Category: Seattle/King Co (Page 1 of 4)

The Perplexing Push for Affordable Housing

Back in 2003, Mr. Words and I decided that we needed more open space than our tiny postage stamp yard afforded, so we started looking for a new home with a bigger yard. At the time, we lived in a virtual hovel in what was probably the worst neighborhood in a very expensive area and we knew we’d have to move farther “out” to find a house on more land within our price range.

Before that, many years ago, I lived in Sumner (now Bonney Lake), Washington, and worked in what is now called the SoDo District of Seattle. At the time, it was a 45 minute drive on good days, but could be much longer depending on traffic. In a car with no air conditioning. On bad traffic days in the summer, it could be brutal. But I did it because Sumner was the place we could afford a cute little house with a nice, big yard and friendly neighbors.

That’s what fiscally responsible people do, right? You live where you can afford the rent or the mortgage payment.

So you  might wonder why people like Seattle Mayor Ed Murray are constantly going on about the need for affordable housing and cutting deals by upzoning, or rezoning, various Seattle neighborhoods for more intensive use. This allows developers to build taller buildings, yielding more units with smaller footprints. The upzoning triggers a Seattle ordinance that requires developers include a minimum number of rent-controlled units in their buildings or pay a fee to help develop them elsewhere.

That might also lead you to wonder why Seattle effectively killed the micro housing industry, which naturally provided affordable housing units without the need for government intervention.

To get back to my question, why doesn’t Ed Murray (or other mayors in large metropolitan areas, for that matter) just let market forces work? Why do he and the city council prefer to force developers to include rent-controlled (i.e., government controlled) units in their buildings?

Let me propose this: Affordable housing is only an issue of government concern when that same government wants or needs “everyone” to live in densely populated urban centers, and rent control only when government pursues perverse policies that unnaturally limit the affordable units that would otherwise be provided through the free market.

If you’re wondering why the government cares where you live, let me direct your attention to ESS HB 2815. This was passed into law in 2008 in response to then-Governor Christine Gregoire’s executive order 07-02. The executive order set some fairly aggressive goals for CO2 reductions which, to an ordinary person, seem rather arbitrary and unattainable given the current state of technology. At least one provision of the law, participation in the Western Climate Initiative, was abandoned when it became clear that the State Legislature was not likely to to enact cap and trade.

One thing that did come to pass was the implementation of a work group to study various policies that could be utilized in pursuit of those carbon reduction goals. In November of 2008, the work group presented a report with their recommendations. Among other things, the report concludes, “However, to significantly reduce VMT and GHG emissions in Washington State, the majority of people in Washington State will need to live and work in places that both support bicycling and walking for shorter trips and provide reliable and convenient public transportation that meets mobility needs for longer trips.”

Right now, just under half the population of Washington State, roughly 48%, live in the three most populous counties, King, Pierce and Snohomish. But not everyone in those counties lives in an urban area with access to public transportation. Consider this system map from King County’s Metro division. Do you see all those areas that have no bus routes? Those are areas where leftists would prefer that people not live.

Below this paragraph is an aerial view of Covington, Washington, an area included on the linked system map. Does this look like an area that can ever “support bicycling and walking for shorter trips and provide reliable and convenient public transportation that meets mobility needs for longer trips?”  No, it doesn’t, because going almost anywhere is going to be more than a short trip. Is it ever going to be close to where the majority of the people living there work? No again.

Remember, the study group concluded that the majority of people in Washington need to live and work in urban areas. That means that to meet their goals, people who currently live in exurban and rural areas are going to have to accept that their lifestyles will change. This, in a nutshell, is why it’s vitally important to Ed Murray that the city include affordable housing.

If our leftist overlords are going to herd us into the cities so that we can live and work there like rats, there needs to be housing available. And too bad for you if you’d rather not live that way. Do you think it’s beyond the reach of government to make car ownership prohibitively expensive for middle class workers? Or tax you out of homes outside the reach of economically feasible public transportation?

