O’Ban plan would make Sound Transit accountable to voters

Legislation would require district elections, end political appointments

OLYMPIA—Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-University Place, said Wednesday he plans to pre-file a measure for next year’s legislative session ending political appointments to the Sound Transit governing board and allowing voters to elect directors by district.

O’Ban’s Pierce County district voted decisively against the $54 billion Sound Transit bond plan in last week’s election. He says voters are concerned about the agency’s lack of accountability. Electing directors by district may improve public confidence in the agency, he said.

“Sound Transit’s budget is bigger than many cities, yet it does not answer to the voters,” O’Ban said. “That has to change. Now that Sound Transit has been entrusted with $54 billion in new tax money, it is more important than ever for the people to have a say in the agency’s management.”

O’Ban’s proposal would divide Sound Transit’s service area into 19 districts equal in population. One director would be elected from each district, and all directors would be barred from holding other political office.

Currently board members are appointed by county executives in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, the three counties encompassed by the regional transit agency. Concerns about the makeup of the Sound Transit board have been expressed by numerous observers since at least 2003, when a blue-ribbon transportation advisory committee under Gov. Gary Locke recommended changes to the way directors are selected.

“The current system leaves nearly a million people unrepresented,” O’Ban said. “Our country was founded on the principle that there should be no taxation without representation. Surely this should apply to Sound Transit.”