Saturday’s Link opening was the largest product of 2008’s Sound Transit 2 vote to date. In the 15-year package envisioned at ballot time, Northgate opened about a year late, Lynnwood and North Federal Way are scheduled to do the same, and East Link will lag by no more than two years. Given a Great Recession and Bellevue’s wrangling over the route through downtown, that’s an astonishing record unlikely to be matched by Sound Transit 3 or other large American transit projects.

As someone who got his start in transit advocacy around the time of ST2, on Saturday my thoughts turned to many of the friends and STB colleagues I met at that time. Thousands of people made Saturday happen, activists and politicians and staff and (obviously) building trades. But my thoughts also turned to the two people that, in my opinion, are most to thank for the new reality that arrived on Saturday.

The first is Joni Earl, who as CEO through 2016 got Sound Transit to a place where it could even contemplate a Sound Transit 2, and later took those projects through some of the most risk-laden stretches. The second is former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, who in the aftermath of the failed 2007 vote bashed heads together to go again in 2008, and then worked hard to pass it.

I was glad to see that both were able to be at the VIP function October 1st. I can only imagine the quiet pride and satisfaction they deservedly feel.

40 Replies to “Some people to thank”

  1. Earl was excellent. She saved ST1 when even the likes of Licata were gunning to kill it.

    Nickels was decisive and effective. Can’t say enough about him and the value of good political leadership.

    But let’s not forget a few others in this saga;

    Parry Murray: She also worked tirelessly to save ST1. After the initial tunnel meltdown she was the one who kept the Feds onboard. Key was getting the Feds to put their funding contribution on hold instead of killing it. If they had killed it it would have been game over.

    Tom Weeks, Joel Horn: Remember the monorail? Many saw that as a cheap, quick, and effective alternative to LR. Many others saw monorail simply as a way to kill LR. If Weeks and Horn hadn’t so completely honked up the SMP then the “yes” votes for ST2 would have been reduced. But they so completely tarnished the concept of monorail that they effectively cleared the decks for ST2. They made ST look good – real, real good.

  2. Ruth Fisher (D – Tacoma) was the House Transportation Chair who brought us the ST1 bill, allowing voters the chance to vote on just a high-capacity transit capital program. For her efforts, the board room at Sound Transit headquarters was named in her honor (long after her passing). I got to meet her once, for less than a minute. She was clearly a very busy person.

    Jessyn Farrell sponsored and navigated the hostile mood in a then-partisan-split legislature to get us permission to vote on ST3, as part of a package that included new highway spending. Her efforts in the legislature to play defense as the Republican-controlled Senate went on the war path against the voter-approved portion of that roads-and-transit deal ended up torpedoing her efforts to advance to a “full-time” elected job. But pretty much all the Rs who went on that war path and represent a swing district in the Sound Transit taxing district are all no longer legislators, with their replacements all being Ds.

    Former Mayor and ST Board Chair Nickels, who had to get past a determined “Save Our Valley – Tunnel” campaign got the line then known as Central Link opened a couple months before a tough primary election that he narrowly lost. To paraphrase the Book of Pythia … This has all happened before, and it may happen again. He was the last Mayor of Seattle to get re-elected (once, and easily). He was still mayor and board chair when he got to cut the ribbon on SeaTac Airport Station.

  3. I would like to thank those unnamed professionals who worked together to give the stations multiple up and down escalators! Not only does it help many with arthritis (1 out of 4 adult women, for example), but when an up escalator goes out, the other one can be reversed as a backup.

    Certainly visible rail advocacy leaders are important — but it’s the roles of everyone who share a common vision of a busy, well-functioning station with redundant equipment who I thank the most. Without them, we would be cursed with periodic mechanical breakdowns for years and decades to come.

  4. I still remember the ST2 vote. It was my second election in the Seattle area and the last time ever that I voted in person at a polling place. It seemed extremely distant at the when Northgate link would open and now, here it is.

    My first election here was 2007 roads and transit. I ended up voting “no” on it because I didn’t like the roads part. 14 years later, the “roads” part is largely built or being built anyway, funded directly by the legislature. Only transit has to pass a public vote in order to build anything.

    The next big battle in Olympia will be allowing Seattle to fund additional light rail projects, without being tied to voters in such a huge taxing district. The current rules, which prohibit Seattle from building more rail, with its own money, because Bellevue, Everett, and Tacoma have had enough doesn’t make sense.

    1. I agree Mike, I don’t understand why the legislature rejected HB 1304. Seattle should have its own levy ability for all types of measures, from homelessness to parks to light rail to buses to bridges and roads to you name it.

      I personally think Seattle shouldered too much of the spine, but Seattle is a very long but narrow city, and I imagine the Seattle City Council had to have signed off on the spine. Once the spine is completed Seattle can focus on more urban rail (with ideally more stations in the urban core), or other issues including transit operations.

      First up is WSBLE, and I think local levy money will be necessary to complete WSBLE unless DSTT2 is scrapped, and Ballard and West Seattle agree to elevated or surface stations and lines. But still I would wait and see what post pandemic ridership is on ST 2 built to date, because those are by far the highest volume lines. I took the 550 to work today and there were two of us at 8:30 am., and one on the 554 and 550 that passed me as I walked to the bus stop.

