The talk around City Hall may have been all about Mayor Greg Nickels's nightlife ordinance (see page 13) but the real issue of the week was, again, the viaduct—an issue that seems, if this is even possible, to only be getting more convoluted as the March 13 election approaches.
This week's fusillade of letters concerned the city's exclusion from the state highway department's "expert review" process. Apparently, mayoral and city transportation department (SDOT) staff were asked to leave an expert review panel meeting, on the grounds that their presence would unfairly "politicize" the process. In a letter to Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) viaduct honcho Ron Paananen on Monday, February 5, SDOT chief Grace Crunican spat, "I can only conclude... that you are closing the process to anyone outside the employment of WSDOT with the intention of biasing the outcome of the analysis against the [four-lane] tunnel." Governor Christine Gregoire supports a larger elevated rebuild to replace the viaduct; WSDOT recommended the tunnel as its "preferred alternative" during an environmental review of the options two years ago. "How can we have the appearance of objectivity when the city's sitting around the table with us?" WSDOT head Doug MacDonald says. "Should [state house speaker Frank] Chopp [who supports his own version of the elevated option] be invited, too?" Although the state did recommend continued analysis of both options, it has never officially expressed a preference for an elevated rebuild.
In election news (only 121 days to go 'til the filing deadline!): Rainier Valley Community Development Fund attorney and ex-Garfield football star Bruce Harrell has declared his intent to run against Sally Clark; no one is taking on Tom Rasmussen; and public-affairs consultant Venus Velazquez declared against Jean Godden, but says it was accidental. "I filed the paperwork to switch my status [to undeclared] today," Velazquez said Tuesday. However, the story circulating at City Hall was that Velazquz planned to challenge Peter Steinbrueck, the popular architect and progressive urban-planning advocate who won his last election with 82 percent of the vote. Velazquez denied the rumor.
The vice chair of the city's Pedestrian Advisory Board sent a scathing letter last week excoriating police chief Gil Kerlikowske for distributing a handout on "pedestrian safety" that emphasized bad pedestrians, not bad drivers, as the main factor in car-pedestrian accidents. The flier, which features a large red stop-sign-shaped emblem warning pedestrians to "Save yourself $46 and perhaps your life!" by not jaywalking, also advises walkers to wear bright clothing (always?), give drivers plenty of time to stop, and only cross at marked crosswalks—advice that ranges from impractical (are goths now banned?) to commonsensical (people don't "jump out in front of cars") to contrary to existing law (pedestrians have the right to cross at any crosswalk, marked or unmarked). The council just launched its own pedestrian safety campaign, which will culminate next year in a Pedestrian Master Plan.