Dick Falkenbury, the original monorail proponent, resigned from the Seattle Popular Monorail Authority board Sunday night, saying he "just couldn't serve as a volunteer any longer." As the board's most outspoken and independent voice, Falkenbury butted heads with his fellow board members and executive director Joel Horn over a number of issues, including the agency's bonus policy and the size of monorail trains. But he says he left not because of any particular disagreement, but because he feels he could better serve as an advocate from the outside. "It's not that they don't want people with strong opinions; it's that you can't voice those opinions," Falkenbury says. "It's no longer advocacy and strenuously arguing for things. That's one reason I left."
Falkenbury's defection, along with the loss of outspoken West Seattle consultant Cindi Laws two weeks ago, leaves the board looking more than ever like a bastion of downtown and corporate interests, including Downtown Seattle Association rep Nick Hanauer, downtown developer Richard Stevenson, and Weyerhaeuser spokesperson Patricia Akiyama. Falkenbury hopes the board won't come up with another "skyscraper owner" to fill his grassroots shoes. "I would not like to see another wealthy downtown person. We need to go out to the neighborhoods," he says.
One possible candidate, monorail initiative author Peter Sherwin, says he's already asked the board to consider him as a replacement. Sherwin says he could serveperhaps paradoxicallyas a critical voice on the board. "Every vote does not have to be nine to nothing," he says, though all but a handful have. As for Falkenbury, the former cabdriver says he's looking for work. "It's somebody else's turn to take on this voluntary role. You can't keep asking me to just continually be in poverty," he says.
Where's the money? While Gov. Gary Locke and the Republicans want to close the state's $2.4 billion deficit without raising taxes, members of the Legislature's Democratic leadership are still hoping to identify new sources of revenue. Most of the time, the Dems are tight-lipped about such ideas, since the word "tax" is not exactly an aphrodisiac in Olympia. But Rep. Jeff Gombosky, D-Spokane and chair of the Finance Committee, was pretty frank last week. He says the expansion of video slot machines won't fly, since it needs a 60 percent supermajority from both chambers. More likely on the gaming front, he believes, is an expansion of the Washington State Lotterya change that only requires a simple majority. The House D's are also considering another referendum, even after the gas tax expansion R-51 failed so miserably last November. This time, Gombosky and others want to ask the voters to pay for previously passed education initiatives mandating smaller classes and higher teacher pay.
After a year of limited coverage, you can look forward to reading more about the Northwest in The New York Times soon. That's because the paper is about to restaff its Seattle bureau. Replacing former bureau chief Sam Verhovek, who jumped ship to join the Los Angeles Times, is Sarah Kershaw, who currently works on the Times' New York metro desk.