      Maybe then east King Co. would be allowed to build the park and rides we were promised and have the money for.

      I would also like to see the concept of subarea equity applied to county expenditures other than ST. King Co. really does not serve the eastside. At least that is the feeling, and every eastside city other than Mercer Island opted out of King Co.’s 1/10th of one percent sale tax increase and instead enacted their own sales tax increase for affordable housing.

      Ideally I would like to see King Co. split between east and west. It makes little sense with current populations to have a county nearly twice the size of Rhode Island with pretty different approaches to issues. In the past there was a question how to locate cities on the border like Kent, Renton, Mercer Island and Kenmore, but today I don’t think there is any question these cities would join east King Co. The recent restructure on the eastside suggests to me a balkanization between east and west King Co.

      If those in Seattle didn’t like the taxes or politics they could always move to the eastside. If they own a house in Seattle they should get a pretty good nest egg, although the differential in housing prices on the eastside and Seattle is widening, and was around $500,000 for a median SFH in 2020. In fact, here is the most recent property value report for Mercer Island from a well known real estate company on the eastside:

      2020, sales YTD (231)

      Avg sale price: $1,988,708

      Median sale price: $1,670,000

      Days-on-market: 62

      2021, sales YTD (255)

      Avg sale price: $2,703,029

      Median sale price: $2,210,000

      Days-on-market: 14

      Y-O-Y comparison 2020 2021

      Avg sale price: -2.15% 35.9%

      Median sale price: -2.75% 32.3%

      Days-on-market: 8.8+% -77%

      Number of sales: 231 255 (+10.3%)

      At the end of the 3rd Quarter, sales increased 10.3% in 2021. The average sale price on Mercer Island is up 35.9% over 2020. The median sale price is up 32.3% over 2020. Days-on-market has declined -77%, to just 14-days.

      I don’t know the reasons for the price increases, and supply is not the issue because there were more listings and sales in 2021. The house next to mine just sold to a nice family for more than double what the previous owner paid in 2012. I guess rising incomes is the key, and of course safety and schools.

      But if you live in Seattle and want to move to the eastside I would recommend doing so sooner rather than later if you want to get a comparable city or neighborhood. I also noted S. King Co., Pierce Co., and N. King Co. are all appreciating faster than Seattle (and this may accelerate with WFH), although it looks like rents might rise pretty dramatically in Seattle because so many rental properties were converted to owner occupied during the pandemic and eviction moratoria, and rent increases were capped during the eviction moratoria. Some have estimated rent increases of up to 30% next January throughout the region.

      1. I highly doubt Kent and Renton would join an East King County movement. I highly doubt an East King County split will ever happen as well. I attended the grange hall meetings the last time this was seriously considered. It was primarily a tax revolt movement, and it died as soon as the promoters admitted it would require raising taxes to build a new county infrastructure.

        There is little love for Bellevue in South King County. Moreso in Kent than Renton. But knowing many people who live in Renton, I don’t think the interests of the Eastside concern them at all.

        Not that the discussion here is on topic whatsoever.

      2. Yes, King County could be split in two. As a Canadian living up north, I can’t imagine Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley lumped into one regional authority.

      3. A Joy, I didn’t mean to imply there would be a fight over Renton or Kent. If west King Co. wants both I am sure east King Co. would agree, but I think Renton knows its future is with Bellevue (and Redmond and Issaquah) and not Seattle, and probably is not too keen on the King Co. low barrier shelter to bring Seattle’s homeless to downtown Renton.

        No one really “likes” Bellevue on the eastside, unless you compare it to working with Seattle. Or just to Seattle these days, which is usually at least one post on Nextdoor every day throughout the eastside.

        I am not sure what new county infrastructure you are talking about. Bellevue has its own water district (much cheaper than Seattle), and eastside properties pay the same exorbitant costs for sewage, and would continue to. The county sheriff is non-existent in most eastside cities. Do you think the eastside does not pay a disproportionate amount of country taxes today for the services it receives?

        Yes, Bellevue is the big dog and let’s you know it, but Seattle is dismissive and arrogant according to every small eastside city. Bellevue has worked very hard through its wealth and interlocal agreements to bring eastside cities within its orbit, and I think the restructure assumes cross lake ridership from the eastside to Seattle will never return.

        The reason the issue is on topic is Mike’s desire for legislative authority to allow Seattle to place its own levies on the ballot, and my desire for more subarea equity and to split King Co. so it is more responsive to the different cultures in King Co.

      4. I don’t think the entire county needs to be split. Just the taxing district that funds large-scale capital transit projects.

      5. Daniel Thompson, you’d be surprised how left leaning Renton is. The average citizen down there doesn’t see the homeless as dirty undesirables. In fact, in June Renton bought a hotel specifically for more homeless people, since they understand that hotels rooms are a better place for the homeless to live than the street.

        “I am not sure what new county infrastructure you are talking about.”

