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    Troubling: Report says neighborhoods along Sound Transit line should stay the same ethnically

    A recent report suggests that the Southeast Seattle's ethnic mix should stay the same. Is that really a proper goal?
    A light rail train gets ready to pull out of the Rainier Beach station.

    A light rail train gets ready to pull out of the Rainier Beach station. Oran Viriyincy/Flickr

    Puget Sound Sage, a community based labor organization, recently released a report on the impact of light rail on poor communities of color in the Rainier Valley. The report has been given mixed reviews by the Seattle Transit Blog's Martin Duke and my former colleague at Sightline Eric De Place.

    I say mixed because both reviews praise the report's intentions while only mildly criticizing its most troubling assumption, the idea that profitable and legal real estate transactions that result in demographic changes are a bad thing. This concept of “displacement” needs more of a critique that it has been given thus far.

    Duke, who edits the Seattle Transit Blog where I often write, raises a stronger level of concern about displacement, finding that the “emphasis on the relative proportion of various racial groups as opposed to their absolute numbers [goes] well beyond avoiding displacement.”

    The emphasis on proportion leads to this shocking statement in the report:

    Southeast Seattle neighborhoods should remain majority people of color.

    I say it’s shocking because what if a report was published that said this:

    Northeast Seattle neighborhoods should remain majority white people.

    This stood out to me like a red flashing light. What is the problem that the report is truly trying to address? Racism? Poverty? Is light rail to blame for those things?

    Racism exists in our society and we should seek to end it and reverse its impacts. Poverty exists and we need to figure out how to better create economic opportunity for everyone. 

    But locking a neighborhood into a permanent ethnic mix? That’s an extreme idea, and one that I suspect the authors of the Sage study might want to attenuate, rethink, or rephrase.

    It is important to remember that light rail came to the Rainer Valley because communities of color wanted it. The argument then was that to have light rail skip the Valley would have deprived a community with economic challenges of a chance to benefit from the economic boon of light rail.

    Not long after advocates emerged saying that surface light rail would kill the Valley, wiping out local businesses and destroying the character of the neighborhood. “Build a tunnel or nothing,” they argued. In response to these and other concerns, a fund with millions of dollars was created to offset the impacts of construction and plans were put in place to support local women and minority-owned business getting as much of the work associated with light rail as possible.

    Now light rail is again the focus of concern, as a negative thing. The Sage report sets out to ask the question, “Who will benefit?” from light rail. The answer in the '90s was communities of color and small local businesses; that’s why putting light rail through the Valley was so important. But today, light rail is, according to the report, “forcing out” people of color who are lower income.

    Light rail in the Rainier Valley has succeeded in doing what it was intended to do: provide an important start to regional light rail. It has also increased economic activity in the Valley. Both of these things have increased underlying property values and attracted more people seeking a place to live to the Valley. These aren’t bad things.

    The answer to economic disparity among people of color — which is real — isn’t to put the Rainier Valley under glass, keeping property values low and imposing an ethnic mix on neighborhoods. Our society values mobility and change — usually. Often, however, change can be disturbing. What we should be focused on is not limiting the success of light rail. It’s working. A symptom of that success is neighborhood change.

    And these changes are typical. South Park for example used to be a rural community of Italian farmers who trucked their produce to the Pike Place Market. Today the neighborhood is a largely Latino single and multifamily neighborhood surrounded by industrial use. Were the Italian farmers “displaced?” Calling the change in South Park displacement is simply a pejorative term for inevitable change over time as the economy and demographics of the region change.

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    Posted Tue, Jun 19, 7:20 a.m. Inappropriate

    This piece touts supposed economic benefits caused by light rail in SE Seattle. For example:

    [Light rail] has also increased economic activity in the Valley. Both of these things have increased underlying property values and attracted more people seeking a place to live to the Valley.

    What data do you think support those claims, Roger?

    That "Sage" report asserts that since 2005 land values surrounding Southeast Seattle's light-rail stations have risen by over 50 percent. That is not the case for single family residential properties. I’ve looked at the assessor’s data (using iMap) for a number of those properties near the Othello Street station. Those properties’ values now are at about the same level as they were in 2006, which is three years before light rail was operating.

    These are three properties within four blocks of the Othello St. light rail station:

    4421 S FRONTENAC ST -- it is worth less than in 2006

    4609 S ORCHARD ST-- it is worth less than in 2006

    4614 S GARDEN ST -- it is worth the same as in 2006

    The actual figures from the assessor's office show values have not increased.

    My property is worth more now than in 2006, and it is nowhere near a light rail station.

    I wouldn't be surprised if some commercial properties near those stations have increased in value over that period. That's why commercial developers like light rail -- they get richer off it.

