October 11, 2007
King County Executive Ron Sims
Bank of America Tower
701 Fifth Avenue, Suite 3210
Seattle, WA 98104
Dear Ron Sims,
In our July 25 open letter to you we stated that "We had long held great expectations for you. We had wanted to believe that you were someone special, someone who would rise above the level of ordinary politicians, with their lack of vision and subservience to narrow vested interests, to provide world-class leadership on crucial transportation, environmental and other issues for the 21st century."
Now we must commend you. You have made a very important step towards living up to those expectations, and you may be someone very special indeed. You have done the region a tremendous service with your eloquent and moving September 27 editorial in the Seattle Times in which you dared speak the truth about the "Roads & Transit" measure on the November ballot. You are the only high public official who has had the courage to declare that "The emperor has no clothes."
We are well aware of the large amount of time and effort that many talented and dedicated people have devoted to preparing the R&T plans. Unfortunately, however, the end result is clearly not in the best interests of our region. Everything that you said about it is absolutely correct. It will do little if anything to reduce traffic congestion, it largely ignores the increasingly critical environmental issues, the wrong rail routes have been selected, and the rail completion targets are too far into the future. Moreover, it is way too costly, especially in terms of the mediocre results that can be expected, and it could preclude the funding of other, more worthy projects for as long as a half century.
To those who say that you are being obstructionist and jeopardizing the years of effort and many millions of dollars spent by Sound Transit and others, we say that the truth is the complete opposite. You are helping to save the region from many tens of billions of dollars of ineffective, wasteful, and even destructive, projects. Stopping R&T will not slow down progress towards improved transportation and environmental protection in our region at all. In fact, it could speed it up, by causing the political leadership to refocus their energies on truly useful and cost-effective projects. And sufficient funds are already available to continue on existing projects as well as to launch some bold new ones during the year or two that it might take for Sound Transit, the RTID and others to come up with a more sensible plan.
We have criticized you in the past for your effort to scrap the Eastside railroad and construct a bicycle trail on its roadbed. However, we are well aware of how difficult it is to change course on a project in which one has expended so much effort, just as it will be extremely difficult for Sound Transit and others to change course regarding R&T. Your courageous article is obviously great news for our cause because it could be a major step towards getting the region to move away from the tired old "tax and spend" approach and instead begin to focus on solutions that are truly effective, that can provide immediate results, and that are low in cost.
We hope that you will now be able to go the rest of the way and make positive efforts to not only stop all threats to the railroad but also to help launch a pilot commuter service on it at the earliest possible date. You are so right when you point out that we can't afford to wait until 2027 to begin undertaking bold new measures to cope with the impending environmental catastrophe. With your support, the first trains could be rolling within a matter of months.
This would help put an end to those who say that you are just being obstructionist with your opposition to R&T. It would be further evidence that you are truly dedicated to moving ahead with innovative and cost-effective projects that would make our region a leader in transportation and environmental policies appropriate for the 21st century. It would be a great victory for all of us.
Eastside Rail Now!
info at eastsiderailnow.org