City Viaduct! Viaduct! Viaduct!
posted by February 2 at 17:08 PMon
(Boring subtitle: A Report from Yesterday’s Hearing on the Pro-Tunnel Challenge to the Voter Pamphlet)
Yesterday’s hearing on a pro-tunnel legal challenge to voter pamphlet language describing the two viaduct measures, covered exhaustively by marathon reporter Larry Lange here, had the unwelcome distinction of being possibly the most boring meeting I’ve ever covered. (Seriously: When I left, they were debating whether to describe the state department of transportation’s cost-estimating process as the “normal” or “usual” process. Ultimately, they went with neither.) The main news was that the city’s ethics board agreed to delete language describing funding for Mayor Nickels’s four-lane tunnel as “uncertain,” and added language saying the state had “validated” the rebuild, but not the tunnel. But the thing that struck me most strongly was how bad the city attorney’s arguments actually were.
Essentially, the city attorney’s office—represented by Carlton Seu—attempted to justify leaving in the sentence describing tunnel funding as “uncertain” because that statement was true. The attorney for the tunnel proponents, didn’t dispute that, but called sentence “completely political”— which it was. Seu countered that the sentence “points out the differences between the two alternatives that the city attorney considered to be necessary.” But that’s not exactly true. Yes, as commissioner Robert Mahon noted, “the money [for either option] is uncertain and it’s always going to be uncertain until the thing’s actually built.” But there are tons of facts the city attorney’s office didn’t see fit to include: The fact that the new viaduct will be 50 percent wider and significantly taller than the current one; the fact that the viaduct would be closed during construction for at least four years and wouldn’t open until 2020; the fact that a new viaduct would violate numerous state and federal environmental and growth-management laws; and on and on. The city attorney’s inclusion of this one anti-tunnel fact, and the omission of so many others that would have benefited the tunnel over the new viaduct, seems like an awfully political move for an office that claims to be above politics.