Elizabeth Campbell, the backer of city Initiative 101 to stop the deep-bore tunnel, criticized another tunnel initiative that will be filed today for being gutless in a statement sent to reporters. The group called Seattle Citizens Against the Tunnel (SCAT), which supports rebuilding the Alaskan Way Viaduct, says the proposed initiative on tunnel cost overruns would "do nothing towards stopping the tunnel."

Campbell says that the Move Seattle Smarter initiative would "just add to the bloat and cost of government, layer on more bureaucracy for the tunnel project." (I've also written about the limitations of the initiative; and tunnel supporters have taken their jabs at it.)

But while we're dishing out criticisms, let's not ignore the fact that Campbell's attempt to stop the tunnel may be equally toothless. The full text is here, and the most binding portion appears as follows:

The construction, operation or use of any City right-of-way or City-owned property wherever situated for a tunnel for vehicular traffic, or tunnel-related facility, to replace in whole or in part the Alaskan Way Viaduct is hereby prohibited.

The problem: The city council will likely have already approved contracts with the state to permit construction on and under city-owned property this winter, well before this initiative could make the ballot next summer or fall. An initiative after the fact—an attempt to renege on those inter-local agreements with the state—would probably have little chance of standing up in court. And if it did, the state would certainly be tempted to declare eminent domain (with a majority of the council's support). Reached by phone Campbell says, "Well the state would have to invoke eminent domain... But the thing is that you can always upset ordinances."

This isn't to say the initiatives won't have influence; I think they do. But they hold political leverage over the city council—whose members will be pondering those inter-local agreements while both initiatives are on the streets and five of which are up for reelection in 2011—not legal leverage over the state.

Campbell's full critique is after the jump.


SCAT believes that Moving Seattle Smarter’s (MSS) initiative itself is not particularly useful in terms of stopping the deep bored tunnel project. By its founders’ own admissions, MSS’s initiative is not intended to stop the tunnel, it is about establishing policy and more bureaucratic expansion that ostensibly will bring about a financial management policy that the City must operate under — and big distinction - when the tunnel project takes place, not if the tunnel project takes place.

The filing of the initiative will bring additional attention to Seattle’s the tunnel project. From SCAT’s perspective that’s a good thing. There are many things wrong with the tunnel project and the more people find out those things that is a positive turn of events. But at the same time, MSS interests, the Sierra Club, Real Change, the United African Front have not demonstrably supported anything that would stop the tunnel, including SCAT’s I-101 Stop the Tunnel initiative. From that standpoint then, and from the standpoint of the actual narratives in the MSS initiative that clearly do nothing towards stopping the tunnel, SCAT cannot give wholehearted support to the MSS initiative.

Without a specific legal vehicle in the MSS initiative that would lead to the termination of the tunnel project, MSS’s initiative if it were to pass would in operation just add to the bloat and cost of government, layer on more bureaucracy for the tunnel project.

In addition, because the MSS initiative lacks a major goal that would result in a substantive change in the current status quo of the tunnel project, it ends up being a distraction in the tunnel debate, dissipates the public’s interest in this matter, and it essentially subtracts from the initiative process itself — initiatives should always be about an effort to create public value, not public spectacles.