O’Ban bill to make Sound Transit answer to voters passes Senate

The Senate voted today to make Sound Transit directly accountable to voters. Senate Bill 5001, sponsored by Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-University Place, requires Sound Transit governing board members be elected by district and passed the Senate in a bipartisan 29 to 20 vote.

Currently, the county executives of King, Pierce and Snohomish counties appoint Sound Transit board members to the position. King County Executive Dow Constantine appoints the controlling majority of the board. SB 5001 changes that by dividing the Sound Transit service area into eleven districts approximately equal in population. From each district, representatives would be elected to four-year terms. No more than five districts could solely represent any single county.

“Sound Transit’s lack of accountability to voters is staggering and evident to everyone who’s opened their car tab renewal notice,” said O’Ban. “They jacked up prices as high as they could as fast as they could and I can tell you they would never do that if they had to face voters for election.”

Numerous observers have expressed concerns about the makeup of the Sound Transit board since at least 2003, when a blue-ribbon transportation advisory committee under Gov. Gary Locke recommended changes to the way directors are selected. However, Sen. O’Ban attributes the sticker shock Western Washington residents are experiencing as they open their car tab renewal notices to the growing momentum behind the bill. The one-time famed “$30 car tab fee” has jumped in some cases to become a $300 or more car tab fee now that new Sound Transit 3 taxes are being added in.

“Sound Transit has a history of over-promising, being over budget and under delivering,” O’Ban said. “Voters need to be able to hold Sound Transit accountable for what they do and what they deliver. The Sound Transit 3 price tag has sparked outrage and people want accountability.”

Without SB 5001, there is no requirement for Sound Transit to go back to voters if Sound Transit 3 projects exceed their budgets or take longer than promised.

“Voters feeling burned by the Sound Transit vote may not be able to get their money back, but they can get a Sound Transit board that will have to answer directly to them,” said O’Ban.

O’Ban’s Pierce County district voted decisively against the $54 billion Sound Transit bond plan last November.