    Moreover, the “increased economic activity” near those stations in the Rainier Valley could be due to the significant Seattle Housing Authority spending there recently, not light rail. Isn’t that correct, Roger?


    Posted Tue, Jun 19, 7:50 a.m. Inappropriate

    For once I agree with Roger Valdez. The statement from the report that "Southeast Seattle neighborhoods should remain majority people of color" is absurd and no amount of context makes it otherwise. More nuanced points about the impact of light rail on racial or ethnic diversity are not helped by statements like this one.

    Sea Wolf

    Posted Tue, Jun 19, 10:51 a.m. Inappropriate

    I like Puget Sound Sage, and I think I know what they're trying to say, but I agree with Sea Wolf: couching it in racial terms is not likely to help get the message across to those who need to hear it.

    Then again, couching it in economic terms, which I think makes more sense, might not work either. It's a conundrum.

    Either way, as far as I know, ethnicity in that part of Seattle south of Madison Street and east of Downtown, the Industrial District, and West Seattle has never, ever stood still.

    Posted Thu, Jun 21, 10:50 a.m. Inappropriate

    Bravo Sage!!

    Roger's creates a false analogy by equating "Southeast Seattle neighborhoods should remain majority people of color." with "Northeast Seattle neighborhoods should remain majority white people."

    Those white neighborhoods were built in areas of high access to opportunity (wealth creation), through racist and exclusionary practices. They remain white because white people can afford to choose where they live. People of color were relegated to areas further from opportunity (and access to wealth creation) by racist and exclusionary practices. They often remain in these areas as regions grow, and tenuously cling to less expensive locations with access to jobs.

    When I read Sage's report I was motivated to consider what it would take for these communities to enjoy the benefits of access to opportnity that light rail brings, rather than be forced out to location with poor acess to transit and oppotunity.

    By accusing Sage of blaming light rail for poverty, Roger creates straw man. He seeks to undercut Sage's honest assessment of how the City's policy to bring light rail to the Valley and to focus growth around light rail stations can result in gentrification. In reading the report I was stimulated to see specific idea of ways the existing communities could realize benefits.

    1. FACT: whites (who are historicaly, weathier) can outbid minorities and immigrants for property.
    2. FACT: whites and wealthy households choose to locate near high capacity transit (in spite of their lower use of transit and higher ownership of cars)
    3. FACT: property values and housing and business costs increase around transit stations.
    4. FACT: the City is seeking to encourage growth around transit.

    MY CONCLUSION: If we are to create equitable future we should not shy away from hard questions and staements that make us uneasy. We should feel motivated, and work like crazy to consider WHO BENEFITS. If we don't, I know in my heart that the benefits will fall to those who least need it, and the impacts to those who can least afford them. In this context, it perfectly appropriate to say that SE Seattle station areas should remain majority people of color.

    Posted Fri, Jun 22, 9:17 a.m. Inappropriate

    3. FACT: property values and housing and business costs increase around transit stations.

    Your "fact" there is shown to be false by the three examples I listed above -- those are properties near a light rail station whose values have not increased due to light rail.

    Do you have any data that might support that assertion you claim to be a "fact"? I asked Roger to try supporting that same assertion, but he can't quite come up with any information that would suggest light rail boosts home values near light rail stations.


    Posted Mon, Jun 25, 11:41 a.m. Inappropriate

    There are many published reports that control for other factors afecting property values.
    Measuring the Impact of Light Rail Systems on Single Family Home Values: A Hedonic Approach with GIS Application
    Hong Chen, Anthony Rufolo, Kenneth J. Dueker
    Those "examples" are worthless, nearly all Seattle SF housing prices have decreased since late 2007.

    Posted Mon, Jun 25, 12:22 p.m. Inappropriate

    Those "examples" are worthless, nearly all Seattle SF housing prices have decreased since late 2007.

    Those examples are not worthless. They demonstrate that your assertion ("property values . . . increase around transit stations") is so much hot air.

    The findings in that 1997 paper that examined this issue down in Portland obviously don't apply here. One simple explanation for why is that the state and local taxing structure here is so much more regressive. Up here the high regressive taxing depresses local economic activity more than in areas such as Portland -- that would explain why housing prices in the Portland metro area have held up better than around here.


    Posted Tue, Jun 19, 8:17 a.m. Inappropriate

    It is all well and good to analyze peripheral effects of mass transit on an area, but never let them be it's actual reason for being, which is to provide convenient, reliable, affordable, comfortable, safe transportation. Any other purpose (increasing economic activity along the line, altering demographics, providing construction/operating jobs, alleviating road congestion, providing art venues at stations) however desirable, is strictly secondary to the primary purpose of moving people. Otherwise, light rail would be considered a failure by, for instance, motorists if it didn't reduce congestion (which it is already by many anti-rail folks, for that reason).
    BTW- I have had many a lunch at many of the great restaurants that are within walking distance of the Othello station, which I would never had gone to if it weren't for the light rail. (I would not have driven there from my job in Tukwila, nor would I have taken a bus, even if there were one). That seems like positive economic activity due to the light rail to me.