        I find that rather surprising given your profession. Courthouses, County Seats, Correctional Facilities, and Councils don’t just grow on trees. And having lived in unincorporated east King County, more than once I found the Sheriff’s Office presence robust enough to be excessive. Not only do I “think the eastside does not pay a disproportionate amount of country taxes today for the services it receives”, the pro-secessionist movement organizers flat out said as much. Just as the Puget Sound region gives money to Eastern Washington, Seattle gives money to the rest of King County. Now you might be able to cancel that effect out a bit by drawing the County line just right, but a tax increase would simply be a foregone conclusion.

    2. A Joy, I am not familiar with the “grange hall revolt” you raise, or an organized ST revolt in Snoqualmie. Do you have a link.”

      Not exactly, as it wasn’t a grange hall revolt in Snoqualmie. It was a county wide movement, specifically to split the county at the Seattle City limits. There were meetings held all over the place. The meeting I attended was at the Sallal Grange in North Bend. It was influential enough to get Phil Fortunato to propose SB 5932, with support from Dino Rossi and Mark Miloscia a couple of years later.

      “A “Snoqualmie Valley” could mean just about anything.”

      Umm, no. It’s a place. A real valley, stretching from North Bend to Preston and going as far north as the confluence of the Snoqualmie and Skykomish Rivers. It can’t mean just about anything. It is a geographic location.

      “As I stated I don’t think a vote today among eastsiders on whether to split King Co. along its east/west axis would have much to do with tax rates or money. The eastside has plenty of money. The meeting you attended at “the grange” is not reflective of eastside residents. The issues would have to do with local control, and how to address a number of issues such as crime, public safety, zoning, transit, schools, roads and bridges, business taxation, parks, and homelessness, which we think determines the character of a city or county.”

      Yes, you have clearly and repeatedly. But the activities of the politicians and interest groups of five to seven years ago. Not that much has changed. Most of what has is pandemic related. There’s no reason to believe that people’s opinions have changed so much so quickly that their reasons for wanting county cessation are that radically different now.

      “East King Co., based on the current situation, probably thinks it could do a better job than the current King Co. administration. It also sees the current King Co. administration too influenced by Seattle, and sees Seattle politics and the Seattle City Council and its policies — including CHOP — as dangerous, and contrary to what they want their communities to be.”

      This literally makes no sense. Seattle government had nothing to do with the CHOP. In fact, the original name CHAZ hearkens back to autonomous zones around the Ireland/North Ireland border. It was a revolutionary anti-US government movement. Blaming the Seattle City Council for it is so ludicrous and absurd it suggests the CHOP is a convenient excuse for, rather than the cause of, any bad feelings the Eastside might have towards Seattle.

      “Can you maybe list some of your objections to a split rather than refer to some rural anti-tax gathering you attended long ago in the “Snoqualmie Valley”.”

      Sure, although this meeting was not that long ago. My concerns are primarily regulatory and environmental in nature. I loved living in the Snoqualmie Valley, and witnessed the destruction of the area when Snoqualmie Ridge stole services from Historic Snoqualmie (libraries, bus routes, grocery stores and more) despite memoranda promising they would not. I saw UGAs expand to absurd levels, pushing not just outside urban cores but outside city limits themselves. I watched as empty fields within a stone’s throw of the Snoqualmie River were leveled for 100+ housing projects with density waivers built out of particle board in the rain. And I firmly believe that destruction of the environment in unincorporated East King County would only become worse without environmentalists in Seattle reigning in these excesses. While your link predates the meetings I attended, land use issues, primarily the inability to subdivide, was listed as a reason people were unhappy (the lady talking about the blackberries was wrong, as Himalayan blackberries are a noxious weed in this region).

      I was priced out of North Bend. Then I was priced out of Seattle. Now I live in Seatac. But that doesn’t mean I hate North Bend or Seattle, or wish them ill. It is the fact that I do not wish North Bend ill that causes me to oppose a county split. Because as poor a job as I think King County does in preserving our nature, I think East King County would do an order of magnitude worse.

  5. If you want to split King County, you may as well split off Eastern Washington from Western Washington, and let Eastern Oregon join up with Idaho.

    Talk about balkanization. meh… I’m in Renton, and I do not, and would not favor splitting the the county, nor the state.

    1. Well, I think each city would vote whether to join East King Co. or stay with “west” King Co. This is not uncommon, especially for these huge western counties that were formed at statehood when populations were very low.

      Those cities east of the midline of Lake Washington that wanted to join a new county would then do so. King Co. under the disastrous leadership of Ron Sims saw most of its unincorporated areas incorporate or merge with other cities because King Co. provided terrible services for the taxes, so it isn’t like this is new for King Co.

      Although I don’t think costs or taxes would be a major motivating factor for most eastside cities, usually taxes go down and services go up in the new county or city. For example, Buckhead will likely secede from Atlanta when the legislature gives the go ahead this fall, and I can’t really find any detriment to Buckhead from seceding.

      1. It may not be this, but on the surface it sure seems like a case of right leaning areas wanting to secede from left leaning areas.

