Sound Transit blew out the stops with a weekend of parties celebrating the launch of its new $1.9 billion — under budget, ahead of schedule — light rail extension and UW and Capitol Hill stations. There was the giant party for VIPs and dignitaries. And a giant party on Capitol Hill and at Husky Stadium to celebrate the first passengers on the new line.
Now, at the prodding of an anti-Sound Transit group, the Seattle Times is making a big stink about the $858,379 price tag for the Capitol Hill party and the launch festivities:
In all, taxpayers spent $858,379 for Sound Transit’s March 19 grand-opening party for the Capitol Hill and UW stations. It was a big celebration. Some 30,000 people boarded trains there, to see how the UW connection could help them beat gridlock. Most of the money went to planning or logistics: crowd management ($209,436); police overtime ($29,520); and event management ($260,200), which included planning over the course of a year. An additional $130,198 was spent for an ad campaign on radio, the Web, print, billboards, movie screens and gas pumps.
Later in the article, the Times includes a nod to the huge early success for the new line. But it also tries to compare the Sound Transit parties to the WSDOT grand opening of the new 520 which, according to the Times, used corporate sponsorships to fund much of its celebrations. The Times ignores any costs involved in pitching, signing, and executing those sponsorship deals.
The newspaper also ignores its own part in the promotional costs of Sound Transit. According to the agency’s approved 2016 budget, the Times and all the TV and radio stations jumping on the party story will collect $1.8 million from Sound Transit this year. CHS will get a puny — but well-spent! — chunk of that.
Later this year, voters will decide on the $50 billion Sound Transit package. It’s a critical moment for Sound Transit — and, maybe, “the most important decision our generation will be asked to make.” Given the circumstances and the opportunity to showcase its achievements and win tons of free press, maybe Sound Transit should have spent even more on the party.
Frank, care to share how much Sound Transit has spent advertising with Times? Show you mine if you show me yours https://t.co/5FRqx78KNs
— jseattle (@jseattle) May 13, 2016