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Monday, January 25, 2010

McGinn Willing to Delay Seawall Vote

Posted by on Mon, Jan 25, 2010 at 12:13 PM

mcginn_council_briefing.jpg
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn told the city council this morning that he could compromise on his proposal to put a seawall replacement measure on a special-election ballot in May.

City Council Member Nick Licata noted that placing the measure on the primary ballot in August—rather than a one-issue ballot this spring, which would cost the city over $1 million—could save the city money and still net roughly the same voter turnout. “My request to you is that you consider that an alternative,” Licata said.

“We are happy to look at an August date instead of a May date,” replied McGinn.

To the city council’s ire, earlier this month McGinn had unexpectedly proposed accelerating the replacement for the downtown seawall from completion by the end of 2015, as the council had planned, to completing the project by the end of 2014. McGinn told the council of his plan to ask voters to approval a $241 million bond measure only the night before he held a press conference.

“I regret that we didn’t vet this more thoroughly, and I think we may have gotten this discussion off on the wrong foot. We do have a commitment to a collaborative style,” the mayor said.

However, McGinn stuck to his guns that the seawall needs urgent replacement to avoid a “catastrophe” in an earthquake. “I don’t regret at all moving forward on this issue,” McGinn said. In fact, he said, the seawall could potentially be completed by the end of 2013. “My goal is to accelerate it by as much as two years. To see if that is possible … it may not be possible,” he said.

McGinn cited huge support for the ballot measure in May, which would require the support of 60 percent of voters to pass. A poll paid out of McGinn’s own pocket and conducted last week by ConsituentDynamics found that 70 percent of voters would vote to approve a seawall replacement. Eleven percent of respondents were undecided, and 19 percent said they would vote no. The memo was authored by Bill Broadhead, a partner in the polling firm and partner in the Mercury Group, which conducted strategy for the mayor’s election campaign.

Accelerating the seawall construction comes with complications and additional costs. As Cary Moon wrote earlier today on Slog—saying, among other things, that a May vote was hasty--there is a lot of additional work to be done by experts already involved in the waterfront replacement project. ”Securing the financing through a May election does not preclude the design process," McGinn said.

City Council member Jean Godden, chair of the budget committee, asked what sort of additional costs the city would incur to this year’s city budget under his plan. McGinn estimated that the “accelerated design project might cost to an addition $3 million in 2010, in addition to the cost of the election itself. I do not today have a proposal about how to finance that.”

Although doubt lingered among city council members—most stridently in City Council Member Sally Bagshaw—that McGinn sought to decouple the seawall replacement from the downtown deep-bore-tunnel project in an attempt to kill the tunnel, McGinn found an ally in Licata.

Licata agreed that a bond measure was the best way to fund the project. That was a departure from a letter sent by the council 10 days ago asking McGinn to defend his property-tax-funded plan. The council cited other funding, including a local improvement district, a transportation district, and more commercial parking taxes. The Army Corp of Engineers was also cited as a potential funding source.

“The odds of getting money from Corps is very low,” McGinn said, based on his discussions with the city’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations. He said that funds from a local improvement district would be better suited for the city’s bicycle and pedestrian improvements, as required by the state and city’s larger waterfront replacement plans.

Indeed, saddling local businesses with paying for the seawall, when they already must face the burden of many years of construction inconvenience, seems onerous, particularly considering the entire city’s economy benefits from the waterfront’s success.

While the discussion was amicable—both sides trying to avoid establishing the adversarial relationship that defined former mayor Greg Nickels's dealings with the council—suspicions about McGinn's motivations for expediting the seawall plan came eventually reached a head.

“I feel like I’m still fighting with you over whether we are going forward with the tunnel,” Bagshaw said. She said that the seawall, although at risk of failing, was roughly as dangerous now as it had been for decades.

McGinn acknowledged that he and the council disagreed about the tunnel’s viability, but, he said, “That disagreement should not stop us from addressing a public safety risk now.” The seawall is a completely separate project from the tunnel, McGinn insisted repeatedly. Moreover, rebuilding the seawall had to happen before the dangerously dilapidated Alaskan Way Viaduct could be torn down, he said.

 

Comments (34) RSS

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1
I am still surprised that this is the first thing McGinn wants to move forward on. It wasn't a big deal during his campaign a liitle while ago.
Also, I think the earthquake danger is over hyped. The existing seawall has already survived a number of them going back to the 1940s. What is more a rebuild will not be automatically quake proof. It depends on the type of quake and that is not something anyone can know.
Posted by Zander on January 25, 2010 at 12:35 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 2
That's strange.

