Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus (Wikimedia)

On Monday Executive Constantine made five nominations to the Sound Transit Board. Each County Executive nominates their county’s delegation, subject to confirmation by the County Council. King County has 10 members, Snohomish 3, and Pierce 4, in proportion to their populations inside the Sound Transit District. The last member is the Washington Secretary of Transportation, Roger Millar.

Five terms were up this year. King County Councilmembers Pete von Reichbauer, a Republican from Federal Way, and Dave Upthegrove, Democrat from Des Moines, will return. Also returning is Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus. von Reichbauer has been on the board for 14 years (!) and has been instrumental in shaping the Federal Way alignment, for better or worse. Upthegrove has only been on the County Council for 4 years, but in that time has worked on the alignment around Highline Community College. He’s been more public in pushing for better late night service on holidays in his County role. Backus has been moving along a third Sounder track through her city in both her roles.

Two other board members are no longer eligible: Ed Murray, who you may have heard about, and retiring Issaquah Mayor Fred Butler. Mayor Murray shaped the Seattle wish list for ST3, including an alignment through South Lake Union and infill stations at 130th and Graham Street. Butler is a big reason that the East King ST3 Link alignment will serve his city more comprehensively than Kirkland.

The departures will be replaced by Mayor Jenny Durkan and Kenmore Mayor Dave Baker. Baker is perhaps best known as the uber-driving mayor, but Kenmore will be at the center of SR522 BRT slated to open in 2024.

The other five King County reps are Executive Constantine, Redmond Mayor John Marchione, King County Councilmembers Claudia Balducci and Joe McDermott, and friend of STB and Seatttle City Councilmember Rob Johnson.

23 Replies to “New Appointments to the Sound Transit Board”

  1. Minor Correction – Claudia Balducci is no longer the Mayor of Bellevue. She is now a King County Councilmember.

  2. I remember hearing a lot of grumbling from the Kenmore city council and staff before ST3 about no representation on the board. I guess that concern is addressed.

  3. Which boardmembers have worked for the balanced needs of their subarea rather than mostly their city? Who has defended the needs of cities that don’t have a boardmember this round? I hope there are some, otherwise it sounds like the network is being shaped by which cities happen to have a member on the board before each ST# vote.

  4. I can’t see the picture of Nancy Backus without thinking of this very strange re-election video.. If you have 2 minutes to waste it is worth a chuckle.

    She just had a tough re-election fight from an anti-ST3 opponent. Backus had to take a middle ground on Sound Transit and didn’t sound like a big proponent of transit.

  5. I feel like the public deserves some explanation of why these people are on the ST board beyond their elected posts. Mere position should make them a finalist but not have them win a seat.

    Was this ever presented anywhere? Do they or their family use an ST service regularly? I would really like to know every board member’s interest and commitment to governing ST.

    1. Good points. Boardmembers should be transparent about how much ST service they use, and especially to/from board meetings which is the perfect example of the kind of regional transit it supposedly enhances. Only the cities furthest from available service or in an awkward location have a reasonable reason not to. For instance, Kent has no service to Seattle when Sounder isn’t running, and I wouldn’t expect a boardmember to go the 566+550 way when nobody else would. Joni Earl used to say she took Sounder from Puyallup. What about everyone else?

      I believe the county executive is constrained to nominating only elected officials, so there’s that. But yes, why these officials and not others? Is it to round-robin through the cities? Do these officials have a particular interest in transit or experience that we don’t know about?

    2. Well one place the incoming board members can start being held accountable for is their own attendance at monthly board meetings.