        Rather… how about the right come up with better ideas and policies that appeal more to the middle and swing it back the other way. In other words work within the system instead of cutting and running.

        For example, and admittedly I have only read a few things on Buckhead so I could be wrong, but it feels like the people there are saying ‘we’ve got ours, the rest of you can go suck it.’

      2. I really find these “secession” arguments to be driven by bigotry in its many forms.

        To be clear, any “splitting” of the County should be a decision that is both countywide and by the legislature — rather than unilaterally by secessionists. It affects every county resident.

        Further, we have both cities and special districts that can handle managing and funding any government function at a sub-county level. If East King wants to have a special transit district, let them spearhead the argument to get it through both the legislature and the voters. I’ll note that East King was not uniformly voting down ST3 so there is no consensus to do this — even though some may wish otherwise. But that’s a different circumstance than a wholesale restructuring for division.

        There are many countywide functions dealing with the courts and jails and health departments and property tax assessments that work just fine with the current geography. Unless a proponent can prove significant benefit to severing everything, it’s just sour grapes about not getting your way about something or being so bigoted that you don’t want anything to do with groups you feel bigotry towards.

      3. Atlanta is a city. King County is a county. While each state can decide their own local government systems, usually cities can change boundaries while county boundaries are affixed by the state legislature when the county is formed. I believe that every county boundary in Washington was defined in state legislation when it was created.

        Not understanding this basic difference shows a basic lack of understanding local government.

        Oh, fun fact: The City of Bellevue voters voted for ST3!

      4. Yeah, the Eastside is certainly not anti-transit, the way some people say. Not nearly as pro transit as Seattle, for sure, but still much more supportive of higher taxes for better transit than areas like Pierce County.

        For the most part, Bellevue and Redmond in particular have become gradually more supportive of transit over the past 10 years. Likely not enough yet to pass a supplemental funding measure for more bus service, but I do think, at some point in the next 20 years, they will get there.

        Over time, as more and people move around between one side of the lake and the other, I would expect the types of people living on each side to become more politically similar. We are already seeing this with Sammamish, which now votes essentially the same as Bellevue and Redmond. Eventually, Seattle and Bellevue will become less different also.

      5. Many people on the eastside travel through urban spaces on a regular basis and therefore understand the need for good transit. Even in the vast suburban spaces, many people travel into Seattle, Bellevue, etc. for work, and so while they might be more keen for P&Rs and feeder buses than Seattle residents, they are still broadly pro transit. In Pierce, OTOH, unless you live in Tacoma or near a Sounder station, your daily life (work/live/play) rarely has you traveling into urban spaces, so transit has little demonstrable use and the voting patterns reflect that.

        FWIW, I’ve thought that the best was to partition King County would be to have Seattle spin off as it’s own county, not the other way around, as Seattle municipal government already provides a number of services (utilities, libraries, parks) independent of the county.

      6. “Atlanta is a city. King County is a county. While each state can decide their own local government systems, usually cities can change boundaries while county boundaries are affixed by the state legislature when the county is formed. I believe that every county boundary in Washington was defined in state legislation when it was created.

        Not understanding this basic difference shows a basic lack of understanding local government.”

        Yes Al, Atlanta is a city and King County is a county. Very good.

        However, if you had read the link I supplied, or done any research on Buckhead’s petition to secede from Atlanta, you would have discovered Buckhead must get the state legislature’s approval, which is likely this November. As I noted in my post.

        When it comes to King Co., shock and surprise, our state constitution addresses both forming and amending our counties:

        “Article XI of the Washington State Constitution addresses the organization of counties. New counties must have a population of at least 2,000 and no county can be reduced to a population below 4,000 due to partitioning to create a new county.[3] To alter the area of a county, the state constitution requires a petition of the “majority of the voters” in that area. A number of county partition proposals in the 1990s interpreted this as a majority of people who voted, until a 1998 ruling by the Washington Supreme Court clarified that they would need a majority of registered voters.[4] No changes to counties have been made since the formation of Pend Oreille County in 1911, except when the small area of Cliffdell was moved from Kittitas to Yakima County in 1970.”

        “King County, home to the state’s largest city, Seattle, holds 30 percent of Washington’s population (2,269,675 residents of 7,705,281 in 2020), and has the highest population density, with more than 1,000 people per square mile (400/km2). Garfield County is both the least populated (2,286) and least densely populated (3.1/sq mi [1.2/km2]). Two counties, San Juan and Island, are composed only of islands. The average county is 1,830 square miles (4,700 km2), with 197,571 people.”

        So, the process for Buckhead to secede from Atlanta is basically the same as for East King Co. to form its own county, except it is not clear to me that in WA a part of a county needs state approval to secede.

        In another post you suggested opposition to splitting King Co. could be due to bigotry. Even though Seattle is much whiter than Bellevue, I doubt bigotry in Seattle would be a major reason for Seattleites to vote against splitting King Co., so I don’t see that.

        My guess is opposition would come from the current King Co. government because they enjoy the power, tax based and control over such a large area and budget, and because of the lost revenue.