Polls show the Billionaires Tunnel still has less than 30 percent support, and I don't recall that we actually passed funding for the construction of that ...

Unless you saw a vote of the people to approve $10 each way tolls or the equivalent in property taxes ....

The tunnel is dead - the state can't fund it without a vote of the people and that ain't happening.
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on January 25, 2010 at 12:36 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 3
@1 - the city fathers of Pompeii agreed with you.
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on January 25, 2010 at 12:37 PM · Report this
cressona 4
Zander @1:
Also, I think the earthquake danger is over hyped. The existing seawall has already survived a number of them going back to the 1940s. What is more a rebuild will not be automatically quake proof. It depends on the type of quake and that is not something anyone can know.

Zander, are you a structural engineer or a seismologist? If not, then shut up.

Actually, come to think of it, considering that you're the same individual who made the following bizarre comment about Mike McGinn, maybe you should just shut up, period:
At this point it just smells like he is using the coffins of Haiti as his grandstand.
Posted by cressona on January 25, 2010 at 12:47 PM · Report this
5
Will, how again are you paying for the tunnel?

Nobody has proposed a city wide property tax for the tunnel. Nobody.

If you don't want to pay the toll, don't drive on it (take the bus).

Going out on a limb here, but I assume you don't own any property along the waterfront, and won't be a part of the LID. So you are in the clear there.

Also out on a limb here, assume you don't own a parking lot or park everyday downtown (take the bus) and won't pay the commercial parking tax. Score!

And unless you drive a lot you aren't paying much at all in gas tax toward this project. (btw, if you are, you shouldn't drive a lot, it's bad for the earth).

So again Will, how are you paying for the tunnel? Which taxes are you paying? Which ones Will? Tell us.
Posted by which taxes Will? on January 25, 2010 at 12:47 PM · Report this
6
Will

Pompeii was destroyed by a volcano. Are you saying that McGinn's seawall will be volcano proof as well?
Posted by Zander on January 25, 2010 at 12:51 PM · Report this
7
@6 Zander, Will is retarded, as we all know. But still, it would be handy if the seawall could handle a volcano in addition to an earthquake, since we have plenty of those around here too.
Posted by lily on January 25, 2010 at 12:54 PM · Report this
8
Creasona

I am guessing that neither you nor McGinn are seismologista or structural engineers so, by your reasoning, both of you should "shut up".

Yes, I still think fear mongering a quake during the aftermath of Haiti was in poor taste. It would have better to organize aid and would have made the same point.

It 's really too bad not everyone who blogs agrees with everything you think. Perhaps someday you'll get over it and yourself.
Posted by Zander on January 25, 2010 at 1:01 PM · Report this
cressona 9
[Bagshaw] said that the seawall, although at risk of failing, was roughly as dangerous now as it had been for decades.

Does Sally Bagshaw realize what a patently dumb statement this is? Just because a structure is as dangerous now as it has been for decades doesn't mean it's not dangerous.

Sadly, it's probably part of human nature that we only care about our failing infrastructure once it has already failed. If McGinn's poll results are representative of the Seattle populace, I give Seattleites credit for overcoming that element of human nature.

To me, the critical question is, is the seawall dangerous? What do the experts have to say? If it is dangerous, then let's go ahead and replace it as expeditiously as possible without in any way presupposing or prejudicing eventual viaduct replacement.
Posted by cressona on January 25, 2010 at 1:03 PM · Report this
Baconcat 10
Zander, thank god nobody released a simulated "catastrophic failure" to scare voters into voting for that other guy. That would have been tasteless, but it would have given McGinn a reason to acknowledge the elephant in the room regarding earthquakes.
Posted by Baconcat on January 25, 2010 at 1:04 PM · Report this
Fnarf 11
If I recall correctly Pompeii was buried in ash, which is why we can still see it today. It's hard to see how that would affect a seawall, or why it would matter, because cities completely buried in ash don't need seawalls. If Pompeii had had a seawall it would presumably be intact today.

Volcanoes around here tend to emit ash, it's true (witness St. Helens). They also cause lahars, or flows of mud and ash and trees and everything else down river beds. There are a number of communities that are at risk from lahars; Seattle isn't one of them. If it was, the seawall wouldn't be an issue. It's pretty much impossible for me to imagine a way in which a seawall, any seawall, would "handle" a volcano.
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on January 25, 2010 at 1:09 PM · Report this
cressona 12
Zander @8:
Creasona

I am guessing that neither you nor McGinn are seismologista or structural engineers so, by your reasoning, both of you should "shut up".

I'm not the one making statements like "I think the earthquake danger is over hyped."

