Friday, May 1, 2015

STA's trying to figure out why, exactly, it barely lost the election

Posted By on Fri, May 1, 2015 at 12:35 PM

click to enlarge STA's trying to figure out why, exactly, it barely lost the election
With the failure of Prop 1, train-style electric buses may still be a long way off for Spokane.
So close. 

That's the lamentation and consolation coming from the Spokane Transit Authority this week, which oh-so-narrowly lost its big transit measure by fewer than 700 votes. 

"The ballot is so incredibly close," STA CEO E. Susan Meyer says. "If it had failed 30 percent to 70, we would say, that’s a mandate. That is a message we are not on the right track. This message, says we are on the right track, but we may need to adjust a few things."

The question is what? What was the sticking point? Was it the simple fact that the initiative raised taxes? "There wasn’t a measure that passed that was raising new revenue," Meyer says. "I look at this result in the context that voters did approve an additional 3/10ths of a percent sales tax increase in 2004." Meyer says.

But back then, that was merely funding to keep existing service going, not the ambitious expansion of service that STA risked this time. 

Was it the lack of support from two of the three county commissioners, and the Spokane Valley Council? The measure failed most heavily in the Spokane Valley and the unincorporated areas. Yet it succeeded in cities like Airway Heights and Cheney, in the territory of STA supporter Commissioner Al French.

After all, the plan itself, though not the cost, was supported by everyone on the STA board — including two valley council members — but Commissioner Shelly O'Quinn. Last December 8 of 9 board members voted for the 10 year plan," Meyer says. "That plan, which included the Central City Line, everything in that package, the board said 8 to 1, this is the 10 year plan."

Or was it the Central City Line, the ambitious high-frequency electric bus system, that conservative groups like the Washington Policy Center and the Spokane Home Builders Association condemned as a waste of money? 

"There were certain individuals and groups that made that a lightning rod project and campaigned on that," Meyer says. 

STA wants to find out what happened with the election and is spending about $10,000 with Moore Information, a Portland-based polling firm, to poll 400 randomly selected Spokane residents throughout the Public Transportation Benefit Area to find if they voted, and how they voted and why. 

"It’s a good investment," Meyer says. "To understand what people in the PTBA think." At least 30 percent of those surveyed will be contacted on their cell phones, and Moore will strive to find respondents from all across the county. 

"We are going to do the polling this weekend, because this is so close, that if we wait until we have a final result, its likely that people may have forgotten the reasons why [they] voted  the way they did," Meyer says. 

We'll upload the polling results as soon as they're available. 

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Daniel Walters

A lifelong Spokane native, Daniel Walters was a staff reporter for the Inlander from 2009 to 2023. He reported on a wide swath of topics, including business, education, real estate development, land use, and other stories throughout North Idaho and Spokane County.His work investigated deep flaws in the Washington...