I had a longstanding bet with a pro-Sound Transit friend that the agency would never get its $500 million from the federal government. I lost that bet. But about a week later, just about the time my friend was collecting his payoff (I had to buy him lunch at the restaurant of his choice), I was already calling in my winnings on a different Sound Transit bet we'd made. I had wagered that the agency would lose the I-776 ruling and be out $700 million in bonding capacity. (I got a free CD for that one.) So the way it worked out was: My friend was up $14, and then he was down $2. Sorta like his favorite agency: up $500 million one second, down $200 million the next.
Well, now we've got a new bet. I think Sound Transit's board chair, county exec Ron Sims, is going to lose his bid for governor thanks to Sound Transit. It will be an ironic fate for Sims, given that his stubborn attachment to the agency has always been about climbing the ranks of the Democratic establishment. It will also be comeuppance for Sims--who, rather than letting the public revote on the wayward project, is now offering himself up as a stand-in for that vote.
Sims' Sound Transit obstinacy was on display last week. Despite the October 30 6-3 Washington State Supreme Court ruling upholding I-776 (I-776 repealed Sound Transit's motor vehicle excise tax), Sims said Sound Transit will still collect the tax--and even issue more bonds. Using legal jargon about "Sufficiency Tests" and "Tax Stabilization Subaccounts," the agency argues that it has the right to cover its outstanding bonds (about $300 million worth).
I'm no lawyer, so I'll let the courts wrestle with that mindfuck. I am, however, a taxpayer and a voter, and I can say one thing with certainty: Sims doesn't get it.
First, Sims challenged a voter-approved initiative. Then, after the supreme court upheld that initiative, Sims held a press conference saying, in essence, he wasn't going to abide by the spirit of the ruling. I don't doubt he'll get away with it. I gave up long ago trying to engage, understand, or challenge Sound Transit. (You guys win. Build it. Who cares?)
But, my good man, you're running for governor. And as far as I can tell, you're going deaf with this Sound Transit thing. Voters have said they don't want Sound Transit to continue collecting the .03 MVET. The state's highest court signed off on the idea. You hold a press conference saying you're going to collect the tax anyway? You've got good lawyers, Ron, but you've got bad instincts. Next time the voters speak (in the Democratic gubernatorial primary), I bet you're going to have to take no for an answer.