Sound Transit board meeting adjourns
Sound Transit board meeting adjourns

With the “aye” votes of four Demo­c­ra­t­ic sen­a­tors, the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate this morn­ing passed a bill orig­i­nal­ly spon­sored by Repub­li­can Steve O’Ban that would wipe out Sound Tran­sit’s fed­er­at­ed board and replace it with a pan­el of trans­porta­tion czars hail­ing from eleven spe­cial­ly-drawn districts.

The roll call was as fol­lows:

Roll Call
SSB 5001
3rd Read­ing & Final Passage
Yeas: 29 Nays: 20

Vot­ing Yea: Sen­a­tors Angel, Bai­ley, Baum­gart­ner, Beck­er, Braun, Brown, Con­way, Darneille, Erick­sen, Fain, For­tu­na­to, Hasegawa, Hawkins, Hon­ey­ford, King, Milos­cia, O‘Ban, Pad­den, Palum­bo, Pear­son, Rivers, Rossi, Schoesler, Shel­don, Short, Walsh, War­nick, Wil­son, Zeiger

Vot­ing Nay: Sen­a­tors Bil­lig, Car­lyle, Chase, Cleve­land, Frockt, Hobbs, Hunt, Keis­er, Kud­er­er, Liias, McCoy, Mul­let, Nel­son, Ped­er­sen, Ranker, Rolfes, Sal­daña, Takko, Van De Wege, Wellman

Sen­ate Repub­li­cans had sig­naled recent­ly that they were going to make SSB 5001 a pri­or­i­ty bill, so today’s floor action was not unex­pect­ed. The bill passed out of com­mit­tee sev­er­al days ago with the help of Steve Hobbs and Kevin Van De Wege. Both of them vot­ed against the bill on final passage.

What was incred­i­bly dis­ap­point­ing was that four Demo­c­ra­t­ic sen­a­tors who should have known bet­ter — Bob Hasegawa, Guy Palum­bo, Steve Con­way, and Jean­nie Darneille — vot­ed for SSB 5001.

In doing so, they betrayed Sound Tran­sit and the pro­gres­sive movement.

It is vital to under­stand that the pur­pose of this leg­is­la­tion is to give the right wing an oppor­tu­ni­ty to gain con­trol over Sound Tran­sit, its projects, and its rev­enue streams start­ing in 2018. The bill kills off the cur­rent Sound Tran­sit Board start­ing next year and requires that a set of eleven new dis­tricts no one will be able to keep track of be drawn for the pur­pos­es of elect­ing a pan­el of trans­porta­tion czars.

These czars would then assume con­trol over Sound Transit.

As struc­tured now, the Sound Tran­sit Board is invul­ner­a­ble to a Kem­per Free­man Jr.-funded hos­tile takeover. It has eigh­teen mem­bers, sev­en­teen of whom are local elect­ed offi­cials. These include the King, Pierce, and Sno­homish coun­ty exec­u­tives, and four­teen city/county coun­cilmem­bers or may­ors appoint­ed by the exec­u­tives. The eigh­teenth mem­ber is the Sec­re­tary of WSDOT.

This fed­er­at­ed board mod­el was actu­al­ly cre­at­ed by the Leg­is­la­ture back in the 1990s, and it’s work­ing just fine. There’s no rea­son to do away with it. Unless, of course, you’re an anti-rail Repub­li­can who wants to mount a hos­tile takeover of Sound Tran­sit with the aim of thwart­ing Link light rail from expanding.

We have defeat­ed bills like SSB 5001 before and we can do so again. But this is an all hands on deck sit­u­a­tion. Every activist and every orga­ni­za­tion who was involved in help­ing to pass Sound Tran­sit 3 last year needs to pitch in to ensure that this bill gets a bur­ial in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

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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9 replies on “Washington State Senate approves new Republican scheme to sabotage Sound Transit”

  1. I can­not believe that 4 Wash­ing­ton state Sen­a­tors vot­ed for this!!!! We are watch­ing and you will be vot­ed out! We do not want any Repub­li­can agen­da!!! We need our Sound Transit!

