The bureaucrats at Sound Transit knew they could be in trouble when they got caught giving the personal email addresses of their customers to the campaign trying to raise taxes to expand their light rail system. Using taxpayer-funded resources to help a political campaign is a big no-no.
Sure enough, the state’s Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) announced yesterday that it “determined Sound Transit’s release of the cardholders’ email addresses this year to the Mass Transit Now campaign represented an ‘apparent violation’ of the state law that prohibits public agencies from using public resources to assist a political campaign.”
Now we will wait for the punishment shoe to drop. According to the Times, “PDC staff will present the findings to commissioners on Thursday. They will formally decide whether to ask Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson to take appropriate action to deal with the regional transit agency’s apparent violation, as the staff investigation recommended.”
It’s unclear whether the Attorney General will act before the election on this ‘apparent violation’, or wait until the PDC verdict is in on another complaint against the light rail agency, stemming from its plan to use a poll earlier this year that would have also been helpful to the campaign supporting Sound Transit’s desire to expand.
The PDC action comes on the heels of a variety of cracks in the coalition that is pushing the never-ending tax stream that Sound Transit wants voters to approve. First Democrat State Senator Reuven Carlyle pointed out the flaws in the agency’s funding plan, pointing out it could hurt the legislature’s ability to fully fund public schools.
Then, outgoing State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn weighed in on Sound Transit’s unprecedented use of the property tax to help fund its growth plan, telling King 5 that he “believes elected leaders have put roads before kids. As a result, he say he’s firmly against Sound Transit 3, the mass transit expansion on the ballot this fall. ‘Now transportation is coming over and grabbing a piece of the property tax that’s supposed to go for education. Can’t do it,’ said Dorn who added he’s for mass transit, but not until McCleary is solved.”
In addition to those two individual opinions, the region’s most business-focused Chamber of Commerce – in Bellevue – came out against Sound Transit 3, as did the City Council of Newcastle. Both of those actions broke through the wall of cheerleaders that Sound Transit had built using the promise of light rail projects in the distant future.
Now we can wait to see what AG Ferguson – a likely gubernatorial candidate in 2020 – decides to do on the PDC complaint coming his way – and whether other organizations in the region decide that Sound Transit needs to come up with a better – and short, and less expensive – plan for the future.