Monday, November 21, 2005

''Mayor Gridlock''

I finally decided to post this commentary by Josh Feit in The Stranger. Greg Nickels deserves every word. Tidbit:

"Mayor Nickels claimed he wanted to push an urban agenda: He was for density, development, and smart growth. He said he wanted to challenge a city that favors car-centric, quasi-suburban neighborhoods like Laurelhurst, Magnolia, and Green Lake with their single-family zoning and inaccessible grocery stores. But Nickels's claims were empty. This fall, Nickels decided to throw out elevated transit with the trash, revealing that, despite the big-city posturing, he's just a suburbanite at heart. Without keeping speedy, elevated transit in his equation for change, Nickels has negated any sense of an urbanist agenda.
Last summer, when the headlines got tough for the 14-mile monorail project—a project that urban-minded Nickels voters had approved four times—Nickels caved in to the shortsighted, anti-monorail hysteria, and came out against the project.

Nickels disingenuously claimed he wanted the people to get the final say, and he pushed the monorail to a fifth public vote. In addition to the fact that no mass transit project could ever survive a vote during the crisis phase that all transit projects face—when the realities of cost and route are generating negative headlines (can you imagine if light rail had been put to a vote just a few months after its initial plan came out?)—Nickels put a loaded and fundamentally dishonest question before the voters. From his bully pulpit, Nickels declared that the project's finance plan was unfair, and he said the agency's board had run amok. He then yanked the monorail's transit-way agreement. Then the mayor and his staff showed up at community meetings and campaigned against the monorail.

Nickels's bad faith on the issue became even clearer when he scoffed at a new-and-improved plan that the SMP crafted to address his objections. Instead of giving the new plan a chance, Nickels played to the public's bad mood over the infamous $11 billion plan that, in fact, the SMP board had voted down several months earlier. Here's what the SMP came back with for the voters: Recognizing that the public had lost faith in the board, the new plan proposed making five of the nine board seats elected. (Two others would be appointed by the mayor himself.) As for the finances, the board proposed a $3.9-to-$4.9 billion project (not $11 billion), for a West Seattle through downtown to Interbay line. It would cost the average car owner just $10.83 a month. In the SMP's progressive tax plan, 20 percent of the people—the owners of expensive cars—would have produced more than half the revenue for a crucial mass transit project. Eighty percent of Seattle residents would have paid between $0 and $200 a year for the system—a system that would have linked up with the Eastside's light rail, greatly enhancing both systems' ridership numbers. The monorail itself was slated to serve 42,000 riders a day by 2010 (57,000 by 2030), with trains arriving at stations every six minutes."

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