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.

Buy a tick­et to our 2013 Spring Fundrais­ing Gala right now by fol­low­ing this link.

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!

Spon­sor­ships are also avail­able at sev­er­al lev­els.

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!

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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