Leftists embrace an ideology that’s diametrically opposed to liberty. They want to control where you live, where you work, what kind of vehicle, if any, you can drive, and where you can go. That doesn’t leave much to your discretion, does it, but, I mean, really…is anyplace you can’t reach via public transportation a place that’s worth going? So no big deal, right?

You have to admire leftists; they never do anything that doesn’t move their agenda forward. So the next time you see a leftist say or do something that doesn’t make any logical sense at all, look for the hidden agenda.

[This post first appeared here on the author's personal blog.]

Seattle’s biggest loser on Election Night 2016 was Kshama Sawant. Here’s why.

Kshama_Sawant_at_University_Commons_GroundbreakingIt’s clear that after last week’s elections, Seattle is in no danger of losing its place as the new West Coast capital of socialist politics.

But a reading of results on ballot measures and Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant’s comfortable re-election may obscure other indications that Seattle socialist movement has stalled, at least for now.

In general, Seattle affirmed and intensified its reputation as a bastion of liberal politics. They passed a transportation package that will move bikes — but not cars — marginally more efficiently and substantially more expensively through downtown.

Seattle voters also stood apart from the rest of Washington by rejecting yet another widely popular measure meant to constrain the state’s ability to raise taxes — Initiative 1366.

For good measure, they enacted an arguably unconstitutional, property tax-funded public campaign financing scheme, one that must have union and community organizers salivating in anticipation of opportunities for graft and electoral corruption like Seattle hasn’t seen for maybe a century or more.

One might assume that if you’re a moderate Democrat in Seattle, after all of those harbingers of civic decay rolled in, Sawant’s re-election would have come as a coup de grâce — a finishing blow.

Nevertheless, it’s easy to imagine that some of Seattle’s moderate city council members and frustrated business leaders may have quietly celebrated Election Night 2015 as “Freedom from Sawant Day.”

That’s because amid all of the signs that Seattle’s political hue has darkened from navy blue to blue-black, Sawant’s brand of militant ‘eat the rich’ socialism failed to expand either its market share or its legislative power.

As Sawant’s influence over the Seattle City Council has been enabled by belief that she represented the leading edge of a surging socialist tilt, so would the rejection of two city council candidates who campaigned alongside her on the issue of rent controlLisa Herbold (District 1) and Jon Grant (Position 8, at-large) — be recognized as the sleeper takeaway from the 2015 election: the empress has no coattails.

(Note: As of Nov. 12, Herbold only trails her opponent Shannon Braddock by six votes. Yes, that’s the number six as in half the number of eggs that go into the infamous mega-omelette at Beth’s Cafe. It’s hard to say whether a narrow win by Herbold would be interpreted as a mandate of any kind, but it seems certain that it can’t be seen as evidence of a socialist surge.)

Although Sawant’s ability to mobilize against her opponents has had moderates and progressives tripping over each other in a mad rush to move to the left, in order for those shifts to become permanent her ideological partners in crime needed to win.

Sawant may privately recognize the impact of Tuesday’s election, though socialist-friendly media may begin churning out cheap fan fiction featuring tales of secret Republican money and gerrymandered districts to explain away the losses by Herbold and Grant.

But money is just a means of activating voters, not a method of engineering votes. Voters spoke by rejecting candidates who did all but pinky swear to charter a Sawant-led caucus and form a new voting bloc if elected. Those losses dealt Sawant a double blow, politically, by depriving her of two reliable votes on her shoulders and by revealing to her adversaries that she lacks the power to unseat them.

Plain and simple: Sawant lost big time because elections matter more than choreographed protests when it comes to creating permanent political change.

I won’t cry for Kshama, but if she feels like forcing a tear or two she could reflect on the comparative success Tea Party and conservative groups have had in shifting the center of gravity in the Republican Party.

The stunning primary election ouster of then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor by Rep. David Brat (R-VA-7) in 2014 was one such event that sent a message to the GOP establishment.

