Secret negotiations! Sweetheart deals! Broken campaign promises and developer giveaways!
Those are some of the accusations that flew over Mayor Greg Nickels' plans to "unleash" a redevelopment scheme that would expand Northgate Mall, build a retention pond for polluted storm water on land owned by mall developer Simon Properties, and likely halt the daylighting of Thornton Creek. Seattle City Council member Richard Conlin was incensed by the proposal, which hinges on the council's willingness to lift development restrictions designed to make Northgate greener and more pedestrian-friendly, and said he was seeking a legal opinion on whether the mayor could make the development plan contingent on a change in the law. He says the proposalin addition to lifting what Nickels spokesperson Marianne Bichsel calls "onerous" development restrictionswould give Simon every imaginable concession while doing nothing for neighbors who've opposed the mall developer's plans.
Meanwhile, the mayor stepped up his PR effort to sell his plan to the community, placing 50,000 automated calls to citizens and mailing 20,000 to 30,000 flyers promoting the plan, at an estimated cost of about $8,000. Seattle Ethics and Elections director Terry Thomas says the city-funded mailings don't appear to violate the city's ethics law. But Conlin calls the mailing a "shaky use of public resources." Will the City Council approve the plan? "I wouldn't bet on that," Conlin says.
Did a harshly worded letter from Washington state Treasurer Michael Murphy influence the Seattle Popular Monorail Authority's decision to forgo selling bonds? Some suggest the timing of the decisionthe night of March 5, the same day executive director Joel Horn received a letter from Murphy warning that a large and early bond sale might "reflect negatively" on both the authority and the state as a wholeindicates the letter was a deciding factor.
SPMA finance director Daniel Malarkey says that while the agency "listened" to the treasurerwho also called the agency's planned approach "risky and ill-advised"the real reason for the abrupt change of course was that new board member Richard Stevenson questioned the need to sell bonds now, and the agency decided interest rates might not go up quite as fast as they expected. Quite a turnaround, especially considering that just the week before the decision, board chair Tom Weeks had predicted rates would go up.
You can't get away from war talk, even at the library. Last Saturday, National Public Radio's Weekend Edition host Scott Simon keynoted at the King County Library Foundation's annual "Literary Lions" banquet. After acknowledging that he might offend sensibilities out here in Left Coast "Seattle," Simon delivered an impassioned and, in trademark fashion, both eloquent and mawkish speech for war in Iraq. Many attendees looked stunned; a few glowered and sat on their hands; but most stood and applauded. Another guest of honor, anti-war Congressman Jim McDermott, sat silent in the back.