Well, the initial batch of returns for the April 22nd special election just got reported by King County Elections, and they aren’t pretty. By a vote of 55% to 44%, voters are rejecting Proposition 1, the measure unanimously referred to the ballot by the King County Council to save Metro and fund badly needed road repairs.
The initial tally reported by King County Elections consists of 162,508 votes for Proposition 1, and 200,887 votes against. Hundreds of thousands of ballots remain to be counted, and it is certainly possible that the margin will tighten. But it would take a huge turnaround in the late votes to change the outcome, and there just aren’t enough votes waiting to be counted to overcome the opposition.
Proposition 1’s apparent failure leaves over seventy of Metro’s routes on the chopping block, and leaves several dozen more facing drastic service cutbacks.
King County Executive Dow Constantine, addressing members of the Move King County Now coalition at Kells Irish Pub and Restaurant in Seattle, noted that the numbers did not look good, but he vowed to continue working to protect Metro, even as he proposes legislation to eliminate routes and eviscerate others.
“The voters are not rejecting Metro,” Constantine said. “They are rejecting this particular means of funding Metro. We know the people of King County love and value their transit service. They vote with their feet and with their ORCA cards.”
Proposition 1’s failure will also leave the King County Department of Transportation’s Road Services Division woefully underfunded. KCDOT’s shrinking budget has begun to take a serious toll on road maintenance, particularly in rural areas.
King County Councilmember Larry Phillips and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, who spoke after Constantine, both stressed that they have been around long enough to know that the failure of one particular ballot measure is hardly the end of the road.
They make a very good point.
In 2007, voters in King County overwhelmingly rejected the Roads & Transit ballot measure, which would have increased the sales tax and vehicle fees to pay for road projects and expansion of Sound Transit’s Link light rail system.
But the following year, Sound Transit went back to the ballot on its own. It resoundingly won approval to extend light rail south, east, and north, towards Federal Way, Redmond, and Lynnwood from the voters of urban Puget Sound.
Going to the ballot in April was always risky, but King County leaders, left empty handed after the Legislature failed to agree on a transportation package, concluded that the people of King County deserved the opportunity to weigh in before cuts were implemented… and so they referred to the ballot a plan to save Metro and fix county roads. Unfortunately, those voters who chose to participate in the special election didn’t like the plan. And so we’re back where we started.
Anyone who believes that Metro’s proposed cuts are just a bluff, and voted no thinking that Metro will figure out how to save routes from elimination without new revenue, is in for a very rude awakening.
Metro is actually about to lose a lot of revenue… the $20 vehicle fee the King County Council enacted in 2011 to stave off service cuts is about to expire. When it does, Metro will once again be dangerously dependent on the volatile sales tax.