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Washington State Senate approves new Republican scheme to sabotage Sound Transit

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.


  1. Robin Westbrook
    Posted March 2nd, 2017 at 6:16 AM | Permalink

    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. Kathryn Jarlov
    Posted March 2nd, 2017 at 9:02 AM | Permalink

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

  3. Posted March 3rd, 2017 at 11:09 AM | Permalink

    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. Posted March 3rd, 2017 at 1:37 PM | Permalink

    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. Andrew
    Posted March 3rd, 2017 at 11:00 PM | Permalink

    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. DaveG
    Posted March 8th, 2017 at 5:47 PM | Permalink

    “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”.

  7. Andrew
    Posted March 8th, 2017 at 5:57 PM | Permalink

    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.

  8. James
    Posted March 29th, 2017 at 12:15 PM | Permalink

    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.

  9. Andrew
    Posted March 29th, 2017 at 12:34 PM | Permalink

    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.