Last Tuesday in Kentucky, another such message was pounded home by hardcore conservative Republican Matt Bevin, who had run an unsuccessful primary effort in 2014 to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, was comfortably elected to become the state’s next governor.

In Washington state in 2014, many Republicans held their breath through a narrow victory by Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA-4) against fire-breathing farmer and former pro football player Clint Didier.

Conservative wins are incentivizing the Republican establishment to face a reality: intense conservative urges still exist within its base. A craving for more active responses to fiscal nonsense and creeping codification of progressive social policy might have been dismissed if not for the wake-up call that only elections can provide.

Sawant is a key figure in a fringe movement within the universe of Democratic voters. Seattle elections this year were an early opportunity to transform the mobilizing strength of her movement into electoral victories and expand legislative power. She lost that battle to win the political heights. Whether more reasonable, pragmatic minds will read the tea leaves and move to circumscribe Sawant’s power inside a smaller, appropriately sized space remains to be seen.

[The story has been edited since publication to reflect the very close race in Seattle City Council District 3.]

Teachers in Lake Washington School District Vote to Shut Down Schools May 6

Teachers in the Lake Washington School District voted on Thursday to shut down classes on May 6, the first approval by a King County teachers union to walk out to protest what they claims is a failure of the state legislature to fully fund basic education.

Educators in the largely suburban district serving the communities of Kirkland, Redmond, and Sammamish now join fellow teachers in districts in Pierce, Snohomish, Skagit, and Whatcom counties who have already conducted a one-day walkout or have voted to schedule a day of protest.

The Lake Washington Education Association’s—the union representing LWSD’s teachers—posted news of the walkout vote to its Facebook page late Thursday night.

LWEA joins Fourth Corner Locals in staging a one day  walkout against the legislature on May 6th. With an 83.5% vote of…

Posted by Lake Washington Education Association on Thursday, April 23, 2015


Prior to the LWEA’s announcement on social media, LWSD Superintendent Dr. Traci Pierce sent an email to parents notifying them of the impending walkout, saying the “LWEA worked closely with the district to schedule this action on a day that would minimize disruption for students and parents to the greatest extent possible.”

In the email, Pierce seemed also to speak for the teachers union, saying, “It is important for families to know that this LWEA action is not directed at the Lake Washington School District or the Lake Washington communities. We share the LWEA’s concern that the legislature should fully fund basic education.”

An official statement was also posted on the Lake Washington School District website.

Left-Wing Friendly Fire: Kshama Sawant Slams Obama Admin Study on Economic Damage From Min. Wage Hikes as ‘Right-Wing’

KshamaSawantIn matters of guns and political debate, it’s sound advice to positively identify your target before opening fire.

That wisdom proves doubly true when one is pulling the rhetorical trigger to gun down a bearer of bad news, as Socialist Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant demonstrated at a public forum on the city’s $15 minimum wage proposal held Tuesday.

Sawant knows all too well that the Achilles’ heel of her faux populist campaign to boost the minimum wage is its punishing consequences on low-skilled workers.

So, when faced with a 2008 study of minimum wage hikes in American Samoa that found evidence of those negative impacts, Sawant shot from the hip, pulling the trigger with the speed of Wyatt Earp but the factual accuracy of, well, a typical Seattle liberal.

Sawant elected to dismiss and demonize the study as the work of the “right-wing think tank” the Freedom Foundation, when in fact the study was the work of the Obama Administration’s Government Accountability Office.


Freedom Foundation labor policy analyst Maxford Nelsen wrote today about Sawant’s amusing act of friendly fire: [emphasis added]

Newly-elected Socialist Seattle City Council Member Kshama Sawant is better known for her incendiary rhetoric than her policy acumen. Her recent comments at a minimum wage forum at Seattle Central Community College exhibit either a lack of knowledge on the issue or a startling deficiency of candor.

