When the shit really goes down, you're on your own. Or, as one city council staffer put it, "It took 100 years to build this city. It's going to take years to recover from a real disaster."

That, in brief, was the lesson of an hours-long council meeting last Friday, when a half-dozen city department heads were called to account for their actions during the previous week's windstorm and subsequent power outage. Although council members generally lauded the response of individual departments (which included fire, police, parks, emergency management, human services, and City Light), they had harsh words about the lack of coordination between various agencies. Department heads, for their part, were defensive about their response during the storm and power outage, arguing that no one could have predicted the damage the storm would do. "The weather prediction wasn't that this storm would stall over us and dump this amount of rain," said Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske. "So a lot of people in the city... went around like it was business as usual."

Meanwhile, City Light chief Jorge Carrasco—under fire for sending repair workers home at the height of the storm—defiantly defended his actions, telling council members, "The message [to repair crews] was very clear... It didn't make any sense at the time to hold them back and make them wait." Workers, reportedly suspicious that Carrasco wants to privatize some City Light functions, have complained that Carrasco sent them off to homes they couldn't get to, and brought them back, unrested, mere hours later.

Speaking of disasters, remember the viaduct? That "teetering," "failing," "crumbling" structure that needs to be repaired or shut down at once? It's been nearly six years since the Nisqually earthquake damaged the double-decker highway, and city and state leaders are scarcely any closer to deciding how to replace the 53-year-old structure. Now, thanks to a directive from Governor Christine Gregoire, it looks like they'll be punting that decision to the voters; whether that vote will be between the tunnel and the rebuild (as rebuild supporters like Nick Licata want) or an up-or-down vote on the rebuild (as surface/transit supporters like Ron Sims want) is unclear. So far, Mayor Greg Nickels and his crew of tunnel supporters have raised nearly $120,000 for the pro-tunnel campaign; the No Tunnel Alliance, meanwhile, has brought in a measly $304.06.

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A third option—no vote at all—remains a possibility, although city council members aren't likely to step on the state's toes during a legislative session when they're seeking so much (top priority: changes to the state's business and occupation tax structure) from the legislature. Jan Drago, head of the council's transportation committee, says that although a vote is likely ("We're preparing something for the ballot"), it may not be decisive. "For many stakeholders, the surface/transit alternative is the backup" to the mayor's $4.6 billion–$5.5 billion tunnel, Drago says. Indeed, the council adopted it as their official backup option. "If the vote isn't decisive [for a particular option], I don't know who's going to accept it," Drago says.

barnett@thestranger.com