    Posted Tue, Jun 19, 12:24 p.m. Inappropriate

    One can argue and red herring all one wants to cover up the "unintended" consequences of planners, developers, speculators, and electeds overly interested in staying that way studiously transforming social objectives into financial opportunities, in this case seeking and granting massive upzones far ahead of any real need— under the pretense of "being prepared." Possibly a few electeds fall for that, but for how long is it possible to ignore history?

    It's hardly a new phenomia. Entire communities of fully prepared lots in the mid 1920s awaited construction that never came. The WSJ just reported today's huge overload ALONG SIDE bidding wars for "lots" in prime locations. Interchanges are still insider commodities. At the height of the Urban Renewal era, speculators succeeded in upzoning Denny Regrade far ahead of the market— no redevelopment took place because no speculator holding "lots" was interested in any development that would not support the asking price justified by the futuristic zoning. Rents "at least paying the taxes"—attracted "hermit crabs."

    Some of you, pre-bust, may have caught the Quality Growth Alliance reporting to Council "we have never been so successful with a chosen message than this 'sustainable growth.'" When "Growth" is limited to finance, there are surprises, often unpleasant financial ones, but the social consequences, by this time, are far from surprises, or most certainly should not be. Accounts are all over the place, just not in the echo chambers:



    "In 2007, Glazer,... published From a Cause to a Style: Modernist Architecture’s Encounter with the American City. Modernist buildings began as a utopian cause, Glazer pointed out—indeed, as social policy crafted by technocratic elites for the benefit of the working class. Glazer candidly remembers seeing a photo of a dozen blocks of tenements that had been razed to make way for housing projects: “I recall, as a social-minded, and socialist, youth, looking at this picture, proud at what had been done, worried about how long it would take to clear away the surrounding sea of slums.” But those tenements that survived, he continues, “are now often more desirable not only to poor people but to middle-class people too.” Glazer cites the East Harlem brownstones of his youth: “No one has ever had a good word for this nondesign, this simple adaptation to market needs—until we started destroying it. ...He quotes Norman Dennis’s 1970 study of Sunderland, a city in England: “As Edmund Burke said in another connection, the high level of satisfaction in areas like [the ones scheduled to be torn down] ‘is the result of a choice not of one day or one set of people. . . . It is made by the peculiar circumstances, occasion, tempers, dispositions and moral, civil, and social habitudes of the people which disclose themselves only in a long period of time.’ ”


    Posted Tue, Jun 19, 1:38 p.m. Inappropriate

    Hey alally -- you are putting the cart before the horse. You left off your list of "peripheral effects" the fact that companies and wealthy individuals who develop commercial properties are the driving force behind light rail and they profit off it big time. That interest group always is behind light rail efforts, in all the areas that have put it in over the past several decades.

    Property developers (Wallace Properties, Kemper Development, Wright Runstad, etc.) all reap the benefits of light rail -- to them that is not a "peripheral" effect, it's the primary objective.

    I assume Roger Valdez is paid by some commercial property developer (or group of developers). That's likely why he's always trying to puff up external social benefits that light rail supposedly provides, and it would explain why he advocates for the elimination of zoning limits on properties near light rail stations.


    Posted Tue, Jun 19, 1:39 p.m. Inappropriate



    Posted Tue, Jun 19, 9:24 a.m. Inappropriate

    What is even more astounding is that Ron Simms has written a foreword that endorses the report in glowing terms. I wonder whether he actually read it.

    Posted Tue, Jun 19, 9:45 a.m. Inappropriate

    OMG Ethel--look around the corner and see if the end of the world is coming.

    For I, too, agree with Roger for a change. He got this right!

    Look, stuff changes, all the time, deal with it. And what I often am smacked down for (substitute white for black, urban for rural) he actually does. NE Seattle should remain mostly white, indeed. Guess he hasn't been to the little Beirut part of Lake City lately, but nice example dude.

    The Geezer


    Posted Tue, Jun 19, 10:21 a.m. Inappropriate

    You betcha this integration stuff sure doesn't work. Years ago Ballard was a nice respectable place with hard-working Norwegians nibbling their lefse and lutefisk and quietly going about their business. Then somebody got the bright idea that it would be OK to let in a few Swedes and Finns. In no time the whole neighborhood went to hell in a hand basket. I tell ya', this mixing of the races has got to stop!


    Posted Tue, Jun 19, 12:42 p.m. Inappropriate

    It’s nice to see Roger admit that transit isn’t about transit in this town—its about real estate, pure and simple. Although you can make the argument that rail transit does move people—out of their neighborhoods to make room for gentrification.

