Today is Permanent Defense’s eleventh anniversary, and given that Permanent Defense was initially created to oppose I-776 (Tim Eyman’s scheme to block Central Link light rail from being built), it seems like the perfect time for us to announce that Joni Earl, the CEO of Sound Transit, will be one of the speakers at NPI’s 2013 Spring Fundraising Gala on Friday, April 5th, 2013.
Joni is one of our favorite people and we’re absolutely delighted that she’s going to be part of our speaking program this year.
Since taking over as CEO more than a decade ago, Joni has transformed Sound Transit into one of the best-run public agencies in the country. ST was in pretty lousy shape when Joni took the helm, but nowadays, it delivers projects on time and under budget, and it has regained the trust and confidence of the public.
Were it not for Joni’s leadership, Link light rail would never have become a reality for our region. Joni’s efforts to get Sound Transit shipshape made it possible for Senator Patty Murray and Representative Norm Dicks to go to bat for Link on Capitol Hill. They persuaded the Republican in charge of the House appropriations subcommittee on transportation to drop his objections to the project, ensuring Sound Transit could get the federal funding it needed to construct Central Link.
That breakthrough, by the way, came just a few weeks after NPI’s founding. That makes 2013 the tenth anniversary year for both NPI and Central Link. (NPI came into being on the Web on August 22nd, 2003; the Central Link groundbreaking took place November 8th, 2003 in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood).
The day of the groundbreaking, then-King County Councilmember (now Washington State Democratic Party Chair) Dwight Pelz predicted to The Seattle Times that November 8th would be remembered “as a moment of celebration as we begin to bring rail — [and] not just this one route.”
“We’re confident it will be a countywide system within twenty years. Communities across the county are going to be clamoring for rail,” he added.
Dwight was spot-on.
But he was only spot-on because Joni Earl and her team worked hard to expand Link north, south, and east… even as Central Link was being built.
Their first triumph came when the Port of Seattle agreed to help Sound Transit bring light rail all the way into SeaTac. Construction on Airport Link began before construction on Central Link was finished, and went so smoothly that the Airport Link extension opened the same year that Central Link did.
Joni’s team then secured funding from the federal government to construct University Link, bringing light rail north to the University of Washington.
And in 2008, just months after the failure of the Roads & Transit proposition in 2007, Joni and her team came up with a new package for the Sound Transit board to put before voters. This package, dubbed “Sound Transit 2″, was enthusiastically approved by voters in 2008, making it possible for Sound Transit to begin planning East Link, North Link, and the first segments of South Link.
In just three years, Link will expand both north and south as University Link and Angle Lake Link open to the public. Meanwhile, work will continue to bring light rail to the Eastside and to Lynnwood – projects that are targeted for completion in 2023. If all goes well, Dwight’s prediction will be fulfilled, and we will indeed have a light rail system connecting many of the most densely populated communities in King County just twenty years after the Central Link groundbreaking.
We are proud of the role we have played in supporting the development and construction of light rail in our region. That’s why the theme of our gala this year is Building Transit for All. We hope you’ll join us on April 5th to hear Joni tell the remarkable story of Sound Transit’s turnaround and give us an update on the projects that Sound Transit has in the pipeline – including University Link.
Tickets to our Spring Fundraising Gala are just $60 for individuals and $90 for households. Although this is a fundraising event, we do our best to make it affordable for activists. We know you get asked for money a lot. We do, too!
In the weeks to come, we’ll be sharing more details about our 2013 gala, including the names of our other speakers. We hope you’ll help us make our 2013 Spring Fundraising Gala a success by buying your ticket and committing to attend.
See you on April 5th!