For the past 10 years, Rob McKenna has tried to stop the Sound Transit Light Rail Project. He has used his position as a King County Councilmember, Sound Transit Board Member, and Attorney General to attack the agency. As Governor, Rob McKenna would have even more opportunities to stop this mass transit project and re-direct the funding to building more freeways.
McKenna’s personal jihad against light rail began in the late 90′s. At first McKenna’s opposition to light rail began with a set of principled questions about a project that was floundering. But he quickly evolved into an active opponent of the project, using his position on the Sound Transit Board to try to kill light rail and discredit the project. McKenna’s quest then became a personal vendetta in 2001 after County Executive Ron Sims refused to re-appoint him to the Sound Transit Board.
Read through these press excerpts from the last 10 years to see how McKenna set about trying to stop light rail.
May 23, 2000: Rob votes against light rail
The King County Council, on a 10-2 vote, yesterday approved the transfer of the downtown Seattle transit tunnel to Sound Transit for light-rail use. […]
Councilmen Rob McKenna, R-Bellevue, and Kent Pullen, R-Kent, voted against the transfer.
They argued that it will deprive bus riders from outlying areas an easy connection to downtown employment areas while the region invests in a financially risky light-rail system.
- From the Seattle PI, “County Council approves downtown tunnel transfer”
September 13, 2000: Rob says light rail shouldn’t get federal money
It came back with the same result: Sound Transit should get $500 million in federal money to help build a light-rail system. […]
Light-rail skeptics don’t see it that way.
“A lot of us aren’t sure that we have the ability to build (the light-rail project) within our current revenues,” said Rob McKenna, a Metropolitan King County councilman and a member of the Sound Transit Board. “We don’t know what the tunneling is going to cost. The FTA doesn’t know what the tunneling costs are going to be either.”
McKenna is part of a coalition that says Sound Transit is several hundred million dollars over budget and has asked for an independent audit of the agency. Sound Transit has declined to cooperate, saying it is audited regularly.
- From the Seattle Times, “Feds stand behind Sound Transit”
October 8, 2000: Rob founds group to fight light rail
Started by longtime foes of light rail, Sane Transit has grown to include a wide spectrum of members. Some say it could kill plans for an urban rail system. […]
Sane Transit was started primarily by Emory Bundy and Rob McKenna, critics of the rail project when it was put to voters in 1995 and 1996. […]
McKenna, a Republican lawyer from Bellevue on the Metropolitan King County Council, is particularly worried that light rail will be so expensive it will use money reserved for Eastside transportation projects. He has been supported by suburban developers who have long opposed the rail system and pushed for more roads. […]
Simultaneously, McKenna and Bundy were holding meetings with other rail critics. They received technical advice and help writing a manifesto from Seattle transportation consultant Bill Eager, a vehement rail critic.
Bellevue developer Kemper Freeman Jr., who funded much of the anti-rail campaigning in the 1990s, hired Eager in 1998 to write a study that concluded rail was a waste of money, and more highway lanes were what the region needed. Eager said he’s still being paid by Freeman to work on the issue. […]
Freeman supported McKenna’s first council campaign in 1995. In 1998, McKenna arranged for Freeman to present Eager’s study to the council, but it went nowhere.
- From the Seattle Times, “Who’s in the fight against light rail”
January 12, 2001: Rob votes against light rail (again)
Board member Rob McKenna, the only person to vote no, raised a laundry list of doubts about the action, picking apart the plan for more than a half-hour.
“Today, we’re being asked to approve a binding contract with the federal government,” McKenna said. “I’m not comfortable with that.” […]
McKenna argued it was wrong to accept a contract the agency hasn’t seen. “Having to commit now is astonishing,” he said.
