Bill to make Sound Transit’s board elected introduced

A bipartisan bill to require regional transit boards, such as Sound Transit, to have elected board members was introduced by Rep. Mark Hargrove, R-Covington. Presently, Sound Transit board members are appointed to represent the ridership areas. House Bill 1877, a government accountability measure, would change the governing structure of Sound Transit to allow voters to directly select who serves on the board.

Sound Transit’s board currently includes 18 local elected officials who are appointed by various other elected officials. Specifically, the board includes three members from Snohomish County, 10 from King County, four from Pierce County and the State Transportation Department secretary.

“The appointment process insulates the board from any direct accountability to the public for decisions regarding Sound Transit operations,” Hargrove explained. “Additionally, the existing board members were elected by their constituents to serve on county councils and as mayors. Their membership on the transit board is an additional responsibility, taking away from the local work they were elected to do.

“Whether people want more transit options in their area, or they’re tired of seeing nearly-empty buses go by, they need to have a voice in how Sound Transit operates,” Hargrove said. “Sound Transit spends about a million dollars a day in their operations. If we don’t think they’re making the right decisions, we should be able to elect those who we believe will do things better. We do this for state representatives and senators, why not for Sound Transit?”

The inspiration for the bill was the state auditor’s office performance audit of Sound Transit last year which determined that the agency was not sufficiently responsive to the Citizen Oversight Panel (COP). The COP was put in place to serve as a watchdog over the transit agency. One auditor’s recommended solution was to make the board of Sound Transit elected.

“We have a state auditor precisely for this reason,” said Hargrove, who is the assistant ranking member on the House Transportation Committee. “The auditor makes recommendations the Legislature can implement.”

In light of the auditor’s findings, the Washington Policy Center, which is a non-partisan, free-market think tank, also recommended the Sound Transit board be changed to an elected, instead of appointed, body.

“This bill would elevate the Citizen Oversight Panels to include all voters, giving all those impacted by Sound Transit service and taxes a say in what is working and what needs improvement. When given the choice, I think Washingtonians are on the side of more government transparency and accountability,” Hargrove added.

Under House Bill 1877, the regional transit authority would be governed by five elected board members, each representing equal numbers of residents. Each board member would serve a four-year term at the end of which voters would have the opportunity to re-elect the board member or replace him or her with a new one.

The bill has been referred to the House Transportation Committee where it is awaiting a public hearing.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov