Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sound Transit Board of Directors will look somewhat different in 2010

One of the consequences of the 2009 elections that hasn't been widely discussed is the forthcoming changes to the Sound Transit Board of Directors, which will look somewhat different next year with the departure of several current boardmembers and the addition of several new ones.

The most prominent board member leaving is Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, the current Board Chair, who will undoubtedly be best remembered for courageously sheparding through the Sound Transit 2 proposal to the ballot in the summer of 2008. (The measure, Sound Transit Proposition 1, which primarily funds an expansion of Link light rail, was resoundingly passed just a few months later.)

But Nickels isn't the only one saying goodbye.

Tacoma Deputy Mayor Julie Anderson will also be leaving the Board and Tacoma city government to take over as Pierce County Auditor. She replaces Republican Jan Shabro, the current Auditor, who was appointed by the Pierce County Council against the wishes of Pierce County Democrats.

They had contended that a Democrat should be appointed to the post since it was officially a partisan position when the previous Auditor (and now Pierce County Executive) Pat McCarthy was elected.

We're very fond of Julie and will greatly miss her presence on the Board, but we're very excited that she is moving on up to higher office.

Addtionally, the Board will lose Mary-Alyce Burleigh, who did not seek reelection to the Kirkland City Council. Her term expires at the end of this year, and it's a likely bet that she will be replaced with another Eastside councilmember, probably someone from Bellevue. Bellevue is King County's second largest city, and it currently has no representation on the Board. But it should, considering that so many decisions about East Link concern its residents.

Finally, Dow Constantine will assume Kurt Triplett's position on the Board as King County Executive, creating a fourth vacancy that will need to be filled.

Constantine will name his own successor, Burleigh's successor, and Nickels' successor on the Board, per state law (specifically, RCW 81.112.040, which specifies how Sound Transit is governed). Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy will select a successor for Julie Anderson. The appointments will need to be sanctioned by the King and Pierce County Councils, respectively.

Boardmembers who stood for election this year and have earned another term include Richard Conlin (Seattle City Council), Dave Enslow (Mayor of Sumner), Joe Marine (Mayor of Mukilteo), Paul Roberts (Everett City Council), Julia Patterson (King County Council) and Pete von Reichbauer (King County Council).

For those who don't know, Sound Transit is governed by a federated board consisting of people who have been directly elected to city or county government. The County Executives of King, Pierce, and Snohomish get automatic seats on the Board and the power to name the other boardmembers from their county (subject to the consent of that county's council, as mentioned).

The federated board model neatly avoids the problem of having to hold obscure elections to elect people to run yet another agency because it consists of people who have already been elected to make decisions at the local level of government. Sound Transit thus has a better working relationship with cities and counties within its boundaries because ST itself is governed by city and county leaders.

Contrast Sound Transit's governance with the Port of Seattle's. The Port actually spans all of King County and is not controlled by the City of Seattle, despite what its name might suggest. Nor is it controlled by King County. Instead, it is governed by a five member commission which has not always exercised effective oversight over the Port, in part because the commission itself receives little scrutiny.

A side note about the Port Commission: When 2010 arrives, only one member will have served longer than one term: John Creighton, who ran unopposed for reelection this year. Two members (Rob Holland and Tom Albro) will be brand new, having just won their seats; the remaining two (Bill Bryant and Gael Tarleton) will be beginning the third years of their first terms.

Since Sound Transit Boardmembers serve four year terms, the elected officials who will be joining will get to help make many important decisions within the next few years, particularly concerning the expansion of Link light rail.

It's our hope that Dow and Pat choose new boardmembers who are enthusiastic about expanding mobility options for people of Puget Sound, passionate about the nuts and bolts of transportation infrastructure, and wholeheartedly supportive of the expansion of light rail approved by the people of this region one year ago.


Blogger Douglas Tooley said...

I was wondering whether Anderson would keep her Pierce County appointment upon switching jobs. Thanks for reading my mind! FWIW, I don't think there is any reason why McCarthy couldn't appoint Anderson, though the convention of a Tacoma Council rep makes a lot of sense. (It would also be good to get someone more responsive to Citizens than Ms. Anderson)

Similarly, I wonder if Constantine will appoint a Bellevue rep now that this Council is marginally anti-transit. The removal of Rob McKenna by Ron Sims set a bad precedent from a consistently constructive critic. It may well also indicate bully politics on the Eastside that are not sustainable and foreshadow political problems for the agency on the Eastside.

McGinn should definitely be appointed to the Board, replacing Nickels. Constantine should have some freedom to appoint whomever he thinks best to fill his own seat.

November 16, 2009 7:46 AM  

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