Sound Transit spent close to $1 million on a party to celebrate the opening of the Capitol Hill and the University of Washington light rail stations (both of which opened years late and millions over budget) last March. As Shift reported, officials attempted to justify paying $858,379 for a party with taxpayer dollars by using a “you have to spend money to make money” argument.
Of course, that reasoning is ridiculous. Sound Transit did not invest money on publicity for a new product it just launched. The vast majority of people who would use these stations are people would live in the neighborhoods the stations serve. Sound Transit did not need to spend close to $1 million on a party as some type of an “investment.”
The truth is that Sound Transit officials cannot be trusted to allocate taxpayers’ hard earned dollars responsibly. Time and time again, Sound Transit has proved to be a wasteful agency that does not respect taxpayers.
Despite its less-than-stellar record, Sound Transit has the audacity to ask taxpayers for even more money for their latest $50 billion scam, Sound Transit 3 (ST3).
Sound Transit was already on shaky ground when it came to selling ST3 to voters — a long record over budget and late projects doesn’t give the agency a lot of creditability. But, Sound Transit’s million-dollar party has made a difficult public relations situation worse.
The News Tribune editorial board recently pointed out:
“Educating neighbors about the new transit option is imperative, and special events are a reasonable way to spread the message. But the eye-popping total tab suggests excessive scale and production values, especially the roughly $50,000 that went to frills such as commemorative tote bags, buttons, VIP goodies and decorative paper trains.
“The cost might seem like a drop in a very large bucket; officials say the new rail segment has already brought in $1 million more in fare revenue than predicted. Even so, it left the impression that the agency, which seeks to collect taxes from Puget Sounders through 2040 and beyond, thinks it’s playing with board-game money.
“At the very least, the expensive festivities stirred up a public-relations mess at a time when Sound Transit can ill afford one.”
The impression of an agency thinking it’s playing with board-game money is spot-on. But, it’s more than that.
Sound Transit is also an agency that plays fast-and-loose with the truth.
Based on past performance, there is no reason to assume that anything will change. If voters approve ST3, they would effectively allow Sound Transit to continue playing its irresponsible games.