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    Rainier Valley gets snubbed again

    No ballot drop-offs in Southeast Seattle? The city's most hard-pressed district gets overlooked again.
    Exercising the franchise in Magnuson Park.

    Exercising the franchise in Magnuson Park. King County Elections

    King County provided a ballot drop box outside the Ballard Library and at three other spots in Seattle north of the Ship Canal but none in all of Southeast Seattle.

    King County provided a ballot drop box outside the Ballard Library and at three other spots in Seattle north of the Ship Canal but none in all of Southeast Seattle. Dennis Bratland/Flickr

    It’s bad enough that, fast food and payday loans aside, chains and major retailers have shunned Southeast Seattle, which has the most immigrants, poverty, ethnic diversity, and public housing of the city’s districts. But Southeast residents are used to getting the short end of the stick in public services as well. They scarcely blinked when the state divested its liquor stores; it shut all three of its Southeast Seattle stores many years ago. (It later opened two new ones there, one just a year before the handover.) The state also closed its only Southeast driver’s license office, in Hillman City, but kept offices open in Greenwood and West Seattle.

    Southeast residents still smart at the way Sound Transit sliced their district in two, displacing or shuttering many businesses, with a surface light-rail line down MLK Way (not to mention the badly misdesigned station and botched transit connections at McClellan Street and a nearly two-mile gap between the Alaska and Othello stations). Residents in, say, the Roosevelt and University districts would never stand for that, and they won’t have to. Sound Transit will tunnel under those neighborhoods.

    In 2008, the Seattle Police Department performed what a spokesman calls some “minor” redrawing of the territories patrolled by its various precincts to prepare for an anticipated annexation of White Center that never happened. In this not-so-minor redistricting, two patrol districts, covering Georgetown and the Duwamish industrial belt, were transferred from the Southwest Precinct, which serves West Seattle and would have received the new White Center turf, to the South Precinct, which covers Beacon Hill, the Rainier Valley, and the adjacent lakeshore neighborhoods. The South Precinct also received all of SoDo south of Holgate Street, formerly in the downtown-based West Precinct. But it did not receive new officers to cover them; those who had patrolled these beats stayed in their original precincts.

    The result: Southeast Seattle’s police got spread thin, even as its crime count soared. In 2007, it and West Seattle (which has a slightly larger population) reported a similar number of serious crimes, about 4,200. In 2008, with more turf but without more officers, the Southeast precinct suffered 5,822 crimes and the West Seattle precinct just 3,194. This disparity moderated somewhat after that, but continued.

    You need only cruise Rainier Avenue and surrounding blocks, with their missing sidewalks and scanty crosswalks, to see the disparity in the way the city treats pedestrians and motorists here and in other districts. Traffic circles have proliferated like dust bunnies in Wallingford, Capitol Hill, and other neighborhoods to the north, but good luck trying to get one in the lower Rainier Valley. I did, at an intersection one block off Rainier that’s commonly used as an engine-gunning turnaround and cutover to Seward Park. The city would only proivide traffic circles at intersections where collisions had already occurred. Neighbors had seen several crashes there, including one in which a pickup smashed so hard into a small car carrying a mom and young child that they got out, sat on the curb awhile to recover — and then got in their battered car and drove off.

    Sorry, said the Seattle Transportation Department’s traffic-circle coordinator— accidents must be reported to the police to count. None of the crashes at that crossing had. I passed that along to the neighbors, and at the next hit-and-run, one called the police. Were you involved in the accident? they asked. No, he replied. They declined to take the report. Catch 22.

    I recounted this to the sympathetic traffic-circle official, noting the implicit discrimination: In a lower-income neighborhood, more drivers have issues with the law and fewer have insurance, and so fewer are likely to report accidents. She agreed but said she couldn’t do anything about it; that was the rule.

    Southeast citizens who feel aggrieved at such disparities can of course seek to correct them at the polls. They can vote, and persuade their neighbors to vote, for candidates who promise more equitable treatment (or who at least know where Hillman City and Brighton Beach are). But even here they’ll find themselves at a disadvantage.

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    Posted Tue, Aug 14, 8:22 a.m. Inappropriate

