City Nickels’s “Green” Hype
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.