Your New Sound Transit Board?

By Erica C. Barnett December 16, 2009

[caption id="attachment_21083" align="alignnone" width="149" caption="ST board member Pete von Reichbauer"]ST board member Pete von Reichbauer[/caption]

King County Executive Dow Constantine gets to appoint six members to the 18-member Sound Transit board, including (by law) three members of the King County Council and one Seattle representative.

Despite speculation that he might not appoint a board member from Bellevue (because the Bellevue City Council is hedging on its previous commitment to surface-level light rail through downtown Bellevue) or that he might choose not to appoint Seattle Mayor-elect Mike McGinn to replace Greg Nickels (Seattle already has one representative, council member Richard Conlin, on the board, which is all that's required by law), Constantine's appointments are likely to be anticlimactic, with perhaps one or two exceptions.

First, Constantine has already reappointed Seattle City Council member Richard Conlin. And Constantine told me last night if McGinn wants the appointment, he'll get it (deflating earlier speculation that city council member-elect Mike O'Brien, McGinn's ideological ally, might want it). And Constantine seems certain to reappoint King County Council member Julia Patterson, a Democrat, as well as  Fred Butler, a member of the Issaquah City Council. Kirkland City Council member Mary-Alice Burleigh, who is retiring, will almost certainly be replaced by Bellevue City Council member Claudia Balducci, whose city approved light-rail expansion by 58 percent in 2008.

Meanwhile, former King County executive Kurt Triplett (who filled in for his former boss, Ron Sims, on the board, when Sims left to work for Obama's department of Housing and Urban Development) will likely see his seat filled by current King County Council chair Bob Ferguson.

That leaves only Republican King County Council member Pete von Reichbauer's seat. Reichbauer is longtime member of the Sound Transit board. He has shown up for meetings less and less in recent years, frequently phoning in his comments, literally, via conference call. (Constantine's spokesman Frank Abe wouldn't say whether Constantine will reappoint von Reichbauer, but other sources at the county put his chances at roughly 50-50).

Abe says Constantine will make his appointments "by early January." However, that schedule could run headlong into the King County Council, which is currently split 4-4 (along party lines) over Constantine's county council replacement. At its most recent meeting, which lasted nearly seven hours, the council decided to delay a decision on Constantine's replacement until early next year. Because the council has to approve any Constantine Sound Transit appointments, a deadlock on his replacement could mean a deadlock on his choices for the ST board—a domino effect that would impact not just the county but the regional transportation system as a whole.

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