    Thanks, Eric. You've hit the nail on the head. SE Seattle is treated differently, by politicians as well. One member of the Seattle City Council told me, "What do you expect me to do? I have dozens of people from north Seattle contacting me every day. I have only YOU calling me from Southeast Seattle. Who do you think I'm going to help? I have to help the people that are making the most noise." But, it's not just the fact that SE Seattle resident are quieter, tolerant of unfairness, and more patient. You cannot overlook the primary reason Seattle's leaders refuse to 'fix' SE Seattle; namely, the vast sums of money which flow to the city because of SE Seattle's many 'needs'. SE Seattle is ground-zero for federal and state monies. Most of the block grant monies are spent here ---on salaries of non-profit agencies. You won't see a penny of block grant money spent on new sidewalks. Hundreds and hundreds of well-paid non-profit employees justify their healthy salaries and benefits because they are working to help the residents of SE Seattle. In fact, as the numbers of non-profit agencies swell, the actual services received are more elusive. You might liken SE Seattle to Haiti, with more NGO's on the ground than any other nation. With so many non-profit workers, how do you explain the perpetual state of failure of Haiti? Similar outcomes are happening in SE Seattle. The local folk in SE Seattle call the non-profit agencies 'poverty pimps'. And, Seattle leaders wholly support and endorse the creeping expansion of poverty pimps in SE Seattle. What's the alternative? To fix SE Seattle you'd have to disperse the poverty to every neighborhood. Magnolia and Laurelhurst won't accept any low-income housing ----and they speak loudly to city leaders.

    Posted Fri, Aug 17, 8:36 a.m. Inappropriate

    "Hundreds and hundreds of well-paid non-profit employees justify their healthy salaries and benefits because they are working to help the residents of SE Seattle. In fact, as the numbers of non-profit agencies swell, the actual services received are more elusive."

    The victim's lament: Whatever help you offer is either too little, too late, or not quite what we had in mind.

    Posted Mon, Aug 20, 4:36 p.m. Inappropriate

    This is what is internationally known as the Savior Industrial Complex. Misguided policies create the problems that the same people who supported or did not counter the policies then come up with gimmicky solutions that make no sense to those that need good solutions. They are hired and funded by their friends and thus the cycle of failure. Kind of like identity theft using SE Seattle children and family realities without permission and spending money received on things they would never buy.

    Watch the Family and Education $2.3 million very closely. Already the schools with the poorest and lowest performing students did not get the money. The one that did got only $150,000 and they have 600 students most of them poor. Oh! forgot, the principal lives in the community that she serves. How could she have a good solution because if she was so smart why would she be living in SE Seattle. Well maybe because that is where she grew up and she likes the people, knows their children and discusses with residents good solutions and invites community to invest in the solutions. Yes, I clocked 200 volunteer hours in SE Schools in one school year. Listening to children read and later found out that an all white funded tutoring gang was paying each other $11 and hour. Told me they could not find people of color to tutor who would do it for "only" $11 an hour. But wait, SE Seattle residents of color have high instance of unemployment, and high numbers of students needing to be tutored. And what about moi? I was not only available I was present almost daily and doing what reading with children. But then as the conversation which is getting intense continues I am told " the tutors have to be able to follow a very structured..." at point my ears are ringing and I see this a great time to say nothing. Just walk away. Actually, my kids made better achievement in reading than theirs. Why I formed a real relationship with their teacher and parents and we worked as a conspiratorial team to win a victory for poor children with caring parents who just needed to have some important information shared with them.


    Posted Tue, Aug 14, 9:17 a.m. Inappropriate

    Great article on a subject worthy of debate Eric.

    I grew up in an area with no sidewalks, no driver’s license office (by the way - the greenwood office is for driving test only now), disappearing liquor stores, few major retailers beyond those located a stone's throw from interstate 5 or aurora but plenty of fast food joints, pay day loans and auto lots galore - NE Seattle. NE Seattle, specifically Lake City or any area north of 80th Ave NE between the areas east of Northgate mall west to Sand Pt. Way is like an area forgotten by the "pretty" things that come with typical urban renewal.

    I must ask who are the SE residents who "smart at the way ST sliced their district in two". That seems vague and under representative of people who may feel better off since the opening of light rail. Are you implying prior to this transit ASSET the district worked as one? Perhaps new development is slower than anticipated but without this light rail how would the Filipino Community Center now look, who would be living at "The Station" at Othello Park or several of the other large scale apartment complexes filling in along the line, how would the corridor from MLK to Columbia City be working out, would Safeway ever have remodeled the Othello location? Would you consider that redevelopment moving at a slow pace has more to due with the economy?

    If you stated that Beacon Hill residents were smarting over having lost an acre of commercial area I would agree with you but I feel your argument for the valley feels a bit reactionary rather than researched based.

    I do agree with you regarding the stops being to far apart. I wonder if that has more to do with the limitations of a line meant with multiple personalities. Does it serve the neighborhoods first or get downtowners to the airport first? If we had the benefit of a benevolent dictator Seattle would have a DIRECT line from downtown to the airport AND a line that services the SW, SE, NE and NW neighborhoods. Instead we are getting this super long meandering let's pick everyone up at his or her front door type of service. It is very reminiscent of most of the metro lines I complain about.

    Lastly, before this letter gets even longer. Have you read anything regarding why light rail goes underground from Montlake until Northgate? I wondered if it has anything to do with topography. The rail has to pass under the cut and makes it's way up, under ground, until the plateau that is Northgate. Northgate is the top of a hill (you will note several of the area creeks start from up there) whereas Rainer is a valley with an existing trail to get through (MLK). Just a thought.

