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Monday, October 16, 2006

Greg Nickels Cares What People Think. Just Not This Time.

posted by on October 16 at 13:11 PM

Mayor Nickels told the Seattle Times today that anything less than a cut-and-cover tunnel replacement for the Alaskan Way Viaduct would be “unacceptable.” His statements came in response to a new Times poll showing that voters overwhelmingly support rebuilding the viaduct, by a margin of two to one.

As Stranger and Slog readers know, I’m no supporter of rebuilding the viaduct. However, isn’t this the same mayor who called vociferously for a vote on the monorail (money quote: “Give the voters a say in this matter”), and then supported killing the project after it lost its fifth and final vote? The people have spoken on the viaduct too, but Nickels only listens when he likes what they’re saying.

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March 9, 2006 Seattle Times headline:

“Nickels supports public vote on viaduct”

Posted by B | October 16, 2006 1:11 PM

While Nickels definitely seems to be a hypocrite, and I guess that's the point you all are making, I'm glad that we don't make these decisions by pure majority vote, because I don't see the point of rebuilding the viaduct.

Posted by Gabriel | October 16, 2006 1:15 PM

Greg Nickels in today's Seattle Times: Nickels vowed to keep fighting for a tunnel, calling a new viaduct "unacceptable." ... Nickels said Saturday that the surface option is his preferred fallback plan.

Erica on what Nickels told The Seattle Times: Mayor Nickels told the Seattle Times today that anything less than a cut-and-cover tunnel replacement for the Alaskan Way Viaduct would be “unacceptable.”

Hmm, it's one thing for a journalist to misrepresent a public figure. It's a whole 'nuther thing for a journalist to misrepresent another media outlet's story on a public figure -- a story which anyone can look up to see the misrepresentation for themselves. Erica, I'm just curious, why do you see the need to distort what Greg Nickels has to say? If it's to show he's a hypocrite -- well, no kidding, you can do that without having to lie yourself.

Posted by cressona | October 16, 2006 1:25 PM

Of course, the Governor could just say "Sorry, if you insist on wanting to waste taxpayer dollars without a public vote, dude, you're getting an elevated viaduct rebuilt to modern earthquake standards."

Given the recent news from Hawaii, that might not be a bad idea.

Posted by Will in Seattle | October 16, 2006 1:37 PM

Mickels only likes to listen to the people when they say what he wants to hear? Maybe he has more in common with Chicago's mayors Daley than my brother would like to admit.


Posted by bill | October 16, 2006 1:43 PM

I miss New York.

Posted by golob | October 16, 2006 1:44 PM

Actually, Erica's dishonest accounting of Nickels' statements provides the perfect example of the kind of self-destructive infighting that plagues the environmentalist "community" in this region. Light rail vs. monorail. Tunnel vs. surface route. Might as well be Sunni vs. Shi'ite.

What's so striking is that the real animosity and vengefulness is reserved not for the Kemper Freemans and Tim Eymans of the world but rather for one's fellow transit/density supporters who are on the other side of the given religious divide.

To use another analogy, it's a bit like two bull elks battling each other for leadership of the herd at the same time that wolves are attacking the herd. I'm sure there's a really deep psychological or sociological explanation for this...

Posted by cressona | October 16, 2006 1:44 PM

Pure and simple, Nickels can not be trusted on transportation projects. He turns into a freaking menace to society when he starts off on one of his periodic transportation infrastructure benders.

He was finance chair of Sound Transit when the financial policies of that mess were formed – now ST’s finances are a black hole. Anybody think they know how much tax ST intends to rake in to construct (what’s left of) the system promised in 1996? I didn’t think so. Nickels followed that up by signing the “Statement For” the SMP in the 2002 Voters Guide. Up until the bitter end he said the financing for that abject failure was well in hand. It was only when that project was on its deathbed that he called on the SMP board to fall on its sword by putting that final ballot measure before the voters. Nickels’ backing of SMP caused $130,000,000 of Seattle taxpayers’ money to be WASTED. Then Nickels wanted neverending taxes for the City for a bunch of vague projects (the bastard child of that tax grab attempt will be on the ballot this November).

Nickels is holding out for the tunnel, despite numerous reasons why spending that money elsewhere would be in this region’s best interests (SR 520 costs being one example). Why would anybody think he knows what is good for us? Look at this guy’s track record! He gets off on one thing: locking in taxes in perpetuity. He’s going to be pushing up daisies and our childrens’ children will be going “WTF was up with that clown – we’re still paying for his visions.” The Nickels legacy will be staggering mounds of municipal debt for no good reason.

I’m the first to agree with the proposition that we are not now where we should be in terms of enlightened transportation policies or mass transit. But – and I mean this most sincerely – resist anything Greg Nickels advocates for in terms of transportation “solutions.” Time and again he has proven himself an absolute clod in that arena.

Posted by Ron Wood | October 16, 2006 1:53 PM

i agree, cressona. we have a mayor taking a pretty bold stand against his constituents in saying "no new viaduct" -- and while he supports the tunnel, he even says the surface option is his fall-back position. and yet the stranger treats him with exactly the kind of contempt i'd think they'd reserve for a politician in favor of building a new viaduct. i don't get it.