        I think JAS rather than A Joy is correct on the fiscal changes from splitting King Co. (especially if Kent went with East King Co. because the only open county courthouse is in Kent because downtown Seattle is too dangerous to open the courthouse, although these kinds of projects like the court system and sewage treatment plans are shared costs, and even if King Co. split would still be done on an interlocal agreement like so many other agreements on police, fire, sewage treatment, and so on), although there could be some additional costs to east King Co. for county parks which are disproportionality in east King Co., but like sewage treatment a charge could be implemented for their use.

        For East King Co. I think the vote would not come down to whether there would be a tax increase because most eastside unincorporated areas that incorporated or merged with neighboring cities because King Co. was so poorly run had their taxes slightly raised, (and of course property values increased), it would come down to the fact eastsiders see Seattle as a failed city, its city government a travesty, and are terrified of becoming Seattle.

        It is true they voted for ST 3, based on a lot of dishonesty and most I know think ST 3 is a very questionable transit package on the eastside designed to complete ST 2 on the west side, and I doubt ST 3 would pass today.

        I think splitting East King Co. should at least be put up to a proper vote, rather than some anti-tax revolt in Renton A Joy discusses. Have an honest discussion about the costs (which I think would be irrelevant to east King Co.) and let citizens in East King Co. vote whether to join a new county, and who wants to join. I am pretty sure the core from Mercer Island to Issaquah and areas east to Bellevue to Redmond and Duvall to Bothell would overwhelmingly vote yes. So have the vote.

        Big deal. I don’t know why Seattleites are so defensive about it, except maybe it stings that east King Co. wants to go their own way, but anyone looking at Seattle should understand that. Seattle will be fine without east King Co.

      7. “ [3] To alter the area of a county, the state constitution requires a petition of the “majority of the voters” in that area.”

        Since any split would alter the boundary of King County as well as the new county, it would seem that a legal argument requiring all current King County voters to sign a petition in the matter would be made in court. If the Eastside merely wanted to become part of another county, then this seems more plausible.

        Even if not, the required voter petitioning effort seems very challenging to obtain on the Eastside. Supporters would need to get at least 55-60 percent of voters to sign the petition to account for ineligible signatures — and that’s much harder to do than to get a yes vote. The logistics seem so difficult that it seems pretty unrealistic.

      8. I think 55% to 60% of eastsiders would vote to form their own county at this point, but we will never know unless a vote is held. I am not sure if all King Co. voters would get to vote. Why would Seattle voters object or vote no? I thought Seattle wanted more control over its own levies and fund raising without regional restrictions. I could see some cities in the south having reservations, but the key there is to give them the choice of which county they want to join, although I could see east and west King Co. fighting over who has to take some of these cities. Maybe a three county system: North, South and East King Co., but my guess is South King Co. would overwhelmingly vote against that, seeing the writing on the wall.

        More interesting would be where areas south and north on the lake boundary would vote to join.

      9. Daniel, your reference to Washington law requires signing a petition and not merely voting. It’s a much harder accomplishment logistically.

      10. @Daniel Thompson, the tax revolt I mentioned had nothing to do with Renton. In fact, the grange hall pitch I attended was in the heart of one of the supposed regions that you claimed would support secession even if it involved raising taxes. This meeting was east of Issaquah, in the Snoqualmie Valley. And the people were adamant about there being no increase in taxes. It was a direct anti-ST response, and had nothing to do with Seattle being some crime ridden, failed city (how many times are you going to beat that poor dead horse?).

      11. A Joy, I am not familiar with the “grange hall revolt” you raise, or an organized ST revolt in Snoqualmie. Do you have a link. Are you talking about this. This really has more to do with rural property rights in King Co. Why did you of all people attend?

        If you could link to this meeting that so affected you I could at least understand who put it on, and whether it was serious or not. Lots of folks put on meetings like this, but they are just spit in the wind.

        It is very hard to discuss an issue if one bases their opinion on personal anecdote. A “Snoqualmie Valley” could mean just about anything. As you know ST 2 and 3 passed in East King Co. although there were those opposed, in part because they thought $4.5 billion lines from Issaquah to S. Kirkland were not a good use of tax monies, although many on this post love to think East King Co. is some kind of MAGA rural bastion.

        As I stated I don’t think a vote today among eastsiders on whether to split King Co. along its east/west axis would have much to do with tax rates or money. The eastside has plenty of money. The meeting you attended at “the grange” is not reflective of eastside residents. The issues would have to do with local control, and how to address a number of issues such as crime, public safety, zoning, transit, schools, roads and bridges, business taxation, parks, and homelessness, which we think determines the character of a city or county.

        East King Co., based on the current situation, probably thinks it could do a better job than the current King Co. administration. It also sees the current King Co. administration too influenced by Seattle, and sees Seattle politics and the Seattle City Council and its policies — including CHOP — as dangerous, and contrary to what they want their communities to be.

        IIRC you live in Sea-Tac. Sea-Tax could vote on whether to join east or west King Co. So I don’t see how Sea-Tac or you would be negatively impacted, either from a split, or the formation of East King Co. Who knows how Sea-Tac would vote, because Sea-Tac has an interesting mix, although its planning commission and council have swung pretty conservatively lately.