    Again, good article and thanks for working for crosscut.


    Posted Tue, Aug 14, 9:28 a.m. Inappropriate

    Light Rail is not an asset. Four stops makes the Light Rail a train to nowhere (as former Mayor Greg Nickels once nicknamed the Central Link Light Rail). The Station at Othello Park is about 50% vacant. The rents are too high. Read the reviews on Yelp, and you wouldn't choose to rent a pricey apartment there. You mention "other large-scale apartment complexes filling in along the line"? Where are those? There is only one other new market-rate apartment building built in 98118 since 1978, all the rest are subsidized housing. Regarding the local economy, SE Seattle began to experience a reversal of fortune, starting in 2005, according to U.S. Census data. The decline in jobs and economic progress are the result of city policies. The downturn had little to do with the recession, and the data shows the downturn began earlier than the recession.

    Overwhelmingly, SE residents voted to have a tunnelized light rail which would not disrupt the fragile economy of the Rainier Valley. Residents also voted for more stops. A number of politicians promised that 50% of the light rail WOULD be buried underground. They made that promise to secure our support. Then, those same elected leaders walked back from their promises. That seems to be the pattern with SE Seattle. A history of broken promises.

    Posted Tue, Aug 14, 10:39 a.m. Inappropriate

    Not to denigrate your opinions--I actually agree with everything you say--but really, did you expect the politicians to keep the promises they made?

    This is a pattern, and it's not limited to SE Seattle. The only promises our politicians keep are those made to the developers, including those who were allowed to construct The Station at Othello. The fact that these buildings share the common characteristics of being poorly built in areas where they are not really wanted, then offered for prices people are unable or unwilling to pay, makes clear that these buildings are not intended to serve the public or meet our expressed needs and wants.

    The other thing about that train, in my opinion, is that it was built solely to get low wage hotel and airport workers to and from their jobs both downtown and at the airport. There is no other reasonable explanation for its layout and configuration, including the lack of sufficient stops. Its layout makes clear that it was never meant to serve the community's wants and needs.

    These reasons are why many of us keep voting no on these projects. If we have no influence in a positive way, i.e., we can't get our wants and needs met, then we are left with the option only to prevent as far as possible further damage and impoverishment.

    I'm so sorry for your, and all of our, losses.


    Posted Tue, Aug 14, 1:19 p.m. Inappropriate

    You've caught me. I confess to being an optimist, and routinely voting for politicians that betray their promises. Perhaps I should switch political parties, although I doubt that would make a difference. You see, the Republicans would most likely continue the same give-away's to developers that the current bunch of Democrats have elevated to an art form.

    Posted Tue, Aug 14, 11:36 a.m. Inappropriate

    Do you think getting light rail in serves any good? I was looking at it as a start - in terms of being asset, albeit in Seattle's case a vary late start. The city could have done all this stuff years ago with more forward thrust ballot issues. Oh well.

    I completely agree with you that the 4 stops is looney. You are also very correct in pointing out that much of the development is subsidized. Are you against subsidized housing? How about bank financed housing? Would you only want to see private industry self financed?

    I often wonder what some of the empty lot owners are waiting for? Is it financing issues? Might you have knowledge of this. Every time I get off the Beacon Hill exit I am amazed at what is missing up there. Considering the proximity to downtown and the views - how is this place losing out to other areas (my beacon hill friends have mixed feelings about Bhill development though).

    Regarding the downturn in SE Seattle - you might consider it beginning in 1969 with the laying off of 50,000+ Boeing workers as the rock in pond. I can't imagine what the long term impact that must have had on the community.

    Lastly, regarding tunnelization and more stops - no where has it been smooth process with ST light rail. The UW didn't want them under them, Ravenna didn't want it near the freeway but greenlake wanted it near them - government cannot make everyone happy that is for sure.

    Has government or any leader been able to make everyone happy. Never trust a politician unless you are one I suppose.

    You last sentence makes a good book title. It sounds like you should write in regards to the hardships of SE Seattle. Starting with the turn of the century it is filled with good and bad.

    Give this a read;


    Posted Tue, Aug 14, 9:55 a.m. Inappropriate

    There ARE affluent people who live by the lake, in Seward Park & other parts of South Seattle. What about the gentrification of Columbia City? Aren't these folks making noise about neglect by the city or what? I thought money & influence talked & made a big difference. Maybe city officials can seek these folks out & kiss a little posterior in the process.

    On another note: I have an enhanced driver's license & asked about renewing it in person. I was told I'd either have to go to somewhere in the south end of West Seattle or head to Lynnwood; there's now nothing in between.

    Posted Tue, Aug 14, 11:44 a.m. Inappropriate

    I went to that Lynwood license renewal place. Oh my goodness - the lines are insane and you need a reservation! If you go, bring patience, a good book and a sense of humor. It makes renewing online the way to go.


