Lots of people, myself included, thought that Gov. Gregoire would oppose Sound Transit going back to voters in ’08 if the Roads and Transit measure failed. We didn’t think Democrats would want to share the ballot with a big transportation measure.
Turns out I was wrong.
Gregoire has signaled that a ballot measure this fall has her OK, even if she has reservations about the area interest groups’ willingness to “saddle-up” for another campaign. Sound Transit chair Greg Nickels isn’t standing in the way, either. He’s cajoling his fellow board member to vote for a revised ST2 package, one that ditches light rail to Tacoma and puts that money into going east and north. It’s the kind of package that is aimed at the areas that vote “yes” on transit. It’s a good rebound package, something that could pass, on it’s own, this fall. Just when transit fans are stepping on the gas, some are riding the brake.
Namely, Ron Sims.
Yeah, that Ron Sims, the same Ron Sims who pledged, in ’07, that he’d fight to put a better transit-only package on the ballot this fall:
Is he willing to lead the fight and come back next year with a revised light rail package?
The answer was an unequivocal yes. “I’m into that. I’m back. I’m fully engaged. No question,” he said. “I don’t believe in letting waters stagnate. I want to come back with a package that reduces our impact on global warming that is less expensive. Yes. Light rail is a big part of that package. I will spend a lot of time and political capital on that.”
But Ron is willing to let the waters stagnate.
The most depressing thing is that he used to be one of Sound Transit’s biggest defenders. But ever since Sims left the post of Sound Transit chair, he’s shown his disdain for any public transportation investment that isn’t controlled by his office. Instead of light rail, Sims advocated for buses (or bus rapid transit). He even preempted Sound Transit’s bid for the ballot with a measure of his own.
“Transit Now,” an expansion of bus service paid for by a sales tax hike, took the place of light rail on the 2006 ballot. Like the dumbass liberal that I am, I voted for it, all the time thinking that this was just Sims’ opening salvo of transportation investment. It wasn’t, which makes Sims’ ’07 comments on light rail all the more vexing.
The local blogosphere cut it’s teeth on the 2004 election battle, and a year later Goldy used the new medium to destroy the candidacy of Ron Sims’ opponent. I remember sitting in the audience as Ron debated Ken Hutcherson on the issue of gay marriage, and I was amazed at how Sims took him apart in a most dignified manner. When Sims, the bloggers, and the Stranger writers all went out for drinks afterwards, Ron put his arm around me and recalled specific blog posts I had written. The guy cared, and he impressed me in a way other local pols didn’t.
As quoted in Erica’s great article about the board’s deliberations, several members are still undecided:
Opinion on the Eastside is reportedly more divided, with several representatives waiting to make up their minds. Redmond Mayor John Marchione, who took his seat on the Sound Transit board just two weeks ago, says he’s been busy “talking to other board members and constituents” about their concerns with the proposal. “I’m very cognizant of the economy and what it might do this year—bad economies don’t produce positive votes on tax increases.” Marchione says he’s “disappointed that light rail doesn’t reach all the way to Microsoft,” but adds, “it might be a political necessity. People want to build this system in smaller bites and they want to see some success” before moving forward. Fred Butler, the deputy council president of Issaquah, meanwhile, says he’s “not really prepared to say one way or another,” although if pressured, “I’d probably say I lean just a little bit more toward 2008. But I have certainly not made up my mind and probably will not do so until I have to, in late March.”
No plan is perfect. In fact, one board member’s perfect plan is somebody else’s nightmare. Light rail won’t get to Redmond without getting across the lake first. Light rail won’t get to Everett without going to Northgate (and 145th St) first. I understand guys like Marchione and Butler. They’re looking out for their constituents, but Sound Transit has a regional mission.
Larry Phillips, from the Stranger’s story:
The only outliers among the King County delegation are reportedly King County Council Member Julia Patterson (who did not return a call for comment) and King County Executive Ron Sims, who has not been attending Sound Transit meetings. “He’s waiting for the perfect plan,” Phillips says derisively. Sims did not return a call for comment.
It was Ron himself who once said:
“You cannot tell people sitting in congestion that we’ll have another year of planning”
Time will tell if this is one more thing Ron has changed his mind about.