. Yes, the first thing to do is find out what’s her motivation for this and whether it’s similar to her positions on other issues. It’s possible she’s generally conservative, or is mad about a particular ST policy, or somebody told her an unrealistic story of what an elected board would accomplish, or she just feels strongly about elected boards like some Joe or another does.

  7. ST3 and its projects and alignments are the horse out of the barn. Is it late to discuss the governance door. What future decision making would improve? I like Santos; we do not know her rationale. Governance discussions are about the mechanics of politics. All public policy includes politics. ST3 was quite political. RossB objected to its lack of analysis and to its projects, but he is clearly strongly pro transit. The three-county federated governance structure has had a major influence on the ST programs.

    1. I agree, ST3 is a done deal. To try to change ST3 in any fundamental way is going to alienate the rabid ST fan base, turn voters against Sound Transit and frighten bond holders.

      That said, I think before we start any talk of ST4 now is the time to change the governance structure of transit boards. I don’t like anything that picks on Sound Transit, but in general transit boards need to be elected and accountable for the sales tax + fares (and in the case of ST, other revenue sources) obtained from voters.

      1. eddiew, we both remember why my brain always sees “Governance” as a four letter word for bodily functions best left unmentioned. At the time when the Tunnel project most needed prompt decisions, that Godawful (well at least it’s got a “G”) word was the one word answer from every transit official with very few exceptions.

        Remember a Breda technician telling me: “This bus is not a Breda! But we can’t get the decision we need about the design.” Drive it and weep. For the next thirty years. We’re lucky both machines aren’t still stuck under around Century Square. eddie, tell everybody about the South African granite. No, it wasn’t a cave-in, but did more damage than if it had been.

        And Joe, please tell me how you think a directly elected board will handle a situation where two members’ constituents demand opposite things on questions on any level, from paint trim to whole transit philosophy. Seems to me bus routing to the new Capitol Hill Station had some problems over constituent demands.

        The exact same problems an appointed board will face. Except that since the board together are responsible for results, it might be easier to reach necessary compromises with fewest problems. Also remember that appointees here are already elected to city or county offices- and transit is part of their duties.

        Think it over and get back to me. Might be good to talk to Dow about this. After all these years, I think he’ll give you good answers. Maybe you can do an interview with him, and bring this up. Except please, please, please call it “Just Running It!” or something like that. Reason for “-ment” change was probably somebody couldn’t get a decision out of “nance” before a saber tooth tiger ate him.

        Same for icon of a sick folder saying “Program Unresponsive” with tempting option to kill it. Somebody save a poor sick folder from documenticide and us what’s going on?


  8. I just called her office & left a message. You have to call the 360 number listed under the “contact” tab and not the 206 number. Told her that she’s representing a district incredibly poorly that voted for transit by 50 points and asked for a call back. I’ll probably call again this afternoon and encourage everyone to do so – it’s easy!

    1. Tried the 360 number, got voicemail, left message expressing displeasure.

      It was easy, but didn’t seem very empowering.

      1. Zach and psd, answer is that 360 is area code for Olympia. Where Governmental phone connection is usually blocked by the used containment dome from Chernobyl. Putting it on those Greek pillars after the Nisqually quake probably made it leak even more radiation from the Dome’s three thousand year half-life contents.

        Might try a hand-written letter just to let your representativesknow that you know where they work. If you try to do it on transit, you’ll have material for a great posting why Sounder should run to Olympia. You’ll have plenty of time to write it without the shaking of a bus in motion.


  9. If ST board members don’t want to see bills like this, they better quit merely congratulating themselves in front of a grand opening tape. They are now responsible for running trains on a daily basis and they are still approaching management like it’s still a building agency. Just the amount of inability to make a more public stand on escalator failures and deficiencies shows how spineless board participation is when it comes to operations.

    Rather than blame Santos, the question should be what are current board members doing wrong, if anything. Then the question about an elected board can be assessed on how effective it will be.

    1. Well said. I think it’s time we had STB Commentators on the ST Board. I “get it” Martin H. Duke wants to be the “Steve Raible of Transit” (my phrase) instead of the next Dow Constantine and I respect that, but some of us should have a friendly hand-off of governing duties.

