City Sierra Club Fails to Block Freeman-Led Anti-Roads and Transit Group
posted by August 17 at 17:32 PMon
The Sierra Club was to King County Superior Court this afternoon, seeking to get its pro-transit argument against the joint roads/transit package included in King County’s voter guide for November. The judge rejected the group’s motion for a temporary injunction (explanation below). They’re also seeking an injunction against the proposed ballot title, which they say glosses over the cost of the package and inaccurately describes what’s in it.
Sound Transit chose the committee that will write the statement against the joint Sound Transit/RTID package (RTID, which could have also had a say in the committee’s makeup, hasn’t met since June). Predictably, the committee is made up exclusively of anti-transit stalwarts (Will Knedlik, Kemper Freeman and Phil Talmadge), whose anti-light-rail message will be poorly received in pro-light-rail King County. The “con” statement, in other words, won’t include any anti-roads argument against the package, which includes billions for expanding freeways like I-405 on the Eastside.
The argument the Sierra Club made today was based on the requirement that the “con” committee be made up of people who are “known” to oppose the measure. The Sierra Club certainly qualifies; they’ve been one of RTID’s most vocal opponents. Their attorney, Roger Townsend, argued that the three people Sound Transit chose aren’t known for opposing the whole package, just the Sound Transit portion of it. Moreover, although Freeman has certainly been outspoken in his opposition to light rail expansion, Knedlik is a relatively obscure bus-rapid-transit proponent, and Talmadge has not been vocal about the package at all. Thus at least two of the committee’s members aren’t “known” for opposing any part of the package.
Why does Sound Transit get to choose the committee that will write the opposition statement against Sound Transit? As Mike O’Brien of the Sierra Club points out, there is “a perverse incentive for them to pick people who don’t adequately represent the position.” In Snohomish County, Sound Transit submitted a list of potential committee members to the Snohomish County Council, which at least takes the process out of the hands of Sound Transit’s (unelected, unaccountable) board. “On this issue, but really on any issue, it’s disappointing that there’s not a public process where they invite anyone interested in writing the opposition statement to apply,” O’Brien says.
“Phase two” of the ballot challenge, O’Brien’s attorney, Roger Townshend, says, is challenging the language of the ballot title itself—the 250-word statement that describes what’s in the package. (Most ballot titles are limited to 75 words; RTID and Sound Transit got a special dispensation from the Legislature to make theirs longer.) The ballot title describes the measure as primarily a bridge and safety program, which the Sierra Club disputes; additionally, it spells out every cost figure in words (e.g. “One billion one hundred million dollars), creating a wall of text in which numbers are hard to distinguish. Townshend didn’t know when that motion would move forward, but another source suggests it might go to court next week.