Steilacoom Ferry Dock
photo by William Ward / Wikimedia Commons

Sen. Steve O’Ban
Sen. Steve O’Ban (R – University Place) has been on the warpath against Sound Transit, prime sponsoring a series of Eymanesque bills.

Substitute Senate Bill 5001, as reported on at length on this blog, would replace the Sound Transit Board with a directly-elected board, gerrymandered so as to get an anti-transit majority on the board.

Senate Bill 5854 would allow cities and counties within the Sound Transit district to withdraw from Sound Transit’s property tax by action of their councils, or by petition of 8% of residents followed by a public vote.

Senate Bill 5893 would order the Department of Licensing to stop collecting taxes for Sound Transit.

O’Ban’s anti-tax zeal may not help him bring home the bacon.

O’Ban is the prime sponsor of Substitute Senate Bill 5403, which would allow ferry district money to be used to fund car ferries, as reported by Daniel Person at the Seattle Weekly. Currently, ferry districts can only fund passenger-only ferries. O’Ban’s district has a car ferry — between Steilacoom, Anderson Island, and Ketron Island — which has to be funded out of Pierce County general fund money. Pierce County does not yet have a ferry district.

To borrow a quote from O’Ban, if a countywide Pierce County Ferry District is set up, and is allowed to spend money on car ferries, it could “tax and spend forever”, without a public vote, and without ever having to go back to the legislature to get authority for more projects like Sound Transit has to do.

The bill passed out of the Senate and is scheduled for a hearing in the House Transportation Committee on Thursday at 3:30.

If you wish to weigh in on O’Ban’s bill before the hearing Thursday, you can contact your legislators using the district-finder tool.

23 Replies to “Might O’Ban’s Antics Jeopardize Ferry Funding in His District?”

  1. I disagree with some of the spin about SB 5001 and as a monthly donor to this blog, I want that duly noted. I hope we can come up with a better bill so that Pierce Transit is an elected board and said elected board would also run the ferry service. Let’s see what Senator O’Ban would say to that.

    I will respond to your replies as able, but very busy today.

    1. I think you’re free to comment in this forum, Joe. But I hope that you wouldn’t expect your status as a paying subscriber to unduly influence the studied policy positions of the editorial board. (My positions sure don’t appear to influence the Seattle Times.) Allow the quality of your arguments to do that. Appearing here to make your subscription payment hang in the balance does a disservice to your argument.

      1. Statements like, “gerrymandered so as to get an anti-transit majority on the board” make folks who support more democracy over public transportation cringe and put those who support this blog in a bind. Tone matters.

        I do think it is worth pointing out this Senator’s attack dog tone towards Sound Transit and demanding the Board be elected should logically lead to at the least demanding Pierce Transit have an elected board.

      2. Joe,

        Now Skagit Transit might actually work with an elected board. There’s relatively little money with which to hose down their supporters — there are no bus vendors in Skagit County for instance. So you might actually get a couple of pro-transit folks who want to do it as an actual public service.

        It might (just barely) work for Pierce though the temptations to get all lathered up in all that mazoola PT spends in a biennium would be noticeable.

        But Sound Transit? With billions upon billions of cash to be spent in the next two and a half decades? Oy-vey! What self-respecting political fixer would let a treasure chest like that lie unclaimed?

      3. Statements like, “gerrymandered so as to get an anti-transit majority on the board” make folks who support more democracy over public transportation cringe and put those who support this blog in a bind. Tone matters.

        That has nothing to do with tone, it’s a straightforward empirical claim. I haven’t made a careful study of the district boundaries in the proposed legislation (or the mechanism for settling them), so I’m open to the possibility that it could be unfair (given that the legislation is the product of people with an avowed interest in undermining Sound Transit, it seems highly plausible.) If you object to it, object to it on factual grounds, rather than whining about tone and bias.

  2. If the boondocks are allowed to secede from the Sound Transit service area without being able to make some claim for past taxes paid, I say “Let those people go.” Their tax contribution is probably trivial compared to the actual, you know, urban areas and it would help keep the plans more sane.