As I noted @9: To me, the critical question is, is the seawall dangerous? What do the experts have to say?

If a body of experts can make a compelling case that the seawall is not in itself a danger, then that solves that. No need to raise $241 million.

More Zander:
Yes, I still think fear mongering a quake during the aftermath of Haiti was in poor taste.

Zander, do you realize you must have been one of the first persons in the blogosphere to attempt to use the Haiti tragedy to score a political point? But hey, you're obviously a better arbiter of poor taste than I am.
Posted by cressona on January 25, 2010 at 1:12 PM · Report this
Fnarf 13
@9, I remain unconvinced that any city officials are serious about any infrastructure issues whatsoever. Look at all the massive publicity and attention the South Park bridge is getting (i.e., none), even though it is in imminent danger of collapse, with a rating on a scale of 1-100 of "one" (the viaduct is about 50 or higher). The seawall discussion is proceeding not on a "do we need to fix this" basis, but rather "let's make something PRETTY!"

I have no doubt that the decision on what to do with the seawall will eventually devolve to Cary Moon's Waterfront Partnership Committee, and that that committee will end up with no structural engineers at all, and they will finalize a plan in 2032. That's how we do things in this city.
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on January 25, 2010 at 1:16 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 14
@5 - actually, property taxes have been suggested, and I live in Fremont, so I end up paying due to the impacts since I use the Viaduct and SR-99. Tolls, while insane, will increase congestion for those of us who live in Fremont.
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on January 25, 2010 at 1:28 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 15
(and the floating cruft when Rainier goes will not likely damage the seawall replacement, even if it will burn off half of Mercer Island - fwiw check out projected disaster scenarios at the UW on likely impacts)
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on January 25, 2010 at 1:30 PM · Report this
16
@2 Please cite those polls.

This one has 49% in favor http://blog.seattlepi.com/seattlepolitic…

I am not aware of any public ones since then, but I could have missed them.

The issues isn't replacing the seawall or even having a vote to do it. The issue is that McGinn has hammed this whole thing up by being an incompetent boob.
Posted by giffy on January 25, 2010 at 1:31 PM · Report this
17
Will, can you link to an article that details the plan to use a citywide property tax to pay for the tunnel?? I missed that one. Just one article on that plan Will? Or at least tell me who is proposing it.

You refer to it as the billionaires' tunnel and you are right. You are right Will, it is the billionaires' tunnel. The billionaires are paying for it, not you.

Will you're against tolls? You're driving from Fremont? Why aren't you taking the bus or riding your bike? You're polluting my air and killing the polar bears. Stop it Will. Stop it.

Posted by will is killing polar bears on January 25, 2010 at 1:35 PM · Report this
18
Seawall = Port of Seattle

No mention of little salient fact so far.

They have bonding capacity and bucks.

Cressona, you know everything. What is the rub here? Where are the Port dollars???

Port of Seattle = Seawall Rebuild Project Needed
Posted by R G B on January 25, 2010 at 1:37 PM · Report this
cressona 19
giffy @16:
The issues isn't replacing the seawall or even having a vote to do it. The issue is that McGinn has hammed this whole thing up by being an incompetent boob.

Let me get this straight. Are you saying?
Mike McGinn is an incompetent boob. Ergo, the seawall is not dangerous and does not need to be replaced.

Or are you saying?
Why should we care whether the seawall is dangerous and needs to be replaced when we can better focus our attention on debating whether Mike McGinn is an incompetent boob? In fact, perhaps the subject of the special election should be not a bond measure but the question, "Is Mayor Mike McGinn an incompetent boob?"
Posted by cressona on January 25, 2010 at 1:42 PM · Report this
Fnarf 20
Will, how is this "cruft", whatever that is, going to get from Mt. Rainier to Mercer Island? Lahars off of Rainier are going to go down the Puyallup and Nisqually basins; Orting is going to disappear, and they might even reach Commencement Bay, but Lake Washington is fed by the Cedar River, which doesn't come off Rainier. It used to, sort of, before the White River changed course at Auburn, and before the Black River dried up, but there are so many other outlets before you get to the lake I don't see how it happens. If the UW says otherwise, I can't find it. As usual, you cite something without a link, partly because you haven't got a clue what that link is, and partly because you know that any links you post tend to prove the opposite of your contentions.
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on January 25, 2010 at 2:06 PM · Report this
21
@19 I am saying we need to replace the sea wall, but that the way McGinn is doing it is harming the process. He could have went to the council before his little press conference and actually talked to them. Instead he has pissed them off and set this up as an early power struggle. No different than his little stunt at the Sound Transit Board Meeting. He is still playing outside activist when he should be playing politician.

