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Mayor Greg Nickels and Seattle City Council member Richard Conlin announced this morning they’re pulling the proposal to build a 19-acre waste transfer station south of Georgetown's commercial district on Airport Way.
Instead, they’ll fix up the two existing trash transfer and compaction facilities in Wallingford and South Park. The news comes in conjunction with Conlin’s introduction of a new “zero waste” strategy that aims to reduce the amount of city garbage sent to landfills while increasing Seattle’s recycling rate.
Asked how he was able to pull this off, (Nickels isn't known for backing down, and he’d been pushing the third facility for years) Conlin says the bottom line was that the council was behind him— the mayor simply didn’t have the votes. “It was an act of realism on the [council’s] part,” Conlin says. “Deciding on whether to have a third facility was not an ideological test, it was a matter of what is the practical thing to do.”
Conlin adds that he was methodical in his research and dialogue with the neighborhood. “That’s essentially how we were able to turn this around,” he says. “There’s a couple of ways you can do politics. One way is you can keep confronting each other until somebody blinks. I don’t find that particularly useful. The other way is to work together so that everyone understands the criteria you’re using and then you can find a way to work though these things.”
Georgetown Merchants Association Chairwoman Kathy Nyland, who’s spent day and night on this thing, says she feels a little numb. “You hope for something for so long that when it happens, you’re like wow. I know it’s going to hit me, I just don’t know when it’s going it hit me,” she says. “It's exactly what we wanted. We wanted to change policy and have them go in a different direction.”
Credit the neighborhood residents and business owners for their foresight in seeing zero waste as their ticket out of becoming the city’s trash connection. Credit Conlin for his systematic approach— and for picking up the torch.
Georgetown’s been granted a reprieve, the elbow room they’ve been fighting for. Let’s see what they can do with it.