      Board member attendance for the ten month period Jan – Oct 2017 (in the board room as reported by published minutes):

      10/10 (Attended all meetings in person) —
      Fred Butler, Issaquah Mayor
      Roger Millar/Alternate, WSDOT Sec
      Dave Upthegrove, King Co Council

      9/10 —
      Dave Somers, Sno Co Executive
      Tim Burgess/Ed Murray, Seattle Mayor
      Dave Earling, Edmonds Mayor
      Joe McDermott, King Co Council

      7/10 —
      John Marchione, Redmond Mayor
      Rob Johnson, Seattle City Council
      Mary Moss, Lakewood City Council

      6/10 —
      Claudia Balducci, King Co Council
      (3 absences, 1 teleconference)
      Dow Constantine, King Co Executive
      (3 absences, 1 teleconference)
      Paul Roberts, Everett City Council
      (2 absences, 2 teleconferences)

      5/9* —
      Kent Keel, Univ Place Pro Tem Mayor
      (2 absences, 2 teleconferences)

      5/10 —
      Bruce Dammeier, Pierce Co Executive
      (3 absences, 2 teleconferences)
      Peter von Reichbauer, King Co Council
      (2 absences, 3 teleconferences)
      Marilyn Strickland, Tacoma Mayor
      (2 absences, 3 teleconferences)

      4/10 —
      Nancy Backus, Auburn Mayor

      *joined board in Feb 2017

      (Board meeting minutes from Nov and Dec 2017 have yet to be published.)

  6. Mike Orr: re Kent, it is the network, ST bus, Link, and Sounder, as well as Metro. Kent is served by Route 150 and Route 180; the latter connects with Link.

    1. In general yes, but let’s start with getting ST boardmembers to disclose how much of ST’s services they use. and if not much, then why. If they do use it often, it would benefit them to let that be known.

    1. Kent City Hall is across town from there with only meandering buses in between. We’re not talking about someone who works anywhere in Kent, we’re talking about someone presumably traveling from City Hall. Their best bet would be to take the 150, or 180 to SeaTac station.

  7. Rome is burning at the state capital with Democrats trying defund ST3, but you guys don’t even bother to show up to the party to defend it. Instead, this is the best you muster? Real transit leadership, dudes.

    1. Democrats as a whole aren’t trying to defund ST3. One contrarian senator who has always had a bee in his bonnet about it is. Most may want to shave the MVET slightly but hopefully replace it with other authority to avoid slowing down ST3. Just because there’s no screaming editorial and big action campaign today doesn’t mean nothing is happening behind the scenes. (I’m not involved in behind-the-scenes so I don’t know.) The legislature has only been in session three days, and the reintroduced bills and O’Ban’s lawsuit have been alive for less than that. It takes time for the startup froth to settle down and to see what sticks.

      Our opinions on the lawsuit don’t matter because they’re not going to affect the judge’s ruling. But in my nonprofessional opinion, several parts will likely be struck down immediately. (1) ST is not sneakily using the high MVET formula; it’s using the formula state law says it can use. (2) The tax draw did not increase from $15 billion to $54 billion, but to around $28 billion. The $54 billion figure is ST3’s total budget in future dollars, and includes non-tax sources. (3) The legislature knew the tax could be extended because the ST1, 2, and 3 authority were all structured that way. It’s like giving somebody a credit card with a $500 credit limit and then complaining if they spend over $200. But if the judge decides completely against it and voids ST3, there’s nothing we can do about it, except suggest what its successor should be like.

    2. We helped break the news that HB 2201 was coming to a vote. (Seattle Times’ Joe O’Sullivan got the scoop.)

      What other online news sources do you think covered this news better?

  8. I’ve been waiting for some suggestions as to whether there’s better way to select Sound Transit board members than limiting the pool to people already elected to another office.

    There’s been some discussion here of voters themselves directly electing the whole board. Creating a body completely separate from the officials elected to govern their own respective districts.

    One problem I can see with a separate board is that in order to accomplish very much, a directly elected Sound Transit Board would have to negotiate most of their programs with the other officials.

    But I’m most interested in the question of how to select board members, by whatever process, with a basic understanding of transit itself, so as to have a part of the ST Board focus on the details of transit itself.

    With the present board still in place, we elect a slate of candidates at large whose sole concentration is transit. Qualifications for office- would like to discuss that in these pages. But voters will understand they’re picking, essentially, transit experts who vote.

    Who will attend and participate the meetings of the present board to, stay current with the the will of individual districts, as they do now. But vote only on transit issues. I’m introducing this idea as one example of how I think we could balance voters’ own district by district concerns, and the necessary attention to a very specific technical enterprise.

