As a member of the museum-going public that SAM allegedly serves, I am sorely disappointed by the museum's unethical and exploitative response to one family's victimization by the Nazis ("SAM's Nazi Matisse," 9/3). I would also point out that the Matisse might not even exist were it not for the patronage of Mr. Rosenberg, and so SAM's current pretense for its actions (i.e., its "duty" as a public institution entrusted with stolen property) is especially inappropriate.
An art museum is a lofty ideal; it would be nice if SAM would apply a little more of that lofty idealism to this situation and do the right thing. I, for one, will be boycotting the museum until that happens.
Hitler's legacy is alive
Your story on the Seattle Art Museum's "Nazi Matisse" (9/3) shows that one of the forces that drove the Holocaust—human self-interest—is still alive and well. Hitler killed 6 million Jews with frightening efficiency, in large part because of the work of bureaucrats who were intent on advancing their careers and who used the "Jewish problem" as a springboard toward success. Doctors, lawyers, and workingmen who had lived perfectly normal lives before Hitler's rise came to devote their lives to the killing of Jewish families and the plundering of their wealth.
Hitler would be very happy to know that the Seattle Art Museum, by acting on the same primitive instinct of self-interest that drove the Holocaust, is denying a Jewish family the property that his bureaucrats stole from them a half-century ago. As it stands, the museum will likely keep Hitler's legacy alive into the next century.
Shame on SAM
The Seattle Art Museum's refusal to return the Matisse to its owners is infuriating ("SAM's Nazi Matisse," 9/3). This is the sad reaction of a museum with such a pathetic collection of European art it actually took out ads recently to boast of its acquisition of a second-rate "masterpiece."
SAM is dependent upon donations—donors have the power to withhold their money. I would encourage people to think twice before paying even admission fees to a museum that has the big bucks to pay big attorneys' fees.
SAM should be ashamed—absolutely ashamed. If it isn't, I certainly am for the stain of neo-Nazi materialism it is spreading across Seattle by allowing things to go so far that there is even a debate about what is the right thing to do in a case like this.
Julia C. Drebin
The wrong message
I am extremely disheartened to hear that an institution whose primary objective should be the education of the public would prove to be so interested in fiduciary matters ("SAM's Nazi Matisse," 9/3). Why does keeping stolen property seem a good idea if it benefits a museum, not an individual? If John Reed of Seattle's Davis Wright Tremaine law firm truly believes that SAM "has charge over a valuable asset which is used for education, scholarship, and delighting the public . . . " then perhaps he should also reflect on the message that SAM's stand is sending. I find no delight in the fact that our museum has stolen property and is intent on profiting from it, at the high cost to its rightful owners. It is no educational experience to view something in a museum that is part of a terrible legacy left by the Nazis. The only thing we are all learning is that SAM is behaving shamefully and contributing to a legacy of abuse that sadly continues today.
To clarify a few things James Bush was stating about off-leash areas ("Barking Up the Wrong Slope," 9/3), dog owners actually have sympathy for City Hall. The city has heard loud and clear from thousands of dog owners, residents of Capitol Hill, that keeping the existing off-leash area in Volunteer Park would be the least disruptive and intrusive choice. It's not visible from the street, is only a tiny part of a large park, does not border residences, has no conflicting uses, and has parking. While some grass has disappeared from the off-leash area, grass grows back.
City Hall is also hearing from a tiny but influential group affiliated with preserving the Olmsted legacy. The Olmsted brothers are long dead and can't comment on their disciples, but the general tone I've gotten is Olmsted parks are meant to look pretty, and that almost any activity, even walking on grass, tarnishes the Olmsted look. Most of the users of the existing site in Volunteer Park walk to it, and not only is the site a community gathering spot, but police statistics show that it also deters criminal activity. It's doubtful that Capitol Hill residents will make a pilgrimage to a site under the freeway or to a small paved site miles away. And the GAR cemetery site has thankfully been removed from consideration.
The most reasonable compromise would be to rotate the existing Volunteer Park site with the DOT property near the Arboretum. That way, the DOT property could be used as an off-leash area when people aren't sunning/picnicking (NovemberApril?) and the Volunteer Park site used the rest of the year. Dog owners would be giving up their beloved off-leash site for many months, sunbathers at the DOT site wouldn't be impacted, and the Volunteer Park site would be given a chance to rest and restore grass to please the Olmsted disciples. But don't count on this compromise happening simply because it's sensible and reasonable. If reason and sense played a big part in political decisions, very little attention would be paid to those who describe a bit of torn-up grass in an off-leash area as something akin to halfway houses for sexual predators or nuclear waste dumps.
Ira Sacharoff, chair
Citizens For Off-Leash Areas
Taking a toll
I read Eric Scigliano's "A Bridge Too Far" (9/3) on the WSDOT proposal for a second Narrows bridge—the last remaining project of the failed 1993 public/private initiatives in transportation program.
The Weekly did not discuss:
* Tolls are regressive taxes and evade the intent of Initiative 601.
* If the bridge is built, a private out-of-state contractor will have sole authority to set taxes (tolls) for 3050 years. Initial round-trip tolls are said to be $3—$1,560 per year for commuters in new taxes!
* Tolls must be subject to government oversight, public hearings, and review. If Washington state proceeds with toll financing of transportation infrastructure, the Legislature must first establish an independent Toll Bridge Authority, not attempt to delegate a basic government responsibility to a private contractor.
* The proposed SR-16 toll/tax rates will not be set until after the November 1998 public advisory vote.
We already have gas taxes, the motor vehicle excise tax, and Referendum 49 on the November ballot to finance transportation projects. Are tolls necessary?
Paul B. Demitriades
FYI on the DOT
Dear Mr. Sims: Your letter to the editor in the 9/3 Seattle Weekly articulately sets forth your position on traffic concurrency. (Also see "Stacking the Deck, Packing in Development," 7/30, and "The County's Fig Leaf," 8/6.) However, you made a few misstatements, one of which is very important for you to know about.
1) Mark Fefer heard the KCDOT direct testimony from Dick Etherington, not the appellant's testimony nor its cross-examination.
2) You are incorrect that KCDOT has responded to all requests. The Coalition for Political Trust says it has many requests that KCDOT is now refusing to comply with, in violation of the Public Disclosure Act.
3) Most important, you are incorrect when you write: "If the county believed a request was not pertinent to an appeal, it asked the hearing examiner to make that determination. . . ." This was true in the Greens appeal. However, in Cedar Cove, now in its discovery stages, KCDOT replied to appellant Craig Dickison's discovery request that most of his items (which KCDOT itemized) were not relevant and refused to turn over any data. KCDOT did not first make any motion to the hearing examiner in responding in this fashion. KCDOT is now arbitrarily and capriciously (and, I might add, without proper authority) making these determinations. This usurps the hearing examiner's authority and denies the appellant his due process.
Furthermore, KCDOT routinely delays responding to Freedom of Information Act requests for 35 days or more.
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