Something stands out in a long piece by the Seattle Times about the crumbling plans for Seattle Center. The gist of the article is Seattle Center's master plan is being cut in light of the current budget crisis—a plan that took two years, countless meetings, and the input of over 1,000 citizens to develop. The master plan, which was adopted in 2008, called for a $567 million upgrade to the park, including an outdoor amphitheater, an ice skating rink, and a retro Bubbleator (a retro ride that gives the illusion of being carried into the sky in a giant bubble).
However, the Seattle Center derives roughly 37 percent of its budget from the city general fund, and now that the city has no money, plans are being scrapped left and right—with, perhaps, the exception of one: the addition of a privately owned Dale Chihuly museum at the site of the old Fun Forest (which Jen first wrote about here).
Most surprising in this article is this revealing statement by Mayor Mike McGinn. Via Seattle Times:
From McGinn's perspective, Chihuly's "glass house" spells revenue. He says that the $500,000 in annual lease payments could be enough to operate the city's libraries for a week, or to hire five police officers or seven crime-victim advocates.
It sounds Mayor Mike McGinn is coming out in favor of building a Chihuly Museum. Aaron Pickus, spokesman for the mayor, won't confirm as much, but rattles off a few statistics on what $500,000 dollars could buy the city: two new ambulances; operating all the city's indoor pools for two months; keeping two community centers open for two weeks.
If the mayor has already researched ways to spend the cash, it sounds like McGinn is in favor of a privately-owned and operated Chihuly Museum taking up at least two acres of Seattle Center's dwindling open space. Sure, McGinn is being fiscally responsible, but it's surprising that the man of the people—the people who gave their input clearly about the future of Seattle Center—and the man who ran the park levy seems to be leaning toward permanently hand over one of Seattle's parks to big business. Pickus will only say that McGinn is ready to give the proposal a "hard look" when he sees it.
Meanwhile, the City Council Member Sally Bagshaw is planning another public input meeting on what should happen at the Fun Forest site—frustrating, considering this process was just completed in 2008 (countless public meetings and over 1,000 people commenting, remember?). Judging from the master plan that was only just created, it seems pretty apparent what people want: more public space, not a giant closet for Chihuly to store his chotchkies (and which the Wright Family will graciously charge us all for the privilege of seeing them).
Deborah Daoust, spokeswoman for the Seattle Center, says they're still "actively negotiating a proposal with the Space Needle" but that the Wright Family "hopes to open by summer season 2011."
In the meantime, if you want to add your comments to a long and distinguished history of public commenting (but this time yours will count! Truly!), Bagshaw—along with Seattle Center DIrector Robert Nellams—is pimping another "public meeting and comment period" for the former Fun Forest site on Tuesday, March 30 at 6:30 p.m. at the Center House Conference Room A at the Seattle Center.