    Posted Wed, Jun 20, 8:54 a.m. Inappropriate

    I've tired of writing about light rail but no doubt will return to it before long. For now, though, a couple thoughts.

    1. It is not sensible to want to lock in Seattle (or any other) neighborhoods to their present ethnic mix. Neighborhoods change all the time, for a variety of factors, and we should want to keep it that way.

    2. Light rail is another matter entirely. As I've written befoe, any cost-benefit analysis by an experienced transportation or public-policy analyst will yield the finding that it is a horrendously expensive boondoggle. Simple expansion of existing bus service would
    move more passengers, right now, to more destinations for far less money than light rail will do after billions of dollars and years spent in construction. The most recent three-county expansion of light rail entailed the single largest local-level tax increase in the history of the United States (all in regressive taxes to be paid mainly by wage-earning families). The Sound Transit money dispensed
    to Rainier Valley and nearby groups amounted to plain and simple payoffs intended to quiet them until construction got underway.
    The beneficiaries of light rail are, yes, developers and the influential network of contractors, sub-contractors, law firms, financial institutions, p.r. firms, and Sound Transit bureacrats who
    earn a living from the taxpayer-provided light rail funds. The crunch will come not long from now when King/Pierce/Snohomish County elected officials find that light rail expenditures are not sustainable.

    Posted Wed, Jun 20, 10:31 a.m. Inappropriate



    Posted Wed, Jun 20, 11:43 a.m. Inappropriate

    TVD -

    Please remain too tired to write about light rail. Or if you do write, please explain this statement in detail:

    "Simple expansion of existing bus service would move more passengers, right now, to more destinations for far less money than light rail will do after billions of dollars and years spent in construction. "

    Please explain in detail how you serve Capitol Hill and the U District with buses that can move as many people as quickly as a train. And of course everybody LOVES the smooth, high quality ride you get on a bus... NOT.

    Since you brought up such a comparison, I guess you could say the same thing about car travel. Just replace cars with bikes. You can go more places, more cheaply with less congestion, pollution and parking requirements by biking than by driving.

    Posted Wed, Jun 20, 3:15 p.m. Inappropriate

    Please explain in detail how you serve Capitol Hill and the U District with buses that can move as many people as quickly as a train. And of course everybody LOVES the smooth, high quality ride you get on a bus... NOT.

    Richard -- a relatively few people will make that particular trip with any regularity on light rail. What you are ignoring completely is the fact that the extra transit ridership in that corridor light rail would provide in no way is justified in light of the abusive financing plan.

    The new local tax cost for ST2 for the individuals (mostly) and businesses around here to secure the bonds that would be used to pay for most of the ~$13.5 billion in ST2 capital costs could well reach $85 billion. There is NO regressive taxing targeting people in the three counties around Portland for its 55 miles of light rail line. Want to try justifying that bad discrepancy? You feign obliviousness about the tax costs, and it makes you come across as ill-informed.

    Also Richard, you should try driving (or taking a bus) from U-Village to Capitol Hill now. Ever since the tolling on SR 520 began there has been much less congestion in that stretch of arterial roadway because far fewer drivers are using the on-ramp there to access SR-520 eastbound. Freeing up roadway throughput for buses can be accomplished by demand management techniques.


    Posted Thu, Jun 21, 9:47 p.m. Inappropriate

    Crossrip -

    "Also Richard, you should try driving (or taking a bus) from U-Village to Capitol Hill now. Ever since the tolling on SR 520 began there has been much less congestion in that stretch of arterial roadway..."

    At least you acknowledge and understand what TVD seems unable to understand. Namely that traffic on the streets matter. And that buses stuck in traffic congestion are not high capacity transit. The notion that a bus can compete with the capacity of train service is laughable. Cost is another discussion but the capacity difference is undeniable.

    The voters know this even though TVD doesn't. That's why the voters have approved votes for rail. I guess TVD supports a transportation dictator who can tell those dumb voters that they are getting buses even though they voted for rail.

    Posted Sun, Jun 24, 9:06 p.m. Inappropriate



    Posted Fri, Jun 22, 9:30 a.m. Inappropriate

    Richard -- you don't seem to get the point I was making. Congestion on roadways can be mitigated, quite successfully, by various demand management techniques. Buses are operating much more efficiently now through that Montlake corridor, and over the SR 520 bridge, because of the tolling. Those buses are not "stuck in traffic".

    Based on your postings it is clear you value "transit capacity" above all. It also is clear that in your mind the regressive tax costs to the public of this particular financing plan are immaterial. Given how 1) the current Sound Transit rail capacity greatly exceeds actual use, 2) the built-out capacity also would greatly exceed actual ridership, and 3) the punishing tax costs (which were not disclosed to voters) in no way can be justified by any reasonable economic metric, your support of what Sound Transit is up to is completely unreasonable. You come across as some kind of train fetishist who is oblivious to economic realities.


