Shift took last week off, but the critics of Sound Transit and its massive tax plan for its latest ballot initiative – ST3 – did not. Of particular note was the scathing review by Democrat State Representative Reuven Carlyle of the shaky finance plan that the troubled transportation bureaucracy is trying to slip past voters this fall.
Just consider a few of the broadsides launched at the Sound Transit planners by the Democrats’ leading finance expert in the legislature:
“As I review the updated financing plan in more depth, I continue to grapple on a deeply personal level with the genuine burden the Sound Transit proposal places on public education.”
“The financing plan locks up the taxes through bonding in perpetuity and the decision can never be reversed. Ever.”
“I am unsettled that the package consumes the oxygen in the room on taxes for virtually all other public services at all levels of government for years to come. The plan moves to among the very highest sales tax in the nation along with a major property tax increase. We need to be honest that the ability of cities, counties and the state to utilize the sales tax in the future as a new revenue source is effectively ended with this plan.”
“As a state legislator I cannot in good conscience support an inequitable and unstable financing plan in one isolated silo of public services—no matter how valued and important to our future—that I believe will have substantial negative implications for public education in the years to come.”
The op-ed was really the first high-profile focus on the fact that Sound Transit is trying to grab money that our public schools (and the legislature, to meet its McCleary mandate) need. It’s an inconvenient truth which the transit lobby tries to gloss over.
Following up on Rep. Carlyle’s critique was a front-page piece by the Seattle Times – only a few years too late to actually inform the public of the damage being planned – pointing out Sound Transit’s intention to virtually destroy the natural gateway to Bellevue that is the Mercer Slough.
As the Times points out, “In south Bellevue, the light-rail tracks and clearance needed on either side will cut a 50-foot-wide swath through the wooded buffer along Mercer Slough Nature Park, pass about nine feet in front of the Winters House, and replace the current Park and Ride surface lot off Interstate 90 with a gleaming new station and a five-story parking garage.”
Of course, the train zealots at Sound Transit and in the City of Bellevue’s transportation department claim that their bulldozing and construction of a 5-story garage won’t really impact those people trying to enjoy the park. According to one city bureaucrat who has drank the train Kool-Aid:
“He agreed that Bellevue Way will be visually transformed with the construction of an elevated light-rail line, a large station and parking garage. The Winters House and the U-pick blueberry stand will be closed during the estimated four years of construction.
“But Parker added, ‘For a park user, walking on a trail through Mercer Slough, it’s all going to be experienced as a park.’”
That’s right, the person on the trail can just ignore the trains going by 20 hours a day and the 60-foot high concrete structure blocking out the sun. It’s still a park experience, to a transportation planner
Even worse though, from some city residents’ perspective, is that their elected officials agreed to give Sound Transit public land to essentially destroy the park. Again, from the Times: “As part of its negotiations with Sound Transit, Bellevue agreed to permanently transfer two acres of Mercer Slough parkland, some of which was initially purchased with park bond funds in 1988. ‘These parklands that were purchased with taxpayers’ money shouldn’t have been sold without a public process. It’s a violation of the public trust,’ said Renay Bennett, a resident of the Bellecrest neighborhood northwest of Mercer Slough.”
None of that matters to the folks in Seattle pushing ST3 on the public this fall – after all, public trust is not a concept that Sound Transit officials are very familiar with.