Not to be all “told you so,” but … told you so.
A few months ago, The Stranger endorsed David Hackney for Legislative District 11, pointing out that after 18 years, incumbent Zack Hudgins has been sloooooow to introduce meaningful changes in Olympia and maybe someone else should have a shot at shaking things up instead of watering things down. (Hackney also performed a rap during the talent portion of The Stranger debates, which was a sight to behold.)
Well, Hackney won the election, and wouldn’t you know it, he’s shaking things up.
At first glance, HB 1304 (for which he is the primary sponsor) may look extremely boring. Even the name, “Concerning grade-separated transportation,” is an effective sleep aid, and the description is not thrilling: “An act relating to grade-separated transportation; amending RCW 2 35.95A.010,” and so on, ugghhhhhh.
So what is Hackney up to with this thing? Oh, only saving your commute, that’s all. And he’s using ancient monorail rules to do it.
Here’s how things stand right now: Though a very complicated web of regulations, Seattle has special powers to spend money on transit projects … as long as those projects are related to the monorail. You probably already see the problem here, which is that you have probably never once used the monorail for your commute, unless you are Chester A. Spaceneedle, the guy who lives at Nordstrom and whose job is to sharpen the point at the top of the Space Needle every day.
The laws about how the city of Seattle can fund transportation were crafted decades ago, when there was a lot more optimism about the monorail expanding; and they don’t currently allow for similar funds to be diverted to light rail and trolleys and so on. That’s dumb, especially since due to the pandemic Sound Transit is looking at a budget shortfall of around 11 billion dollars. (Hey, that's about equal to how much revenue Amazon didn't pay taxes on in 2018.)
While Sound Transit scrambles to close that funding gap through federal funding, among other measures, Hackney’s bill is a dense and intricately-woven partial-solution. In essence, it takes the old funding methods established for expanding monorail and says, “Hey, instead of pouring money into a theme park ride for tourists, what if we spent it on … good things?”
It also establishes new guidelines for ensuring equity in where and how transit projects are built, and encourages the construction of affordable housing — requirements that were not top-of-mind in monorail-times. That will come in handy when it’s time for system expansion, particularly to areas sorely in need of more transit options like South Park, Georgetown, and Renton.
The bill’s supported by just about everyone you like: Representatives from the Sierra Club, the Disability Mobility Initiative, and the City of Seattle all testified in favor of it. (Okay, it’s probably not shocking that the city is in favor of laws that give it more freedom over how it can spend money. This is like saying 100% of teenagers support a later curfew. Still! It’s a good law!)
When I described this bill to my partner, he said, "oh... so they're making the law not stupid?" And that seems like a good way to sum things up.
The bill is also opposed by the usual suspects: Republicans. Voting no on it in committee were Keith Goehner (Chelan County); Dan Griffey (Mason County); and Eric Robertson, who really ought to know better since he represents the southeastern chunk of King County, which will absolutely benefit from this bill. Oh well! Enumclaw, Bonney Lake, and Edgewood residents, you might want to consider that next time he’s up for election.
At any rate, Hackney’s bill passed through its first committee yesterday, and now it’s sailing on to its next committee destination for further review. It’s a good bill. It should pass.