    Posted Fri, Jun 22, 10:01 a.m. Inappropriate

    I don't value transit capacity above all else. I was simply trying to refute the false information that Ted Van Dyk is putting out that buses can somehow magically move the same number of people as light rail at the same speed. It's simply false. Provably false. Obviously false. Yet he keeps repeating it like a broken record. Buses with crappy right of way equals crappy bus service. Light rail haters like TVD are wedded to this propaganda that buying a bus is some form of magical transit. I guess their magic buses fly above the street grid.

    At least your opinions are rooted in reality. And yes, if you use TDM, you can mitigate congestion to allow a bus to travel more reliably. But it still can never provide the quality of rail.

    I'm not train fetishist. I've never been called that before! I think in a democratic society, people in a city can choose what they want to spend their money on. They seem to be ok with spending it on buses and light rail. They've approved all of the ST votes, starting back in 1996. And if they approve tax increases without understanding what they're doing, well that's they're own fault isn't it?

    One thing I do NOT support is having an untrained transit dictator like Ted Van Dyk be put in charge of transit and telling the voters, "Let them ride buses".

    Posted Sun, Jun 24, 9:14 p.m. Inappropriate



    Posted Sun, Jun 24, 12:05 p.m. Inappropriate

    1 of 2

    Nice. A spokesperson from New York City is the only supporter of Sound Transit willing to go to bat for that government. The local government heads don't want to try justifying that unaccountable local government, so they pay a PR guy from New York to say it is doing great.

    @ Richard Borkowski:

    I think in a democratic society, people in a city can choose what they want to spend their money on.

    First, Sound Transit is not part of any city’s government. It is a separate government, something you seem incapable of understanding even thought it was explained to you in the comments following this thread:


    In those comments you 1) pretended to be ignorant of the fact that Sound Transit is a separate government, 2) asserted it was comparable to the PSRC, despite the manifest differences, 3) refused to attempt to justify the benefits of this particular light rail line in light of the abusive tax costs the public would bear, and 4) falsely asserted the governance structure was comparable to that of the entity responsible for transit in the greater NYC area. Now in this thread you’re posting similar, and equally-incorrect, assertions.

    I hate to break this to you, but we don’t live in a “democratic society”, we live under a series of representative governments (federal, state, county, city, etc.). Further, Sound Transit is a glaring exception -- is not a representative government, is an appointive government. There is absolutely NOTHING “democratic” about how 15 of its 18 policy-setting boardmembers got onto that board, nor is there ANYTHING democratic about how any of the bond-selling, taxing, and spending policies and practices of that government are established. Why are you trying to mislead people about that?

    Moreover, and contrary to what you assert in this thread, “the people” did not choose how to spend the tax revenue Sound Transit hauls in; all those choices are made by unaccountable political appointees. And to carry this out further for you, no, a vote on a local ballot measure can not trump the federal and state constitutional limits on governments relating to how people must be able to exert power over governments by political means.


    Posted Sun, Jun 24, 12:05 p.m. Inappropriate

    2 of 2

    Richard, your continuing and professed blindness to the terrible fiscal and governance problems with Sound Transit suggest you either are burdened by a callous disregard for both economic fairness and core American governance principles, or that you are getting paid to spread BS in the media outlets around here. Why don’t you explain to everyone how in NO peer region are individuals targeted with such heavy regressive taxing in the name of rail? Are you going to plead ignorance of that as well?

    They seem to be ok with spending it on buses and light rail.

    Voters approved a number of monorail-related ballot measures around here as well. Those included the one that referenced a tax rate increase (just as ST2 merely referenced a tax rate increase). When details of the monorail authority’s financing plan were revealed however the first chance voters got to shut that abusive local government down they took it.

    Do you think Sound Transit should disclose the tax hit it would impose on the people and businesses of this region resulting from the bond sale security terms, Richard? People here would not be “ok” with that abusive plan that remains hidden.

    And if they approve tax increases without understanding what they're doing, well that's they're own fault isn't it?

    No it is the fault of the ST2 measure’s proponents who lied, and lied by omission, about the public tax costs of the financing plan. It’s the same kind of excessive and deceptive tax grab scheme by an unaccountable taxing district that the monorail authority employed. That’s because exactly the same lawyers are behind both.

    Richard, tell everyone the names of the individuals who designed the Sound Transit financing scheme. It is those self-interested individuals’ fault that a monumentally-abusive financing plan is being implemented, despite the fact that it wasn’t even disclosed prior to the vote. You know who is behind this, right?


