Only the Seattle Times editorial board could put me in the uncomfortable position of actually defending Jane Hague. Absolutely apoplectic over her perceived betrayal on the Metro-saving $20 car tab fee, the editors have slammed Hague and fellow King County Council member Kathy Lambert for "switch[ing] sides," going so far as to spit back at Hague an April 25th letter to a constituent in which she pledged to vote against councilmanic approval:
"Thank you for writing me and voicing your concern in regards to the Transit/Congestion fee proposal ... In media interviews I have been very clear that I will not take a councilmanic vote to raise taxes. Voters in this state have made it known through the initiative process that they wish to cap car-tab fees. I respect that, and I firmly believe that altering this also requires a vote of the people."
Hmm. A couple of observations. First of all, while it is true that "Voters in this state have made it known through the initiative process that they wish to cap car-tab fees," they last did so nearly a decade ago, with Tim Eyman's I-776, a measure that failed in King County by a 60-40 margin. Hague represents voters in her Eastside King County district, not those anti-tax/anti-Seattle voters in the Eastside of the state, so I'd argue that Hague's April 25th stance represents a gross misreading of the will of the people.
Second of all, if Hague deserves criticism on this vote, it was for making her no-new-tax pledge, not for breaking it. I know the Seattle Times' editors firmly believe that Metro could balance its budget with room to spare if only it fueled its fleet with the sweet blood of bus drivers, but sometimes—like when sales tax revenues fall hundreds of millions of dollars short of projections—the only choice is between raising taxes and slashing services. Hague and Lambert chose the former. Ever so slightly. I mean, it's only twenty fucking bucks a year, for chrisakes, equivalent to the fare-hike daily riders are paying every two weeks. So get a grip.
Look, I'm not convinced Hague's I-was-for-the-fee-before-I-was-against-the-fee-before-I-was-for-the-fee vote was particularly principled. Maybe it was. Maybe she chose to do the right thing for her constituents, regardless of the political cost. Or maybe she was just feeling the heat from challenger Richard Mitchell in what is shaping up to be a tough reelection fight. But according to council insiders, Hague and Lambert received death threats last weekend after announcing their intention to vote for the fee. Actual death threats. Over a Jackson. And I don't see any editorials denouncing that. Instead, they seem to be intent on inflaming this craziness.
The editors decry the $20 fee as merely "a patch," and in that they are right. It was always intended to be a fucking patch, and even then, it only gets us through the next two years by using up the last of Metro's reserves. The entire goal of this temporary fee is to give Metro two years to work with the legislature to find an alternate funding mechanism that will prove more sustainable than the volatile sales tax the transit agency was forced to rely on after I-695 eliminated the motor vehicle excise tax. The editors know this. It's been widely covered. Even in their own paper.
Metro's budgetary crisis was not created by overpaid bus drivers, or by arrogant politicians defying the will of the people. Metro's problems were created by the people themselves, when they approved an ill-conceived initiative with unforeseen consequences that is wreaking havoc to this day on the ferry system, roads, transit, and other basic local services throughout the state. There's a reason our state's constitution gives legislators the power to repeal or amend an initiative after two years: Because sometimes the people are fucking wrong! As are editorialists when they vilify a council member for failing to honor a nine-year-old initiative that was rejected in her own district.