One attendee asked Sawant about the economic consequences of increasing the minimum wage. In his comments, the gentleman noted that the U.S. territory of American Samoa had recently experienced significant economic damage after Congress mandated sharp increases in the territory’s minimum wage.

Sawant responded by claiming that the American Samoa study “has been done by some organization called the Freedom Foundation, which is a right-wing think-tank.” Her comments about the study’s validity were unequivocal. …

There’s only one-problem: the report was actually written by the Obama Administration’s Government Accountability Office (GAO), not the “right-wing” Freedom Foundation. While we have cited the study, we are not its authors.

It’s one thing to be disgruntled about the findings of a study that affirms common sense – a drastic raise in the minimum wage will limit opportunities for low-skilled workers and force companies to make workforce cuts to compensate for the increased labor costs, both of which will result in a net job loss overall. For a true believer in socialism, facing third-party affirmation that wage controls do create negative outcomes in a free market economy must be hard to deal with.

But Sawant’s sloppy and knee-jerk handling of evidence she doesn’t like — a full-on ‘metatarsal-jammed-in-your-windpipe’-grade debating disaster — should discredit Sawant as being nothing more than an ideological hack. Should, but probably won’t, as the Seattle media’s love affair with Sawant, pushing her forward as a lightning rod figure who is probably generating clicks and ratings points at a rate that previous City Council mavericks such as Charlie Chong could only have dreamed of.

Watch the entire video of Sawant in all of her ultra-confident wrongness below and then read Nelsen’s entire post on the Freedom Foundation website. It’s important to fully understand the real reason Sawant would like American Samoa’s real-world experience with minimum wage hikes to be a right-wing myth.

Taxpayer-Funded ‘EcoConsumer’ Ignores Data to Attack Private Solutions as Alternative to Government Program

When innovators working in a free-market come up with a better, environmentally friendly solution to a problem, what is the reaction of government agencies? Attack it.

Tom Watson, a King County employee who calls himself the “EcoConsumer,” offers his thoughts on how to be a good environmentalist. On his (taxpayer-paid) blog, you will find a range of topics, from praise for Occupy Wall Street to recommending that people eat more kimchi (he calls it one of the “most enviro-friendly foods you can eat” but doesn’t explain why).

Recently, he attacked the Car2Go program in Seattle, noting darkly that it is “owned by the giant international corporation Daimler,” and worrying that people using the cars aren’t using public transit. He wrote:

Governments and the public need to support public transit. If a new transportation option is resulting in people getting off public transit and using fossil-fuel-burning, privately-owned vehicles instead…that could be a problem.

He goes on to warn that the “King County Metro Transit bus system is currently facing potential major cuts in service because of a lack of funding.”

As is too often the case with the county’s EcoConsumer, he chooses pontification over science, and government over the environment.

While Watson is quick to defend government programs, he doesn’t provide any data to support his arguments. In fact, Car2Go may be the better policy for the environment.

According to Metro, King County buses in 2011 saw 441,634,833 passenger miles using 10,484,083 gallons of fuel, amounting to 42.12 passenger miles per gallon. This is a countywide number and includes Seattle trolleys that are all-electric and use no fuel. Since Car2Go offers cars only in Seattle, it is hard to know whether this fuel number is high or low. On the one hand, trolleys are primarily in Seattle, which would increase overall fuel efficiency. On the other hand, most Seattle buses are diesel-powered and fuel efficiency, even for hybrid buses, is much worse on city streets than highways.

By way of comparison, Car2Go Smart Cars average about 34 MPG. Assuming that one-in-four trips in a Car2Go has two people, the average gas mileage per passenger increases to 42.5 passenger miles per gallon. A Car2Go would be more environmentally friendly even if every person using the service came from buses.

There is some margin of error here, but the numbers are extremely close. The experience with another car-sharing service, ZipCar, is that car sharing allows people to avoid purchasing an extra car. This is a more efficient use of resources.

When you combine the fuel efficiency of Car2Go with the ability to avoid purchasing an additional car, the program is a clear win for the environment.

