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Makeup of Pierce Transit board changing, favoring smaller cities

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on April 19, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
April 19, 2012 1:05 pm

Pierce Transit’s governing board is changing shape after the agency shrank its taxing district. And the biggest governments are ceding some influence to smaller cities.

Six members of the nine-member board are Tacoma residents. When it changes to a new composition May 8, no more than four will hail from the county’s biggest city.

Local officials hashed out changes to the board last week, at a meeting where each of the government jurisdictions that remain in Pierce Transit had one vote — giving smaller jurisdictions a bigger say. The group decided to take one seat each away from Tacoma and Pierce County.

Each had three seats before, and Pierce County’s representatives tend to come from Tacoma.

“You want to make sure you’re reaching out to as much of the area as possible,” said Gig Harbor City Councilman Derek Young. Though he said the group ended up going farther than he wanted to spread out the board makeup, “It could actually help make sure everyone in the district feels well served and well represented. I think there’s a been a bit of, maybe, mistrust in how the governance of Pierce Transit worked in the past.”

Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland told City Council members this week she opposed the change at the meeting but is “in full support of it” now that it is a done deal.

Puyallup and University Place each will get their own seat instead of taking turns. And the smallest cities will get two rotating seats instead of one, with Edgewood, Fife and Milton claiming one seat and the rest splitting the other.

Here’s how the board will look:
  • Pierce County: 2 seats
  • Tacoma: 2
  • Lakewood: 1
  • Puyallup: 1
  • University Place: 1
  • Edgewood/Fife/Milton (elected for three-year terms): 1
  • All other small cities: (elected for three-year terms): 1
  • Union representative (non-voting): 1

Tacoma City Councilman Ryan Mello suggested the Legislature might need to step in to impose more proportional representation by population.

Young said he’d love to see lawmakers take another look at the whole process of redrawing transit boundaries. For example, he said, any city could opt out, even if it left a neighbor as an “island” that doesn’t link up well with the rest of Pierce Transit’s coverage.

Pierce Transit’s boundaries were redrawn March 8 to reduce its taxing and service district by more than 200 square miles and 200,000 people by excluding Sumner, Orting, Bonney Lake, Buckley, DuPont and some unincorporated areas.

The changes came after the agency cut bus service to short up its budget, leaving some communities with little or no service and wanting out of paying taxes. By excluding areas where support for more taxes was lower, Pierce Transit may also have a better chance of winning voters’ endorsements of tax increases.

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