    Posted Tue, Aug 14, 10:01 a.m. Inappropriate

    The Tahoma site is considered a reasonable location for Southeast Seattle? That's a bit of a stretch. It's central for those who live in the area but if it is suggested as a voting location for any Seattle neighborhood then someone his being disingenuous. Excellent article.


    Posted Tue, Aug 14, 10:02 a.m. Inappropriate

    After SE was promised partial tunnelized light rail, Sound Transit presented studies which showed the sub-surface material was too dense to bore through. But that was an exaggeration at best, at worst it was a complete falsehood. One of the world's foremost tunnel construction companies, Coluccio Construction, went on-record stating that you could build a tunnel under the Rainier Valley "as easily as drilling through peanut butter." You see, Frank Coluccio's headquarters is located in the Rainier Valley and he had experience drilling the I-90 tunnel through Mt. Baker. The reason SE got surface light rail was pure economics. Sound Transit didn't want to invest in a tunnel. SE got the short-end of the stick, again. BTW, there are no bathrooms at any of the platforms in the Rainier Valley. Residents were told by Sound Transit that a 'safe' bathroom could not be designed for SE Seattle, so there would be no bathrooms whatsoever. Double standard? You bet.

    Posted Tue, Aug 14, 10:09 a.m. Inappropriate

    Bravo Eric, thank you! As a lifetime SE Seattle and Beacon Hill resident, I thank you for covering so many of the frustrating topics that have been completely ignored by our city and federal officials. We must keep these issues visible if we are ever to engage the passion and action of the community to affect positive change and equal treatment of Rainier Valley. We can no longer tolerate being the city's dumping ground for poverty and poverty pimps while other neighborhoods continue to prosper in blissful ignorance. All Seattle neighborhoods must share the in the responsibilities (low-income, subsidized housing, etc.) as well as economic support (investment in jobs, businesses, development, economic stimulus, public services, parks, schools, community centers, etc.) - the good and the bad. When these responsibilities are spread across the city and shared more evenly by all Seattle neighborhoods, the impact of concentrated poverty in Rainier Valley will begin to trend toward a more natural balance with the rest of city. We are experiencing gun violence, murders, strong-arm robberies, burglaries, assaults, gang activity, etc. on a daily basis with zero meaningful response from city officials – like it is normal, to be expected if we choose to live here. If this environment were to exist in any other ‘nicer’ neighborhood, Seattle would have a meltdown! Our plight is a natural manifestation of 30 years of neglect in Rainier Valley. Stakeholder's comments are very appropriate and much appreciated.


    Posted Tue, Aug 14, 10:49 a.m. Inappropriate

    Funny thing, I went back to read the article and I forgot – You were writing about King County Elections.

    All that other “how bad is it in SE Seattle?” stuff made me forget.

    I find it negligent that King County elections did not have more south Seattle drop off sites. There seems to be so many obvious congregation points in SE Seattle that it is laughable they didn’t give this more thought. How about the light rail stations for goodness sakes!

    Off the voting topic, regarding your swimming pool example, while I find it unfair that SE Seattle does not have as many indoor pools as the rest of town – could it have more to do with historical circumstance than stereotypes?

    Also, SE Seattle happens to have 3 beach parks (5 including Madrona and Madison) with lifeguard swimming area whereas the rest of Seattle has 4 (2 located at Greenlake). Is that fair? Now, why Greenlake has 2 outdoor swimming areas AND it’s own indoor swimming pool is beyond me but the lack of access to outdoor swimming areas may have been part of the reason for building some of these other indoor pools?

    Did you know most all of the indoor pools (7 of 8) were financed and built in the same period (late 1970’s) thanks to the Forward Thrust program? They seemed to have been doled out pretty evenly – north of canal received Ballard, Meadowbrook, Madison and Queen Anne while south of canal received Evers, the Beach and SW Pool. The oddballs are Mounger (built 1998), which may have had some private push to it considering he was local business leader who lived in Magnolia (plus have your ever been to Magnolia – like your not even in Seattle and they will NEVER have good transit access).

    Back to KC elections providing voting destinations – it is KING COUNTY not Seattle Elections and if you are going to push the racial envelope – do you know what the racial make-up of the county is? Where the money lives? Your article and others keep pointing out focus disparity areas but there are poor areas in Kirkland and wealthy areas in Renton – I think you may have to open your unfair treatment scope a bit wider than just S.E. Seattle. Just a thought.


    Posted Mon, Aug 20, 4:35 p.m. Inappropriate

    Um, when will people stop calling the area north of I-90 part of SE. It's the Central Area and has addresses for the most part that are NOT N,S,E,W, NE or NW.

    It also has its own problems, but still it's the Central Area. I get really really tired of saying I live in the Central Area and then get back "Oh yeah SE Seattle has lots of problems, doesn't it?"

