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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

John Creighton, Richard Mitchell make it official: They're running against Jane Hague

Two men who had previously expressed an interest in running against Jane Hague, the lone Republican up for reelection this year on the county council, confirmed today that they're launching their campaigns.

They are Seattle Port Commissioner John Creighton, forty five, and former general counsel to Governor Chris Gregoire Richard E. Mitchell, forty four.

Creighton was first out the door. He is distributing a three page long press release announcing his intent to run and outlining his campaign platform.

Disturbingly, the first thing he talks about is reducing the size of the county council from nine to seven seats. We're strongly opposed to this idea because it would decrease representation. County council districts are already huge — each one encompasses more than one hundred and ninety thousand people.

By population, King County's council districts are among the largest of any type in the state; only congressional districts are larger.

What's more, the size of the county council was reduced not long ago, thanks to the jail guards' union and their hired consultant Tim Eyman (who doesn't live in King County). The present council is about two-thirds of the size of the previous incarnation, which had a total of thirteen members.

We don't have an objection to reducing councilmembers' pay, which Creighton also proposes; it's high compared to what members of other legislative bodies in the state receive. His suggestion is a bit ironic, though, for we understand that one of his motivations in leaving the Port Commission and joining the county council is to obtain a better-paying job.

Many of Creighton's other "ideas" are vague and not well-defined. One of the items comprising his stance on transportation is "Completing the South Park Bridge Project as soon as possible with no more delays."

Well, who's against that? Nobody we know of. We all save money if transportation projects are completed on time and under budget.

Then there's "Moving decisions on bus service and light rail away from political negotiations to decisions based on ridership and engineering recommendations."

If Creighton becomes a councilmember, he isn't going to be participating in much of the decisionmaking around Link light rail or Express bus service unless he is appointed to the Sound Transit Board — which seems unlikely, given that nearly half the county council is already on it (Julia Patterson, Larry Phillips, Joe McDermott, Pete von Reichbauer). Sound Transit's federated board actually does make decisions based on ridership and engineering recommendations, as anyone who regularly attends board meetings knows.

The King County Council does have responsibility for Metro, however, and Metro could use help figuring out how to maximize service with minimal revenue.

Creighton also says he supports "reducing overhead for both Sound Transit and Metro and reducing duplication of the agencies."

Maybe Creighton doesn't fully realize this, but Sound Transit is a municipal corporation which is not part of King County government. It has its own sources of revenue, its own budget, and its own headquarters. As one of the most heavily audited agencies in the state, headed by one of the most skilled chief executives working in the public sector today (Joni Earl), Sound Transit is already operating rather efficiently and effectively.

Because it serves a very different purpose than Metro, there really isn't any "duplication" to eliminate. Many people don't know that Sound Transit does not hire its own operators. Instead, it contracts with King County Metro, Community Transit, Pierce Transit, and Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) for personnel to run its vehicles (buses, trains, and streetcars).

Sound Transit itself is a planning agency. Its job is to thoughtfully design and implement projects approved by voters, particularly East Link, North Link, and South Link, the next phases of our light rail system.

Any changes to Sound Transit's governance or purpose would have to be made by the state Legislature; for only it has the authority.

Before Sound Transit 2 was approved by voters in 2008, repeated proposals were made to merge Sound Transit into a larger, more bureaucratic agency governed by a board of transportation czars. We lobbied against these proposals, and watched them repeatedly die in committee with great satisfaction. We will continue to oppose any attempts to mess with Sound Transit. The last thing ST needs right now is more interference, no matter how well-intentioned it may be.

Creighton will undoubtedly be seeking the support of Democrats in his campaign to unseat Jane Hague. He may find winning endorsements to be difficult, since he has repeatedly contributed to the coffers of the state and local (King County) Republican Party in recent years.

Richard E. Mitchell, who served as Chris Gregoire's legal counsel during her first term, appears to have stronger Democratic credentials. He was a delegate for Barack Obama during the caucus and convention cycle in 2008, and appears to have financially supported only Democratic candidates and causes. He is listed as a donor for Ron Sims' and Dow Constantine's campaigns for county executive. He has also donated money to the state Democratic Party several times.

Mitchell doesn't have a website yet (that we know of) but we look forward to learning more about him and his campaign platform.

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