I’ve gotta differ with my distinguished colleagues who’ve assailed the canonization of the late Seattle Schools super John Stanford. What’s so terrible about a little myth-making? Stanford worship isn’t just media hype, egregious though that hype has been; the guy inspired district members, from principals to kindergartners, while he was alive, and it’s only right he continue to do so now. So what if he wasn’t really a saint and didn’t complete half of what he proposed? We forget the faults and failings of Lincoln, Gandhi, and King and aspire to their examples. No, Stanford wasn’t in their class, but who is? Yes, he was a fluke, a rookie who started at the top. But that was a welcome shake-up of the ossified education establishment. And yes, he just played the cards he was dealt when he got sick. But he played them with grace, consoling to others who got the same lousy hand.
Demoralized, disregarded, underfunded—public education deserves its heroes too. And we needn’t any longer fret about Stanford getting a free ride. He’s past caring. So make the best of his memory.
Where the train takes us
This season’s boldest euphemizing lies in the preliminary light-rail plan Sound Transit released December 4: Running trains down the middle of MLK Jr. Way (rather than in a tunnel, as residents urge, or on elevated tracks) “would be an attractive and efficient way to provide regional mobility and community development opportunities.” Translation: It’s the cheapest way through the Rainier Valley, with perks to compensate for noise, traffic blockage, pedestrian hazards, and condemnations.
Small wonder that visions of urban removal dance through Valley residents’ minds, when they hear that this will swallow up to 107 private properties and encroach on up to 232 more. Then they look at the ever-more-favored North End, where Sound Transit will dig nice, tidy tunnels. North End residents will nevertheless squawk at elevating a short, relatively unobtrusive stretch from NE 65th. And Tukwila howls at the decision to bypass Southcenter.
Is all this blind discrimination or blatant blundering? No, just arguable trade-offs: MLK Way’s terrain, width, and use do make it less bad than other segments for surface rail, and Southcenter would await a later rail line. Such ugly trade-offs result from the initial choice of light rail rather than other more advanced transit modes. And they point up some oft-forgotten basic facts. This is not a rail “system” we’re getting for $2 billion-plus; it’s a rail line, a down payment on a bigger system. Rail forces us to choose awkward at-grade or costly tunneling; consider the third alternative—elevated lines—and automated monorail costs less and makes more sense.