VOTERS’ rejection of Proposition 1—King County Metro funding package—in April should have sent a clear message to county elected leaders: Put Metro’s financial house in order before seeking yet another boost in revenue.
On Monday, the County Council passed a measure—proposed by Councilmember Rod Dembowski—in a 5-4 vote that would avoid unnecessary bus service cuts—those scheduled to take place in 2015—by taking steps toward making Metro operate efficiently. Monday’s vote was a victory for taxpayers, but it was unfortunately overshadowed by other political theater regarding Metro, orchestrated by King County Executive Dow Constantine.
Service cuts planned for September 2014 appear to be unavoidable, but that might not be true for rounds of cuts scheduled for 2015. Why make cuts that may not be necessary? Government can, and should, be more nimble than that.
Constantine, instead, immediately vetoed Dembowski’s plan to delay service cuts, and mocked it. The blistering — and disappointing — tone showed an absence of leadership at the very moment that the public, through its April vote, demanded leadership. Constantine appeared more focused on fulfilling the April campaign threat of cutting bus service — than on the effect those cuts would have on riders.
Yesterday, Constantine made an attempt to save face by asking Sound Transit and King County Metro to issue a joint report on how they can consolidate their service routes—many of which inefficiently overlap—in order to save money. The report is due in September.
Sounds like a good idea, but there is one question: Why was this not done sooner? First Constantine vetoes a measure that would save money and avoid unnecessary bus routes, then he decides he will finally consider a common-sense solution to prevent inefficient service overlaps. The solutions to Metro’s inefficient budget serve as proof that Constantine never needed more taxpayer dollars to “save Metro,” proof that county officials did not exhaust all options to eliminate waste before asking for higher taxes and proof that Proposition 1 was always about putting more money in the coffers of unions and not about saving bus service for the needy.