    Posted Sun, Jun 24, 9:16 p.m. Inappropriate

    Everything Richard says and posts suggests he is completely ignorant about the ways in which Sound Transit’s financing plan is abusive to people here.

    He also comes across as oblivious about the ways in which that appointive government’s powers exceed what this state’s constitution and this country’s constitution allow.

    Those same blind spots are shared by ALL Sound Transit's advocates (and fake-opponents).


    Posted Tue, Jun 26, 12:50 p.m. Inappropriate

    Crossrip. There are lots of appointed positions that have lots of power. And just because someone wins election doesn't mean much sometimes. Take the Port of Seattle elections for instance. Few people have any clue who the Port Commissioners are, what their background is or their connections, much less what their experience is. Our media has completely become entertainment and covering politics and holding government accountable is not something they're interested in anymore.

    Take the Puget Sound Regional Council. All of those people are elected, but none of them is directly elected right? The do planning for the entire Seattle-Tacoma-Everett-Bellevue Metro region. Yet, not one peep from you about how they are an unconstitutional governmental body.


    "The General Assembly includes county executives, commissioners, mayors, councilmembers, and other leaders representing PSRC member jurisdictions."

    Not a single member of the PSRC is directly elected yet you have never voiced a single objection about them. Could it be you just hate rail and any governmental body associated with rail?

    Posted Tue, Jun 26, 1:18 p.m. Inappropriate

    Richard, you are just playing dumb.

    Nobody in their right mind could think the powers the PSRC possesses would require those boardmembers to be directly elected. What the PSRC can do is nothing like the power Sound Transit's boardmembers can wield.

    The PSRC is nothing like Sound Transit. It is not a government. It is just an agency created to conduct “MPO” activities. Its function is administrative in nature: it only can apply for and allocate federal grant money.

    The PSRC was not delegated local legislative powers by the state legislature such as those delegated to cities, counties, or RTA’s. For example, the PSRC has no power to enact ordinances.

    In the case of Sound Transit though the broad, unchecked and extraordinary governmental powers delegated to its board clearly are legislative in nature. Here’s a partial list of those discretionary powers:

    - the power to decide how many tens of billions of dollars of regressive tax to impose,

    - the power to decide which types of taxes to impose,

    - the power to decide how many decades to impose new local taxes (done via bond sale contracts resolutions),

    - the power to incur unlimited billions of dollars of debt, secured by scores of billions of dollars of intergenerational tax confiscations,

    - the power to use eminent domain powers to take thousands of private properties (including partial interests in private properties),

    - the power to disregard all county and municipal land use regulations when the board sets train line locations and station sites,

    - the power to establish and maintain an autonomous police force of statutory law enforcement officers (to the same extent as the governing bodies of cities of the first class in this state),

    - the power to set fares to impose on the public,

    - the powers to set and impose fines on people that courts will enforce,

    - the power to set unlimited spending budgets on dozens of capital projects (including projects with multi-billion dollar budgets),

    - the power to create and fund massive reserve accounts of unlimited size that to fill with public money, including tax revenues (currently Sound Transit holds over $1 billion in investments), and

    - the power to unilaterally decide the locations for new train rights-of-way, tunnels, and stations.

    The PSRC can not set policies in ANY areas like that.

    It is because the board of Sound Transit can set those kinds of policies (policies that impact literally millions of people) that people here should have the right to vote individuals both on to and off of that board, per the state and federal constitutions. What is it about that feature of our laws that you don't get? The Port of Seattle commissioners are subject to peoples' right to vote, and they wield less discretionary powers than those listed above. Diking District commissioners in this state must be directly elected, and they wield FAR less discretionary governmental power than the RTA boardmembers.


    Posted Fri, Jun 29, 9:38 p.m. Inappropriate

    Crossrip -

    A transportation agency pretty much HAS to have the power to levy taxes and condemn property. How else could they do anything?

    Since you're saying the entire structure of Sound Transit is unconstitutional since the Board is not directly elected. So you're also saying that the State Legislature deliberately created this Board Structure knowing it was unconstitutional? And this was also approved by the King County Council, Snohomish County Council and Pierce County Council yet none of these directly elected bodies had any issue with the appointed board structure.

    I have 2 words that clearly demonstrate how pathetically horrible a directly elected board can be: Monorail Agency.

    As we used to say when we were fighting to kill off that agency, "The people of Seattle probably won't get a monorail, they're just going to get the bill for one."

    Remember all of the tricks and lies this directly elected board of directors pulled off? And you want that kind of structure for Sound Transit?

    Posted Sat, Jun 30, 8:06 a.m. Inappropriate

    So you're also saying that the State Legislature deliberately created this Board Structure knowing it was unconstitutional? And this was also approved by the King County Council, Snohomish County Council and Pierce County Council yet none of these directly elected bodies had any issue with the appointed board structure.

