Makeup of Pierce Transit board changing, favoring smaller cities
Pierce Transit’s governing board is changing shape – and the biggest governments are ceding some influence to smaller cities.
Six members on the nine-member board are now Tacoma residents. When the board changes to a new composition May 8, no more than four will hail from the county’s biggest city.
The overhaul, decided last week, follows the agency’s move in March to shrink its taxing district.
Each of the government jurisdictions that remain in Pierce Transit had one vote on the board changes, giving smaller jurisdictions a bigger say in the decision.
The group decided to take one seat each away from Tacoma and Pierce County. Each had three seats before, with Tacoma usually getting an even bigger share since Pierce County’s representatives tend to live in the city.
“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 Young said the group ended up going farther than he wanted, “It could actually help make sure everyone in the district feels well-served and well-represented. I think there’s been a bit of, maybe, mistrust in how the governance of Pierce Transit worked in the past.”
Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland told her 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 sharing one. And the smallest cities will get two instead of one, with Edgewood, Fife and Milton claiming one seat and the rest – Steilacoom, Gig Harbor, Pacific, Fircrest, Auburn, Ruston – splitting the other.
Here’s how the board will look:
• Pierce County: 2 seats
• Tacoma: 2
• Lakewood: 1
• Puyallup: 1
• University Place: 1
• All other small cities: 1
The board also will continue to have a nonvoting union representative.
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, current state law allows any city to opt out, even if the departure 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 shore up its budget, leaving some communities with little or no service and wanting out of paying taxes. By excluding areas where support for additional taxes was lower, Pierce Transit also may have a better chance of winning voters’ endorsements of tax increases.
Jordan Schrader: 360-786-1826 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/politics