Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-36)
  • E.S.
  • Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-36) doesn't blame the mayor. The state legislature is the problem, he says. True. But the mayor was a state legislator for 17 years...
The day after the depressing vote against Metro funding, State Representative Reuven Carlyle walked by a bar holding a few Stranger writers.

When he came in, we asked him what the hell was wrong with the Washington State Legislature, which last year created the funding mess that led to last week's failed attempt at fixing our local bus system with local money.

“We have to do something legislatively," Carlyle, who represents Ballard and Queen Anne, told us.

It was an admission that the legislature—particularly the state senate—has utterly failed to protect the interests of Metro riders and transit supporters, a group of people conservative state lawmakers may love to bring pain to, but who happen to keep this state's major economic engine running. When the people who ride Metro suffer, Seattle and King County suffer, and when Seattle and King County suffer, the state suffers.

Why have Seattle lawmakers not been able to make the rest of the state legislature understand this? And speaking of Seattle lawmakers: What ever happened to Ed Murray's campaign talk about how his 17 years in the state legislature would mean that, as mayor, he would make sure Olympia does right by Seattle?

“You absolutely cannot hang this, in and of itself, on him," Carlyle said, defending Mayor Murray.

Okay... Murray was in the state legislature when Metro funding was set on a course to the present catastrophe. He couldn't stop it then, and he wasn't able to get the recent Metro funding measure to pass among voters in King County. But, okay. Say we give the mayor a break and assume he'll use all of his legislative prowess to make sure Olympia does right by Metro during the next legislative session (eight months from now). What, exactly, should Mayor Murray and the rest of us be doing in the meantime?

“We need a wake-up call statewide," Carlyle said, noting that a statewide transportation package failed to pass the last legislative session. Until a statewide package passes, Carlyle said, "I think the pain points are going to increase everywhere. Pierce County is feeling it. King County is now feeling it. What is the argument against a statewide transportation plan, other than that taxes are a bummer?”

Isn't that the only argument you need to win debates in the Republican-controlled state senate these days?

“The only way we get anything through is if there’s a grand bargain," Carlyle said.

That's one possibility.

Another way to get to a transportation funding breakthrough is if Democrats take control of the state senate in the November elections. How might the Olympia-savvy mayor of the largest city in Washington State, a man who represents a lot of voters who are both well-off and furious about the Metro cuts, make a senate takeover more likely?

By loudly connecting the dots for Seattleites who want action to save Metro, telling them exactly who to send money to in order to flip the handful of state senate seats that Democrats need in order to get Metro the money it needs.

For decades, Murray, from his legislative seat, complained that impatient Seattle voters needed to see the bigger legislative picture, that they needed to work to elect Democrats outside the city's borders in order to improve the quality of life within the city's borders. Well, as the Seattle voter with the largest megaphone at the moment, Mayor Murray now has a great opportunity to repeatedly paint this bigger picture for Seattleites, and to lead them in a campaign to remove lawmakers who are an obstacle to Metro funding.

"We’re on a march to being a low-tax, low-service, low-quality of life state," Carlyle said. "That’s the public conversation that every election should be about. You can’t have Denmark-level services with Somalia-level taxes.”

That's a conversation the Mayor of Seattle should be leading—along with an all-out effort to make sure lawmakers outside of Seattle know that when they vote to bring needless suffering to the citizens of Seattle, they vote to end their careers.