    I respect and collaborate with people in other neighborhoods, but each neighborhood is different.

    Posted Tue, Aug 14, 11:02 a.m. Inappropriate

    SE Seattle's poverty rates tops 34% near Othello Station. Can you name any other neighborhood or nearby city with a poverty rate in excess of 34%? Out of the hundreds of census tracts in Seattle, there are just 13 census tracts in SE Seattle where minorities are clustered. The Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) is the largest property owner in SE Seattle. Between 72% to 89% of students in South Seattle receive a free or reduced-price lunch because their household income is so low. Seattle ranks on several of the latest U.S. Census "Most-segregated" lists because of the concentration of minorities in one place. I could go on and on.... are you getting the picture?

    SE Seattle didn't happen by accident, it was created over several decades. Since 2000, the concentration of minorities has increased for Asians and Hispanics. Poverty and minority populations have been steered here for decades. The practice used to be known as "red-lining". Perhaps federal officials should intervene to force desegregation since city leaders refuse to act?

    Posted Tue, Aug 14, 1:40 p.m. Inappropriate

    I am curious where you are getting your information Stakeholder. I would be very interested in neighborhood tract information.
    I decided to take up your question to name other neighborhoods or nearby cities with poverty rates in excess of 34% but I may need your definition of poverty to do this.
    The US Census bureau quickfacts page for 2010 was showing poverty level at 12% for Seattle. How narrowed in is your scope of study? Based on a study by the population studies center by U of Michigan; black white segregation in Seattle actually lowered from 1990 to 2010 and ranks 72 of 102 cities with 500,000+ population. That wasn't too surprising to me as I feel a majority of the black community has moved to kent and renton in my lifetime.

    I think you would be interested in this page:

    I was surprised to find out how high the poverty levels of Highline and Tukwilla are. Quite shocking. More than the state average! East of the Cascades and the N.W. Penninsula are quite bad.

    Also red-lining, as I know it, was institutions (banks, lenders, companies) defining an area and choosing not to do business in those area or serve the persons in those areas. There is no denying that many retailers still practice this. My neighborhood of Lake City also experiences this. I do feel that quite often, many "red-lined" urban areas seem to have developed into Chinatowns, Little Manillas, Little Tokyo's and what have you. This was where minorities tends to first "steer" to because that is where they felt most comfortable when they move to a new area - and for lack of finances, language, etc.. I only base this on my families experience though.

    Thanks for being active in the community - it needs voices.


    Posted Tue, Aug 14, 11:13 a.m. Inappropriate

    I suspect that Southeast Seattle residents are justified to be aggrieved about some disparities in service but this article seems to have latched onto something relatively trivial.

    However King County deployed its 7 Seattle drop boxes they would have been of limited use to population that might need them. After all if you can afford to drive a few miles to the nearest drop box (or in my case drop off my ballot on the way to the Magnuson off leash area), you can afford a stamp. If you are on foot, you would be very lucky to find one of the 7 drop boxes conveniently located. If you are on public transport and can find a way to ride it for less than the cost of a stamp, then the only location that is accessible to large numbers is downtown. In many parts of the country there are shameless efforts to disenfranchise voters but here they do not have much traction and the only people responsible for the fact that only about a quarter of the people who are eligible to vote are actually registered and voted in the primary are the people themselves.

    As for Light Rail, the decision to put the first leg of the regional network through SE Seattle was largely a political one that was meant to appease the special interests of SE Seattle and accelerate its development. This was done at the expense of finding the route with the greatest potential ridership or taking an efficient route to the airport. It is rather ironic that this is now a topic of grievance. If the the residents of SE Seattle have been short changed, what about all the people in West Seattle, Magnolia, Ballard or countless other neighborhoods who are paying taxes through their nose to install and operate this multi-billion dollar infrastructure that will never have any impact on their lives?

    Posted Thu, Aug 16, 2:57 p.m. Inappropriate

    Spot on

    SE Seattle was never lacking for north/south transportation. The light rail was completely unnecesary. In my narrative, it was the all-knowing city council that foisted that one.

    Posted Tue, Aug 14, 11:33 a.m. Inappropriate

    David Smith said: "If the the residents of SE Seattle have been short changed, what about all the people in West Seattle, Magnolia, Ballard or countless other neighborhoods who are paying taxes through their nose to install and operate this multi-billion dollar infrastructure that will never have any impact on their lives?"

    Taxpayers should be furious. The Central Link Light Rail is a terrible design, a train to nowhere, and the truest statement of all is that it was largely a 'political' decision to put the train in the Rainier Valley. It seems the function of moving people to where they want to go was secondary to the political agenda.

    Ridership is shockingly low. Most trains run empty. Crime around light rail stations after dark is one reason the train is unpopular. The fact that the train goes from downtown to the airport is another reason most SE residents don't ride it.

