After the first round of drops came in for Proposition 1 last night, a lot of people began asking the same question on Twitter: What do we do now? What’s plan B?
And to be honest, that was plan B. This was an across-the-aisle handshake by King County Council, a group that has traditionally not been great on Metro issues. This was what it looks like when people from both sides work together. This was it.
Stop-gaps like the congestion reduction charge have kept Metro on life-support, but were not permanent solutions. The transportation package in June failed, and that is devastating.
So what we do now, we at Seattlish believe, is we hold accountable the people whose actions — and, maybe more importantly, whose lack of actions — have resulted in a transit system that will simply be incapable of serving the population.
One of the people who needs to be held accountable for this is your mayor, Ed Murray. Because before Ed Murray was charming bar owners and pointing fingers at McGinn and probably also completely fouling up police reform, he was the chair of the Transportation Committee. He was in Olympia, repping Seattle. His job was to make the wheels on the bus keep turning.
During that time, Metro was basically only kept functionally through a series of transportation packages which focused largely on roads and highways, and tacked on tiny amounts of transit spending. Which is basically what Prop 1 was.
In short, while he had the chance to head off deep cuts, he didn’t/couldn’t. He raised some money, sure. He created some new taxes to pay for it, yes. But he also fucked up. A lot.
Which is not to say that Ed Murray was anti-transit. He wasn’t and isn’t. What he is is what I’d call “ok-transit.”
Way back in 2005, his pretty decent gas tax was passed, and was later backed by voters. He has done some things. He sees the need for transit, he supports transit, and he has gone back and forth on the varieties of transit we could have (rail? No rail? He doesn’t seem sure).
But in a pinch, he won’t go to bat for it in a progressive way, and he won’t innovate on its behalf. He has been pretty iffy on things like alternative transportation, like cycling safety. He didn’t see completing the Burke as a priority. He spent a lot of time pursuing private funding, which isn’t necessarily a great fix.
Mostly, though, fought hard for things like agency consolidation, which were more divisive than anything else. In 2007, he fought to basically gut Sound Transit, repeating the old opinion that if something is broke, you should just legislate against it until it gets better. That doesn’t work.
In an interview with STB in May of last year, Murray even admitted that his approach in Olympia was wrong.
I realized a few years ago that my approach was wrong. It is not that I have changed my opinion about the importance of regional cooperation, or my belief that a stronger alliance between Seattle and our inner-ring suburbs is the right way to build up our transit infrastructure most effectively; I have not. But I realized that these divisive and polarizing governance reform debates were not the way to get this done. I realized, rather, that regional cooperation must be an organic, incremental and evolutionary process, as Seattle and suburbs like Bellevue become more like one another in terms of urban culture and land use principles.
So, naturally, he must be working really hard to prepare Seattle to go lobby in Olympia, right? To get more money for our various transit needs?
And yet, in the run up to Prop 1’s vote, he seemed too distracted by other matters to get the lead (and the vote) out. He tweeted this:
Your ballots must be postmarked by tomorrow April 22. Please vote and remind your friends. pic.twitter.com/PTnXxMxmtz— Ed Murray (@Mayor_Ed_Murray)April 21, 2014
…Which isn’t even an endorsement of the proposition. Which is weird, because homeboy DID IN FACT ENDORSE IT. He quietly signed a little thingy saying he did.
But it was oh-so-quiet. And it was not enough to motivate people who needed to know that this was about more than just buses — this was about roads and the future and income and wealth disparity and traffic and parking and congestion and the health of our city.
He never said all that. And he should have.
On a local level, since taking office (which, to be fair, was just a few months ago), Murray has been absent on transit.
He stepped into the Mayor’s Office with what appeared to be very little understanding of the existing Transit Master Plan, and has made barely any mention of the special election, or the very real threat of sweeping Metro cuts.
In a February, 2013 interview with PubliCola, he called out then-opponent (and still City Councilmember) Tim Burgess for his plans on transit, outlined what he wanted for Seattle:
It’s very interesting to hear one of the candidates [Burgess] say they want to go back to basics, because we had Bridging the Gap [the $365 million 2006 transportation levy], except now we have a $2 billion backlog.
That’s not a strategic approach to transportation. We have a major, silent, growing maintenance and infrastructure problem.
I would aggressively push for Sound Transit 3, aggressively push for what we’re doing to do on the westside transit corridors. We haven’t prioritized what comes first and then how are we going to pay for it over a period of time.
Infrastructure like…the tunnel he backed that is now stuck for the foreseeable future? Sure.
But of course, Ed Murray isn’t solely responsible. And looking back on what he didn’t do isn’t helpful. There are a lot of other lawmakers who remained relatively quiet as the vote for Prop 1 neared.
Kshama Sawant was too busy lobbying for a higher minimum wage — which, don’t get us wrong, matters — to have much of a say on this very real, very salient matter to the demographics she claims to be the most concerned about. Transit is an everybody issue, but it’s REALLY a lowest-earners issue.
Nick Licata, the councilmember who has traditionally been the biggest advocate for the city’s neediest populations, was mostly focused on parks.
Larry Phillips**, who is a member of the KC Council and a huge transit advocate, did a great thing by writing a guest post in Noted Enemy the Seattle Times’ pages…but focused it too much on transit, and less on the matters that appear to his constituency, like the fact that the majority of the measure would have gone to roads.
Rodney Tom, the confirmed piece of shit behind the Great Republican Coup of 2013, is very much to blame. Consistently anti-transit in any form, this turncoat shred of human waste has done nothing but harm people with his decisions, and convince his constituents to do the same.
So, there you have it. If you’re mad, write to Ed Murray. Ask him what the actual fuck he’s going to do to ensure that your ass can still get around. Write to Kshama Sawant and ask her if she can kindly focus on more than one issue at once, because it won’t matter how much you’re getting paid if you can’t get to work. Write to your representatives and ask them how they’re going to figuratively punch Rodney Tom in his stupid face until shit gets funded in a sustainable way.
You’re mad. So are we. Tell someone.
** Though, Larry Phillips’ op ed really was great. Here’s a quote:
Remember that the most regressive action we can take is cutting our bus system. That will not only harm low-wage workers who depend on Metro to get to their jobs, it will increase traffic congestion, damage our economic competitiveness, diminish mobility options for seniors, youth and people with disabilities, and hurt our environment.