At the Sound Transit board meeting on Thursday, the board voted to extend CEO Peter Rogoff’s contract and give him an 11 percent raise. Rogoff will earn $365,000 per year, until the contract ends in January 2022.
The vote was nearly unanimous. The lone vote against was by Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier, who aired out a number of objections to Sound Transit’s recent work.
“I am very concerned that our processes right now for West Seattle are going to add perhaps another $700 million to that project,” Dammier said. “I’m very concerned that the expectations in the Ballard area could add as much as another $500 million to it.”
Dammeier also cited the rising cost for the Federal Way and Lynnwood Link extensions and faulty Husky Stadium escalators as reasons for his no vote. (Other board members attributed the rising cost of the extensions to market conditions, and pointed out the award of the escalator design-build contract predated Rogoff’s tenure.)
Dammeier’s comments about the new Seattle lines dovetail with comments by Snohomish County board members, including Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers. Dammeier’s fellow Pierce County member, Mayor of University Place Kent Keel, has also said that he fears rising costs for capital projects will hamstring Pierce County projects.
ST staff is completing community outreach and working on initial engineering for the Seattle lines. According to Somers, the board expects to see locally preferred alternatives in early 2019.
At that point, depending on the expense of the designs, the board could see much more contentious votes. Presumably, a suburban coalition could vote down ambitious and expensive Seattle designs.
That wouldn’t be hard. According to the state law that created Sound Transit, “major decisions” of the agency require two-thirds supermajorities to be implemented. The list of “major decisions” includes “system plan adoption and amendment; [and] system phasing decisions.”
Pierce and Snohomish counties have seven officials on the board—eight, if Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus counts as a Pierce official. If those officials vote as a bloc, with or without Backus, they could shoot down an expensive Seattle design. The board has eighteen members, so a supermajority vote requires 12 ayes.
Each of the Snohomish officials, plus Dammeier and Lucas, have all expressed fiscal opposition to the most lavish Seattle projects. That gives the fiscal hawks five votes already.