On the same day that the Seattle Monorail Project signed a consulting contract with ex-Sound Transit finance committee chair Kevin Phelps, a highly regarded leader who recently stepped down from the Tacoma City Council, Sound Transit hired Austin Jenkins, the former director of operations for the SMP, to serve as the new director of operations at Sound Transit.
Jenkins lost his job in a recent round of layoffs at the SMP. Phelps stepped down from the City Council (and the Sound Transit board) earlier this month.
Even critics of the monorail see the board’s decision to hire Phelps (the first time the board has had anything resembling a staffer of its own) as good news. Phelps, a fiscal conservative known for asking tough questions as Sound Transit’s finance chair, is largely credited with restoring the agency’s credibility after massive cost overruns threatened to sink light rail in 2001. Whether he can pull off a similar turnaround at the troubled monorail agency - or whether the SMP’s financial problems are too profound to be fixed by a part-time consultant - remains unclear.