    Sound Transit has demonstrated that governmental incompetence increases in direct proportion with how many tax dollars are spent.

    Posted Tue, Aug 14, 12:09 p.m. Inappropriate

    Taxpayers should be furious but their fury should be directed primarily at themselves. The gross incompetence of Sound Transit is merely a reflection of that of the voting public. After all, we collectively rewarded Sound Transit by voting goodness knows how many billions of dollars for a second phase. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

    Posted Tue, Aug 14, 12:27 p.m. Inappropriate

    Ditto. And, ditto.

    Posted Wed, Aug 15, 6:51 p.m. Inappropriate

    You “two” probably are the same poster.

    You’re feigning ignorance of how the constitution limits the extent of the powers state legislatures can delegate to appointive-board municipalities like Sound Transit, and how that limit was violated in this instance.

    You whine about Sound Transit’s unjust laws, but you fail to point out the US Constitution precludes state legislatures from doing what ours did in 1992 when it gave RTA’s both an appointive board and broad legislative powers. It’s those appointees over whom voters have zero control who have been setting all those unjust taxing, spending, bond-selling, and rail-line siting policies.


    Posted Tue, Aug 14, 8:15 p.m. Inappropriate

    Taxpayers should be furious but their fury should be directed primarily at themselves. The gross incompetence of Sound Transit is merely a reflection of that of the voting public.

    That's deceptive propaganda. The voters did not delegate any taxing, spending, or rail-line setting powers to the board of Sound Transit. The state legislature did those things. Moreover, the voters never have had any control over who would comprise the board of Sound Transit to set its taxing, spending, and rail-line setting policies (15 of the 18 board members are political appointees).

    Sound Transit was set up to be completely unaccountable to the public. The legal flaw with such a governance structure is clear: the state legislature violated a constitutional limit when it delegated those legislative powers to an appointive-board local government. The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees Americans the right to vote for and against local government policy-setters. The state legislature violated that limit when it granted all that discretionary power to RTAs (those powers include the right to decide which taxes to impose, how much tax to impose, where to site the rail lines, etc.).

    Any lawyers or judges read Crosscut? Let's discuss this, as it's clear posters here are intent on trying to cast blame other than where it belongs.


    Posted Tue, Aug 14, 10:16 p.m. Inappropriate

    Propaganda for whom? The two times when we voted yes, the facts were out there for voters who wanted to look. Light rail in not a particularly efficient means of moving people anywhere but in Seattle and its environs it is about 10x as expensive to build as places with simpler topography and geology. The projected costs per journey of our light rail over any reasonable time frame have always far exceeded the cost of sending each rider in taxi. At least on the second occasion when we voted, it was very clear that we were effectively writing a blank check because those opposed pointed out that RTA could simply offset cost overruns by taxing us more and for longer. Pretending that somehow this would all work out and make sense if Sound Transit had a more accountable board is laughable. Light rail is unsuitable for Puget Sound. And if you want to blame the State legislature, who is responsible for putting them in office?

    Posted Wed, Aug 15, 6:58 p.m. Inappropriate



    Posted Wed, Aug 15, 7:15 a.m. Inappropriate

    Propaganda for whom?

    Some entity that wants a false message pumped out to the effect that Sound Transit has a lawful structure.

    The two times when we voted yes, the facts were out there for voters who wanted to look.

    Those votes did not fix the constitutional flaw with Sound Transit’s structure. The reason those votes didn’t cure that legal problem is the same reason the several votes to approve old-Metro’s structure did not cure the comparable constitutional flaw with its structure . . . no local laws, whether voter-approved or not, can trump or weaken limits the constitution imposes on state legislatures.

    At least on the second occasion when we voted, it was very clear that we were effectively writing a blank check because those opposed pointed out that RTA could simply offset cost overruns by taxing us more and for longer.

    Again, it is irrelevant that voters approved any of this local government’s propositions. Voters approved a number of old-Metro’s propositions, and it was struck down in court in 1990 because it also was structured in a way that denied people here the right to vote for and against the legislators comprising its board.

    And if you want to blame the State legislature, who is responsible for putting them in office?

    It is the state legislature’s fault. In 1992 it created an unprecedented form of local government (RTAs) with an appointive board and delegated to it broad legislative powers. The legislature messed up then, just like it messed up when it structured old-Metro. Old-Metro’s structure violated the constitution because its representative board violated the “one person one vote” limit; Sound Transit’s structure violates the constitution because its appointive board was delegated extremely significant legislative powers.

    Think about it, David. It’s not some random coincidence that all local governments in this country that have been delegated significant discretionary powers have directly-elected boards. The US Constitution requires that kind of structure – the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees Americans the right to vote for and against local government legislators. It’s that constitutional guarantee that requires the direct election of the policy-setters on county and city councils, port and school boards, diking districts, fire districts, etc. Want to try justifying the legislature’s act of giving RTAs both an appointive board and vast, essentially unchecked discretionary powers to set all the taxing, spending, rail-line setting, private property condemnation, and other policies it establishes via its resolutions? If you want to try doing that let me suggest you stop bringing up those ballot propositions that government floats – from a legal perspective they are irrelevant.


