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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Nickels’s “Green” Hype

Posted by on September 27 at 15:17 PM

On Monday, as part of his annual budget speech, Mayor Greg Nickels pledged to make “the most significant investment in our environment upon which the city has ever embarked.” However, as I report in In the Hall this week, $13.3 million of Nickels’s $18.5 million proposal would come from the “Bridging the Gap” transportation levy, on the ballot this November—not the city budget. Of the remaining $5.2 million, more than half—$3 million—would pay for trees. I’m all for increasing the size of our urban forest (trees create cooling shade and eat global-warming gases, among other benefits), but watching Nickels brag incessantly about his commitment to the environment, while he simultaneously promotes an Alaskan Way tunnel with the capacity for 140,000 cars a day is like watching a fat man down a Big Mac and fries while bragging that he drinks Diet Coke. Nice sentiment, not much effect.

In related news, Nickels plans to unveil a strategy today to reduce Seattleites’ impact on the environment. According to the Seattle P-I, the $37 million, two-year plan relies almost exclusively on the Bridging the Gap, a ballot measure which will, if passed, provide $34 million toward the mayor’s goals. (Nickels’s plan also assumes passage of the county’s “Transit Now” ballot measure, which would pay for $10 million in new bus service a year.)

So is reducing Seattle’s emissions a good reason to vote for Bridging the Gap? Not really. The transportation levy that will go on the ballot would cost taxpayers $365 million over nine years. Of that, 65 percent will go toward repair and maintenance of roads, bridges and sidewalks; 10 percent will pay for “system enhancements”; and just a quarter will be spent on everything else, including “improvements for bikes, pedestrians and safety, and enhanced transit services.” That’s hardly an insignificant investment, but it’s nonetheless a small portion of the overall package, which is primarily dedicated to streets and bridges. A far more effective anti-global warming strategy would be reducing Seattleites’ dependence on cars, something the enormous, capacity-enhancing Alaskan Way tunnel does absolutely nothing to accomplish.


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I drive a hybrid car to buy groceries at Whole Foods. Our mayor is a big hypocrite who does nothing. Even my vactions are eco friendly. On the airplane I pack my own organic snacks.


My hybrid car even has a bike rack on it. If everyone would do as much as I am doing, there'd be no global warming.

So you're saying that we should not vote for "Bridging the Gap" initiative because the bulk of it go towards repairing and maintaining roads, bridges and sidewalks?

Why do you hate infrastructure?

"Ok ok, you can still have your bacon cheeseburger, but I'm going to put some veggies on your plate too, oh hun?"

The only effective weapon in getting people out of their cars in an American city is to make it absolutely insufferable to drive. Clearing up congestion is better for clean air, and adding bike lanes and alternive transit options is great for everyone - but it seems to only amount to a mentality that other people should be using these alternatives and it sure is sweet that there is less traffic right now while I'm driving.

Spend less than half the money on improvements and basic repairs - the roads to need to be safe and relatively pothole free, especially for motorcyclist and bicyclist - spend the rest on those "improvements for bikes, pedestrians and safety, and enhanced transit services".

So why has The Stranger gone silent on Seattle Weekly....is it because the new owners of the Weekly own the ad agency that controls The Stranger's ad dollars?

C'mon, Tim Keck, show some spine!

....we now return you to our regularly scheduled Stranger Staff self references......

So why has The Stranger gone silent on Seattle Weekly....is it because the new owners of the Weekly own the ad agency that controls The Stranger's ad dollars?

C'mon, Tim Keck, show some spine!

....we now return you to our regularly scheduled Stranger Staff self references......

I'm not sure these issues can even be coordinated at the municipal level when transportation systems and metropolitan areas are regional.

Anyway, it's hard to have a viable green agenda that refuses to challenge corporate power-- oil industry, suburban developers, auto manufacturers, urban polluters, etc. The CA state lawsuit against the auto industry is more on target.

What's the name of the Ad agency that controls The Stranger's Ad dollars. This is funny. Has Dan Savage willingly put on a muzzle just for his paycheck? Ha! Ha! Ha!