- From the Seattle Times, “Sound Transit votes to take $500 million”
February 14, 2001: Rob campaigns against light rail
By now, Sound Transit Chairman David Earling is getting used to standing in front of a microphone, encouraging a roomful of skeptical business leaders. […]
The Redmond Chamber of Commerce heard yesterday from Earling and King County Councilman Rob McKenna, one of light rail’s biggest opponents, in a public-relations duel of words — Sound Transit vs. Sane Transit. […]
But McKenna, who is also on the Sound Transit board, told the group that rail is not worth the money and he fears money now designated for use only on the Eastside will be spent bailing out the financially risky Seattle project scheduled for completion in 2009. […]
McKenna, who represents the Eastside, said that although he wants Sound Transit to be successful, “I’m no longer convinced that Seattle can do its light rail, and it wouldn’t have an impact on us.”
- From the Seattle PI, “Eastside has the light-rail jitters”
March 5, 2001: Rob considered for US Attorney by George W. Bush; noted for opposing light rail
McKenna has been most prominent recently for his opposition to what he calls a “fatally flawed” light rail project between SeaTac and north Seattle. McKenna has been perhaps the council’s most vocal critic of the Sound Transit plan, which is at least $1 billion over budget and three years behind schedule.
- From the Seattle PI “McKay, Tebelius, McKenna finalists for U.S. Attorney spot”
November 7, 2001: Rob refuses to get on board with light rail
A few weeks ago the Sound Transit Board voted overwhelmingly to begin building an initial light-rail line. It was a defining moment for this region. […]
In his guest opinion of Oct. 18, King County Councilman Rob McKenna, who also sits on the Sound Transit Board, continued his attack against light rail. In it he used the same arguments that were unsuccessful in persuading a majority of board members to vote with him against light rail. We all know that despite its approval by voters in 1996 and despite continuing support in poll after poll, a small group of well-organized and vocal opponents are fighting the light-rail project. Similar opponents using similar arguments have tried to kill light-rail systems in other parts of the country.
Well, we made a decision and we’re moving ahead. A majority of board members, after carefully reviewing the facts, decided that it’s time for this region to come together and build something that will help maintain the quality of life in this region for generations to come.
- From Seattle PI, “Light rail will make huge difference”
November 30, 2001: Rob votes against light rail once more
The Sound Transit board gave its final OK yesterday to a 14-mile light-rail system from Tukwila to downtown Seattle, one-third shorter than what voters agreed to pay for in 1996. […]
Yesterday’s 14-2 vote requires construction of the line to begin next year. Service on the new route, from the Westlake-convention center area in the downtown transit tunnel to South 154th Street, is to begin in 2009 — three years later than voters expected. […]
Casting the two no votes yesterday were King County Council members Jane Hague and Rob McKenna, both Eastside Republicans.
McKenna argued that this was not the original 21-mile plan voters were presented in 1996 and that more taxation would be required to achieve it.
- From the Seattle PI, “Light rail wins final approval”
December 22, 2001: One month later, Rob tries to stay on Sound Transit board
Metropolitan King County Councilman Rob McKenna, R-Bellevue, is campaigning hard to be reappointed to the 18-member regional panel. But his fate is in the hands of a light-rail proponent and longtime political adversary: King County Executive Ron Sims.
Some light-rail supporters are urging Sims to replace McKenna, saying it makes no sense to have someone on the board who doesn’t support the agency’s mission. […]
But Richard Borkowski, president of People for Modern Transit, a pro-light-rail group, said it was critical that all board members support the project.
“He wants to kill it,” Borkowski said of McKenna. “Having an outright opponent on the board of directors serves no purpose at all.” […]
McKenna’s differences with Sims go beyond light rail. At the courthouse, the executive and the councilman have clashed over the county budget, growth management, bus fares and a host of other issues. McKenna, considered a rising star in the GOP, considered challenging Sims’ re-election bid earlier this year.
This fall, McKenna was a leading supporter of Initiative 747, tax-revolt leader Tim Eyman’s plan to limit property-tax increases. Sims opposed the measure, which voters approved.
- From the Seattle Times, “Sound Transit critic wants to keep seat on its board”
December 29, 2001: Rob gets kicked off Sound Transit board
Metropolitan King County Councilman Rob McKenna, a leading critic of Sound Transit’s planned light-rail line, has lost his seat on the agency’s board. […]
McKenna, who has served on Sound Transit’s board since 1996, has fought light rail for years. He was among the first to call attention to cost overruns that ultimately prompted the board to mothball a voter-approved, 21-mile line from Seattle’s University District to SeaTac.