        Can you maybe list some of your objections to a split rather than refer to some rural anti-tax gathering you attended long ago in the “Snoqualmie Valley”. So far all you have mentioned is taxes might go up in east King Co. although I am not sure that affects you. Surely you remember where the meeting was, and in what building, although why you would think that meeting is reflective of east King Co. I don’t know.

      12. Al, I think the petition would be the vote. Based on my admittedly cursory review of the constitutional provision a petition would not be necessary to place a measure on the ballot to split King Co.

        The trickier part would be to figure out which areas and cities would want to join a new county before placing a measure on a ballot, unless the split was just based on a hard line. I suppose if you are east King Co. you could just leave out any areas or cities along the boundary you were worried about voting no. If that is Renton, Kent, Kenmore et al that would leave them out of the vote (and new county) but that would be unfair if those cities did want to join the new county.

        Obviously such a major proposal would require a lot of work and organization, and maybe even some kind of preliminary votes among boundary cities on which county they wanted to join. This issue would receive such publicity I think it would become apparent which cities wanted to join the new county that could go either way. The main cities in East King Co. would certainly want to be part of East King Co. so it is unlikely you would have some area deep in east King Co. part of west King Co.

        Kent, Renton, Sea-Tac or Kenmore are not the make or break cities IMO, and the real question is which county would want them, although I think Renton really belongs in East King Co. and would vote that way. No doubt Bothell would choose East King Co. Maybe even Laurelhurst, Windemere, The Highlands, Magnolia, could become part of “east” King Co., if given the choice.

        Counties in WA were never imagined to grow to 2.2 million residents, which is why King Co. is nearly twice the size of Rhode Island. It just makes sense to divide King Co. IMO, which I think would benefit Seattle too.

      13. Daniel, a petition and a vote are very different. You can’t simply will the difference away by conflating the two. The fact that you don’t accept the difference speaks volumes about your unrealistic view of county government.

      14. Al, I read the 1998 controlling case. Cedar County Committee v. Munro, 134 Wash. 2d 377 (Supreme Court of Washington 1998).

        Petitioners must obtain the signatures of 50% +1 of all registered voters in the proposed new county, not the entire county, and not just 50% of those voters who voted in the last election. This would be indeed be a high hurdle.

        The petition is then submitted to the legislature. There is no vote. The legislature has discretion whether to form a new county consistent with the petition, if valid. The Sec. of State cannot be “compelled” to certify the vote, and the legislature cannot be compelled to form a new county.

        First this would tell me any area looking to form a new county would want to limit the area of the new county due to the difficulty of obtaining the votes of 50% of registered voters. If a city like Renton wanted to join the new county I think it would be incumbent upon them to obtain their own petition.

        Second I think any petition to split east King Co. would have to start with a city like Bellevue. If Bellevue announced it was going to attempt to obtain the necessary signatures on a petition to secede from King Co. I think that would motivate other eastside cities to do the same, because if a city did not obtain its own petition with 50% of registered voters it would be excluded from the new county. I doubt any eastside cities would want to remain with “west” King Co. if Bellevue formed its own county.

        Finally, the Wiki link has a link to past efforts to form new counties from existing counties. Most of these efforts were what I would call “homegrown”, and quite small in area, so I am not sure the legislature would approve the petition for a new county. However if a large area like East King Co. filed a petition with the state legislature that would be quite different, as those cities have a lot of pull, and I am not sure who would object, and why.

        You seem to be opposed, but don’t offer any reasons why East King Co. should not be able to form its own county.

      15. So many issues here.

        When movements have arisen for parts of counties or states to become independent or join neighboring jurisdictions, it’s usually over short-term issues. West Virginia broke off from Virginia to remain in the Union, but now West Virginia is more southern-like than Virginia. Suggestions for a new country split approximating the Mason-Dixon line overlook the fact that every state, even every county, has people on both sides. There have been suggestions for Eastern Washington to become a new state or join Idaho, the rural part of east King County (east of Issaquah) to become a new county, and now for the Eastside. Often these suggestions are based on misinformation, a false understanding of what they’re splitting from, misinterpreting some of their own residents, assuming they’re less subsidized than they are, and thinking they can keep away problems that will come anyway.

        Most Eastside residents have never heard of the succession idea, didn’t think it was possible, and would instinctively say no until there’s more time to consider all the implications. There’s a widespread vague discontent toward Seattle, but I don’t think it’s as acute as this. Even if a majority of Nextdoor readers agree that Seattle has collapsed like Detroit, the Eastside is subsidizing it, and it’s imperative that the Eastside become a separate county now, Nextdoor readers are only a tiny fraction of Eastside residents.

        Splitting Seattle and the Eastside raises the difficult issue of what to do with South King County, and which side of Renton the division should be. It’s not at all clear whether it should be split into two or three counties or which one South King County belongs with. The Eastside sees itself as tech-centered and wealthy; South King County sees itself as industrial, working class, and lower income. South King County can’t exist and doesn’t think it can exist without subsidies. When Eastsiders vote against transit, it’s because they’re libertarians who don’t believe in taxes or transit. When South King Countians vote against transit, it’s because they think they can’t afford the additional taxes.