Posted by cite | October 16, 2006 1:59 PM


Stop flailing so hard, you're going to hurt yourself.

Nickels sees a poll result that any rational human being (let alone professional politician) would regard as crushing and vows to keep fighting for a $5= billion tunnel that only 25% of Seattle voters support, and you say Erica misrepresents his position because she doesn't quote from the Times verbatim (ie - that Nickels' fallback is now a surface replacement)? Which part of "vowing to keep fighting for the tunnel" didn't you understand?

It is exactly this kind of divorced-from-reality fiscally irresponsible bullshit that keeps the Eymans of the world relevent - it's pretty easy to run against Seattle liberals when they display a level of bloody-mindedness that boarders on the delusional.

I don't think too many electeds are going to spend a lot of time worrying what the 15% of the voters who would tear down the AWV without replacing it think, either.

Posted by Mr. X | October 16, 2006 2:03 PM

...oops, + and borders...

Posted by Mr. X | October 16, 2006 2:04 PM

I suggest a public poll asking:

Q: In the event that Seattle suffers a massive earthquake, would you rather have a few billion dollars tax dollars on hand for disaster relief, or would you rather have had those billions of tax dollars already spent on a tunnel for the downtown waterfront?

Before answering, keep in mind that the current viaduct would collapse in the massive earthquake and perhaps kill dozens of drivers.

Posted by Slip Mahoney | October 16, 2006 2:07 PM

I must say, after visiting Boston (strictly as a pedestrian) the Big Dig does make the city more pleasant to walk through. Of course, those tunnels were paid for largely by federal funding.

Until a significant change in the leadership and finances of the other Washington, any large and expensive public works project is pretty untenable. Remember, our tax dollars go to subsidize the red-state bridges to nowhere (hello Alaska), leaving less of a tax base to handle our needs.

And I am with Cressona to the extent that pro-urban types should band together and recognize our common interests. The fight for a better Seattle waterfront while retaining traffic capacity was lost in the 2000, 2002 and 2004 federal elections. A good thing to remember, given what is coming in a few weeks.

Posted by golob | October 16, 2006 2:14 PM

damnit, cressonna, it was possible to be in favor of BOTH light rail and monorail. just because you wish the monorail had survived doesn't mean that you feel ill-will towards light rail. where the hell did you get that?

on the other hand, from an environmentalist's perspective, there IS a difference between the tunnel & surface options.

and i'm sure if you asked sunnis and shi'ites, they'd explain to you the differences between those two forms of islam.

i think you missed the point of ECB's post. plus, i don't think her paraphrasing was nearly as egregious as you'd make it out to be.

Posted by Ginger | October 16, 2006 2:24 PM

Voters don't know what they're talking about. They're not engineers, they're not experts on city/regional traffic patterns, and they don't have the ability to see even a micrometer past the ends of their noses. If the poll said that the price difference between a viaduct and a tunnel was $50,000, the results would have been the same, because people are reactionary, cheap and dim-witted.

So, is the mayor being a "hypocrite"? Sure. So what? He did what was politically necessary to kill a stupid, poorly-planned monorail project, and is doing what is politically necessary to make sure that Seattle doesn't repeat one of the worst urban-planning mistakes in its history.

I have news, children: a truly strong leader wouldn't even entertain the idea that you totalitarian transit nutbags have a say in this process.

Posted by A Nony Mouse | October 16, 2006 2:25 PM

I prefer a roller-coaster, but would accept the surface routes plan as a fallback.

Posted by Gabriel | October 16, 2006 2:32 PM

Nickels did what was politically necessary for himself when it came to the monorail. but the bigger point is that for 3 separate projects, he's been in the position to (largely) determine whether they live or die when financing gets tough. and he clearly did not approach those dilemas consistently. if you bought his "let the voters speak" thing during the monorail, the 180 is noteworthy.

and i don't understand why we're bad pro-urban types for supporting something other than the tunnel. i think its good that people are challenging this assumption that we need to maintain capacity on 99, and not come up with other, more environmentally-sound projects.

Posted by Ginger | October 16, 2006 2:32 PM

Poll respondents did NOT say they favored a viaduct replacement by a margin of 2 to 1. The voters said they are split between rebuilding the viaduct and something else. They just aren't in agreement about what that something else is - surface option or tunnel. That's different.

Posted by watcher | October 16, 2006 2:35 PM

Nickels, like a certain president, has decided what he wants and will not let anyone tell him otherwise.

Posted by Gomez | October 16, 2006 2:57 PM

• There is not enough money for the Tunnel. (Plus the disruption is too risky.)

• There is no solid political support for the (worst idea of all) -- the Rebuild. It's ONLY in comparison to the idiotic Tunnel does it garner any votes.

• The so-called "surface/transit option" is a kooky dream -- well-beyond the capability of a city government which killed in a fit of pique a transit project for which the voters had already committed over a billion dollars.