  2. Won­der­ing why
    Bob hasegawa
    Guy palumbo
    Steve Conway
    Jean­nie Danielle
    Vot­ed against SSB5001???

  3. Why did Hasegawa vote for the Sen­ate bill? He’s usu­al­ly a very reli­able progressive. 

    I think that some pro­gres­sive lead­ers were not entire­ly pleased with ST3’s price tag.

    Is there any chance the House would approve the bill? I’d think not, but ya nev­er know — the House passed Steve Lit­zow’s char­ter school bill last session.

  4. Wow, you real­ly aren’t pay­ing atten­tion, are you? As a fel­low Demo­c­rat, this is NOT a par­ti­san issue, no mat­ter how much you try to paint it as one. No one is say­ing we don’t need mass tran­sit just because we want elect­ed offi­cials man­ag­ing the largest tax we pay. What we want is a group that votes for the voice of the peo­ple, not just for a select few who live in down­town Seat­tle. We need to elim­i­nate the arro­gance and hubris of Peter Rogoff from a lead­er­ship posi­tion. He needs to be account­able to the peo­ple. Watch the video in this blog post and see how he address­es the 10 city may­ors in the room with a con­de­scend­ing tone toward tax­pay­ers..

  5. Every issue is a par­ti­san issue, David. 

    Think about it: If there was no dis­agree­ment, there would­n’t be an issue. Human beings are sub­jec­tive. We have opin­ions. We’re biased. Those of us in pol­i­tics hold posi­tions backed by sin­cere­ly held val­ues, and we advo­cate for poli­cies root­ed in those val­ues. We’re all par­ti­sans, whether we belong to a polit­i­cal par­ty or not. 

    Par­ti­san [pahr-tuh-zuh n, ‑suh n; British pahr-tuh-zan]
    First def­i­n­i­tion: an adher­ent or sup­port­er of a per­son, group, par­ty, or cause, espe­cial­ly a per­son who shows a biased, emo­tion­al allegiance. 

    The cur­rent Sound Tran­sit Board is broad­ly rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the region the agency serves. If you look at its mem­ber­ship, you can see there’s quite a bit of geo­graph­ic diver­si­ty. This is not a Seat­tle-cen­tric board.

    Dave Somers, Chair (Mon­roe)
    John Mar­chione, Vice Chair (Red­mond)
    Mar­i­lyn Strick­land, Vice Chair (Taco­ma)
    Nan­cy Backus (Auburn)
    Clau­dia Bal­duc­ci (Belle­vue)
    Fred But­ler (Issaquah)
    Dow Con­stan­tine (West Seattle)
    Bruce Dammeier (Puyallup)
    Dave Ear­ling (Edmonds)
    Rob John­son (Seat­tle)
    Kent Keel (Uni­ver­si­ty Place)
    Joe McDer­mott (West Seattle)
    Mary Moss (Lake­wood)
    Ed Mur­ray (Capi­tol Hill, Seattle)
    Paul Roberts (Everett)
    Dave Upthe­grove (Des Moines)
    Pete von Reich­bauer (Fed­er­al Way)
    Roger Mil­lar, WSDOT Sec­re­tary (Olympia)

    There are only four board­mem­bers from Seat­tle. Three-fourths of the board are from South King Coun­ty, the East­side, Sno­homish Coun­ty, or Pierce Coun­ty. So the argu­ment that we need to scrap the cur­rent board in order to get “a group that votes for the voice of the peo­ple, not just for a select few in down­town Seat­tle” is non­sense. The ST3 pack­age unan­i­mous­ly sub­mit­ted by the Sound Tran­sit Board last year won hand­i­ly. The major­i­ty of Sound Tran­sit’s vot­ers approve of its work. 

    The may­ors and coun­cilmem­bers who serve with the coun­ty exec­u­tives on the cur­rent ST board are strong advo­cates for the com­mu­ni­ties they come from. We see it in our inter­ac­tions with them. 

    And CEO Peter Rogoff is a thought­ful leader who val­ues pub­lic input and com­mu­ni­ty part­ner­ships. I dis­agree com­plete­ly with your char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of him. You’ve mis­judged a good man. 