        If the Eastside thinks it’s subsidizing everyone else and not getting subsidies, that’s an example of privilege thinking it’s entitled to even more extraordinary privileges. We hear the similar thing from West Seattle.

        All this sounds like a discussion from the 1960s. Seattle is not Detroit, and the Eastside can’t wall off problems by just creating another jurisdiction. The Bellevue, Kirkland, and Redmond governments all realized this in the 80s and 90s, and they became more Seattle-like, and as they grew their residents became more Seattle-like too. Even if vestiges of extreme reactionaryism live on in parts of Mercer Island or the Lake Washington near-shore.

        If the issues are crime and homelessness, the current situations in Seattle are only a year old, too short to make long-term boundary decisions over.

        “But if you live in Seattle and want to move to the eastside I would recommend doing so sooner rather than later if you want to get a comparable city or neighborhood.”

        There are no comparable cities or neighborhoods; that’s why people choose one or the other. The closest comparison is northeast Seattle (northeast of UW) to the residential parts of eastern Bellevue. Seattle neighborhoods tend to be in a 5-block grid with intermediate through streets; Eastside neighborhoods tend to be in 8-block superblocks. Seattle storefronts tend to come up to the sidewalk or have small parking lots, there are more neighborhood corner stores, and a wider variety of things within walking distance. Eastside stores tend to be buried behind large parking lots, with large car-oriented streets to get to them, which some people find boring or depressing.

        “I also noted S. King Co., Pierce Co., and N. King Co. are all appreciating faster than Seattle”

        That’s because they’re starting from a lower level. People who can’t afford higher-priced areas or want a larger lot than they can get in Seattle/Eastside are pouring into those areas and driving up the prices. I think the prices are gradually moving toward equalization. Not completely, because the benefits of living near Seattle/Eastside jobs or prestige can’t be replicated, but with so many hundreds of thousands of existing residents and so many people looking for a place, the demand and higher price levels are inevitably going to spread out and are spreading out, and the center can’t always rise faster than that.

      16. “Counties in WA were never imagined to grow to 2.2 million residents, which is why King Co. is nearly twice the size of Rhode Island. It just makes sense to divide King Co. IMO, which I think would benefit Seattle too.”

        Maybe, but this is a brand-new issue. I’ve never heard of it in fifty years of watching King County cope with growth, and I’ve never heard the legislature mention it as a concern either. If they had thought so, they could have done something in the past fifty years.

      17. Honestly, Daniel, I view the major function of county government in Washington is to be primarily to do three things:

        – Provide court services
        – Provide governance and services when other entities (cities, special districts, school districts) don’t
        – Provide services that have countywide benefit like elections, assessments, health departments and related functions

        As such it’s not the biggest recipient of property taxes or sales taxes. It’s share is quite small.

        To argue that there is some sort of lower tax windfall to taxpayers seems pretty silly. Not only would many jobs would need to get duplicated and new administrative buildings would need to be occupied, but any tax benefit based on aggregated assessed property values seems pretty inconsequential to the overall tax load.

        If transit is the “beef”, there are other organizational options. CT and PT are districts rather than countywide. But even so, transit is only one function of King County and that alone is not cause to split the whole entity’s many functions.

        Conceptually, the introduction of East Link does make it more functionally viable to operate an Eastside-only transit district — leaving regional connections to ST. Our region does seem to be drifting towards a transit system with regional and local/ feeder service offered by different entities. I point to LA County as a place where multiple systems operate using a countywide sales tax subsidy. The California model of each city directing their transit dollars is a curious one — and that model is nested into a structural difference between tax revenue allocation and transit operations (leading to some rather unusual transit governance situations in LA).

        So I don’t think splitting the county changes much of anything. It would be mostly cosmetic — so my defense of keeping things as they are is that splitting doesn’t change much of anything.

        I’d much rather see energy put into creating an intermediate countywide transportation funding agency (the California model) being in control of our transit tax dollars, with each operator having to justify their capital projects and operating subsidies to this agency to get the funds. It provides a level of independent oversight that we lack — leaving us to complain on STB and hope that someone in power agrees.

      18. Actually when you count in county levies for parks and the libraries King Co.’s tax haul is higher than cities.

        Here is sales tax.

        In many cases these county taxes increase with increased property values whereas the city property levy lid does not. On Mercer Island the KCLS levy tax is over 1/4 my entire city property tax, which is ridiculous. (not sure where this site is getting a $407,700 median property tax unless it includes condos and apartments and tents).

        I am not sure if you read my post(s) but I repeatedly stated lower taxes are not an issue or driving force in splitting East King Co., at least for the eastside, and neither is transit as far as I know, considering ST 3 is likely the end of it, although I still think the $4.5 billion for the Issaquah to S. Kirkland line could be better used elsewhere (including non-transit). $4.5 billion is a lot of money for some.

