Two months ago, The Stranger was in talks with the Seattle Channel to sponsor a debate on the deep bore tunnel with Seattle Channel's handsome and charming host, C.R. Douglas, acting as moderator. Now is the perfect time to host such a talk because the state is in the midst of a public comment period on the environmental impact study of the tunnel, a hundreds-page long document that details exactly how the tunnel will impact both the city and the environment.
Comment periods are great, but let's face it: the public isn't going to read that beast of a document and uninformed comments are basically useless. What we need is a public forum where state and city officials—who have read the document—can challenge and defend what it says before the public. For instance: How does the state plans to address (and help pay for) the 40,000 new vehicle trips a day that will be dumped into downtown Seattle streets? I'm betting people who live and work in downtown Seattle would like to know the answer to that.
Debates should be challenging. Debaters should be articulate and informed, so that's who we went after: articulate and informed people. Along with the Seattle Channel, The Stranger asked state legislators to attend the debate; we asked Governor Christine Gregoire's staff; we asked WSDOT staff; we asked all nine Seattle City Council members—who seem to overwhelmingly love the tunnel—and what we quickly learned is that people who support the tunnel don't want to talk about the tunnel or its impacts (the chair of the council's transportation committee, Tom Rasmussen, admits he hasn't even gotten past the first page of the study).
Here's who accepted: City Council member Mike O'Brien, Mayor Mike McGinn, and Drew Paxton of Move Seattle Smarter. Basically, intelligent people who have questions about the tunnel study. Everyone else declined.
Without a debate, Seattle Channel pulled out. But we'd already reserved Town Hall and had three smart people confirmed for December 1, so our debate turned into a discussion on what, exactly, this huge document says about how the deep bore tunnel might affect downtown Seattle. In other words, the questions that state officials are refusing to acknowledge, let alone answer.
If you care to hear those questions—or if you really think the deep bore tunnel is a good idea and want to challenge our panelists on their positions—you should attend this event. Because clearly, the government officials who should be answering your questions and explaining this project aren't willing to do their jobs.