    1. Oh, I forgot one thing. The Park’n’Rides should then be patrolled and cars not registered to addresses inside the Sound Transit or another transit district which serves that particular lot would receive a ticket. [ed]

      1. ” cars not registered to addresses inside the Sound Transit or another transit district which serves that particular lot would receive a ticket”

        Ha! Hilarious. And points out how silly this whole discussion is.

      2. Glen, it would be very easy to do that. When my car was stolen about two years ago, the police recovered it in less than 12 hours. They told me that they have a specially-equipped car that is just driven around through parking lots and reads license plates electronically, looking for ones in the stolen registry. That’s how they found it so quickly.

        The same thing could be done in the P’n’R’s only checking the registered addresses against a list of blocks in the tax areas of the agencies serving that lot. There is certainly a geo-spatial database that has that data.

        There’s a freeloader problem now from people outside the District parking and riding. It will get noticeably greater if much of the boonies secedes.

      3. Heck, I’d go a step further and just do a nightly determination of every registered license plate in Washington and download the changes to the enforcement car’s laptop. A database of four million seven digit keys and a True/False flag could easily fit on a laptop. No cell service needed.

  3. I’m confused, is STB recommending taking a stand against a bill purely out of spite for the sponsor? That seems like it sets a dangerous precedent. What are the actual merits of the bill?

  4. Richard, it’s only human to get aggravated- as perpetrators know – with the clowning. But I know that Senator O’Ban’s most recalcitrant constituents have children and grand-kids of formative age to see sprawl as the opposite of freedom.

    This is why I’m not even a little bit kidding about those big passenger hydrofoils. Worth it at least to plant some Breitbart-grade Fake News in the Senator’s newsfeed about how ST has decided to lead off with fifteen minute departures to Olympia, Everett, and docks in between.

    Because my own main concentration is this: ST-3’s only really solid self-defense is a way to get at least one major corridor-full of passengers moving at a pace faster than a glacier. Even a melting one. And not starting in ten years. If it means taking away any GP lanes, the fight for them could take twenty.

    But reason I don’t really worry about ST-3. Whatever damage ST-3’s legislative enemies and car-tab resisters can do, if they can’t stop EastLINK- let alone NorthLINK even as far as Northgate- Sound Transit will be carrying two big steel-railed sticks they won’t even have to raise their voice about. The Senators’ great grand-kids won’t let up on him ’til they can get train rides too.

    Meantime, for approach and attitude, Finnish culture has the term “Sisu”. Best translation? “You can’t hit me hard enough to get my attention off my work.” Hmmm. How about an old Karelian shamanic ceremony at Nordic Heritage in Ballard to change LINK to SISU. Even “wrap” a train to look like the spirit of a giant wolverine. Though weasels shaped more like Kinki-Sharyo units.

    A definite intensification of purpose and strength. In every tribal tradition on Earth, these name-changes work.. Especially if Ballard still has a sauna along the Route 44 just east of 15th Avenue NW. Which could then immediately send the spirits of bears and wolves and weasels and other stuff with fur and claws digging frantically through Phinney Ridge headed toward UW.

    Senator O’Ban, the floor is yours.


    1. Mark,

      You’re right that the only thing that will convince people is a smashing success diverting ridership from buses stuck in traffic to Link. Lynnwood Link is the project best poised to do that, but it is currently in danger. The tubes are drilled to Northgate and the station caverns at Rosey — you know people are going to call it that — and U-District are dug, so that section is pretty much in the bag, on time and under budget. But it isn’t enough to convince suburbanites that it’s useful for them. It has to get to Lynnwood beyond the reach of really bad congestion screw ups where a high-quality intercept can occur. Northgate will never be a decent bus intercept; it’s too far from the northside bus ramps with too much congestion in between.