        In fact, I thought I listed the lifestyle issues that would drive the split:

        “The issues would have to do with local control, and how to address a number of issues such as crime, public safety, zoning, transit, schools, roads and bridges, business taxation, parks, and homelessness, which we think determine the character of a city or county.”

        After all, why have counties at all if different parts of the state can’t have different visions.

        If the issue is transit, which is way down the list on the eastside, I think true subarea equity for all transit and not just ST makes sense and I agree with you on that.

        I think the sentiment is there on the eastside to form its own county, but the logistics are pretty overwhelming. Probably what we will see in the future is more subarea equity on projects and funding, even though I don’t think that is a key factor on the eastside except for something really huge like ST 3.

        I think one irony is pre-pandemic ST and East Link were seen as “bringing Bellevue closer to Seattle” (although you never saw that on an eastside bus), whereas the way I read the restructure Metro doesn’t really see the cross lake commuter from the eastside to Seattle returning, which leaves few reasons to go into Seattle, other than the UW and sporting events.

        East and west King Co. are balkanizing, even if there are in the same county. The divisions are there between east and west even if there is only county, and the opting out of the 1/10th of the county’s one percent sales tax for emergency housing by every eastside city highlights this split for me. Not the amount of the tax, because it is the same, but who spends it, cities or the county.

      19. “most eastside unincorporated areas that incorporated or merged with neighboring cities because King Co. was so poorly run”

        They incorporated or or joined neighboring because King County strongly urged them to do so, and said their services would be reduced heavily if they didn’t. Parks were a big issue: the county said it would close and lock the parks if the community didn’t take over funding them. A Seattle times article on White Center mentioned a state law that also encourages annexation. King County never intended to provide urban services, only rural services. But as growth occurred in unincoporated areas — mainly due to the county’s laxer zoning than the cities — the county backed into providing urban levels of service. The tax structure is such that city residents pay state+county+city taxes, and the latter are supposed to fund local needs. Unincorporated residents pay only state+county taxes, and when there’s so many of them they need urban services, the county has to provide them, and that’s a net subsidy to them from countywide taxes.

        Annexation to Seattle was popular through the mid 1950s but then stopped as the suburban local-control movement came into full swing and school desegregation became mandatory. That’s why Broadview and Rainier Beach got in but Shoreline and White Center didn’t. If you ask Shorelineites both before and after incorporation why they wouldn’t annex to Seattle, they said it was to avoid a third level of taxes, and a “liberal and corrupt” government. School desegregation was another unspoken issue. So the reasons suburbanites are reluctant to annex to Seattle are nothing new; they’ve been around for decades.

  6. Start with Heidi Wills, people. Heidi Wills got the UPass going. That woke up Ron Sims who was going to go car-centric into supporting transit, which led to Sound Move. Same Heidi Wills who kept on Tim Eyman’s heels, and sacrificed so much to do so.

    Moving along, I’d have to say Martin H. Duke and Frank Chiachiere (sp?). This blog has become an institution and a safe harbor for pro-transit voices.

    Also Claudia Badassuchi who believed in light rail for her community, made the difficult transition from staff to elected to make it so, and is now delivering it.

    Then there’s the indispensable Dow Constantine. The guy who’s been there leading the way from day one. Truly grateful.

    I would add all that Brent White said here on my list.

    Moving down, I’d say Ric Ilgenfritz. He’s been with Sound Transit from early on to now helping make sure Community Transit as an institution and the rest of the north – that includes me – holds down our part of the game plan and pulls together for Lynnwood Link. I’ll stop there.

  7. Throwing this out to the horde– who should we be thanking at the Seattle ST 3 stations opening in circa 2040 (2045?)? Brent mentioned Farrell, which is a good one. Presumably Dow Constantine will be honored as well.

    What about others?

    1. Claudia Balducci and John Marchione seemed to be the big movers & shakers on the east side, and I believe they were both committee chairs for several years before/after ST3 vote.

    2. In Seinfeld, who should Elaine have thanked when George’s girlfriend handed her the big salad? The girlfriend took credit for the big salad, but she didn’t pay for it, George did. You thank taxpayers first.

  8. I’d like to thank the maintainers, authors, and commenters in this blog, for presenting good overviews and detailed perspectives on transit-related issues in the Seattle area. It really is a good resource for historical, technical, political, and social contexts for anyone interested in making good decisions or compromises in large public infrastructure projects. This blog helped me appreciate, and get excited about, the more recent Link station openings in 2016 and this weekend.

    Before 2016, I was just content riding my express bus (Metro 301) to and from downtown Seattle. I was ambivalent about light rail, and didn’t really understand why buses were not enough, although it made absolute sense that public transit needed dedicated lanes. I didn’t even respond to station design outreach in my neighborhood after the ST2 vote, but now consider myself lucky that my neighbors and city officials back then had, hopefully, advocated for the best compromise possible.

    So, thanks for helping turn me around to a more enthusiastic rail supporter. I still like buses, of course, and I’m even more of a convert to using bikes for short errands and trips. These modes of transport can all work together for the better, and at best, makes the overall cost and hassle of car ownership seem ridiculous in comparison.

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