    Take note that SSB 5001 does not pro­pose cre­at­ing an elect­ed exec­u­tive posi­tion to head Sound Tran­sit. Were SSB 5001 to be imple­ment­ed, the board would still hire and fire the CEO. The CEO would not answer direct­ly to the voters. 

    Man­dat­ing that the board of a pub­lic agency be cho­sen through at large elec­tions or dis­trict based elec­tions does not mag­i­cal­ly guar­an­tee good gov­er­nance. Much depends on the cir­cum­stances. Yaki­ma, for instance, ben­e­fit­ed from switch­ing to a dis­trict-based mod­el because it wound up with a city coun­cil more rep­re­sen­ta­tive of its pop­u­la­tion. Sound Tran­sit, how­ev­er, already has a very diverse board. And it’s not just diverse geo­graph­i­cal­ly. Look again at the board roster. 

    The com­mis­sion­ers who over­see the ports of Seat­tle and Taco­ma are cho­sen by the vot­ers, and they’ve made some bone­head­ed deci­sions in recent years. The Port of Taco­ma unwise­ly rushed to court to block a local ini­tia­tive aimed at pro­tect­ing Taco­ma’s water from the bal­lot before its sig­na­ture gath­er­ing effort had even end­ed, and got in trou­ble with the state. The Port of Seat­tle, mean­while, just sev­ered ties with its CEO and oth­er senior staff are pay­ing back bonus­es they weren’t sup­posed to have received… bonus­es the Com­mis­sion authorized. 

    We already have a great many lay­ers of gov­ern­ment. Cities, coun­ties, ports, school dis­tricts, spe­cial dis­tricts… the list is long. Nobody can keep track of it all. It makes sense that a region­al agency like Sound Tran­sit be gov­erned by rep­re­sen­ta­tives of its part­ner cities and coun­ties, because ST is in the busi­ness of con­nect­ing com­mu­ni­ties together. 

    May­ors and coun­cilmem­bers under­stand the nuances of land use, for exam­ple, because it’s their wheel­house. Trans­porta­tion is but one facet of pub­lic plan­ning. Bad deci­sions result from oper­at­ing in silos. ST is for­tu­nate it does­n’t have that problem. 

    By defeat­ing SSB 5001, we can keep Sound Tran­sit on track and mov­ing forward.

  6. “quite a bit of geo­graph­ic diversity”??
    Balder­dashh! There is a whole chunk of Wash­ing­ton that is on the East side of the state who do NOT ben­e­fit from Sound Tran­sit and are not rep­re­sent­ed on this committee.
    It may not be “Seat­tle-cen­tric” but it sure­ly is “West Side centric”.

    1. Earth to Dave: Sound Tran­sit is a region­al, not statewide agency. Its juris­dic­tion is urban King, Pierce, and Sno­homish coun­ties. It does not oper­ate ser­vice or raise funds from out­side of the greater Seat­tle, Taco­ma, Everett, and Belle­vue met­ro­pol­i­tan area. So of course it does­n’t have any local lead­ers from East­ern Wash­ing­ton on its board.

      Save your out­rage for some­thing real and worth­while, like the Trump regime’s planned cuts to NOAA and EPA.

  7. Sound tran­sit has yet to com­plete a project on time and on bud­get. The very notion the project should have been vot­ed on dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion only adds to the out­rage by res­i­dents and tax­pay­ers who had the wool pulled over their eyes.

    1. False, James… Sound Tran­sit has com­plet­ed many projects on time and on bud­get. In fact, late­ly, Sound Tran­sit has been com­plet­ing projects ahead of sched­ule and under budget.

      For exam­ple, the Uni­ver­si­ty Link light rail exten­sion opened six months ahead of sched­ule and was built for $150 mil­lion less than anticipated.

      The Angle Lake Link exten­sion opened four years ahead of sched­ule and came in $40 mil­lion under budget. 

      I sug­gest you do some research before you leave your next com­ment. This is the first and last time we’ll approve a com­ment from you laden with false statements.

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