And here we are! Slightly greased by whiskey and ready to hear what these folks have to say (video here).
In the anti-tunnel corner is Mayor Mike McGinn, Seattle City Council member Mike O’Brien, and People’s Waterfront Coalition director Cary Moon. In the pro-tunnel camp, is State Senator Ed Murray (D-43), Seattle City Council Member Tom Rasmussen, and King County Labor Council Executive Secretary David Freiboth. Moderated by Essex Porter from KIRO.
Also, follow along on Twitter here.
And here we go...
Eli: BREAKING NEWS: The mayor's sporting a hair cut.
Cienna: By a show of hands, half the room is for the tunnel; the other half is against the tunnel (a large portion of this half is wearing neon construction gear and hard hats, and carrying signs that say "Enough").
Dom: Before the debate, Murray said supporters of the surface/transit option were “delusional.” His point was that without the tunnel, all 110,000 viaduct users would flood city streets, even though the tunnel puts most of those users (about 65,000 to 75,000) on city streets anyway.
Eli: on twitter at #tunneldebate where alexjon posts: "Oh look, @dominicholden showed up! #tunneldebate at Wonk Factor 10!!"
Cienna: Clearly alexjon has his priorities in order. Dom is the real star here.
Dom: Murray will introduce legislation this year to make sure the financial review plan actually works, he says, “so we can capture cost overruns before they happen.”
Dom: Murray says "the highest risk of this project is the boring part of it." Right again, on many levels, Ed.
Dom: Dear Essex Porter, please marry me so we can have man babies.
Eli: Rasmussen says the mayor's not telling us a few things: This is a design-build contract, and the legislature's cost overrun language is not enforceable anyway.
Dom: Rasmussen points out that bonds are in place for the tunnel builder. What he neglects to mentions is that the bonds cover less than half the amount that project the bidder is responsible for. So if the tunnel hits a major snag—like the boring machine breaking—it simply won’t cover those costs.
Eli: The thrust of Rasmussen's attack—and this is a pretty bold attack on the mayor—is that McGinn is going back on his campaign promise not to stand in the way of the tunnel.
McGinn's rebuttal: "Council Member Rasmussen, when will you start defending Seattle the way you are defending Olympia?"
Aaaand Rasmussen swings back: "That's a pretty good campaign speech."
McGinn: If we say we don't want to pay, and the state says they don't want to pay, it leaves out the point: Who will pay? (Waves Seattle Times paper will Gregoire's quote atop: "I Hate My Budget.") "We don't have the money for cost overruns nor should we for this project," McGinn says.
Eli: How is Olympia ever going to pay for cost overruns, if they come, when the state is in a $4.6 billion hole?
Ed Murray counters: Now the gas tax doesn't even pay for roads. It is a dying issue. The money for the viaduct replacement "is already in the bank... This isn't a legislature that is anti-Seattle... It doesn't help when a Democratic mayor of a Democratic city bashes, in the press, a Democratic governor and a Democratic legislature."
"I think it's time for Seattle to realize, you don't make friends with Olympia until you start treating us differently." Ed Murray: the voice of Olympia.
Dom: Ohay, let's look at the thrust of this claim—Ed says that legislators lost because they supported progressive legislation, specifically domestic partnerships for gay couples. Okay, Ed, who lost over that vote? Not just Dems who lost, but who lost over domestic partnerships.
On Twitter: alexjon —Senator Murray would be wise to not strike a confrontational tone against his base #tunneldebate
Eli: Also: Is Ed Murray running for Mayor? Sounds like it.
Dom: Ed Murray did run for mayor and realized he couldn't win, so he pulled out.
Eli: Or he never stopped.
David Freiboth: Blah blah blah. The street option won't work. "It'll destroy the livablility of this town!" Everything will be more dangerous!!! Just want Death Race 2000 and you'll understand!!!!
Dom: Freiboth defends his comments saying, before the tunnel decision was made, that the city could cover excess costs. But, he argues, the viaduct rebuild or surface/transit options weren’t working out. That’s not entirely true. The working group concluded surface/transit could work, until a handful of the working group’s members were charmed by unions and builders—and then struck a deal with the governor to build a tunnel. But in his comments back in 2008, Freiboth was clear that if there are cost overruns, the city would foot the bill.
Dear David Freiboth: You are a walking yawn. Please, Essex, intervene! "You give me unity on this issue, we'll go to Olympia and stop this thing. We can do it by moving this project forward." Huh?
Cary Moon, I heart you and your adorable brain.
Eli poses a question: Who leaked the Cary Moon oppo? