Rob McKenna, back in 2000, Sound Transit critic and savior
One more note (from me) on light rail's opening weekend.
On Friday afternoon there was a parade of ribbon-cutting speakers—Mayor Nickels, Sen. Patty Murray, FTA head (and former Murray staffer) Peter Rogoff, King County Council Member Julia Patterson, Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon among others—at a press conference debut ride from Westlake to Tukwila and back.
And all of them gave heartfelt shout outs to Sound Transit Executive CEO Joni Eearl. And rightly so. She saved the agency after it tanked in 2000.
But had the crisis in 2000 gone undetected, stand up leaders like Joni Earl would never have been asked to step in. The project would have quietly failed, and the agency would have simply dissolved around 2003 or so. It took a loud crisis, to wake everyone up and get the project back on track.
And while the press (and I'm proud to have played a role ) deserves some of the credit for spotlighting the agency's financial disasters, it was dissident Sound Transit board member Republican Rob McKenna (the others were party line cheer leaders) who nudged the press to take the closer look. He already had taken a closer look—and his spread sheets were more than compelling.
It was all toasts and shout outs galore on Friday—Greg Nickels, Patty Murray, Slade Gorton (?), Ron Sims (?!?)—but I'd say Rob McKenna (ironically, given that his agenda was to bring the project down) was one of the most important Sound Transit board members there has been.
McKenna, now the state A.G., did not get a toast or a shout out on Friday. But he deserves, perhaps, the biggest one of all. (The only thanks he got? Back in 2002, Sims removed McKenna from the board, but by then McKenna had already saved the day.)
I have a call in to McKenna to get his reaction to light rail's opening weekend and to see what he thinks about my sense that he's a Sound Transit hero. His super power: His honest watchdogging while other board members were cheer leading and lying.