    There's a tradition of the state legislature doing this. It produced the enabling legislation for old-Metro in the late 1950's for the same group of lawyers in Seattle that wanted Sound Transit and the monorail authority. Old-Metro also was an unconstitutional government; in 1990 that government was found to be in violation of the "one-person one-vote" limit of the US Constitution. County government heads backed old-Metro from the start.

    I have 2 words that clearly demonstrate how pathetically horrible a directly elected board can be: Monorail Agency.

    The Seattle Popular Monorail Authority had an APPOINTIVE board, not one that was directly-elected. Here's the relevant passage from the voter-approved local enabling ordinance:

    Section 4. Seattle Popular Monorail Authority Governance.

    (a) SPMA Board—General. The Seattle Popular Monorail Authority shall be governed by a nine-member SPMA Board, which shall be a policy-making and oversight body that, for example, decides policy, approves the Seattle Popular Monorail Authority’s budget, authorizes debt, evaluates the performance of the staff director or other chief Seattle Popular Monorail Authority employee, and takes such other necessary and appropriate actions to carry out the purposes for which the Seattle Popular Monorail Authority is established. Seattle Popular Monorail Authority employees shall carry out or oversee the carrying out of day-to-day Seattle Popular Monorail Authority operations.

    (b) Appointment of First SPMA Board.

    (1) The members of the first SPMA Board shall be nominated and appointed by the Interim Board, the Mayor, or City Council, as follows:

    Position Nominated By Appointed By

    1 Interim Board City Council
    2 Interim Board City Council
    3 Interim Board City Council
    4 Interim Board City Council
    5 Interim Board City Council
    6 Mayor Interim Board
    7 City Council Interim Board
    8 Mayor Interim Board
    9 City Council Interim Board

    (2) The Interim Board, Mayor, and City Council shall make their best efforts to complete their nominations and/or appointments, as applicable, of respective SPMA Board members within 90 days following the Voter Approval Date, and in any event the Interim
    Board and City Council shall complete the appointment of all SPMA Board members pursuant to Subsection 4(b)(1) not later than 14 months following the Voter Approval Date.


    Posted Wed, Jun 20, 1:44 p.m. Inappropriate

    Richard: You have been a longtime true believer in light rail, no matter the facts presented. You are not alone in that belief.

    Fact is that more people could move to Capitol Hill and the U District via expansion of bus service than via light rail which, after all, is a streetcar. Extensive, expensive, and polluting tunneling are necesarry to build the Capitol Hill/U District line.
    ight rail works in high-density population corridors
    where huge numbers of people go between their homes and workplaces along the rail line. Think Chicago. It does not work where densities are less and where traveling patterns are more diffuse. Think Seattle with people moving all over the region in various directions. A light rail system, by definition, consists of a few fixed-point stations.
    To get to those stations, travelers must travel on foot or by bus or car. (In the latter case, parking must be available near the station.
    Witness the debate now taking place about such parking in Northgate).

    I refer you to a piece I wrote in Crosscut a year ago, accompanied by charts, showing the costs which underlay a multi-year, three-county expansion of the system. At the end of the expansion---even with all the promised stations built out, which is improbable, given Sound Transit's long record of promising and then cancelling stations---there
    would be no reduction in traffic ongestion. NONE. Doug MacDonald, the former state transportation director, puts it well: "Light rail is not a transportation program. It is a construction program."

    When you scratch a light rail advocate, you usually find an entity or person benefiting financially from it and/or a politican deriving political contributions from it. You may be one of those rare advocates with no axe to grind.

    Posted Wed, Jun 20, 3:22 p.m. Inappropriate

    Please correct me if I'm wrong, TVD, but that story from you ignored completely the public tax costs associated with the unique, punishing financing plan. Isn't that correct? Focusing on the massive amounts that local government would spend is like focusing on the ant crawling on the rump of an elephant. NO PLACE else would even consider financing light rail the way it's happening here -- pledging to collect high sales taxes and car tab taxes for decades just as security for long term bonds is abusive because it results in FAR more taxing than is required to cover reasonable capital and operations costs.

    Doug MacDonald, the former state transportation director, puts it well: "Light rail is not a transportation program. It is a construction program."

    The fact of the matter is a little different. It is not a transportation scheme or a construction program, it is a massive tax scheme targeting the middle class and the lower class that is designed to enrich a few rich and connected entities (primarily Wall Street financiers, local financiers and bond counsel, commercial property developers, and some public works contractors).


    Posted Thu, Jun 21, 9:42 p.m. Inappropriate

    TVD -

    One doesn't 'believe' in light rail. They support it or not. You can't believe in tangible objects so quit making your backhanded insults.

