Muni League honors transit group, councilman

February 1, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

King County Executive Dow Constantine congratulated Issaquah Councilman Fred Butler and other members of a transit task force last week for receiving a prestigious honor from the Municipal League of King County.

The recommendations from the 28-member Regional Transit Task Force represent a potential roadmap to long-standing differences related to Metro Transit bus service. The group released the report to county leaders in November.

The group has received the James R. Ellis Regional Leadership Award for the effort, the Municipal League announced Jan. 27.

“We asked 28 local leaders to set aside arbitrary political divisions and come up with transit recommendations that meet the needs of the entire county, and they exceeded all expectations,” Constantine said in a statement. “That takes real leadership, and I’m pleased to see their hard work and vision recognized by the Municipal League.”

The award honors individuals and organizations for contributing significant leadership in tackling regional public policy problems. The league recognized task force members for efforts “to clarify and organize the priorities and implementation processes for local transit during a time of budget reductions.”

The task force recommended Constantine and the County Council rethink how the mass transit agency transports riders and maps bus routes.

Members called for Metro Transit to tie bus service to productivity, connections to job markets and demand for transit — instead of adding or reducing service based on geographic formulas.

Butler, a longtime transit expert and a member of the Sound Transit board, served on the regional task force.

“I was proud that our recommendations focused on transit efficiency, but also recognized that our transit system must serve those who are most in need of transit service, and that we have to create a fair distribution of service for all residents and businesses throughout the county,” he said. “I believe we have outlined policies to create a strong, integrated transit system.”

The report also urged county leaders to update the way Metro Transit is funded.

The agency relies on sales tax revenues — a source hit hard in the economic downturn. If additional stable revenue sources cannot be found, the county estimates Metro Transit could face a yearly operating deficit of $117 million by 2015.

County Council members adopted the recommendations from the task force in December.

The list serves as the foundation for a joint council-executive staff group crafting strategic plan for the transit agency. The proposal is due to the council by the end of February. The council intends to adopt legislation in time for Metro Transit to incorporate changes into the 2012-13 budget.

“The task force has set a new benchmark for how we can collaborate on solutions to the most urgent challenges facing our region,” Puget Sound Regional Council Executive Director Bob Drewel said. “With transit funding in decline, the region requires innovative thinking and actions. The task force has provided the county with a new blueprint for making decisions about transit services.”

Municipal League leaders recognize government and nonprofit officials each year through the annual Civic Awards. The honors recognize the accomplishments of elected officials, public employees, citizen groups, journalists and regular citizens for outstanding contributions to the community and government.

The league also honored King County Sheriff Sue Rahr as the Public Official of the Year. Issaquah Mayor Ava Frisinger received the award in 2009.

“The Municipal League has honored the best in local government and public service for 52 years” league Executive Director Lauri Hennessey said. “These honorees are all great examples of improving our local community through service.”

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