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Todd Herman

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Rantz: Transit activists try to bully Democrats over Sound Transit

KIRO Radio's Jason Rantz says an effort that would make the Sound Transit Board of Directors should be celebrated, not shunned. (Sound Transit)

With no direct voter oversight, the Sound Transit Board of Directors is responsible for spending billions of dollars on transit expansion. That may change thanks to five Democrats teaming up with 24 Republicans in the Senate. Now, transit activists are apoplectic.

Related: Bill that would ‘bring accountability’ to Sound Transit moves forward

The lawmakers are pushing legislation that changes the makeup of the board. If passed, the ST board would be directly elected so that board members may face voter consequences for some of their actions (like bilking taxpayers out of car tab fees with an obscenely inaccurate formula). Further, it forces the board to create districts so that King County won’t be over-represented.

Martin H. Duke, a blogger at Seattle Transit Blog, is not happy with these Democrats. In Duke’s world, no Republican supports high-quality transit and Democrats who see a problem with the current ST board structure must not care either.

“This bill is a transparent attempt to override the will of the voters in approving Sound Transit 3 by adding yet more veto points to the process,” Duke wrote.

He’s wrong. It doesn’t change the results of ST3. ST3 couldn’t be dismantled as a result of this bill. Instead, it’s an attempt to make sure the voters have a say in how their money is spent and that King County transit activists don’t get more money than they should. I am a big supporter of light rail but not happy with how it’s being approached. As a voter, I have no way to impact the decisions of unelected politicians when they waste my money.

Activists like Duke don’t want the board accountable to the voters because the voters don’t support some of the crazy ideas Duke and his “comrades” support. He speaks for a loud but small group of activists. Understandably, he’s upset that he’s about to lose his unearned power over Sound Transit.

One of the Democrats who supported the legislation is State Senator Guy Palumbo of the 1st district. He actually supports accountability where Sound Transit represents the voters, not special interests. I supported his efforts to defeat the disturbingly dishonest incumbent, Luis Moscoso.

“I supported the bill because I believe that any government organization that manages $54 billion in tax dollars needs to be directly elected and accountable to the voters,” the Senator told me. “It’s a good governance thing for me, it has nothing to do with dismantling ST3.”

Senator Palumbo and his colleagues should be celebrated for breaking the Olympia gridlock. Instead, thanks to the reaction of militant transit activists, he’s getting harassed.

He received an email where he was called a “bastard” with the sign off “Get cancer.” Shameful.

“I understand they disagree about an elected board and reasonable people can disagree on policy,” Senator Palumbo told me. “However to paint it as me being anti-transit, or as wanting to roll back ST3 is patently false. I come from New York where there are real mass transit options, unlike the Seattle area. I am an open advocate for large new investments in infrastructure, far beyond what we have done in the Connecting Washington package and ST3.”

This is a common sense bill. It deserves some changes (Palumbo wants to make the board positions paid and I support that), but bully activists want to kill it. They’ve been getting a free ride on the backs of drivers for too long. Let’s change that and come up with policies that are truly supporting multi-modal transportation.

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