    The group I headed, People for Modern Transit tried to get an Express Bus, the 545 routed exactly as you say, over Capitol Hill and into downtown. This public discussion took place over several YEARS and you didn't support it. Neither did the Discovery Institute hacks. Neither did Microsoft. Neither did Metro Transit. Neither did the current riders. Why? BECAUSE IT WAS TOO SLOW AND GOT STUCK IN THE STREETS.

    In the end we had to back down in the face of an army of opposition that said putting an Express Bus on the streets through Capitol Hill would make it an unacceptably slow local route.

    So those are the FACTS Ted. Your facts are mere propaganda. Without a congestion-free right of way, buses are worthless. Why can't you understand such a basic concept of transit planning. Right of Way. Right of Way. Right of Way.

    As far as your propaganda point about all light rail supporters financially benefiting, what are you talking about?? All of these light rail taxes were voted on BY THE PUBLIC. You know, the very taxpayers who are paying the taxes for the system. OBVIOUSLY, they are not 'an entity or person benefiting financially from it'.

    Posted Fri, Jun 22, 9:37 a.m. Inappropriate

    TVD. You are a fountain of insults, message points, propaganda and one-liners.

    "Light rail is not a transportation program. It is a construction program."

    All transportation projects are construction projects. Not exactly earth shattering news there. Wait until the sinkholes and building collapses for the new mega boondoggle SR-99 tunnel start occurring.

    "When you scratch a light rail advocate, you usually find an entity or person benefiting financially from it and/or a politican deriving political contributions from it. You may be one of those rare advocates with no axe to grind."

    Yea, I guess me and the many thousands of voters who approved of the Sound Transit projects. Again more propaganda and personal attacks backed up by your usual lack of evidence.

    "At the end of the expansion-----there would be no reduction in traffic ongestion. NONE."

    By saying this you're also indicting the buses you want to replace light rail with. So what you're basically saying is all transit is a waste of money because it doesn't reduce congestion. Personally, I don't care if rail reduces congestion. It's designed to move people, not reduce congestion. Once you remove traffic, you just encourage longer commutes and the congestion comes right back.

    Posted Sun, Jun 24, 10:14 a.m. Inappropriate

    As I mentioned higher up in the thread, and as Burkowski understands, the main purpose of light rail is to provide high-quality transportation. If instead you consider reduction of traffic congestion to be mass transit's main purpose, you will consider it a failure if it doesn't succeed in doing that. Paradoxically, if it did reduce congestion to the point that is wasn't a problem, transit haters would say, "see, there is no need for transit because there is no congestion".


    Posted Wed, Jun 20, 4:47 p.m. Inappropriate

    I have seen little economic development along the rail line on MLK: it looks more desert-like than ever before. The supposed benefit to Beacon Hill in the form of a Plaza next to the station has instead become an extensive field of weeds and people are routinely robbed in that vicinity.
    Fixed light rail in Seattle was a bad idea from the get-go: look up Dick Morrill's excellent articles on the subject.

    Posted Mon, Jun 25, 12:55 p.m. Inappropriate

    "Southeast Seattle neighborhoods should remain majority people of color" and "Northeast Seattle neighborhoods should remain majority white people" are not equal statements! Especially when you look at the fact that northeast Seattle neighborhoods WILL remain mainly white but Southeast Seattle will NOT remain ethnically diverse. If reports like the one by Puget Sound Sage are ignored, then northeast and southeast Seattle neighborhoods will be very white, wealthy, and NOT diverse.

    I'm really surprised to read that the author if this article, Roger Valdez, represents a non-profit housing group. I would not expect to read a post like this from someone who works in a field that requires a strong understanding of the historic gentrification of this area, the link between poverty and racism, and the need for inclusion, not exclusion, in Seattle neighborhoods.


    Posted Tue, Jun 26, 3:17 p.m. Inappropriate

    Does anyone here have any information on the home-ownership rates (single-family, mostly, is what interests me) among "people of color" --- current and historical?

    My sense is that it was quite high -- that the black middle-class had high rates of home-ownership starting back in the 50s and 60s ore maybe earlier -- (I don't know, that's why I am asking.)

    You see the importance to the discussion, I think.

    If black people are being "forced out" because they sold voluntarily, are they really being forced out?

    That's my sense and I wonder if I am correct. Does anyone have facts on home-ownership by ethnicity in Seattle over time and mapped by census area or whatever?

    Posted Fri, Jun 29, 12:50 p.m. Inappropriate



    Posted Sun, Jul 1, 6:19 a.m. Inappropriate

    Interesting concerns that ignore fact that "congestion" is caused by mostly illegal and legal immigration-driven population growth, fostered by governmental largesse.
    And also overlooked is fact that wherever you have the most "diversity" and "multiculturalism" you have the highest crime rates. South Seattle and White Center are examples.

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