During one of the legal hearings on voter-approved Initiative 776, Sound Transit's attorney said, "Nothing in I-776 makes us do that. We could do it, but we don't have to and we don't want to. So we won't." What was he referring to? The voters' reasonable and deeply held desire for a revote on Sound Transit's light rail, the worst waste of taxpayer dollars in state history.
Across the political spectrum, elected officials and citizens alike have been lobbying Sound Transit for years for the chance to take a breather to reevaluate and determine if the billions of dollars allocated to light rail would be more effectively spent on other transportation alternatives.
These good-faith efforts have not just been ignored but have been met with condescending and virulent ridicule and derision.
"How dare you question us!" seems to be the Sound Transit response to anyone who dares point out the agency's endless track record of broken promises. King County Councilman Rob McKenna was effectively fired from Sound Transit's board because he had the audacity to highlight Sound Transit's arrogance and fiscal ineptitude. Sound Transit has spent tens of millions of our tax dollars in marketing, advertising and lobbying, as well as on attorneys and political consultants. It recently spent $250,000 of our tax money on additional media spinmeisters.
Lobbying has failed; a new law is the only option voters have left.
This month we filed a new initiative that creates a simple, straightforward law which prohibits Sound Transit from implementing Central Link light rail, a project that promised 21 miles for $2 billion but will now cost over $7 billion. That's all our initiative does. No one can say that "voters might be confused" by this initiative. Even critics acknowledge that it is a single-subject initiative.
The language makes clear that the measure does not block or impair the implementation of other transportation alternatives, including commuter rail (Sounder), monorail, intercity bus service, bus rapid transit, park and ride lots, light rail in Tacoma or any other services. Only Sound Transit's Central Link light rail is prohibited from being implemented.
Thanks to our new initiative, Sound Transit's horrible track record of broken promises is now the subject of a focused, unambiguous debate that is long overdue.
People outside Seattle shouldn't be forced to pay for Seattle's billion-dollar choo choo trains. Sound Transit admits it cannot proceed with its "train to nowhere" unless hundreds of millions of dollars are paid by taxpayers outside Seattle. King County Executive Ron Sims, Sound Transit's chairman, likes the status quo and doesn't want anything to stop his gravy train. Why wouldn't he? Ask recipients of welfare if they want their subsidy reduced and they'll obviously answer no.
And don't misunderstand us, this isn't Seattle versus non-Seattle. Polls show that even Seattle taxpayers prefer other alternatives to Sound Transit's Central Link light rail, including monorail, bus rapid transit, expanded bus service, HOV lane expansion or other transportation alternatives.
State government, county governments and city governments all have the initiative process. But Sound Transit's taxing district doesn't and Sound Transit continues to fervently oppose bills in the Legislature which would allow the initiative process within Sound Transit's borders. So the only option available to the voters is our statewide initiative.
But that's OK. Sound Transit has become a statewide crisis. We're all paying for it.
Sound Transit's multibillion-dollar cost overruns have shattered public faith in government. Voters rejected Referendum 51 because we didn't trust the government with more of our tax dollars. Until Sound Transit is held accountable for its endless string of broken promises, our state will continue to be stuck in neutral.
Sound Transit stands in the way of transportation solutions in Washington state. Sound Transit is a jack-knifed semi-truck blocking all transportation progress. This new initiative will remove this huge roadblock and allow this state to finally move forward on transportation.
We are hopeful that voters throughout the state, throughout the Puget Sound, and yes, throughout Seattle, will agree that $7 billion can be spent on other transportation alternatives which ensure much greater benefits than Sound Transit's Central Link light rail. It's obvious to both supporters and opponents of Sound Transit that taxpayers don't want this boondoggle to continue. Taxpayers are paying for it so taxpayers are entitled to decide the issue.
Some people want bigger government; others want smaller government. But regardless of how big we want our government to be, we all want good government. Sound Transit is the poster child of bad government. Voters deserve an opportunity to hold Sound Transit accountable for its numerous broken promises. We will work very hard to give them that chance. Let's all work together and save the taxpayers $7 billion and send a message that voters will not tolerate such governmental arrogance and ineptitude.
Tim Eyman heads Voters Want More Choices, a grassroots taxpayer- protection organization. 425-493-8707; Voters want more choices.