      Once Lynnwood does start up it will enormously improve the Snohomish County rider experience. Sound Transit should throw all the financial power it still has at it to ensure its completion in a timely manner, even if it means lengthening East Link to Overlake a couple of years. East Link will help with bus congestion in downtown Seattle, but it really won’t improve the service or even the reliability very much for Eastsiders. The lake crossings just aren’t that bad because there are few enough access points to keep the freeways from boiling over most of the time. Not so I-5 north.

      The only problem I foresee is that when Lynnwood Link does start up there will be so much demand for it in the peaks that there will be no space left on the trains southbound in the morning at Northgate, Roosevelt and U-District. Seattle riders will end up taking morning express buses after three years of the reliability of transferring to Link. It will be hard on Metro to backtrack to today’s operating plan and on the riders.

      The ideal solution to this coming problem is to expansion-safe the Green Line tunnel north of Denny Way by stacking the tubes north of that station at least as far as Lower Queen Anne. Then there will be the opportunity to build a flying junction either between Denny and Gates Foundation or Gates and Lower Queen Anne. From the junction run a line up to Fremont with a stop under Dexter about Galer and then Fremont under about 35th and Aurora. Forget Upper Queen Anne. It will never be dense enough to justify a four hundred foot deep station. Instead, fill the too-steep for SFH east side of the hill with high rises in walking distance of Dexter Station.

      Then run along the north side of Lake Union with a station/bus intercept at 35th and Wallingford; Upzone the heck out of the neighborhood south of 40th and create thousands of new lake- and city-view properties. Cross North Link at U-District station at a right angle with a well-designed transfer station body to the west of North Link under 43rd, add an on-campus station about 43rd and Stevens and Klickitat, nick by U Village about Blakely and 25th and then head north along 25th through Lake City. How far it extends is open for discussion.

      No, it doesn’t get Children’s Hospital but it’s the only thing out that way and makes a bad kink in any route to the north. By stacking the Fremont Station a stub for Ballard-Fremont-UW could be added later just west of the station for a modest cost. Maybe the same thing could happen between Klickitat and Blakely with the opportunity for a spur to burst out of the hillside and run elevated to Childrens making the desired cross-town line from 24th NW to Childrens an adjunct of another, needed north-south trunk.

      Such a line could intercept most of the in-city ridership trying to get on North Link AND create a direct path to and from SLU for the U-District and northeast Seattle. In fact, I believe that should come before extending the Green Line north of Market or at any rate, any farther than 85th. North of there it’s just large yard SFH as far as the eye can see except for Aurora/Linden. Eventually that will need to be served but the E Line does a pretty good job today and with improved span and enforcement of the transit lanes could be a decent mid-term solution.

      The south end of the Lake City (and Beyond?) line should become the RV line truncated to Sea-Tac and the Green Line shifted to a Georgetown bypass for deep South King and, eventually, Tacoma trains, should Pierce not entirely secede. .

  5. Hey, Joe, sorry I almost forgot! If you become my biggest contributor when I run for ST Board, I’ll vote for you to be Chairman for Life! Bet an appointed Board will never offer opportunities like that.


  6. Best response to 5804: Can we exempt Washington from all of Trump’s decisions since a majority of the state disagrees with that election result?

    1. Headlines ask both yes and no questions. If you’re advocating for a Queen Anne tunnel you can say , “Build the Queen Anne tunnel” or “A Queen Anne tunnel?” Quoting a statistical average which may or may not be true, what’s the point? Are we supposed to think differently about the issue because Bettridge’s law says the implied answer is statistically no? What would your response be to an article titled, “Should we build Ballard-UW now?” Would you say, “No, because Betteridge said so”? Or would you say, “Yes, we need it yesterday and ten years ago.”

  7. “…it could “tax and spend forever”, without a public vote…”

    I wonder how O’Ban feels about Trump’s wall. Surely he must be against a project that will likely run into the $100 billions up to possibly $1 trillion and will likely drag on for decades, assuming Trump is not defeated in four years or impeached.

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