      1. The fact that you think leaving some comments on a blog post qualifies someone to be on the board of a billion dollar transit agency just proves the point that direct elections are a bad idea.

        Having elected representatives from the localities provides a crucial link between Sound Transit and the cities and towns where they build and operate transit. Removing that link makes inter-agency squabbling a certainty.

      2. What is the problem that Santos is getting at?

        How about giving Santos a few days to respond to why she is supporting this before summarily trashing her?

        We see what instant political criticism is doing at the national level, and we should refrain from outrage about things like this because it’s not like it’s going to be an instant executive action.

      3. How about giving Santos a few days to respond to why she is supporting this before summarily trashing her?

        I separately sent her both a constituent message and a media inquiry on Friday morning, and sat on this story until Tuesday morning to give her a chance to state her side of the story. There was no response.

        The story’s been on STB for over 24 hours and I still have absolutely nothing from her office. So they are either ignorant, disorganized, or just don’t care.

      4. There is no way in HTML to SHOUT LOUDLY ENOUGH how ill-informed you are to think that any “STB commenter” could get within 50 percentage points of winning a Sound Transit Board seat.

        Do you know nothing about politics? Democrats win general election seats in Puget Sound because Republicans insult and offend the young and increasingly non-Caucasian electorate in the regions. So people who don’t insult them or even better come from those communities, win.

        But obscure technocratic “board” positions such as Port of Portland Commissioner are seething cauldrons of in-group back-scratching because people think they don’t matter or vote for the biggest spender. The sprawl-developers and auto dealers would have a death grip on such an “independent” board. That’s the reason for the $10,000 limit. No actual experts need apply; only paid-in-full puppets are welcome.

      5. Richard;

        You are so contradictory.

        “people who don’t insult them or even better come from those communities, win.”

        Well who do you think will make up these transit boards?

        Guys like us.

        “The sprawl-developers and auto dealers would have a death grip on such an “independent” board.”

        Oh really? They tried to sink ST3 + Community Transit Prop 1 and what happened exactly? Let me quote the Seattle Transit Blog headlines:

        ST3: Puget Sound Votes Yes on ST3

        Community Transit Prop 1: Election Results: A Great Night for Transit

        “the reason for the $10,000 limit.”

        To be brutally honest, I don’t like the compensation package. It would at the least require all meetings be in the evening so I don’t know much money you’d save with so many high-level & mid-level staffers & consultants taking overtime or flex time.

        I think the Sound Transit Boardmembers should be full-time boardmembers paid $50K. Local transit boards, yeah $10K is reasonable.

    1. That article was a hack job that Eric had to shop around for weeks before the Weekly made the mistake of running with it. And it was a mistake, as evidenced by the three major corrections required (see bottom of article) as well as the blog post apology by the editor.

      What wasn’t outright false (and since corrected) was mischaracterization and half truths. He mentions the ‘long history of broken promises’ but never tells the reader what those promises were. He tries to shoe horn Graham into being one, but the facts just don’t back it up. SE was never promised a Graham Station in either Sound Move or ST2. Yes, at one point it was studied as a potential site, but getting looked at isn’t the same as being being promised.

  10. I don’t think it’s anti-transit to propose elected transit boards. However being most State Legislative Democrats are friends with more than one Sound Transit Boardmember, they’re not going to back something like this. They, like I the political independent support Sound Transit.

    Now I don’t like anything that picks on Sound Transit – and it’s blatantly obvious Sound Transit is being picked on. If the Board meetings were composed of folks paid only $10K a year to be there, I can tell you the meeting times would change to the evenings. Furthermore, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of enthusiasm from transit advocates to serve on the Sound Transit Board… at this time.

    I also want to add why my passion for elected transit boards. Yes, I want to serve on a transit board. But let me add as well I’m not too happy at the echo chamber of mine. I’m disgruntled how staff tries to run around the Community Advisory Committee instead of “check in” with us. I would be an advocate for fiscal stability, raising revenue through means other than direct taxation and fares, for electrifying our buses and not supporting rail for Skagit preferring frequent & clean bus transit as ridership increased. I also want to help Lyft come to Skagitonia and provide good, clean means for that pesky first mile-last mile problem. Connecting folks to jobs and the region would be my top priority. Restrooms at park & rides + transit oriented development would also be a priority.

