(Page 2 of 2)
After the press event, seattlepi.com political columnist Joel Connelly laid out in devastating detail how the city and its own legislative representatives are doing quite a job of alienating the Eastside and its lawmakers in Olympia, who vote on matters affecting the city. As Connelly noted, a bill making progress through the Senate, SB 6366, would weaken cities' authority over permitting of major state transportation projects within their boundaries. Target: Seattle, of course.
While McGinn, as mayor, makes a big target for those angry about the press event, there is the reality that he is the newest actor in the group. A new mayor can hardly be held seriously accountable for building the political habits, processes, and whatever else lie behind Seattle's history of delays, indecision, and mixed messages on projects at home and in the region.
But there is an awkward inconsistency, which won't be missed on the Eastside, between McGinn's urgency about repairing the earthquake-endangered Seattle waterfront seawall and his urging of still more studies and returns to the drawing boards on how to handle the earthquake- and windstorm-prone 520 bridge. And the juxtaposition fits the larger narrative of a big city supposedly acting like a little, spoiled kid.
While Seattle leaders are framing their latest position as a matter of good judgment about the future, they can't expect anything but a good argument from the Eastside, the state and even businesses and institutions in the city. At a press event Thursday to urge moving ahead with the state's plan, the Greater Seattle Chamber of Seattle and the King County Labor Council lined up with the Bellevue City Council. Indeed, seattlepi.com reported City Council President Richard Conlin (hardly lacking in progressive credentials himself) and four other council members were there to say they support the HOV lanes as part of the plan, while also saying the city's concerns about the west end of the project need to be resolved. The Northwest Progressive Institute says building HOV lanes to encourage car-pooling now is compatible with adding light-rail tracks later when funding becomes available.
Despite all the posturing and playing to key constituencies, the differences between the city and the state aren't that great in the whole scope of the project. Perhaps there is indeed a place in the middle of the bridge for everyone to meet. But with incumbents running scared in this populist political climate, they will be tempted to avoid coming down on either side of the issue before the fall election, kicking the decision can down the road one more time. The debate's only been going on for a decade, after all.
Like what you just read? Support high quality local journalism. Become a member of Crosscut today!