There are additional reasons to support Car2Go.

First, taxpayers subsidize every public transit rider, rich or poor. If Car2Go shifts costs from taxpayers onto those who can pay for themselves, it allows Metro to focus on serving the poor, who have few options beyond public transit. Requiring working families to subsidize people who can pay for themselves makes no sense — unless you simply believe that all government programs are superior to the private sector.

Second, government exists to serve people, not the other way around. The King County EcoConsumer’s basic argument is that people need to sacrifice themselves to make life easier for government. I can understand why government employees find that argument attractive and demand more money and more sacrifice from others, but it doesn’t fit with any democratic concept of government.

This is just the latest failure of the EcoConsumer to get the science right. He is emblematic of environmentalism that values government over the environment, and feel-good policies over science.

If the EcoConsumer doesn’t care enough to spend the time on accurate, science-based information, why would we believe he actually cares about helping the environment?


[Reposted with permission from the Washington Policy Center blog]

Kirkland Poll on Plastic Bags: Strong Opposition to a Ban

Elway_KirklandPlaticBagPoll_01 After other local cities have banned plastic grocery bags, the City of Kirkland commissioned a public opinion survey to see what residents would think about bringing the policy to the community. Not much, apparently.

Two results stand out.

First, strong majorities opposed charging for plastic bags or banning them altogether. By more than a two-to-one margin, Kirkland residents oppose a plastic bag ban. Similar margins oppose charging for the bags.

The poll also asked if people would support requiring stores to include recycling bins or voluntarily reducing the use of plastic bags, although it is unclear what that means. Strong majorities supported those options.

The policy drawing the strongest opposition was when people were asked if they supported charging for any bags. A greater than three-to-one margin opposed that policy.

I also found it interesting that many people reported reusing their plastic bags. One of the common talking points against plastic bags (repeated by Thurston County staff in their own report I addressed last week) is that plastic bags have low recycle rates. They intentionally leave out, however, that plastic bags have very high rates of reuse.

Elway_KirklandPlaticBagPoll_02In the Kirkland poll, fifty-two percent of residents reported reusing their plastic grocery bags. Those who answered the survey reported a combined reuse and recycle rate for plastic grocery bags of 85 percent. Assuming some margin for error, and some who don’t want to admit throwing them away, this is virtually identical to the reuse and recycling rate for paper bags.

This also indicates that a ban on plastic bags is unlikely to achieve the promised environmental benefits. Plastic grocery bags are reused for a variety of purposes, and without the bags, people would simply purchase or acquire plastic bags in some other way for those same purposes. Trust me, you can’t pick up after your dog with a paper bag.

My sense is that people believe plastic bag bans are good for the environment but are unwilling to deal with the cost and hassle. If they found out that plastic bag bans were actually bad for the environment, the poll numbers would be even worse. As it is, politicians looking to ban plastic bags will do so at their own risk.


[Reposted with permission from the Washington Policy Center blog; featured image: ]

Is the Bullitt Center Worth The Carbon Emissions of Issaquah, Sammamish, Snoqualmie and Woodinville Combined?

Sunday was Earth Day and Governor Inslee and Mayor McGinn attended the opening of the Bullitt Center, billed as the “greenest” building on the planet. One of the selling points is that it creates more energy than it uses. But, is it really green?

The Seattle Times notes the building cost $30 million to build and is 50,000 square feet. That amounts to construction costs of $600 a square foot. Last year, Crosscut reported the Bullitt Foundation expected it to cost much less, noting at the time that “The $30 million Center will run about $350 a square foot in construction costs finished – about $50 more per square foot than your typical commercial building.” Even if Crosscut’s previous projection was incorrect, the Bullitt Center is still twice as expensive as a typical commercial building.

Assuming these numbers are correct, the Bullitt Center cost $15 million more than a comparable building. What environmental benefits do they get for all that additional cost?