But please what's the name of the Ad agency?

Erica,

While you're still my favorite transportation reporter in the City, I feel I need to clear up a couple of mistakes in your opener.

The package reverses the funding disparity for non-motorized travel by dedicating an impressive 31% of the funds to bike and pedestrian projects. In 2008, $16 of $51.5 million is allocated to school-area safety construction, trail construction, bicycle safety projects and other spending areas.

In addition, one should take into account the Council resolution passed in August of this year – and the subsequent commitment from the Mayor’s senior staff to pursue and support a “Complete Streets” ordinance. The crux of which, that major street maintenance triggers automatic improvements for cycling, walking, transit and persons with disabilities means that every repaving dollar in the Levy is potentially significant for cycling as well.

Those deteriorating streets are the ones our members and constituents ride daily.

In short, the levy and the policy shifts attached to it have the potential to transform bicycling in Seattle over the coming decade.

David Hiller
Advocacy Director
Cascade Bicycle Club

Dear Huh?: Huh? Get a fucking clue. Then take it with you elsewhere.

Fnarf, someone posting that The Stranger is under an Ad agency owned by The Seattle Weekly folks. Is this true? If so what is the name of the agency?

@ Huh -

Stop being a lazy ass and do some damn homework. Start by checking out the masthead and writing some emails if it's that super important.

Right - the Council can't afford to fund basic maintenence out of the general fund budget where it should be paid for and want us to vote to increase property taxes to pay for basic services, but they intend take $30 million of the parking and business taxes they've imposed without a vote in order to start work on Paul Allen's $100 million plan to make Mercer a pretty boulevard for his new buildings.

There are lots of other reasons to vote no, but that's enough for me (btw - 31% of this DOES NOT go to bike and ped projects - about 18% does, with the remaining 15% earmarked for transit projects. Note, though, than unlike most bonds/levies, the project list is extremely vague. Can you say blank check?)

Napoleon:

No. That's not what I said. I said reducing emissions is not a good reason to vote for Bridging the Gap. Nowhere did I say people SHOULDN'T vote for Bridging the Gap - just that it's about infrastructure, not reducing emissions.

I'm not a fuckin' reporter. Someone from The Stranger already knows what advertising agency they are under and who owns it.


The Stranger writers always make people from the slog do their legwork for stories. Now someone from The Stranger can explain this whole ad agency thing.

What's going on here? Is Huh? today's Stephanie Pure? How about some courtesy from the Stranger staff and an answer to a reasonable question? Or is this like that question on what the Stranger pays its staffers?

"enormous, capacity-enhancing tunnel."

Funny. The rebuild crowd seems to think it's a capacity-reducing tunnel.

I guess whichever dishonest claim best supports your cause, huh?

Mr. X,

Quick history lesson, since you seem new to the issue:
In the wake of the passage of I-695 and I-747, Seattle’s dedicated transportation revenues fell 67%. As a result, the City’s maintenance backlog rose to nearly $500 million. Though the City TRIPLED its general-fund commitment to maintenance, the backlog remains. The State, for its part, did almost NOTHING to help municipalities deal with the fallout from the Eyeman innitiatives.

Next up, an arithmatic primer:
At a MINIMUM, $11.2 million is line itemed for non-motorized projects. $2.7 for sidewalks, trails, walkways and stairs AND $8.5 million for other pedestrian and bicycle projects. Into $51.5 million, that is 21.7%.

If you pull the remaining projects (all planned and available) - you'll find nearly $5 million in planned expenditures. This includes items such as restriping 5,000 crosswalks and pedestrian corridor improvements. Viola - 31%.

I spelled "arithmetic" incorrectly in my previous post. My apologies.

This is the same David Hiller who tells people to "stop talking out of their ass" when they support reasonable bike lanes--at a bike master plan meeting nonetheless.

What a professional.

Erica: "Nowhere did I say people SHOULDN'T vote for Bridging the Gap - just that it's about infrastructure, not reducing emissions."

