Seattle residents are exhibiting their traditional fear of world-class again, as the city’s plan for the Washington Park Arboretum makes its tortured way through the public process. It’s easy to see why some are frightened by the city’s plan to create yet another world-class facility—after all, the two-part definition of the term in Seattle-speak is 1) expensive, and 2) designed for tourists, not the local public.
The Seattle Parks Department kicked off a series of workshops on the arboretum plan last Thursday with some of those small-group discussions everyone loves so much. Present were many of the founders of the Arboretum Park Preservation Coalition, an organization of 14 community groups opposing elements of the plan. The Parks Department had originally planned to farm out the workshops to the Portico Group—the firm that designed the arboretum plan—but backed off after the coalition rightly pointed out that such an interested party couldn’t reasonably function as an unbiased facilitator.
The next two arboretum-plan workshops (all held in the Alki Room, Seattle Center Northwest Rooms, at 7pm) are set for November 19 and December 10.
Donaldson won’t run again
Council president Sue Donaldson announced to supporters and friends last week that she will not seek re-election to her council seat, thereby kicking off speculation over the 1999 election several months early. A short list of possible hopefuls for the newly created open seat: former council candidates Aaron Ostrom and Thomas Goldstein, exstate legislator Dawn Mason, and, the man himself, former council member Charlie Chong. Only eight and a half months ’til sign-ups!
Schell dissolves task force
On November 4, when Paul Schell became the first Seattle mayor to appear before the city’s Ethics and Election Commission, he brought along surprising news: He’s closing shop on his task-force review of the city’s ethics regulations. Schell and Seattle City Council president Sue Donaldson told commission members that they intend to conduct their own review and propose code
revisions within two to three months.
“We thought it better to acknowledge that the process is flawed,” said Schell, who called the City Council “the proper forum for that civic debate.” The mayor and council president were accompanied by a clutch of city-employee union leaders, most of whom expressed their support for working men and women by sitting in the audience and looking bored.
While Schell’s monologue was fairly expansive (he read all of a three-page prepared statement and spoke with commissioners for another 20 minutes), several commissioners still seemed confused about what specific problems his proposed changes would address. “The concerns to which you’ve alluded have been, from the outset, amorphous,” noted Commissioner Paul Dayton. Although Schell cited Seattle regulations as banning even the appearance of a conflict of interest (and therefore imposing a tougher standard than other governmental entities), several commissioners responded that the appearance standard is only used to justify investigations and that actual citations are saved for when an actual conflict is proven.
Schell’s decision to jettison the struggling task force is probably the first good idea associated with this ill-advised and poorly implemented review process. He shouldn’t be counting on overwhelming legislative support for his effort to change the ethics code, however. The day after the mayor’s announcement, council member Nick Licata issued a statement in support of retaining the current code provisions. Other council members have privately expressed reservations about making changes, especially given the awkwardness of the process so far.
Tierney’s quick change
Former Norm Rice administration official Tom Tierney has been a temporary employee of the mayor’s office, charged with supervising the library bond issue. The ballot issue was approved by voters the evening of November 3; the following morning, it was announced that Tierney would take over as the Port of Seattle’s chief administrative officer (the job formerly held by current Deputy Mayor Maud Daudon).
It’s a good move for Tierney, who was briefly a mayoral candidate himself last fall, before dropping out of the race for health reasons. It’s perhaps not such a good move for Schell, whose management team loses a respected City Hall pro.
By any other name
The $196 million bond measure approved by voters to build and renovate Seattle libraries will be monitored by a Citizen Implementation Review Panel. Beyond having a really hip name, says sponsor Nick Licata, this group is considered an improvement on the typical ballot issue oversight committee, as members are not appointed directly by the City Council. Six members of the 13-member panel will be appointed by the City Neighborhood Council (composed of the chairs of the 13 neighborhood district councils), another six will be appointed by the
library board, with the final member appointed by the first 12.
Preaching by the choir
The concept of crediting voters pamphlet statements to several authors is nothing new, although supporters of the Seattle library bond issue took it to new heights. This year’s “pro” statement consisted of short quotes, each signed by two authors. Did it take both of those geniuses to write a couple of sentences?
The ever-alert “no” voters couldn’t help but start their rebuttal with a question: “How is that direct, verbatim quotes come out of the mouth of two people simultaneously? It’s the choir singing on cue.”
The view from suburbia
County Council member Dwight Pelz announced the results of a study last week on the siting of human services in King County. The study showed that 90 percent of the county’s emergency shelter beds and 72 percent of its subsidized housing units are within the city of Seattle. (Many of these facilities have also been paid for with city funds.) If Pelz was hoping to shame slacker suburbanites into contributing to solutions for these social problems, it doesn’t seem to be working. The Suburban Cities Association recently broke off talks with Seattle and the county about paying their fair share of regional costs. Let ’em sleep in the greenbelts.