    Now if I were on the Sound Transit Board, I’d also demand a monthly ST3 update and have two public comment sessions – one for agenda items at the beginning, one for general items at the end. Should work.

    There you go. I hope now I’ve explained my passion for elected transit boards sufficiently.

  11. I don’t see dysfunctionality on the ST Board. Sure, ST3 wasn’t exactly the way Ross or I or anyone else wanted. There’s not governance model that can achieve that.

    If appears clear to me that some don’t like the fact that the King County Executive can appoint nine members of the board — a majority. If I had my druthers, we’d simply put all the county councilmembers on the board. Add the Pierce County Executive and three county councilmembers whose districts have the largest percentage of their population in the ST taxing district, the Snohomish County Executive and the two county councilmembers whose districts have the largest share in the ST District, and the Washington Secretary of Transportation, ex officio until the state starts paying into ST as much as the taxpayers of a typical county council district.

    Or, allow each said county councilmember to appoint one person to the ST Board, so that that person can be both a transit expert and accountable to the larger political concerns of the district her/his appointer represents.

    The current proposal is the absolute worst governance model I could imagine short of appointment by the governor or legislature (especially since we local taxpayers are the ones footing the bill).

    1. Brent;

      I got no problem with transit boards being appointed like you spell out. But here’s the deal if I’m going to support appointments: I expect transit enthusiasts appointed. I expect appointees to be actively engaged in governing the transit agency, asking the tough questions. I expect those doing the appointments not turning a blind eye towards appointee misconduct.


  12. Somewhere around 1993, a judge ruled that Metro’s governing board was illegal, because the board seats were all by appointment and not directly elected. That was remedied by having Metro merge with King County. So could someone explain to me simply why Metro’s governance by an appointed board was illegal, but Sound Transit’s isn’t? What am I missing here?

    1. The fact that nobody has sued ST over it for twenty-five years. Why haven’t the proponents of an elected board sued it by now if they’re so sure it’s illegal? Why go through the uncertainty of new legislation which may not pass? Or if new legislation would be inevitable to change the structure, why not have a court order to force it rather than depending on legislators’ and voters’ whim whethter to do it or not? Also, the state created Sound Transit, so it can decide which laws apply to it.

    2. The answer is in the logic of the decision that held Metro’s structure unconstitutional. The decision is clear that its application of “one person, one vote” applies to elected bodies only, not appointed bodies. It holds that the Metro Council was an elected body because the majority of its members held office ex officio — that is, automatically as a result of being in other offices — and the offices which got them onto the Council were elected offices. That is not how the ST Board works, and it is not an “elected body” for the purpose of applying the rule. Only three of the ST board members, the three county executives, are elected. All of the rest are appointed (one ex officio as a result of being appointed Secretary of Transportation, the others by the county executives).


      Ira, Judge Dwyer ruled that Metro was a general purpose government (e.g., transit, waster water, and latent powers) and that its representation did not meet the one person one vote standard of the Carr case of the US supreme court (then one man one vote). In King County, the unincorporated areas were under represented.

      Is ST a general purpose government? Probably not. Is its representation as far as of balance as Metro’s was? Probably not.

    4. Ira, like my car keys every time I’ve got to get someplace fast, answer isn’t missing, just buried under laundry and piles of paper.

      I think that the representation problem could have been solved by creating one more position on the Metro Council. If some directly elected Board members had wanted to.

      And your right about qualifications, Mark Y. The American People rejected blogs by a margin so YUGE it even overwhelmed all those cheating Ballardites that still won’t pay for their wall.

      Because anybody not blinded by hate for Vladimir Putin knows that real authority arises from Twitter at five am. Saying anything else is very, very dishonest.

      Mark D

    5. Riddle me this, Ira:

      Why is the Puget Sound Regional Council not directly elected?

      Why is the Washington State Transportation Commission not directly elected?

      Why is the Pierce Transit Board of Commissioners not directly elected?

      Why is the Community Transit Board of Directors not directly elected?

      Why is the Washington State Convention and Visitors Bureau not directly elected?

      Can you point to a law Sound Transit is violating by being an appointed board, as prescribed by state law?