No, you didn't literally tell anyone not to vote for the levy, although that would have been a refreshing display of backbone and candor. Instead, you fall back on cheap indirect rhetorical tactics, such as putting quotes around green and labeling the proposal "hype". Isn't there anyone at The Stranger who can teach you how to write?

All I know - and all that ultimately matters - is what the Ordinance says. Ordinance 122232 reads (in part) "...property taxes levied in 2006 through 2014 for collection in 2007 through 2015, respectively, solely for the purpose of raising up to $365,000,000 in aggregate over nine (9) years for transportation purposes...The City shall not levy more than $36,650,000 in the first year...The levy proceeds shall be used soley in accordance of the provisions of Section 6 and in accordance with RCW 84.55.050, and shall not supplant existing funds for these purposes. No Levy Proceeds shall be used to fund the major repair or replacement, including but not limited to replacement with a waterfront tunnel, of the Alaskan Way Viaduct or the seawall located to the west of Alaskan Way...For any year in which the City collects $1.5 million or more in levy proceeds, not less than $1.5 million of Levy Proceeds shall be appropriated for the Neighborhood Street Fund/Cumulative Reserve fund...and shall be used to fund the planning, design and construction of new facilities or major maintenance projects that enhance pedestrian mobility or safety...remaining Levy Proceeds shall be alocated on a cumulative basis as follows: 1. not less than 67% will be appropriated for maintenance 2. not less than 18% will be appropriated for Bicycle, Pedestrian, and Safety programs; and 3. no more than 15% will be appropriated for Enhanced Transit Services."

Now, I am assuming you are referring to a specific project list that is referenced as an attachment to Resolution 30915 - which is not available on the City website. In any event, it really isn't germaine to my argument, because resolutions are unenforceable.

So to review, $1.5 million for the CRF/NSF (a fine thing, in my view) is about 4% of the $36.5 million collected in the first year(s) of the levy. 18% of the remaining $35 or so million is designated for pedestrian and/or bike improvements, or about $6.3 million (although I'd look out for the word "safety" in that sentence - it could well be used to divert ped/bike funds into a road project), $5.25 million could go to "enhanced transit services" - and I don't see anything in that sentence that would, for just one obvious example, prevent additional City subsidies for the Allentown trolley. Then there's the remaining $23.4 million, which goes to road maintenance. Resolution project list notwithstanding - that's what they will be required to fund. Given the history of cost overruns on all public works projects (and the City is not alone in this), there is a strong likelihood that many listed projects will never be funded.

To your first point, it's interesting to note that Ordinane 122232 also states that "...the Washington Supreme Court in 1995 declared the City's residential street utility tax unconstitional, reducing revenue for transporation projects by $13 million per year; and voters statewide approved Initiative 776 in 2002, which eliminated the vehicle license fee that provided the City $5 million per year to the City for transportation purposes..." They do not cite the 1% limitation on automatice property tax increases that subsequently passed, so I can't tell you how much that cost annually off the top of my head.

I don't know if you were in Seattle in 1995, but the City had ample warning from the very outset that the Street Utility was unconstitutional - not least because the City's own utility commission told it so in urging against this tax - which the City later was forced to refund. The Eyman initiatives hurt, but the priorities of the City Government have been just as damaging (and last I checked, $13 million is more than double $5 million).

Since that time, we've built 3 stadiums, bought a skyscraper to serve as City Hall - and then decided that wasn't good enough and went ahead and built a second building quite costly building just for our electeds (and unlike us poor plebes in the neighborhoods where the City trying to force reductions in parking requirements, they also built a garage for themselves).

The day this tax was put on the ballot, the Council moved forward with an AWV tunnel proposal that no sane person thinks has a prayer of being funded (but which literally millions of City dollars have been spent to keep the study process moving forward). This same Council also wants to spend $100 million to turn Mercer Street into a two-way Champs Elysses for Paul Allen a few short years after they decided to live with the corridor as is and sold him the property. We don't get to vote on that, though, and the $30 million from the parking and business head taxes (not to mention the other $70 million that will eat up State and Federal funds) would be a lot better spent on projects such as the Spokane Street Viaduct or Magnolia Bridge. If the City can't make hard choices, voters will have to do it for them.

