Three years ago, Seattle City Council President Nick Licata's stepson, Joe Robinson, was struck by a car while crossing the street to catch a bus and badly injured. His mother, Andrea Okomski, is suing the city over the accident, which occurred while the driver was talking on a cell phone. Two weeks ago, Seattle transportation director Grace Crunican sent an unusually personal letter to Licata about pedestrian safety, advising him that she felt "uncomfortable" with his request that SDOT hold off on its crosswalk "removal and improvement" program until the council had a chance to review the program, "due to your family member's current litigation against the city related to pedestrian safety." Since 2002, SDOT has removed at least 17 crosswalks throughout the city.
Business and neighborhood leaders have rallied around the People's Waterfront Coalition (PWC), which supports a surface/transit option for replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct, in opposing several elements of the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT)'s plans to begin construction on the south and north ends of the viaduct replacement. According to the group, which includes the PWC, the Downtown Seattle Association, and the Downtown District Council, at least two of the proposed projects will effectively preclude a surface/transit option, which the city council has adopted as its preferred viaduct replacement option.
On September 24, 50-plus activists, brown-suited bureaucrats, and technology fetishists (one guy proposed a "futurized transportation system" called Levex) crowded into the Mezza Conference Room at the gleaming Starbucks headquarters in Sodo to debate whether WSDOT should spend hundreds of millions spiffing up the Battery Street tunnel and rebuilding a section of the viaduct between Lenora and Battery streets, knowing it's entirely possible that neither will be used in the future (if the surface/transit option is selected). Retired engineer Victor Gray and one-man viaduct fan club Gene Hoglund said yes; Cary Moon and others from the PWC (egged on, obnoxiously, by Hoglund, who muttered, "Lies! Lies!" during Moon's three minutes) said no.
The suddenly ubiquitous Hoglund was also at last week's meeting of the 36th District Democrats in Ballard, where he praised city council candidate David Della for, of all things, political courage. Which makes more sense when you realize the "courage" Hoglund spoke of was the courage to take Hoglund's side on his one and only issue: the viaduct, which Della also "doesn't want tore down [sic] just for a bunch of developers," Hoglund said. Despite a substantial contingent in favor of challenger Tim Burgess ("I've never seen any of these people before!" one disgruntled Della supporter literally could not stop saying), a vote to endorse Burgess failed. So did a vote to endorse Della.