What's left is the Repair/Retrofit. That's where we'll end up.

Posted by City Comforts | October 16, 2006 3:25 PM

I'm wouldn't be suprised the poll favors rebuilding the viaduct, had that been the case. I don't think the poll asked the question very well, however. If I'm not mistaken, the plan for rebuild has the viaduct completely closed for the longest period of time (total construction time of 11-12 years, including the seawall - but I can't remember what portion of that has the entire highway closed).

Posted by Dougsf | October 16, 2006 3:29 PM

Ginger writes: damnit, cressonna, it was possible to be in favor of BOTH light rail and monorail.

Ginger, this was precisely my point. Monorail and light rail only complemented each other, and yet, sadly enough, monorail and light rail supporters were determined to fight each other to the death. Now, even though the tunnel and surface route are ultimately mutually exclusive, those two contingents make natural allies, not only out of political expediency but philosophically.

Ginger writes: i think you missed the point of ECB's post. plus, i don't think her paraphrasing was nearly as egregious as you'd make it out to be.

What Erica said Nickels said: "Tunnel or nothing."

What Nickels actually said: "Tunnel or surface route."

Posted by cressona | October 16, 2006 3:43 PM

Let me try asking again. Erica Barnett, if you could deign to respond, why are you denying that Nickels supports the surface route as a backup plan? Or is this a question better asked of a Freud or a Jung?

Posted by cressona | October 16, 2006 3:45 PM

I didn't deny that Nickels said the surface would be his backup plan. I don't buy for a second, though, that a mayor who has consistently opposed and prevented the city from researching the surface/transit option is suddenly in "support" of it - that defies logic. He just doesn't want his legacy to be a new viaduct on the waterfront. Taking him literally at his word this one time - while ignoring his words and actions to the contrary over the past several years - is naive.

Posted by ECB | October 16, 2006 4:06 PM


Thank you for your comments. Perfect antidote to Erica's one dimensional, polemic writing. I wish Seattle had a more thoughtful newspaper available.

P.S. The Stranger was for the monorail and against light rail. I suspect that without this kind of infighting, the lightweights on the news staff wouldn't have anything to write about.

Posted by Sean | October 16, 2006 5:38 PM

Seattle doesn't have a more thoughtful newspaper available, Sean. That's because we are, of course, Seattle's only newspaper.

Posted by Dan Savage | October 16, 2006 7:50 PM

Do the citizens of Seattle want a highway that collapses in an earthquake, with possibility of rescue by Superman, or a highway that collapses in an earthquake, with possibility of rescue by Aquaman?

Posted by Laterite | October 16, 2006 8:04 PM

Cressona, what did ECB's post have to do with any sort of anti-light rail sentiment?

Posted by Ginger | October 16, 2006 10:05 PM

Momentarily ignoring the decision between a tunnel or a new viaduct, I think we should really explore the frightening condition that downtown would be in if traffic was "rerouted" to surface streets as an alternative to the viaduct. Downtown would be an absolute nightmare. Even small construction projects seem to cause havoc on any driver within several blocks, so a reroute such as this would be disastrous. This alternative or "fallback plan" is the true weakness in Nickels' current proposal.

Posted by Megan | October 16, 2006 10:12 PM

"That's because we are, of course, Seattle's only newspaper."

I like the motto, Dan - a playful boast that, upon reflection, is not entirely untrue.

That said, I can't help but notice that some of the more visible members of your news department write like they are still in highschool. How is it that the same newspaper that produces such gems as Urban Hunting and Your Worst Enemy regularly publishes such witless and uninformative articles on the local issues of the day?

I know you're all chums over there, so why listen to some random guy who spends way too much time on your blog? Because I'm right, that's why.

Posted by Sean | October 16, 2006 10:27 PM

Nickels and Ceis need to go. Their arrogance is tacky at best and neither one of them has any class. Nickels is clumsy when he tries to tell people he doesn't care what they think.

I hope a strong candidate steps up to challenge their wannabe political machine. Or, lets run a citywide initiative that limits the mayor's office to 2 terms and then sunsets right after Nickels is prevented from running.

Posted by dmerkle | October 17, 2006 12:50 AM

SEAN Wrote:
"P.S. The Stranger was for the monorail and against light rail..."

Sean, perhaps if you and Cressona would carefully read Ron Wood's Comment No.8) well written review of the Nickel transportation legacy, you might come to grips why an ever increasing number of people are completely disenchanted with transportation planning by this mayor.


Posted by Jensen Interceptor | October 17, 2006 8:38 AM

Although the people of Seattle may not know much about engineering and the potential consequences of certain structures in an earthquake, the bottom line is that Greg Nickels needs to listen to his constituents. We are the taxpayers and we are the ones that will be using whatever structure is built so if the polls reveal that Seattle citizens want a new viaduct, Mayor Nickels needs to listen.

Posted by Megan | October 18, 2006 11:13 AM

March 9, 2006 Seattle Times headline: I disagree go to

Posted by apartments Warsaw | October 25, 2006 3:07 AM

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