Don't feel bad if you haven't read the state's 285-page, technical report (plus appendixes) on the proposed deep-bore tunnel. Only the city's biggest transportation geeks have. In fact, even the transportation chair of the city council hadn't read it before Thanksgiving—and still no word if he has yet—even though the comment period on the document will end on Dec 13.
Before you comment on that report—and you should feel entitled to comment about the most expensive transportation project in city history—you should hear from the people who will tell you what the state refuses to talk about. The event is tonight at Town Hall (doors at 6:30 p.m., panel at 7:30 p.m., free, a stack of copies of the executive summary, and the state's official comment forms on hand for you to fill out, all recorded by the Seattle Channel). Here's the lineup:
- Plus: Eric de Place, senior researcher for the Sighline Institue!
You may be wondering, where are the state officials who issued this report—the knowledgeable people who can pinpoint the tunnel's virtues and explain them to the public—and what of the knowledgeable city council members who intend to approve contracts for the tunnel this winter? The state refused to show up. Eight members of the city council also refuse to show up... even though it's the public comment period and was set to be moderated by fair-and-square C.R Douglas from the Seattle Channel.
So we're holding the event without them, of course. Council member Mike O'Brien, who has read the report and sat on the stakeholders group for the viaduct replacement project, is one of the city's foremost experts on the tunnel. He'll be speaking tonight, joined by the mayor, the Sightline Institute's senior researcher Eric de Place, and the new tunnel initiative's spokesman Drew Paxton.
Now, now, I've heard the tunnel supporters kvetching.
They've groused that we should've canceled the event. Why, if some people don't want to talk about it and it's not going to present an even mix of tunnel supporters and critics, there should be no discussion at all! That's bullshit talk. Boycotting a public discussion in an attempt to shut down dialogue is unconscionable, and canceling this discussion—simply because it's too hot for the tunnel supporters to touch, even when they would get equal time—would be absurd. This public comment period is the time to talk about the tunnel. The bids are in, the contingency fund is down by more than half, big decisions are about to be made. Talk.
But in the absence of tunnel officials tonight, don't expect McGinn and O'Brien to escape difficult questions. I'll be moderating (C.R. Douglas
was forced chose* to back out because Seattle Channel generally moderates only when both sides are present). I know these guys' arguments and I know what they haven't answered. For instance, what are they going to do about traffic diversion on city streets (is there a plan?), and if tunnel overruns falling on Seattle are such a risk, how would the state actually collect that money (the state constitution says taxes have to be applied evenly across the state)? What plan do they have if they actually, you know, kill the tunnel? A new viaduct? And, uh, where's the state bill to remove the infamous state law that says Seattle must pay cost overruns, Mr. Mayor?
We'll also have a long Q&A period so if I don't grill 'em hard enough, you'll get a shot to grill 'em, too.
* The post said Douglas was "forced" to back out of moderating the forum. That's not true. It was his decision. Why the mix up? Initially Douglas said he would consult with his producers about whether he'd moderate after the state formally refused to join the discussion; when Douglas said he couldn't do it, I thought he was told he couldn't. "I'm sure the Channel would have counseled against it had I actually wanted to do it," he says. Anyway, apologies for the confusion. I regret the error.