Press Editorial

August 23, 2011

By Staff

Compromise legislation worked; more needed

Last week, government worked, and it was an amazing thing to behold.

King County Council members worked together to create bipartisan, compromise legislation to impose a $20 car tab fee to keep Metro bus service at its current level of service.

This is the way our elected leaders are supposed to work.

We in this state and region have become accustomed to holding a referendum on just about everything, sending every little tax to the voters. Fear of voters blaming state legislators and County Council members keeps them from making the tough decisions.

For all our throwing around of the word democracy, we don’t live in one. This is a republic. The citizens are supposed to elect leaders to actually lead. Leaders are supposed to make grand decisions about what to do, and then do it. Don’t like what they did? That’s what elections are for.

In this case, the County Council actually managed to pass the fee increase, using old-fashioned bipartisan compromise politics and a lot of creativity.

County Executive Dow Constantine, a Democrat in a nonpartisan office, and County Councilwoman Kathy Lambert, a Republican in a nonpartisan office, both of whom represent the Issaquah area, and the rest of the council are to be congratulated. They showed that they are not mere ideologues but are willing to work for what they believe are in the best interests of their constituents and the county.

We were opposed to the $20 fee, and still are, but the compromises worked out in the deal — an end to the Seattle free-ride area and 24 free bus passes for everyone who pays the car tab fee — certainly improve the bill and make it better public policy.

And that’s really the whole idea. Bipartisan compromise leads to better policy pretty much every time.

We hope our state and federal officials are watching. Sure, in the grand scheme of things $20 to save some bus routes isn’t exactly as challenging as figuring out how to save Social Security. But working across the aisle to get something done is a lesson all politicians should model.

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One Response to “Press Editorial”

  1. Truth Detector on August 25th, 2011 1:42 pm

    Council Member Lambert does need to be praised for making lemonade out of the lemons given to her but I wouldn’t go as far as you have in praising King County Government on this issue.

    You are correct, we elect these people to represent us and have every reason to expect them to do the right thing, but in this case we have a situation where the majority in control forced an unacceptable tax on the people knowing that it had no chance of being passed by the taxpayers.

    Yes elections give us a chance to unseat our elected officials but with single party rule in this region the party in charge makes sure there are no options for voters. No legitimate candidate will challenge a sitting elected unless they see blood in the water (Mayor Nickels for example) and voters will not switch parties to get rid of someone that doesn’t represent our wishes.

    In this case we have a transit system that is a fiscal disaster. Bus drivers making as much as a quarter million a year, King County employees riding transit for free (any time, any where) costing us millions a year, pensions bloated based on massive overtime manipulation, and expensive buses running empty all day long because there is poor management and resource allocation.

    Metro is unable to think out of the box, and the Council has not shown they are willing to risk loss of support by doing the right thing, so we get stuck with the bill because they won’t look at creative solutions.

    25% of the riders make 6 figure incomes, half make more than the median income. Each time a fare is paid the taxpayers are covering 75% of the cost. Simply charge everyone full fare, or even 3/4 fare, and give everyone under the median income discounted, passes, and the poor free bus passes, and you can solve the financial crisis without raising taxes.

    This is only going to get worse. As we build more and more of these billion dollar transit fiasco’s, all pulling in just a small fraction of the cost to ride, the taxpayer will be forced to see more and more tax increases to cover those discounted rides.

    Oh, and it isn’t “just $20″. That is the marketing spin used to sell this. Every household with multiple cars, everyone riding a motorcycle or scooter, boats, trailers, everything, is paying the fee. And you don’t get 24 passes, you get 8 passes worth up to $24 which, btw, the county wants you to give away to the poor.

    Passes that Eastsiders pay for yet can’t use because of the fact they pay 35% of the Metro funding to get just 17% of the service. Passes that you can’t give to your kids because of the violence at Transit Centers and on buses that make it unsafe for them to ride.

    Good leaders would have solved this problem instead of sticking it to car drivers because they are unwilling to make the hard decisions.

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