    There seems to be a lot of unhappiness over present system. So I’m trying to figure out a system to get this unsettlement out of the way of Regional Transit. That’s all.

    Mark Dublin

    1. The representation issue is just a surrogate concern troll for people with a beef with ST: either not wanting to fund it, or to raid its funds for a competing purpose (e.g. subsidizing parking privatization).

      The representational model has served transit well.

    2. 99% of the people who are pushing for an elected board are the same people who want to stop ST3 and slash current services (i.e., taxes), and spend more of it on P&Rs. (Because you can cut taxes and spend it on P&Rs at the same time, isn’t that neat?) I will not help with that. But if the board is going to be changed, I like the idea of adding an elected “transit expert” position. I.e., somebody like a former planner or transit-network hobbyist. I’d hesitate to put specific qualifications into law because they’d inevitably leave something out, but if the title is focused on technical expertise that would hopefully influence the candidates and voters toward the needed niche. Of course some might want all the positions to be like that, but city/county representation is also valuable, because what they are experts in is the wholistic needs of their subarea and ability to coordinate with the overlaid governments.

      1. Mike, there are many ways to go with this. What I have in mind is for most of the board, as now, to represent their own districts. But I’ve got a very specific picture in my mind of the members I want for transit.

        In the very early 1980’s, at the very time when Metro was gearing up for what was then called The Downtown Seattle Transit Project, the economy pushed a very large number of people into bus-driving jobs, from the backgrounds that generally had generally produced very few.

        Very likely, the main appeal of all these brand-new drivers to Metro Transit was the vision of the first generation of workers who’d work only rush hours.

        And also, though I haven’t got the stolen tapes (in those days, combination of flash drives and skinny descendants of original movie medium) good chance to hope their limited hours would encourage same for union activity.

        Fortunately a very bad call. But one bright side. A few of us were former little boys from Chicago and New York City. Our colleagues loved us for taking trolleybus work that left easier slots available.

        But- remember, The Spirit of 1968 wasn’t yet dead. Nor was everybody who was even less afraid of public speaking than we were of wires and switches. No rule said a uniform couldn’t be a business suit.

        Even better, our union protection brought appreciation from younger Metro management, because we could publicly speak their thoughts to power and not get fired for it.

        But most memorable- and useful- of all, we brought the governing board of the system, in both their transit and general political capacities, tech info fresher than a salmon mid-air up at the Market.

        Literally- like half an hour before- from behind the wheel of a bus. Our wages making us the most cost-effective consulting contract a public agency has ever had. With a savagely relevant “aside” attached:

        Genetic abnormality that causes full-time trolley driving also makes every overseas transit system an maniacally irresistible vacation destination.

        Where a driver’s badge gains you 100% admission to the grease-heating parts of overseas transit forbidden to consultants, by cost of buying and dry-cleaning their own suits. Add a language or two, and I’ll add a vote. Each.

        Planners certainly- but language preference still holds. Journalists. Soldiers, for both overseas and technical experience, and my very favorable assessment of my neighbors who deboarded passengers from Train 501. Long, and unusually appealing list.

        Because, another not-kidding: Age 8 in Chicago, had seven years of CTA experience and an Electroliner ride before my first new PCC rides in 1953, streetcar and subway both. In Washington State now, I could be voter, legislator or both in ten years.

        I think we could assemble the permanent political presence our country most needs right now, let alone our transit systems. Young, businesslike people with technical knowledge and the ability to explain it to everybody else.

        Whose first and politically-shrewdest move can be first ORCA card first grade. With parents riding free long as they behave and don’t either tag seats, or hog them with luggage. Most hopeful to me is that everybody I meet both kids’ and parents’ age seems completely up to it.

        Ours to lose. So it’s good we couldn’t if we tried.

        Mark Dublin

      2. “99% of the people who are pushing for an elected board are the same people who want to stop ST3 and slash current services (i.e., taxes), and spend more of it on P&Rs.”

        I’m the 1% and I suspect a lot more who hold a very different view. I’ll share mine on the next open thread.

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