With the same amount of money, here are a few things they could have done to benefit the environment:

  • Eliminate all carbon emissions from Issaquah, Sammamish, Snoqualmie and Woodinville for an entire year – 1.5 million metric tons of CO2.
  • Fund five years of the Puget Sound Partnership’s #6 priority, matching federal grants from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which is zeroed out in the Governor’s budget.
  • Fund three years of the gap between the agency request and the Governor’s budget for the Floodplain Management Local Grant Program. The request is $6 million, but the Governor’s budget funds only $1 million.
  • Fund half of all Pollution Prevention & Cleanup projects the Puget Sound Partnership lists as needing “additional resources” to complete before 2020.

Remember, this is the additional cost for one building. If this building is truly the model some hope, hundreds of millions of dollars could be spent to meet these standards rather than fund other environmental priorities.

Will the Bullitt Center provide more environmental benefit than could be provided by any of the above? That remains to be seen. Even if it falls short of these alternatives, it will likely be claimed that the building was an experiment and it is important to learn from successes as well as mistakes. That is certainly true. Knowledge is pushed forward by people taking risks and experimenting, so this is a positive step in that process.

I am certain the Bullitt Foundation will brag about those things that worked. Let’s hope they are also honest about those things that don’t work. The environmental community has not been forthcoming about admitting its failures and ending projects that don’t work, shifting limited funding and resources to projects that can make a difference. They have, instead, tended to double down on those very projects arguing that failed programs just need a bit more funding.

Until the results are in, however, we can’t call the Bullitt Center the “greenest” or even a “green” building.

[Reprinted with permission from the Washington Policy Center blog]

State Enforcement of Vague ‘Dance Tax’ Puts Seattle Ballroom in Jeopardy

Seattle, Wash. or Bomont, Ga.?

Pour another bucketful of cold water on Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn’s dreams of a bohemian nightscape of dusk-to-dawn entertainment options in the Emerald City.

In what seems to be a conscious effort to draw comparisons to the choreographically repressed town elders from “Footloose,” auditors from the Washington State Department of Revenue are pressing hard to levy a loosely defined retail tax on cover charges for places, as one agency tax specialist put it, patrons have the opportunity to “sweat.”

The Department of Revenue discovered its right to the “dance tax” in a 1990s revision of state tax codes covering amusement and recreational activities, changes that expanded an existing tax to also cover “charges made for providing the opportunity to dance.”

From The Stranger, the Department of Revenue’s explanation of the confusing tax seems only to add a dash of the bizarre:

Other businesses that fall under the law include karaoke bars, comedy clubs, and any other venue that provides opportunities for people to “sweat,” according to [Bob Palen, a tax specialist at the Department of Revenue]. He explains it this way: “If you pay a cover charge to get in and you’re just sitting around listening to the music or whatever, if you can’t participate, there’s no sales tax. But if there’s a dance floor where you could dance—you don’t have to dance but the opportunity is there—or if there’s a microphone available for standup comedy or karaoke, there’s a tax. It’s a tax on the opportunity.”

Taxing the opportunity to sweat? Don’t tell First Lady Michelle Obama who’s leading a national movement to get people to sweat more.

Although the original intent of the law was to capture some of money being generated by a then-booming aerobics craze, the vague wording of the code (and some would say creative interpretation by tax wranglers) has become a gill net for auditors in which many nightclubs and entertainment venues claim to have been ensnared without notice. The retroactive taxes levied by auditors on some bewildered operators have been in the mid six figures.

The latest to be caught in the net is the Century Ballroom, a downtown Seattle dancing venue that owners say faces closure because of a $90,000 bill due soon for penalties on unpaid dance taxes, taxes they believe were assessed without notice after the Department of Revenue creatively reinterpreted the law.

From an advertisement on the Century Ballroom website of an event designed to raise enough funds to keep the doors open:

Two years ago Washington’s Department of Revenue reinterpreted an obscure tax and, without notice, started applying it to businesses such as ours. This has become known as the “opportunity to dance” tax.

