Only six weeks have passed since the council promised, to resounding praise from transit advocates like the Sierra Club, to spend $15,000 studying the "surface/transit" viaduct replacement option, but already the plan seems to have run off the rails. First, the consultant hired to do the study, DKM Associates, turned out to be one of several dozen consulting firms "on call" to the Washington State Department of Transportation to perform transportation consulting work—prejudicing the study, surface/transit advocates say, in favor of WSDOT's highway-centric approach to transportation planning. Then, in a meeting with transportation committee members Peter Steinbrueck and Richard Conlin, the consultants themselves acknowledged as much, concluding that as long as they were required to accept the assumptions in WSDOT's environmental impact statement, which presumed, somewhat arbitrarily, that every car currently traveling in the viaduct corridor would stay there, they would come up with the same result as WSDOT: gridlock. "Based on our preliminary interview with the consultants," Steinbrueck says, "it would not be purposeful to continue" with the study.
Given that "we're having a real problem getting traction on" the surface/transit proposal, Steinbrueck says he has turned to the alternative recommended by the consultants: a four-lane tunnel, combined with a six-lane surface roadway, that would preserve the viaduct's full car capacity and cost perhaps $1 billion less than Nickels's six-lane tunnel. "Frankly, I think the first thing we ought to do is kill the aerial rebuild dead. I would turn in my membership on the council over that one. [The rebuild] is a myopic, backward-thinking, and utterly insane direction to go with for the future of our city."
Eight years ago, Steinbrueck jettisoned the appointment of controversial Seattle Housing Authority board nominee Sybil Bailey, a low-income housing resident opposed by left-leaning housing advocates like the Seattle Displacement Coalition. According to the Coalition's John Fox, SHA supported Bailey because "she had a long record of rubber-stamping all of SHA's decisions" as head of SHA's Resident Action Council. This time around, Steinbrueck says, "I'm not going to comment. It's Tom [Rasmussen's] problem now." As head of the housing committee, Rasmussen has the ability to ease or scuttle SHA appointments; to date, he has not said what he plans to do. However, Bailey's earlier rejection by Mayor Paul Schell will almost certainly make the council less likely to rubber-stamp her if and when she's nominated this time.
NARCSTAT, a detailed database of crime statistics that will be maintained by the Seattle Police Department, is modeled on a Los Angeles Police Department database that gives citizens the ability to review crime stats by neighborhood. The biggest difference? NARCSTAT's crime stats, unlike L.A.'s, will not be available to the public; instead, the SPD will use the data internally. Council member Sally Clark, whose neighborhoods committee will get a briefing from SPD later this week, says she'll "definitely be asking [SPD] about that in my committee." SPD spokesman Sean Whitcomb was unable to provide further details about why NARCSTAT data would not be public.