Last week in this space, I gave my two cents to the 2008 legislature: Hey, Olympia—don't mess with Sound Transit's ability to take light rail to the ballot in 2008. This week, I've got some advice for Sound Transit's board: Don't mess with Sound Transit's ability to take light rail to the ballot in 2008.
On Thursday, December 13, Sound Transit staff made a presentation to the beleaguered agency's 18-member board to convince them that in the wake of Proposition 1's defeat last month, they should send a transit package right back at voters next year.
The staff's PowerPoint highlighted findings from recent polls about last month's defeat: For example, 64 percent said a transit-only measure should go before voters in 2008.
I don't know if I believe the rosy numbers, but it does make it clear Sound Transit is itching for another vote and not shrinking away as people had predicted.
And their board did two things at the meeting that indicated they were ready to follow the staff's lead. They elected Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels as new board chair. Nickels, a light-rail zealot, has championed coming back with a light-rail measure next year.
Second, they approved the staff's Olympia lobbying agenda, which included these fighting words: "Sound Transit will oppose legislation that interferes with the agency's authority to propose needed transit investments to voters...."
But I'm still worried. Sound Transit's board is a bunch of local elected officials—city council members, mayors, and county executives—and if elected officials have demonstrated anything this year, it's that they don't have the faintest idea what kind of transportation packages voters like. In 2007, they gave us a tunnel and a rebuild and roads and transit. They got told no. No. No. And no.
The buffet of choices (tunnels and rebuilds) and combos (roads and transit) points to the root of the problem: Elected officials can't make decisions themselves because they're always striving to please everyone at once.
Stop it. Sound Transit was created to build light rail. Show voters they're committed to getting their assignment done and voters will give them the green light. This board should put together a pertinent package that goes after a realistic goal rather than a poll-tested package that offers everything—and in turn, nothing. (The Proposition 1 hodgepodge didn't even fully fund 520. What a joke.)
Funding the $3 billion that's needed to go east to Microsoft and the $4 billion needed to go north to 164th Street in Lynnwood would be a great place to start. Let's start. In 2008.