    Posted Wed, Aug 15, 11:37 a.m. Inappropriate

    If this is all a clear cut violation of the constitution why don't you or somebody else take them to court.

    Posted Wed, Aug 15, 12:22 p.m. Inappropriate

    I expect it would end up in court (assuming this fiasco isn't terminated by extra-judicial means).

    In the interim, somebody should try arguing here that Sound Transit has a lawful structure.

    The opinions applying the Fourteenth Amendment that appear most relevant are two US Supreme Court opinions from the 1960’s (_Reynolds v. Sims_ and _Sailors v. Kent Bd. of Education_), and the _Cunningham_ opinion from Judge Dwyer in 1990 striking down old-Metro.

    Anyone believe other case law construing and applying that provision of our constitution is more relevant?

    Anyone think they can string together a cogent argument to the effect that the state legislators did not step out of bounds by bestowing RTA's with both an appointive board and substantial legislative authority?


    Posted Wed, Aug 15, 7:03 p.m. Inappropriate

    . . . Look, if you don’t believe me that there is a legal problem with how Sound Transit is structured then just look at how Dick Morrill wisely advised resolving the situation that arose once old-Metro was held to be unlawful. He suggested what ended up happening to correct the constitutional flaw -- old-Metro was subsumed into King County which does have a proper representative legislature:

    Some of the possible remedies were outlined in an affidavit in the Metro Council case submitted in the plaintiffs' behalf by Richard Morrill, a University of Washington geography professor respected for his wisdom in the ways of redistricting and other things dealing with demographics.

    ``It would be relatively easy to remedy the representational disparities resulting from the structure of the current Metro Council,'' Morrill said. ``For example, the functions of the Metro Council could be taken over by the King County Council. Alternatively, the Metro Council could be composed of directly elected representatives from each of several equally sized districts.''


    The way Sound Transit was structured (only three of the eighteen legislators are directly-elected) doesn’t come close to providing what the constitution requires: the right to vote for and against local government legislators, so we can protect ourselves from unjust laws.


    Posted Fri, Aug 17, 8:03 a.m. Inappropriate

    Look, this problem always has been apparent – people always have questioned the legitimacy of how RTAs were structured.

    Here’s part of an editorial from the Seattle Times from near the end of the 1992 legislative session regarding the bill that became the enabling legislation for Sound Transit:


    Wednesday, February 26, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

    Sorting Out Regional Issues -- Metro-County Merger A Priority Over Rta

    . . .

    Skeptics in the state Senate wonder aloud about creating a Puget Sound regional transit authority with a federated system of governance.

    They ask if a directly elected governing board might be more representative, and give taxpayers a stronger voice.

    Senators are not only hesitant to create another layer of government to plan, construct and finance a high-capacity transit system, but they are also reluctant to put an expensive, complex piece of government beyond the reach of voters.

    . . .



    The fact that the reference there to the board structure is that it would be “federated” is a huge red flag. The Fourteenth Amendment case law on this issue does not use that word – in a legal sense it is meaningless. The way the US Supreme Court applies that provision of the US Constitution distinguishes “appointive” boards (which only can be delegated administrative function powers) from “directly-elected” or “representative” boards (which can be delegated substantial governmental powers that are “legislative in the classical sense”).

    What happened was the state legislature screwed up, and failed to recognize the bill that had been drafted for them (probably by Jay Reich and Gerry Johnson) disregarded the holding in the 1967 _Sailors v. Kent Bd. of Education_ opinion in which the US Supreme Court indicated the appointive Board of Supervisors of Suffolk County was improperly structured.

    There must be someone who’d be willing to discuss this issue -- maybe somebody believes it isn't important whether or not Sound Transit's structure is constitutional.


    Posted Fri, Aug 17, 3:42 p.m. Inappropriate

    This story addresses some Rainier Valley issues. Senator Margarita Prentice represents the 11th District in South Seattle. She was one of four sponsors last session of SB 6499, which would change Sound Transit’s board from its current appointive format to a directly-elected five-person board:


    The state legislature is inviting us to have a public conversation about correcting this manifest wrong.