…[T]he State started to enforce this tax by selectively auditing several local nightclubs and one dance hall, the Century Ballroom. We are now faced with a penalty of $90,000, due in three months. With the threat of this looming for almost two years, we have been altering our programming and adjusting prices while negotiating with the State. Unfortunately, our efforts have fallen far short of raising the required funds.

For those who may feel that businesses like the Century Ballroom should have to pay their fair share along with everyone else, rest assured that the dance tax is not the only revenue the state draws from such places. Retail sales taxes on the sale of food, liquor, etc., commercial property taxes, taxes imposed on all manner of must-haves like liability insurance, those and others exist on the way to a bottom line for entertainment providers that is typically thin to begin with.

Several legislators in Olympia have proposed a fix that could realign the relevant tax code to cover a more logical set of activities, in essence repealing the “opportunity to dance tax.” Senate Bill 5613 would revise the WAC to clarify that cover charges are not retail sales.

SB 5613 is currently slated for a public hearing on Thursday, Feb. 21 at 3:30 pm.

State Auditor Confirms Sound Transit Light Rail Ridership Forecasts Are Unrealistic

In January, the State Auditor’s Office agreed to conduct a performance on a number of items related to Sound Transit. Part of the audit was based on a WPC request to reconcile some of the agency’s ridership and financial forecasting issues.

The SAO just released the results of that audit. Here are the key findings:

  1. The Sound Transit Board has not always taken action to fully address [the Citizen Oversight Panel’s] concerns. We question some practices related to COP selection and whether COP members fully understand their watchdog role. We found transparency to the public regarding the COP’s work can be improved.
  2. Sound Transit’s initial adjustments to its original [Sound Transit Phase 2] plan were sufficient and appropriate. However, it now has a smaller than recommended contingency to cover possible cost overruns.
  3. Except for its need to increase its ST2 project contingency, Sound Transit has an organizational structure, policies and procedures, expertise, and other resources in place to successfully accomplish most of the adjusted ST2 plan within budget. It has positively responded to previous audit recommendations.
  4. Sound Transit’s ST2 forecast requires a growth rate for Link light rail ridership through 2030 that appears to be challenging. Economic and employment forecasts indicate questions about its reliability. Sound Transit should adjust ridership assumptions that no longer are valid.

The full report can be found here:

On the ridership issue, we found that PSRC officials estimate in their Transportation 2040 Plan that light rail ridership will be half of what Sound Transit officials told voters in 2008.

The audit found, “Sound Transit’s ST2 2030 Link light rail ridership forecast requires a growth rate that exceeds the growth rates achieved by most transit investments in other areas of the United States.” “For Sound Transit to meet its ST2 forecast of 86.5 million annual boardings in 2030, 2011 boardings for Link light rail (7.8 million) must grow at an annual rate of 13.5 percent for the next 19 years.”

Such a growth rate is unrealistic in good times and especially so during the current economic recession. This basically shows that PSRC’s estimate is more accurate and the SAO recommends that Sound Transit officials revise their ridership projections based on more realistic assumptions like those found in the PSRC plan.

This is little consolation to voters who have approved Sound Transit’s tax increases based on the agency’s inflated projections. This has been a troubling pattern for Sound Transit. Sound Transit officials continue to overestimate benefits and underestimate costs and once they receive approval from voters to increase taxes, their promises fall apart.

Combined with the other SAO finding that the Sound Transit Board has not always taken action to fully address concerns from its own Citizen’s Oversight Panel, WPC continues to recommend that the state legislature make Sound Transit’s board of directors an elected body, so voters can hold the agency accountable.


[Reprinted from the Washington Policy Center blog]

Sheriff Steve Strachan is the Culture Change We Need in the King County Sheriff’s Office

His opponent a longtime King County Deputy is a documented part of the problem.