  13. The problem with the old Metro board is that a majority of the board’s members were in practice directly elected — lots of ex officio members — the King County executive, the mayors of the five largest cities in King County, the entire King County Council, the entire Seattle City Council [de facto, if not (quite) de jure]. As such, it was viewed as an _elected_ board which violated the one person one vote doctrine derived from the 14th amendment’s equal protection clause.

    ST’s board has no truly ex officio members (except the WA secretary of transportation, who isn’t elected) so the court ruling doesn’t apply.

    1. Generally correct, but the ST board has three ex officio elected members, the three county executives.

  14. It would be interesting to take a poll of STB readership on their stance on a directly elected board. I think you would find a surprising number of them are “anti-Sound Transit” as you put it.

    1. I like the idea of a poll of STB donors on this ;-). I think frankly some of us (me included) will keep donating but respectfully want to register our sincere disagreement with STB management on this one.

      I admit it, half my problem is I’m thinking of the Skagit Transit Board. All politics is local…

  15. I’m in her district, the email link failed with an error so I emailed her legislative aide.

  16. I just read it, I dont see where it says anything against it . . . please pick it out for me, maybe I mised it?
    All I read is that if an elected official moves out of the area that they were responsible for – that they would have to leave the board once a replacement was found and that this would not go into effect until 2019.

  17. I’m (just barely) in the 37th and will be contacting her about her support of this misguided bill. It’s a horrible idea. Zach’s article linked above identified exactly why. But to summarize:

    There is very little that’s more complex bureaucratically than a transit project in a built-up area. Insane numbers of permits, approvals, and public input processes are legally required. Having executives of local jurisdictions on the ST board is an important step toward navigating that bureaucratic tangle. The executives know what ST needs to do in their local jursidictions and, as ST board members, have an interest in easing ST’s way. With a directly elected ST board, those same local executives would suddenly have an interest in making things harder for ST, in order to extract concessions, and they also wouldn’t bring their local knowledge and expertise to the process.

    I think it’s safe to say that with a directly elected board we wouldn’t have an on-track ST2 program and we probably wouldn’t have had a ST3 election.

    It’s correct that it’s ad hominem just to say “this has been a project of anti-transit Republicans.” But it’s not ad hominem at all to say “this has been a project of anti-transit Republicans; why is that?” The answer is that it would paralyze ST, which is what they want.

      1. ST is better than BART.

        ST is far better than RTD.

        ST is better than the vast majority of transit agencies in the country. The rest of the agencies should be looking at what ST is doing right. ST shouldn’t be looking at the rest of the country, and trying to find ways to be as bad as them.

      2. Brent;

        I agree with you about the quality of ST service. I disagree about governance model – my end-game is to get more Rob Johnsons, Claudia Badassuchis and Dow Constantines on the ST Board. As incumbent members who will be there 10 years, 20 years.

        IF the compromise is appointing transit enthusiasts, I’m down with that. Barely.


      3. It should be plainly obvious that the sponsors of this bill want *fewer* transit enthusiasts on the ST Board.

  18. No city anywhere has built a transit system with a powerful board of elected part-timers.

    Some systems have appointed boards; some have weak elected boards with lots of veto power residing elsewhere. Nobody who wants the system to work would create a powerful board and fill it with $10,000/year amateurs from the suburbs.

    1. Dan;

      Denver’s Regional Transportation District and the Bay Area BART both have elected boards. The BART Board has been elected since November 5, 1974.

      Please tell me if these count as, “a transit system with a powerful board of elected part-timers.”



      1. Joe, the BART Board has existed since 1957 before it became an elected body. The circumstances that led to the BART Board being elected is more analogous to Sound Transit right before Joni Earl became CEO, when the agency was mired in financial and planning troubles. Except that by then the core of the BART system had already been built, whereas ST was years away from even turning a chunk of dirt for Link.

        Also, the BART Board became elected only after a referendum was held in the district. So if this bill does come to pass, at least let ST district voters decide.

        BART’s ballot measure was mostly for upgrades and fixes to keep the system from falling apart, after decades of deferred maintenance and suburban expansions. That doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement that the board has been a good steward of the system.

      2. Thanks Oran, I think quite frankly it would not surprise me if the right put electing transit boards to initiative like BART did. I haven’t started reading the BART history I bought – but will.

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