    Posted Tue, Aug 14, 2 p.m. Inappropriate

    Uncletim raises some excellent questions, many of which others seem to have answered. Re. one small point: the Mad Park and Madrona beaches aren't in SE Seattle; they're east of Cap Hill and the Central District, which also has the Medgar Evers pool. And beaches don't provide the same year-round service, for school swim teams as well as residents, that covered pools provide.
    Yes, Central Link's shortcomings do in good part reflect its "multiple personalities" and the political accommodations that bred them. It's a multi-tool with at least 3 conflicting jobs, none of which it does very well: airport service (replacing Metro service that took five minutes less and stopped much nearer the terminal); transit-oriented development, in particular redevelopment of the Holly Park and Rainier Vista projects; and local service, the lowest priority (as evinced by the cancelled Graham St. station and the city's refusal to allow parking at any SE stations).
    But you can't blame discrimination for the lack of restrooms at SE rail stations. There, Sound Transit's been quite evenhanded. Even the downtown tunnel doesn't have them.

    Posted Tue, Aug 14, 2:35 p.m. Inappropriate

    "transit-oriented development, in particular redevelopment of the Holly Park and Rainier Vista projects; and local service"

    I know all too well about the goal of getting people to live where they should assuming they can afford to move, or if they already live there can still afford to stay put, but the densities of Holly Park and Rainier Vista seem blessedly low if they are actually within the legally defined bounds of "frequent transit."


    Posted Tue, Aug 14, 2:56 p.m. Inappropriate

    I was present in Olympia on the day the architect of Rainier Vista provided testimony to the state legislature. The architect (whose name escapes me) testified that the density of Rainier Vista was appropriate for the Central Link Light Rail design. You see, the at-grade light rail cannot run without regard to street traffic, pedestrian traffic, freight, and other considerations. As such, the density of 'transit-oriented-development' at New Holly and Rainier Vista is limited. You cannot plan a transit-oriented community, and ignore transit capacity. Otherwise, every train will be full and you'll leave thousands of people stranded every week, waiting for the next train, and late for work. Or, they'll give up and drive to work.

    SE Seattle is already the densest of Seattle's neighborhoods, excluding downtown. The population is already feeling crowded, constrained by topography and limited access. Rush-hour in SE Seattle is gridlock. Other neighborhoods are better candidates for density. Columbia City has exceeded the Growth Managment Act 2024 goals ---over 2,000 units. Meanwhile, North Admiral, where Greg Nickels lives was only required to increase density by 200 units. Hardly seems fair, does it?

    Posted Tue, Aug 14, 3:51 p.m. Inappropriate

    My neighbors and I do complain to city officials and departments. What do we get in return? Lifetime email subscriptions to various chirpy city council newsletters. Help? Forget about it.

    Development in our neighborhood means rows and rows of badly built houses, endless social service agencies and the latest insult, the threatened displacement the Silver Fork, of one of the few family businesses left, by a gas station. As if we needed another.


    All par for the course down here.


    Posted Tue, Aug 14, 5:31 p.m. Inappropriate

    Luigia said: "My neighbors and I do complain to city officials and departments. What do we get in return? Lifetime email subscriptions to various chirpy city council newsletters. Help? Forget about it. "

    You're sooo right! The problem is, there is no penalty for city leaders when they treat SE poorly. They can ignore SE because they can rely on the rest of the city's residents re-electing them for all the good works they do in those neighborhoods.

    This is why we need to have our city council elected by district, rather than at-large.

    Posted Wed, Aug 15, 10:09 a.m. Inappropriate

    Stakeholder said: "This is why we need to have our city council elected by district, rather than at-large."

    Here, here! Where do I sign?


    Posted Tue, Aug 14, 9:24 p.m. Inappropriate

    It's far less expensive to mail it in. Just walk to your mailbox and put the envelope in and raise the flag. No cost, time, stress of driving to a drop box. Or, just drop it in a mail box at your work or where you shop. As to why there's never any cost associated with driving is beyond me, but Redbox thrives in large part because of this (people don't factor in the cost of driving to/from 2x to rent from them)...


    Posted Wed, Aug 15, 10:06 a.m. Inappropriate



    Posted Mon, Aug 20, 2:34 p.m. Inappropriate

    But you can't blame discrimination for the lack of restrooms at SE rail stations. There, Sound Transit's been quite evenhanded. Even the downtown tunnel doesn't have them.

    Restrooms here can be thug magnets, especially if ridership is low. The cost of maintenance and security is way high.

    But that really doesn't matter. The point of light rail is light rail. Efficiency, effectiveness, and value to the community, while good to have, are secondary considerations.

    Posted Tue, Aug 21, 1:04 p.m. Inappropriate

    It gets boring hearing the whining about SE Seattle. There are plenty of neighborhoods all over Seattle without sidewalks. Most neighborhoods in Seattle get no where near the government money put into them as SE Seattle. It is just old. These SE Seattle whines never come with any solutions. The racism coming out of SE Seattle whiners is old too. If there is red lining, prove it. It seems to be more of a self selected red lining. I have heard nothing but constant racism, and racist comments, from the advocates of SE Seattle. There are problems all over our region. I no longer care about the racists in SE Seattle.

    PS, Claiming that it is unfair for SE Seattle residents to be asked to report car accidents is just an example of the stupidity of the whining SE Seattle whiner.


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