1. As expected, the Sound Transit board voted unanimously yesterday to put its $53.8 billion light rail expansion measure on the ballot this November. The measure would add 62 miles of light rail to the system, including adding lines within Seattle from Ballard to downtown and from West Seattle to downtown, plus extensions east to Redmond and Issaquah, north to Everett, and South to Tacoma.
The project will be funded by a .5 percent sales tax and an .8 percent motor vehicle excise tax (on top of the current sales and MVET taxes that are paying for ST1 and ST2) along with a new .25 cents property tax. Sound Transit estimates that the plan would cost the the typical two-adult household about $400 more per year. It will come on line between 2024 and 2039 with the Seattle lines opening in 2030 (West Seattle) and 2035 (Ballard).
Campaign talking points for the coming campaign quickly emerged at yesterday’s hearing from both the pro and con sides.
Opponents, wearing red shirts and waving signs that read “No Blank Check for ST,” urged the board to “push pause,” and said the plan costs too much and wouldn’t relieve congestion. Several opponents called for increased bus service, such as bus rapid transit instead.
Sammamish Deputy Mayor Ramiro Valderrama, who said service was minimal for his city yet taxpayers would be paying up, called the plan “taxation without transportation.”
At a campaign rally in the drizzle outside King Street station immediately after the vote, King County executive and Sound Transit board chair Dow Constantine called the criticisms “inaccurate” saying a single light rail line can carry 16,000 people an hour in both directions, the equivalent of eight general purpose freeway lanes. He scoffed at how many buses it would take to do that.
As for the call to “push pause,” Constantine noted that “waiting two years isn’t a way to bring transit to the region faster.” And Transportation Choices Coalition leader Shefali Ranganathan said she didn’t want the region to make the same mistake it made 50 years ago (when we voted against a mass transit measure) and set us back any further.
The pro side also tied the big transportation measure—which included last-minute amendments to fund affordable housing around the stations and promote transit oriented development—to larger issues like climate change and income inequality. Social justice group Puget Sound Sage program director Ubax Gardheere testified in favor of the plan to applaud the amendments—sponsored by board members Bellevue mayor Claudia Balducci, Seattle city council member Rob Johnson, and King County council member Joe McDermott—noting that the amendments will allow low-income people, who are “dependent on transit,” to live near transit.
Editorializing here, but a couple of concerns I’d been raising—1) that there’s too much parking for a mass transit plan and 2) Seattle’s reluctance to upzone—were directly addressed yesterday. Bellevue area King County council member and board member Claudia Balducci passed an amendment to ensure that ST “manage parking.” Asked afterward to define “manage,” Balducci wasn’t shy about the controversial implications: “The only way to manage parking is to price it somehow.” And she applauded an amendment that Redmond mayor and ST board member John Marchione had added that extended the policy to ST1 and ST2 projects.
(Sound Transit doesn’t own all its lots though, and state-owned and King County-owned parcels may prevent ST from charging.)
As for upzones—a move that’s needed to increase density around stations and make good on mass transit’s concomitant goal of creating sustainable development—the chair of the expert review panel Jim Jacobsen said the plan needed to lock down the upzone at the new 130th Street station.
Indeed: the panel’s letter states
Panel members noted that TOD policy works if the transportation investments are aligned with the land use and zoning policy of the jurisdiction where stations will be located. For example, at our June meeting we discussed the plans for the infill light rail station at 130th St. in Seattle. If the ST3 plan is approved by voters, there will be an $85 million investment in a station that does not currently have the zoning to support robust TOD. The panel was told that City of Seattle officials have expressed an intent to modify the zoning adjacent to the new station. The panel suggests that the board consider including language in the plan that references the need to work closely with jurisdictions and that there is an expectation that land use actions,consistent with TOD policy, will be put in place to enhance ridership of the regional bus and rail systems to support the substantial capital investments voters will be making.
2. 43rd District state house candidate Daniel Shih is planning to forward a $1,000 contribution he got from one of his former opponent’s exes to the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Shih’s former opponent, transgender community leader Danni Askini, dropped out of the race, in part, because her ex—who was arrested this month for violating a protection order Askini had filed against him—had been harassing her at campaign events. Askini says she told Shih about her her exe’s abuse and, noting Shih’s position as a board member of API Chaya, a non-profit supporting Asian and Pacific Islander survivors of domestic violence, thought he shouldn’t accept the hefty contribution.
Shih, a trial attorney, and the fundraising leader in the race, tells Fizz: "Once I learned about the abuse from Danni, we immediately decided not to use the funds to the benefit of the campaign. Our desire is to donate it to a charity addressing domestic violence, namely, the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence.”
Shih says such a donation from campaign funds cannot be made until after the campaign, when the funds become surplus.
“We have been looking into whether an earlier donation is possible but have not confirmed that. In the meantime, we've been segregating the funds so that they are not spent on the campaign.”
Askini has endorsed another candidate in the race, homeless advocate Nicole Macri.