The issues at the King County Sheriff’s Office are well documented and publicized. That is why when former King County Sheriff Sue Rahr was thinking about retiring, she realized that the King County Sheriff’s Office needed a strong and proven leader to implement the culture change she started. Rahr wisely realized that when you spend whole career is inside an organization, you cannot effectively be the agent of change.

When Rahr left in March, she chose current King County Sheriff Steve Strachan to lead real reform.  The King County Council supported her choice with a unanimous confirmation.  Now that Sheriff Strachan has been appointed he must run for election to serve out the remaining year of former Sheriff Sue Rahr’s term.  Steve bid to remain as Sheriff is endorsed by King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg and every law enforcement leader in King County.

[More info: Click to review a list of Steve’s endorsements.]

Strachan served in all levels of law enforcement: Police Chief, Administrative Sergeant, Detective, School Resource Officer, SWAT team leader, DARE Officer, Patrol Officer and Jail Deputy.  Steve Strachan is the former Chief of two municipal departments; most recently in Kent.  His record in Kent was very impressive on a number of fronts including a 20% drop in the crime index in his first year.

In an interview this year, Congressman Reichert told Enrique Cerna of PBS that, “it may be time for someone from the outside to be the sheriff. Because I was the first, you know, in 30 years to be the elected sheriff, and the first internally. I appointed Sue. And she did a great job. And now, you have an opportunity for the people in King County to make a choice between someone that’s been in and someone that’s been out.”

Sheriff Strachan’s opponent John Urquhart is unfortunately a product of the culture that needs to be changed.  John spent his entire 24 year career at the King County Sheriff Office and retired earlier this year.  A recent story on KIRO TV News discussed some the concerning aspects of John’s record, including a internal investigation that determined then Sgt. Urquhart created a hostile work environment.

KIRO’s report discussed allegations of unbecoming conduct, dishonesty and discrimination that were filed against Urquhart. Urquhart misled the reporter by stating the charges were “not sustained” when in fact the charge of conduct unbecoming was SUSTAINED.   In a December 16, 2003 memo from then Sheriff Reichert to Sgt. John Urquhart says, “This performance plan has been developed to correct performance issues brought to light in IIU Investigation 02-099.  The investigation showed that you were in violation of G.O.M. section 3.00.020(1)(f) [Conduct Unbecoming]…Your past job performance showed that the way you communicated with those you supervise created apprehension, lack of trust and low morale.  This prevented you from being an effective supervisor.”  Former King County deputy Liz Johnson characterized Urquhart’s leadership style as, “it’s just intimidation and belittlement …The behavior that I witnessed from him is so bizarre, that’s what I’m saying, something wasn’t right.”

This report shows that John Urquhart not effective first-line supervisor and certainly not qualified to be Sheriff. Furthermore this is another example of the lack of accountability that occurred prior to Steve Strachan taking over as Sheriff.

In August of this year, just five months after Sheriff Strachan took office, an audit of the King County Sheriff’s Office Activities and Disciplinary Procedures was released.  This audit had been a longtime coming and reflects issues that occurred between 2005-2011, when John Urquhart was a “Senior Policy Adviser” in the King County Sheriff’s Office.  Regardless, Sheriff Strachan is not looking backwards; he is taking the recommendations proffered in the audit to heart.  He has been making changes and will continue to put the audit’s recommendations into action.

Steve Strachan has accomplished a great deal in his short time as Sheriff. When he started earlier this year, public confidence in the local law enforcement was waning and budget cuts from the recession were slashing the Sheriff’s Deputies positions.  In response to the department’s budget cuts, he evaluated and adjusted staffing costs including overtime pay.  As a result, this is the first year in recent memory the King County Sheriff’s Office will be hiring 15 additional deputies in 2013.  Sheriff Strachan is implementing his vision to develop a flexible organization of highly trained deputies who act as Leaders on the Street; leveraging community relationships and communication skills to minimize crime across King County.

Sheriff Steve Strachan is clearly the best and only choice to lead the King County Sheriff’s Office into the future.


Page 1 of 4

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén