34th District Democrats: Metro $ semi-endorsement; councilmembers talk development, ride-sharing, more

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Will Metro‘s next “service change” include a service cut?

Decision time is down to the wire. The King County Council has to decide soon whether to ask voters to approve a local tax package. Various Metro-related conversations are on its schedule this coming week.

With West Seattle and White Center bus service having the most to lose, because of Highway 99 “mitigation” money expiring as well as the $20 tab fee, local groups are taking their official stands.

The one taken by the 34th District Democrats this past week was a little unusual.

During their monthly meeting on Wednesday night, they got a pitch straight from the top – King County Executive Dow Constantine recapped the looming expiration of funding and lamented that he wasn’t instead participating in a conversation about increasing service, saying ” “we’re right now 500,000 hours short of meeting the current demand.”

He declared that “to keep our heads above water. … This is the only option we have.” He also spoke of the “desperate, desperate” state of King County roads. And he mentioned the fifth increase in Metro fares in past five years or so, submitted with this, along with first-ever low-income fare. “We would put tens of thousands of cars back on the roads if we have to make these bus cuts … the burden is going to fall on every one of us if those cars have to be put back on the bridge, or the Viaduct, or city streets.”

He then said “the problem is really in the State Senate.” And he said that while people feel they will certainly wake up, they apparently already have declared defeat, “so we have no option … the damage that would be done by failing to act now will be dramatic.”

Move King County Now campaign manager April Putney came up for the pep talk and a bit of logistics, saying the campaign is halfway to its fundraising goal already.

Shortly thereafter is when the group realized it couldn’t just take an endorsement vote – chair Marcee Stone-Vekich said 34th DD bylaws required knowledge of the exact verbiage of what’ll be on the ballot — and that wasn’t available quite yet.

Can’t we suspend the rules? it was asked.

Suspending a bylaw was strongly discouraged, Stone-Vekich said.

Ultimately, Ann Martin helped save the day, suggesting the group vote in favor of preventing 17 percent transit cuts in King County.

And so they did.

CITY COUNCIL BRIEFING: Councilmember Sally Clark was a last-minute cancellation due to illness but Councilmembers Tom Rasmussen and Mike O’Brien showed up to talk about various hot topics . Rasmussen mentioned the transportation funding issue. “It’s maddening,” he said, that the Legislature is doing nothing. He said, “We should be adding (transit),” not facing cuts. He mentioned transportation safety, and 35th SW. “2 years ago I asked SDOT to look at a road diet, and (they) said it had too many cars. But they are taking another look.” He also mentioned abuse of disabled parking passes – 1 million in the city but maybe only 600,000 valid.

O’Brien said he wants to pass minimum wage, housing affordability legislation.

Rasmussen listed the expected Seattle Parks levy – whatever form it takes – as a priority too, as well as the seawall. He also mentioned the Seattle City Light surplus ex-substations in the West Seattle area, which a citizens’ coalition is campaigning to save as greenspace: “I’m going to try to get them for the community.”

34th Dems member Michael Taylor-Judd asked about head tax and impact fee to raise $ for transportation.

Rasmussen said we need to “look at everything” but says staff call impact fees ‘hard to implement,” though he feels they are a ‘great idea.’ O’Brien agreed, saying he is open to everything.

Speaking of development, one attendee asked about parking pressures increasing in neighborhoods. Rasmussen acknowledges “we need to look at some of our parking requirements re: developments built with little or no parking… but they’re trying to reduce the cost of building parking in a structure.” Maybe an RPZ (Restricted Parking Zone) could help the questioner, he suggests.

Then there was the “ridesharing” debate, with a now-tabled vote looming at the time.

O’Brien said Uber and Lyft are “really just taxis” and “in blatant violation of our laws.” But he uses them.

Rasmussen agreed with an opinion called out by former 34th Dems chair Ivan Weiss – if they don’t have insurance, etc. “they need to get off our streets.” And he says, the drivers are caught in the middle.

Then came the minimum-wage-increase issue, and a question about council camaraderie, which was interpreted as a question about how they’re working with new councilmember Kshama Sawant. She’s “great,” declared Rasmussen, adding: “We try to stick to the issues, we don’t get personal.”

O’Brien said, “I think we’re really lucky to work in the environment we do.” He called Sawant ‘a great human being,” and as for the minimum-wage increase: “We have to do it right.” He says Seattle can ‘set the tone for the entire country.”

One more note from the meeting:

GARDEN PARTY: This year’s big summertime 34th DDs fundraiser will be at a new location: The Technology Access Foundation‘s Bethaday Learning Space in White Center’s Lakewood Park. August 15th is the tentative date.

The 34th District Democrats meet second Wednesdays, 7 pm, at The Hall at Fauntleroy; updates and events are on their website, 34dems.org.

17 Replies to "34th District Democrats: Metro $ semi-endorsement; councilmembers talk development, ride-sharing, more"

  • Walker February 17, 2014 (6:38 am)

    I will vote against any King county metro tax pacKage.
    Metro has proven time and again they cannot balance their budget, it is a bureaucracy out of control and the actual people who use it cannot/will not pay the actual cost.
    Privatize the service and make those who use it pay the actual cost.
    Rather than work within their means metro maxes out the credit card every time then come crying to the public and threatening service cuts.
    Just look at the C line they put it… They spent at least way too much to modify the bus stops by pushing the sidewalks into the streets blocking traffic when the stop before could serve the purpose, they are not listening to Westwood center issues and still block off the park creating a dangerous area and when any budget issues arise they immediately threaten service cuts…
    Voting no is the ONLY way to put the bus service on a long term viable plan as it will force them to stream line and make the organization efficient.

  • Mr, CW February 17, 2014 (8:36 am)

    Road diet seems to be the city council’s solution for everything traffic related. Let’s simultaneously cut transit, build huge apartment buildings with no parking, and implement road diets on all arterial streets. If Mr. Rasmussen can say that previous sentence out loud and claim it still sounds logical then he should step down from the city council.

    Road diets for everybody!! I-5, you get a road diet! I-90, you get a road diet! West Seattle Bridge, you get a road diet! 520, you get a road diet!

  • K February 17, 2014 (10:44 am)

    I hear your frustration, Walker! I’m quite disappointed with their general management as well. I find it ironic they need to keep cutting and/or raising more funds when they put in a fancy new bus system (RapidRide) that doesn’t even check if passengers pay when they board (they have a scanner at the bus stop to scan before boarding). Or, is there a way to guarantee fare collection I’m missing?

    While road diets could work in some situations, the problem continues to be no improvement in moving a large number of people around the city without a car. If you want to discourage single-passenger vehicles (which I support), you simply have to have a comprehensive plan in place to support the population growth and supposed lack of people driving. Metro has failed several times on that front–hard to trust them anymore.

  • G February 17, 2014 (2:47 pm)

    I took the bus to Westwood Village to do some shopping and was horrified at the condition of the bus stop. Garbage strewn everywhere in the bus shelter and in the vicinity (I mean a LOT of garbage), punks hanging around, nervous bus patrons. Very depressing.

  • BookGal February 17, 2014 (2:56 pm)

    If Metro cuts it’s services (17% system wide, which will mean approximately a 27% cut in West Seattle services)… People, like myself, who do not drive nor have a car, and have jobs,.. will be unable to get to work. This scares me.

    For those of you who rarely take public transit and/or are so against any sort of tax – such me-thinking causes more harm than good. The essentials of maintaining OUR roads, public transportation, police, fire, libraries, and education is EVERYONE’s responsibility. If WE, the citizens, do not step up and DO OUR CIVIC DUTY – who will?

    Nothing is free – everyone should pay. There is no magic money tree or person to fund these things. WE, THE PEOPLE, should take pride in OUR COMMUNITY, OUR CITY, and OUR STATE. This is not about “me” this is about “us.”

    As everyone knows, rents have skyrocketed in Seattle. All the folks that keep our city running are the ones who will be hurt. We can’t afford to live near downtown nor in its neighboring areas nor in those so-called “urban villages,”

    A LOT of working class people will have no other means of getting to their jobs except using public transit. We are the ones who keep your swanky offices clean, make the food or drinks & serve you at your trendy bars & restaurants, sell you the latest (cheap) clothing trends, shelve the books at your neighborhood library, stock your groceries, teach your kids, etc.

    If you know how to “fix” Metro – then be pro-active. Become involved, and do something to change the status quo.

    Road diets are to help buses merge back into traffic quickly… Drivers are suppose to yield to buses, but they never do. Just like drivers are suppose to yield to pedestrians who are legally crossing the street.

  • West Seattle Hipster February 17, 2014 (4:40 pm)

    I spit coffee all over my keyboard laughing when I read this part of the article:


    “O’Brien said Uber and Lyft are “really just taxis” and “in blatant violation of our laws.” But he uses them.”


    A city leader knows it is illegal yet chooses to take advantage of it, gotta love Seattle politicians.

  • Kathy February 17, 2014 (4:47 pm)

    To the Metro complainers: Maybe you have a short memory or didn’t live here when Metro had a stable revenue source in the motor vehicle excise tax. Our state legislature took that funding source away about 14 years ago. Since then Metro has tried to operate based on sales tax revenue when that income was impacted by the 2008 recession, the lukewarm economy since, and the rise of online shopping avoiding sales tax. Their remedy has been to implement financial audit findings, revise routes to improve efficiency, negotiate concessions from the union, cut service, raise fares, dip into emergency reserves, and accept federal improvement grants for bus rapid transit (Rapid Ride). Our legislature’s continued failing to do anything to remedy this long term shortfall has resulted in Metro’s need to propose more service cuts and to raise fares again. The local attempt to raise funds through a car tab is a desperate act in the face of our state legislature’s failure to act to save you from the effect of many people getting back in their cars because their bus option is gone. It is amazing to me how many people on this blog can’t seem to put the history of how our transit system got into this fix into perspective with what they perceive as mismanagement. This history has been told many times but still we hear how someone refuses to vote for the tax because they feel Metro is lying about the need for service cuts. Be honest, you just don’t want to pay the tax. You are being penny wise for yourself but pound foolish for the impact on air and water pollution, the death of our marine ecosystems, not to mention time and $$ that will be wasted in traffic jams.

  • ramshackle February 17, 2014 (5:30 pm)

    Everyone who rides transit should also pay the $60 MVET if it passes. Put that on your ballot measure @kcexec #KCmetrocuts

    • WSB February 17, 2014 (7:05 pm)

      For Ramshackle: Pretty much all of them will, since as has been cited repeatedly here and elsewhere, most people who use transit (or bicycles) also own cars. Also, as has been repeatedly cited, four-wheel-vehicle drivers (myself included) do not pay anywhere near the cost of the toll their vehicles take on the roads, while those who ride buses and bicycles (or walk, for that matter) are saving some of that wear and tear. – TR

  • East Coast Cynic February 17, 2014 (6:59 pm)

    @Kathy +1

  • Kathy February 17, 2014 (7:14 pm)

    That would be about 10 percent of Metro riders who don’t own cars. I would be interested in finding out how you would have them pay a car registration fee.

  • highland park February 17, 2014 (8:00 pm)

    @Kathy +1000!!!!

    Thank you for this cogent summary of how Metro got to where it is now.

  • Diane February 17, 2014 (10:27 pm)

    thanks for the great summary Kathy

  • Nick22 February 18, 2014 (11:51 am)

    Would have been nice if they discussed how Eileen Cody pushed through a bill to put all medical cannabis patients on a registry and basically makes all patients who grow there own criminals again. Vote independent both parties are inept

    • WSB February 18, 2014 (12:15 pm)

      Nick – I don’t know if it was discussed, but Rep. Cody did speak at January’s meeting (the topic was the Affordable Care Act). We were unable to cover it because of breaking news. – TR

  • The Hepcat February 18, 2014 (11:02 pm)

    Walker hits it right on. On any given day, as I watch yet another half-empty Metro bus run yet another red light downtown, or witness the colossal reach around known as the “C” line, I think to myself why is it that the plea ALWAYS seems to be “We’ll cut service if we don’t get money?” Why should I fund an entity that is clearly mismanaged by a legislature and city council who don’t know how do fix anything except to throw more money at it? I will vote against any type of increase in Metro funding, NOT because I want to be unfeeling, but because I refuse to feed this money hole until Metro comes to its senses, brings in an outside auditor to review its financial status, and begins to act like the service it professes to be. This is not throwing good money after bad, it’s throwing bad money after worse. I just bet that if Metro were privatized, we would see cleaner, safer buses, smarter routes, better service, and an increase in ridership. And yes, I DO ride Metro from time to time, and, like any other person with operable retina’s, do see the reasons I drive to work most days; skeezy looking stops, especially around Westwood, apathetic operators, and, it seems, progressively crazier people. No thanks, I’ll drive myself, probably swerve out of the way of the 21 as it takes up all of its lane and half of mine on 35th,and call it a day.

  • Kathy February 19, 2014 (2:05 pm)

    Hey Hepcat, are you “hep” to the fact that $2 million was already spent performing a financial audit of Metro? http://www.kingcounty.gov/operations/auditor/Reports/Dept/DOT.aspx

    How about instead of privatizing bus service, let’s use volunteer labor to clean up the skeezy looking stops. That might free up some funds for service hours. Hepcat, I’ll meet you at that bus stop, just say when. Don’t forget your trash bag and gloves.

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