The word on the street (and on the web) among the monorail's true believers is that the new monorail agency's choice for executive director, former Wright Runstad developer Joel Horn, is a bad call ["End Game," the Stranger Election Glee Club, Nov 14].
The monorail faithful believe Horn represents the insider establishment that the populist monorail movement has bucked all along. The Stranger--self-acknowledged members of the monorail Taliban--wrestled with Horn's rise up the monorail ranks ["Sounding the Horn," Pat Kearney, Jan 31].
The bad rap on Horn stems from a number of stories. Most recently, Horn, 47, bungled a public-records request, refusing to turn over e-mails he seems to have purposely stored on his personal computer in order to avoid scrutiny. The monorail agency also refused to turn over 1,100 "confidential" documents. The semi-scandal hinted at Horn's poor ethical and political instincts.
More infamously, Horn was the central player in the 1998 PacMed scandal. That summer, the longtime public hospital leased its Beacon Hill site to Amazon.com via real-estate firm Wright Runstad--through Wright Runstad's agent, Joel Horn.
The PacMed deal drew community ire because city hall and then-mayor Paul Schell signed off on the deal despite the fact that the lease received little public scrutiny and appeared to go through no legitimate bidding process. The lease (which Wright Runstad got at a cut rate from the public hospital--$8 per square foot) allowed the developer to turn around and rent the space to Amazon.com at a huge profit ($26 per square foot). The Wright Runstad lease also allowed Wright Runstad to develop the site's north parking lot for commercial use.
Horn, Schell's campaign treasurer, appeared to have gotten privileged fast-track city approval.
Also dogging Horn's reputation is the Commons effort he ran in the mid-'90s. Horn's campaign for a park between downtown and South Lake Union was seen as a cash cow for condo developers, thanks to Paul Allen's heavy financial backing of the Commons effort.
Meanwhile, this year, Horn, a known fundraising animal, helped scare up corporate bucks for the monorail, netting hearty contributions from companies like Paul Allen's Vulcan Northwest Inc. ($30,500), giant real-estate developer Trammell Crow ($2,000), and gentrification charmer Starbucks ($11,000).
The Stranger (while certainly recognizing that Horn's insider rep could actually be a boon for the monorail) will be watching Horn's every move to make sure his work--zoning decisions, contract awards, and transparency of governance--is in the public's interest rather than the interests of his donor friends. (By the way, Stranger Editor Dan Savage donated $1,000 to the monorail campaign.)
The agency is off to a bad start by inviting consultants to bid for its community outreach work. With the reservoir of grass-roots activists associated with the monorail, why not run the outreach in-house?