We are voting on a 9-year levy, not this year's Mayoral budget proposal. And to get back to the main point of ECB's post, this has little or nothing to do with the Kyoto Accords or reducing global warming.

Someone should call bullshit on Nickels and shame him in the international press for eating his Big Mac with a Diet Coke. I laughed a healthy amount of calories off when I read our great leader's idea of keeping face while continuing to fiercely promote the tired old tunnel that won't solve or help manage our traffic ills whatsoever. The rebuild and the tunnel will not solve our traffic woes and the amount of money that the leader's are talking about spending on it, is not worth the resources. I guess Seattle is his garden salad with way too much bleu cheese on it and more waiting on the side.

but watching Nickels brag incessantly about his commitment to the environment, while he simultaneously promotes an Alaskan Way tunnel with the capacity for 140,000 cars a day is like watching a fat man down a Big Mac and fries while bragging that he drinks Diet Coke. Nice sentiment, not much effect.

Which is appropriate given Nickels is a fat man.

That Greg Nickels--he's so fat!

Ha ha!

"This same Council also wants to spend $100 million to turn Mercer Street into a two-way Champs Elysses for Paul Allen a few short years after they decided to live with the corridor as is and sold him the property. We don't get to vote on that, though, and the $30 million from the parking and business head taxes (not to mention the other $70 million that will eat up State and Federal funds) would be a lot better spent on projects such as the Spokane Street Viaduct or Magnolia Bridge. If the City can't make hard choices, voters will have to do it for them"

Well said, Mr. X.,and I agree that the infrastructure problems Seattle is experiencing today are not entirely a result of the Enyman inititives (which the voters approved), but a scapegoat for a lack of political initiative and prioratization of financing choices. Odd isn't it, that it took over ten years for city government to realize there are infrastructure problems in this city....

Lastly the Mercer "mess" will always be the Mercer "mess" regardless how much money we throw at it. The problems with Mercer live at its I-5 exit and on-ramp. Until that is address, Mercer will always be the Mercer we love an know..Which frankly speaking, isn't really that bad.

The Mayor's proposal, once again, is all smoke and mirrors.

Great, the Mayor is trying to guilt-trip the voters into slapping more taxes on property owners. "Global warming . . . . bike lanes . . . do your part . . .."

The ordinance says: "and 3. no more than 15% will be appropriated for Enhanced Transit Services."

What is that a code word for?

If you look at the overall picture of transit funding around here, Sound Transit (Nickels big baby) is front and center. It is Hoovering up over $300,000,000 per year in taxes, and that number is growing quickly. There is no end in sight. And the direct and indirect benefits to our region can be best described as "of marginal utility." Cut back the taxes to that bloated, inefficient and disingenuous construct, and we'd have plenty of resources to allocate smartly.

I’d LOVE to hear Nickels explain why ST still makes sense, given how many billions more in taxes it will be hauling in compared with what the voters were told ten years ago. All he ever does now is push for new additional tax schemes that give his cadre piles of cash to dole out in patronage payoffs.

Hey Greg, why should we trust you this time?

well la di da....you drive a prius and shop at whole foods. aren't you incredible? and what did mommy and daddy do to give you that nice trust fund? rape the forests? or just oppress the workers? don't pat yourself on the back for shopping at whole foods -- you're just putting money in the pocket of the owner - a Bush backing anti-union Republican...

Here's another analogy: Watching Nickels brag about his green initiatives while pimping the tunnel is like watching the "reporter" who brags about scooping the "never-ending tax" while abandoning all journalistic objectivity to pimp her friend's political career and then threaten to remove any critical comments from a public forum.

It's pretty obvious to any thinking person that BOTH are full of shit and NEITHER should be trusted.

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