I was at the Shaun Scott party last night, and the response to last night’s initial ballot drop summed up how I feel: Extremely uneasy.
I-976 looks almost certain to pass, which is devastating. The final result will likely be much closer than the initial 56–44 count, but I’m not sure there’s precedent for late ballots closing such a gap in a statewide vote.
There will very likely be a court battle challenging the legality of the initiative, and Tim Eyman has lost before. That’s a glimmer of hope, sure, but we will need to plan assuming the initative holds.
Many people focus on the big impact to Sound Transit expansion, but I am more immediately concerned about the impact on existing King County Metro bus service funded through Seattle’s Transportation Benefit District (“STBD”).
Seattle is a leader nationwide on transit growth in recent years, and that’s in no small part due to increases in frequent bus routes across the city. It’s not as tangible and sexy as a new light rail station, but by dramatically expanding the number of homes within a short walk of at least one very frequent bus (10 minutes or less) the city and county have made the bus a much more reliable and convenient way to get around.
A 10-minute or better bus is the point where you stop looking up schedules and just walk to the bus stop trusting it will arrive soon. It’s simple: People are much less worried about whether transit will work for them when they can trust it to arrive when they need it. Frequent buses also reduce the so-called “transfer penalty,” which is the time you have to wait between buses on a multi-bus journey. When switching buses is less of a worry, the whole network open up to you. So bus frequency is a really big deal.
As a result of both bus and light rail investment, transit use in Seattle has been growing steadily, bucking nationwide trends. That’s what’s so frustrating about the idea of cutting transit right now: It’s working!
The STBD also funds the ORCA opportunity program that provides transit passes to students, as well as providing funding for the Trailhead Direct hiking buses.
But the impact of losing these funds does not simply cut these STBD programs. City leaders are currently debating the 2020-21 budget, and they could choose to save STBD programs by making cuts elsewhere. I mean, we aren’t going to take away student ORCA passes, right? But cuts could be very bad for other budgeted and proposed transit, walking and biking projects if the Council chooses to target them. I know it won’t go very far, but could they start with the Adaptive Signals budget please? Maybe delay the safety-lacking Wallingford paving projects (50th and 40th Streets) if that’s still possible…
Scott would need a record late-ballot rebound to squeak out a win over Alex Pedersen in Seattle’s City Council District 4 race. It doesn’t look good, but I think it’s wise to wait and see how the drops go this week before calling it. Past experience suggests that the race will tighten significantly as more votes are counted, but a 58–42 (8,610–6,241) gap in the first drop has never been overcome, I’m pretty sure. The only reason I think it’s wise to wait is because of the UW factor. District vote counts are fairly low, so there’s a lot of room for movement if those packed election day ballot boxes come in very strongly for Scott. The Scott campaign put a lot of effort into registering UW students, and we don’t have much precedent for how that will affect a district race (in the only other D4 race, neither Rob Johnson nor Michael Maddux had such a big student registration effort). So if it worked and a good number of students procrastinated until the last day to vote, it’s not impossible. But that’s a big “if.”
The county estimates that 55% of votes have been counted. So Scott would need something like 60% of the remaining ballots and/or a larger-than-expected number of late ballots. That’s a tall order, but not unimaginable. We will likely know in the next couple days if closing the gap is possible.
It’s also looking tough for Kshama Sawant in District 3, though she has less ground to cover in the remaining ballots than Scott. Egan Orion is leading 54–46, though Sawant has covered big vote gaps before. The result is going to be very close. I doubt we’ll know the result for a while.
But the results are not all terrible for City Council. Seattle Bike Blog endorsed candidates Lisa Herbold, Tammy Morales, Debora Juarez, Dan Strauss and Andrew Lewis all look in good position to win so long as late votes lean even slightly in their direction as history would suggest. Jim Pugel held a very slight lead over Lewis in District 7 in the first drop, so that race could be close.
Of course, this all assumes that the giant stacks of unprecedented corporate cash is not effective at winning late ballots. Big ad spends reversing a historical trend that has favored a strong volunteer ground game is a worst case scenario for our city’s democracy.
Results for biking-backed candidates around the region were pretty good. All of the WA Bikes-endorsed Bellevue City and County Councilmembers have very strong leads. So that’s cool.
— Claire Martini (@claire_martini) November 6, 2019
In all, King County candidates endorsed by transpo groups are doing very well, including in Kirkland, Redmond, King County Council and the Seattle Port.
The next ballot drop is scheduled for today by 4 p.m. and by 4 p.m. every workday until all votes are counted (no results Monday for Veterans Day).
But the nation does have one amazing biking-related result to celebrate. Do you remember that woman who was fired after she was photographed flipping off Donald Trump’s motorcade while biking? She was just elected to her County Board of Supervisors, ousting the Republican incumbent. Hell yes, Juli Briskman!
Looking forward to representing my friends & neighbors in #Algonkian District who backed me up today! So proud that we were able to #FlipLoudpun #FlipVA #LOCO219 Thank you Loudoun! https://t.co/vRcDUih1AP
— Juli Briskman (@julibriskman) November 6, 2019