When the board authorized construction of a scaled-back, 14-mile line from downtown Seattle to Tukwila last month, McKenna was one of just two no votes.
- From the Seattle Times, “Light-rail critic McKenna loses Sound Transit board seat”
June 7, 2002: Rob pushes for more money for freeways, no money for light rail
Much more money for freeway “mega-projects” like the Alaskan Way Viaduct and Interstate 405.
No money for light rail.
Those are the key elements of a regional transportation-improvement package that Metropolitan King County Councilman Rob McKenna, R-Bellevue, is floating as an alternative to one unveiled last month by King County Executive Ron Sims. […]
But McKenna, a longtime light-rail critic, said including Sound Transit light-rail extensions to Northgate and SeaTac in the package, as Sims proposed last month, would doom it at the polls. […]
Polls show that without light rail, the regional package won’t pass, especially in Seattle, Sims said. McKenna disagreed. “Sound Transit is no more popular in Seattle than it is anywhere else,” he said.
- From the Seattle Times, “McKenna plan: Invest in freeways, not light rail”
November 2, 2002: Rob tries to stop federal money for light rail
A judge ruled yesterday that Sound Transit may start laying light-rail track from Seattle to Tukwila, even though the 14-mile line is far shorter than what voters approved six years ago. […]
On Thursday, 26 city and county elected officials signed a letter to Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., asking her to dump the 14-mile light rail line. […]
Signers include Metropolitan King County Council members Rob McKenna.
- From the Seattle Times, “Sound Transit gets light-rail go-ahead”
June 23, 2003: Rob campaigns against federal money for light rail
It is a little after noon on June 17, and Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Bremerton, is strategizing in his congressional office with Sound Transit Executive Director Joni Earl, Gorton, several aides and Sound Transit lobbyists.
They compiled fact sheets about Sound Transit and figured out who would say what in their upcoming meeting with Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla., chairman of the powerful House appropriations transportation subcommittee.
Istook had also invited Rep. Jennifer Dunn, R-Bellevue, and King County Councilman Rob McKenna to the meeting. McKenna said they were going to tell the chairman that light rail costs too much and would eventually suck tax money from the Eastside. But Dunn couldn’t make it, and McKenna decided to stay in Seattle. […]
Dicks said [he, Earl and Gorton] told Istook that light rail would have 16,000 daily riders, taking 14,500 cars off the street.
That’s a figure that King County Councilman Rob McKenna would love the chance to dispute, if Istook decides to hold hearings on the $500 million grant. […]
“There are a lot of games that get played with the numbers,” said McKenna, a longtime light-rail critic.
- From the Seattle Times, “Sound Transit awaits congressional blessing to build light-rail line”
October 27, 2004: Rob runs for Attorney General (as an opponent of light rail and a supporter of Tim Eyman)
County Councilman Rob McKenna makes a point during a debate last week with Deborah Senn, his Democratic opponent in the race for Washington attorney general.
After nearly nine years in public office, Rob McKenna has a clear record on issues like taxes and transportation.
Sometimes allying himself with the leader of the state’s tax rebellion, Tim Eyman, McKenna has played a significant role in reining in local property taxes. He also has worked hard — though not as successfully — to fund long-stalled highway projects and block Sound Transit’s light-rail project. […]
McKenna’s tax-cutting efforts and opposition to Sound Transit light rail have repeatedly pitted him against Sims and other liberals, who say he has been ineffective in getting budgets adopted and in blocking light rail. […]
McKenna campaigned in 2001 for Eyman’s Initiative 747, which limited those yearly base increases to 1 percent without a vote of the people.
- From the Seattle Times, “McKenna working to soften his image”
July 17, 2008: Rob runs for re-election, can’t let light rail go
Complicating the Ladenburg situation is his race for state attorney general, in which incumbent Rob McKenna, long a rail skeptic, is expected to wrap a yes vote by [Sound Transit board member John] Ladenburg around his neck.
- From Crosscut, “Sound Transit showdown”