No one is opposed to doing it, but there is a way that results in little friction and one that results in a lot. A good leader would bring the council on board, let them have some ownership, work with people like Moon and others, and get it done.

Plus its is pretty asinine to spend a million dollars on a special election when you are firing people and are talking about a vote that can wait till the August primary.

Posted by giffy on January 25, 2010 at 2:08 PM · Report this
Fnarf 22
Oh, and re: "property taxes have been suggested", you people have to understand that Will has the inner ear of all the major players here, and consults on an hourly basis with Chopp, McGinn, Constantine, and Gregoire, so he's probably privy to all sorts of private discussions that us mere citizens never hear about.

In his mind.
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on January 25, 2010 at 2:09 PM · Report this
willisreed 23
@13 - South Park bridge is owned by King County, not the City. Small point, but an important one...
Posted by willisreed on January 25, 2010 at 2:18 PM · Report this
Fnarf 24
Ah, here we go. USGS map showing Rainier risks (large PDF). Note that the flooding and sedimentation risks show at Auburn and extending off the map to the north wind up (in a worst-case scenario) coming down the Duwamish to Seattle, not to Lake Washington.

See also the maps on pages 17 and 18 of these USGS-produced school materials.

Not threatening the seawall, in other words. It could silt up up the harbor pretty bad in the East Waterway, if it gets that far. No mention of "burning off half of Mercer Island", alas.
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on January 25, 2010 at 2:26 PM · Report this
Fnarf 25
@23, oops, good point. But I believe the indifference of elected officials to infrastructure extends to county and state (and feds) as well as city. Notice any significant change after I-35W collapsed in Minneapolis?
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on January 25, 2010 at 2:28 PM · Report this
26
McGinn's only error was not communicating more with the Council ahead of time, on this sea wall issue. Listen when he talks about the briefing he received after being elected, how scarey it was. Yes, the sea wall needs to move forward as quickly as possible. Since construction-wise, it's separate from the big-bore tunnel, it should be decoupled from that project.

I'd hate to be in the shoes of any councilmember who successfully stands in the way of advancing the fix of the sea wall, should it fail in another seismic event.
Posted by Citizen R on January 25, 2010 at 3:55 PM · Report this
TVDinner 27
What if we put a seawall around Mt. Rainier? That'd contain the volcano and show it who's boss!
Posted by TVDinner http:// on January 25, 2010 at 4:00 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 28
You don't have the money, you can't pass the tax, and nobody wants to pay the tolls so it's still an ex-Tunnel.
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on January 25, 2010 at 4:10 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 29
and speaking of polar bears, the impact on them from the global warming emissions AND the pollution required to build a tunnel and operate fans and pumps for it 24/7/365 is more than twice as much as the impact to build and operate either a rebuilt Viaduct or the Surface Plus Transit option.

In other words, twice as many dead polar bears thanks to your vanity project nobody wants.
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on January 25, 2010 at 4:13 PM · Report this
Mickymse 30
I don't know why I'm wading in to defend Will... but he's not crazy about the property tax.

For starters, no one has credibly proposed a LID either.

The cost overrun legislation passed in Olympia simply says "property owners who benefit" from the Viaduct tunnel. Not only is there debate over whether that's enforceable or not -- or whether the Legislature would hold up other monies for Seattle if it's not -- but no one actually seems to know what that phrase means.

The problem with the LID that everyone seems to think rich property owners on the Waterfront are going to pay for is that those owners have to be willing to vote in favor of taxing themselves. I don't believe a government can force a LID on anyone.

If the cost overrun is $1 billion+ or more (which is statistically reasonable as a possibility) how do you think a few thousand property owners are going to afford to cover it?
Posted by Mickymse on January 25, 2010 at 6:17 PM · Report this
Greg 31
Whatever, city council. Whine whine, bitch bitch. The UW report that said the seawall needs to be replaced was published in 1995. Get your thumbs out of your asses and fund this motherfucker.
Posted by Greg on January 25, 2010 at 10:46 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 32
@24, 25 - try actually following the sedimentary evidence from the last few hot mud flows.

They show that the southern half of Mercer Island is very likely to get burnt.

But heck, argue with what already happened as if the past has nothing to do with the future.
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on January 25, 2010 at 11:44 PM · Report this
curtisp 33
What a good idea. And perhaps the Mayor of New Orleans should delay having the levies built.
Posted by curtisp on January 26, 2010 at 3:10 PM · Report this
Chip 34
This is the kind of awesome attack / sensible compromise combo that I wish Obama had been doing all of his first year.
Posted by Chip on January 26, 2010 at 6:23 PM · Report this

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