Leaked letter questions Swift payments
EVERETT - It took a document’s accidental release to prompt City Hall to discuss Everett Transit’s payments to Community Transit for its Swift rapid bus line.
A neighborhood group committee’s draft letter recommending Everett Transit halt payments for Community Transit’s Swift line “inadvertently” was e-mailed to some city officials.
The letter was sent to at least two members of the City Council who began asking questions, prompting city officials to ask Everett Transit to present the pros and cons of the Swift contract at the council’s May 16 meeting.
The committee’s recommendation is in line with public calls from the Everett Transit union president to stop paying for Swift to prevent local service cuts. (See last week’s Tribune for a full story on this.) The neighborhood committee is led by a vocal opponent of the Swift payments.
Everett Transit has a long-term contract to give up to 1/12th of its sales tax revenue to Community Transit, which operates the 17-mile commuter service between Everett and Shoreline. The deal was struck in 2007, in part to have Swift serve Everett’s Evergreen Way corridor. The payment last year was $1.3 million.
Everett Transit officials have said the Swift arrangement saves Everett Transit money because it doesn’t have to provide equivalent local bus service. Everett Transit officials say the public didn’t ask for this cut during a recent series of community meetings to get input on 2012 service cuts.
Everett Transit faces an up to 15 percent service reduction in the face of flagging sales tax revenue.
The Council of Neighborhoods is an advisory board to the mayor and made up of representatives from Everett’s 19 neighborhoods. A committee was created in February to send recommendations to Mayor Ray Stephanson on Everett Transit’s planned service cuts for 2012.
The Council as a whole has yet to approve sending it, but a draft was sent “inadvertently” to multiple people in the city by Office of Neighborhoods manager Wendy McClure, McClure said.
The draft went to all neighborhood representatives, but it also went to City Council neighborhoods liaison Councilman Jeff Moore and last year’s liaison Councilman Drew Nielsen, Moore said. It appears the letter got out to other city officials, but the Tribune was unable to obtain the letter and exactly who it was sent to by press time.
Moore said there could be sensitive issues regarding the relationship between the city and Community Transit that should be considered before sending the recommendation letter.
“The key is making informed decisions,” Moore told the Tribune. “It seemed as though they didn’t have as much information.”
Other council members Moore spoke with also suggested the group may not have all the information to make an informed recommendation on ceasing the Swift payment, Moore said.
Even so, the letter’s accidental release may have heightened City Hall’s interest in the issue, Council of Neighborhoods chair Jim McNeil said.
Ending the Swift contract is not in Everett Transit’s plans.
Everett Transit plans to implement the 2012 service changes in August. The agency is working on a final plan to present to the public and the City Council.
By MICHAEL WHITNEY
Published May 2, 2012