King County voters will soon receive their ballots for an April 22 special election in which they will be asked to approve or reject Proposition 1, a $130 million hike in local car tabs and sales tax. At stake is an additional $50 million a year desperately needed to maintain county and city roads, along with the $80 million a year Metro needs to stave off a devastatingly regressive 17 percent cut in bus service. So of course the Seattle Times chooses to kick off its coverage of this very important issue with a front page article featuring the views of the one organization opposing Prop 1!
An early face-to-face over King County’s proposed car-tab-and-sales-tax measure to fund transit and roads took place in front of one of the few organizations opposing the measure, the pro-highway Eastside Transportation Association (ETA).
… [ETA member Dick] Paylor and audience members complained about how Metro King County Transit is managed, voiced concerns about seeing some virtually empty buses on some routes and suggested having bus passengers themselves pick up a larger share of the service’s costs.
“The problem isn’t on the revenue side, it’s on the expense-control side,” said Paylor, arguing that Metro is operating under a “broken financial model.”
Jesus. ETA is just a who’s-who of old, pro-roads white guys (like the bitterly anti-transit Jim Horn), while the Yes side is a coalition of business, labor, transportation, environmental, and social service groups that enjoys endorsements from 19 mayors. So this is the equivalent of kicking off your climate change coverage by talking to the owners of a coal-fired power plant!
And of course, Paylor is totally wrong. The remaining problem is almost entirely on the revenue side of the equation. Through 2014, Metro will collect $1.2 billion less in sales tax revenue than previously projected, thanks to the Great Recession. Meanwhile, through a series of cuts, efficiencies, and fare hikes, Metro has lowered expenses or increased revenue by $148 million a year—$798 million from 2009 to 2013 alone. The only way for Metro to balance its budget without raising additional tax revenue would be to cut service and raise fares. Which, let’s be honest, is exactly what ETA advocates.
But wait… the stoopid doesn’t stop there. For the Seattle Times insists on citing Paylor citing the Washington Policy Center, a right-wing “think” tank best known for climate-change denial and its close ties to the stand-your-ground promoting ALEC:
Citing data from the conservative Washington Policy Center, Paylor said that from 2000 to 2012, Metro’s operating costs increased 83 percent, while the inflation rate over that span was 33 percent.
Uh-huh. And you know what else has increased over the past decade? Everything!
King County’s population has grown by 16 percent since 2000, while Metro’s service hours have grown 4 percent since 2008 alone, despite a 2 percent reduction in service from its least efficient routes. Costs for providing Metro’s paratransit services—federally mandated under the Americans with Disabilities Act—have grown by 25 percent since 2008, while security costs have grown by 80 percent, due to fare enforcement, increased policing, and enhanced tunnel security. To offset its revenue shortfall Metro shifted capital funds to operations, delaying the purchase of new buses that would have been less expensive to operate and maintain. Meanwhile, pension contributions—at a rate set by the state legislature—have increased by more the 40 percent.
And on and on and on. I won’t even bother fact checking the Washington Policy Center, because only an idiot or a liar would pit the CPI against Metro’s operating costs over a 12-year span and presume that there was any meaningful contextual relationship between the two numbers.
And yet there it is, totally unchallenged, in black and white on the front page of the Seattle Times. Next stop no doubt: a credulous citation on the paper’s anti-tax editorial page.
“As bus ridership rises, battle over funding measure heats up,” the Seattle Times headline reads in the teach-the-controversy tradition of climate deniers and Intelligent Design bamboozlers. Except there is no battle. It’s every other transportation stake-holder in the county versus the anti-transit ETA. And, I suppose, the Seattle Times.