Everett, CT spar over poll debacle

By WARREN CORNWALL

Herald Writer

A poll by the city of Everett is threatening to shatter the fragile peace between city leaders and Community Transit.

The poll about the future of city and county bus systems, and its release to the press, provoked angry charges from CT’s chief that the city had gone behind the county bus agency’s back and that the city was trying to influence public opinion.

"We made some agreements about how we were going to proceed, and then they didn’t live up to it," said Joyce Olson, CT’s executive director.

City executive director Don Hale, however, defended the $30,000 poll as an effort to learn what Everett voters think as city officials contemplate transit’s future. He dismissed Olson’s claim that the city had broken earlier promises of cooperation with CT.

"That’s totally not true," he said.

The dispute comes at a sensitive time in the long and often stormy relationship between the two governments.

After more than two decades of efforts by CT to take over the city’s bus service, the two sides in June agreed to study ways to work together more closely.

As part of that deal, the parties agreed to exchange directions to separate consultants examining the two systems, share the consultants’ findings and check with each other before talking with the media, Olson said.

In the case of the poll, however, Olson said she didn’t learn of it until a CT employee’s mother reported getting a call from the pollsters. The transit agency then filed a public record request with the city. On Monday, the city responded by sending the poll to CT, as well as The Herald and four other media outlets.

"That doesn’t sound like an agency that really wants to sit down and talk about a positive solution to this issue," Olson said.

Hale, however, said the poll was outside any deal with CT. It was simply aimed at helping city officials gauge Everett voters’ opinions, he said.

"I think this type of an issue was not on the table at all," he said.

The two sides also disagreed over what the poll results mean.

Hale said the findings confirm local leaders’ concerns that combining the two bus systems could raise Everett’s sales tax and threaten local control.

The telephone poll of 500 likely Everett voters found that 41 percent of people thought a merger was a good idea, compared with 33 percent who thought it was a bad idea. Nearly 50 percent said they would at least lean toward voting for a merger, while 39 percent went the other way.

That changed, however, when people learned a merger would double the city’s transit sales tax from three-tenths of a penny to six-tenths, with a possible later increase to nine-tenths. The vote switched to 30 percent on the favorable side, and 60 percent at least leaning toward voting against the merger.

"Obviously taxpayers are sensitive about increases in taxes," Hale said.

That negative response was repeated almost exactly when people were asked whether they would support the merger if "the additional sales taxes would be used to restore service outside of Everett rather than increasing service in Everett."

Hale said that, and responses to several other questions, showed people’s concerns about handing over control to an agency with leadership outside the city.

Olson, however, charged that some of the poll’s questions steered people to reject the merger by focusing on potentially negative results.

"What the poll was doing was trying to form their opinions, not find out facts," she said.

As an example, Olson pointed to the question stating the added sales tax wouldn’t by used to increase service in Everett.

"Clearly we would not do that; we would improve service," she said.

Olson also pulled some support for her position from the poll, noting that people generally favored improved efficiency and savings by combining the two agencies. Community Transit has long argued the two could save money by combining and getting rid of duplicate bus routes and services.

Don McDonough, a partner at the survey firm that conducted the poll, Evans/McDonough Research Co., defended the polling questions. They were designed to test people’s responses to different ideas and to facts, he said.

"At no part of the survey was it designed to ask questions that would lower opinions of Community Transit," he said.

In the wake of the polling furor, Olson said she still hoped the two sides could look at the reports and figure out a way to work together.

But she sounded doubtful.

"It doesn’t look very promising for our negotiations, and that’s too bad," she said.

Hale said the poll results will help guide city decisions about whether to pursue combining with CT. Did he think it signaled Everett voters would be willing to approve the merger?

"The answer would probably be no," he said.

The complete text of the poll questions, and the results, will be available at www.heraldnet.com at 8 a.m. today.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Kim Skarda points at her home on a map on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Concrete, Washington. A community called Sauk River Estates has a very steep slope above it. There is a DNR-approved timber sale that boarders the estate properties, yet they were not consulted about the sale before approval. The community has already appealed the sale and has hired their own geologist to conduct a slope stability report at the site. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Beneath steep slope, Concrete neighbors fear landslides from logging above

Nielsen Brothers plans to cut 54 acres of timber directly behind the community of 83 homes. Locals said they were never consulted.

Law enforcement respond to a person hit by a train near the Port of Everett Mount Baker Terminal on Thursday, June 27, 2024 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
2 killed in waterfront train crashes were near Mukilteo ‘quiet zone’

In June, two people were hit by trains on separate days near Mukilteo Boulevard. “These situations are incredibly tragic,” Everett’s mayor said.

Rob Plotnikoff takes a measurement as a part of the county's State of Our Waters survey at Tambark Creek in Bothell, Washington on Monday, July 1, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Snohomish County stream team bushwhacks a path to healthier waterways

This summer, the crew of three will survey 40 sites for the State of Our Waters program. It’s science in locals’ backyards.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
4th suspect arrested after Mountlake Terrace home robbery

Police arrested Taievion Rogers, 19, on Tuesday. Prosecutors charged his three alleged accomplices in April.

A 10 acre parcel off of Highway 99, between 240th and 242nd Street Southwest that the city of Edmonds is currently in the process of acquiring on Monday, July 10, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edmonds ditches $37M Landmark public park project off Highway 99

The previous mayor envisioned parks and more in south Edmonds, in a historically neglected area. The new administration is battling budget woes.

Edmonds school official sworn in as Mount Vernon supe

Victor Vergara took his oath of office last week. He was assistant superintendent of equity and student success in Edmonds.

President Joe Biden speaks at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, in Greensboro, N.C., on April 14, 2022. Biden plans to nominate Michael Barr  to be the Federal Reserve's vice chairman of supervision. The selection of Barr comes after Biden's first choice for the Fed post, Sarah Bloom Raskin, withdrew her nomination a month ago (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Washington Democrats voice support for Biden’s decision to drop out of presidential race

Some quickly endorsed Vice President Kamala Harris to replace him on the ballot.

Everett
Teenager in stable condition after Everett drive-by shooting Saturday

Major Crime Unit detectives were looking for two suspects believed to have shot the teenager in the 600 block of 124th Street SW.

Miners Complex tops 500 acres in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

Nine lightning-caused fires force trail closures and warnings 21 miles east of Darrington. No homes are threatened.

FILE — President Joe Biden arrives for a Medal of Honor ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, July 3, 2024. Biden abandoned his campaign for a second term under intense pressure from fellow Democrats on Sunday, July 21, upending the race for the White House in a dramatic last-minute bid to find a new candidate who can stop former President Donald Trump from returning to the White House. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)
Biden drops out of race, endorses vice president Kamala Harris

The president announced the decision on social media Sunday.

A Mukilteo firefighter waves out of a fire truck. (Photo provided by Mukilteo Fire Department)
Mukilteo levy lid lift will hike average tax bill about $180 more a year

The lift will fund six more workers, ambulances, equipment and medical supplies. Opponents call it unnecessary.

Doug Ewing looks out over a small section of the Snohomish River that he has been keeping clean for the last ten years on Thursday, May 19, 2022, at the Oscar Hoover Water Access Site in Snohomish, Washington. Ewing scours the shorelines and dives into the depths of the river in search of trash left by visitors, and has removed 59 truckloads of litter from the quarter-mile stretch over the past decade. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
If Snohomish River campaign passes, polluters could be held accountable

This summer, a committee spearheaded efforts to grant legal rights to the river. Leaders gathered 1,300 signatures.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.