There’s been a lot of talk about transportation “governance reform” in the wake of Prop 1’s failure this past November, and one of the main arguments repeatedly proffered is that a directly elected board of regional commissioners would be more responsive and accountable than, say, Sound Transit’s current makeup of officials appointed by other elected bodies. This is an assumption that has been left mostly unchallenged by editorialists and other members of our media and political elite.
So I thought it might be constructive to test this thesis by comparing the highly publicized recent audit of Sound Transit with its much maligned federated board ($5 million of potential savings out of a $2.5 billion budget), versus that of the Port of Seattle with it’s directly elected commissioners ($100 million wasted, and a criminal investigation.) Um… ouch.
As Seattle Transit Blog points out, “Sound Transit is ‘definitely’ in the ‘good camp’ when it comes to audits”… at least that’s what Evans Anglin, the Accountability Audit manager for the State Auditor’s office told Sound Transit at a Jan 3 presentation:
“I think that you can give yourselves a small pat on the back for doing a good year, and if I may just step outside my boundaries a little bit and just reflect on the fact that I believe your performance audit also came out pretty well, so I think that we’re all aware of maybe a performance audit that came out recently that maybe wasn’t quite so, um, didn’t go quite so well, so I think you can kind of compare and contrast yourselves between those two audits and maybe get a sense of you know, things are going fairly well here from the perspective of the State Auditor’s office. Obviously a large complex organization, there’s always things, but we’re not seeing the kind of systemic problems that perhaps might exist in an organization like this with the magnitude of construction activity that’s going on.”
“Systemic problems”…? Um… like those at the Port of Seattle, with it’s elected commissioners? Anglin goes on to thank Sound Transit for its cooperation:
“Very roughly you might be able to divide the world of the governments we audit into two camps […] this is definitely one of the entities that fall into the good camp. Our audits are always well received, the recommendations that we make are always taken seriously.”
You know, unlike the folks at the Port of Seattle.
Compare and contrast operations at the Port of Seattle and Sound Transit, and there is absolutely no evidence that a directly elected commission is inherently any more accountable than a federated board. Indeed, anecdotally, one might reasonably conclude just the opposite. And yet “accountability” continues to be a rallying cry of the anti-rail schemers who look to governance reform as a means of lopping the head off of Sound Transit, and with it, the pro-rail/pro-transit aspirations of the majority of Seattle voters.
The folks who really need to be held accountable are the so-called civic leaders and media mucky-mucks who relentlessly malign a well-run organization like Sound Transit in pursuit of their narrow-minded, backwards-thinking, roads only agenda.