Bellevue Councilmember: Vote no on Sound Transit 3 | Letter

Do you want to create a giant public entity that is larger than many governments with a pre-authorized blank check of $54 billion

  • Thursday, October 27, 2016 7:13pm
  • Opinion

Do you want to create a giant public entity that is larger than many governments with a pre-authorized blank check of $54 billion of permanent tax increase to spend without any direct citizen oversight and accountability?

That’s what you are asked to do to commit you and your children for the next 25 years or longer with your hard-earned dollars to develop a light rail system regardless what future transportation needs may then be. That’s what you will do if you vote for ST3 Proposition 1. I will not. Please join me to vote no.

Voting no is not a vote against solving congestion. Voting no is not a vote against light rail. Light rail is coming. It is being implemented. The region has done a great deal in the recent years on transportation.

The state Legislature has come up with a transportation package to add capacity, develop advance transportation alternatives/options; citizen-approved ST2 has enabled Sound Transit to implement a regional light rail system; Metro has been expanding and increasing its public transit service; public and private efforts are being made to encourage multi-modal and intelligent transportation options. We are all working together to solve traffic congestion. Bellevue each year spends millions of dollars to improve its transportation system.

We all agree that one of this region’s major challenges is traffic congestion. We have to fix it. We have been trying for the past 30 years. We are making progress, including regional public transit and multi-modal transportation alternatives. Metro transit is considered one of the best in the nation.

Its challenge is cost of operation and money to provide more service. It is making progress and more people are using it. Rapid-Ride service is a good example. ST2 has been funded to develop and implement light rail for high population areas. Intelligent transportation systems are fast developing through new and advanced transportation technologies.

We need to continue this effort and we are. But it does not mean throwing money at the problem without accountability and without direct citizen oversight which ST3 Proposition 1 will do if you approve it.

Unfortunately traffic congestion is not the only challenge we face. Just name a few — affordable housing, economic equity, shrinking middle-class, and not the least, education. All these, plus many more, need our attention and funding.

If ST3 sucks up all these tax money, what is left to address these challenges? These challenges are just as important and perhaps even more for those who are directly affected. Many of these challenges need to be solved right now, not in 25 years. As a typical local elected representative, I do not have the luxury to collect tax money you and I have worked hard to earn and hand it over to an entity to spend over the next 25 years with the hope that it may solve the traffic congestion 25 years from now.

Please study the plan and financial numbers of the ST3 proposal and you will find that current ST2 tax money is already adequate to complete East Link light rail connecting Seattle to Bellevue and Redmond. It will also fund the BRT from Bellevue north to Lynnwood and south to Burien.

They will be done within a couple of years and not in the next 25 years. There will even be money to look at new options that make more sense to solve traffic congestion in the future. Light rail is not the one and only solution to traffic congestion and especially in the future. So why not complete the necessary system now with current funding and retain the flexibility to do what are the right solutions in the future.

Instead, light rail locks us in a solution without flexibility. For example, ST3 will collect tax money to build light rail to Issaquah in 2040 on the promise that Issaquah will have enough population density to need it and that light rail will be the best answer at that time.

In the meantime, with all the tax money ($54 billion) sucked up by Sound Transit light rail project for the next 25 years, we are not solving our immediate challenges of providing affordable housing to our seniors, our struggling families and the homeless, building needed infrastructure and quality environment toward an economy where businesses will locate here to provide living wage jobs for our young and old and giving our children and young people a quality education.

With the ever-increasing tax burden, we are going to be facing the difficulty to keep our cities and the region vibrant and competitive, a place people are proud to call home to live and do business. I will not dare to think what our cities will be like when the spiral begins — another Detroit?

On the other hand, just imagine how we can solve our challenges in housing, education, infrastructure building, and economic equity with the money we save from ST3, Proposition 1. Think twice; think clearly. Do not vote for ST3, Proposition 1. Your future and your children’s future depend on your no vote.

Disclaimer: This is my independent opinion and does not represent the position of the Bellevue City Council.

Conrad Lee

Bellevue City Councilmember


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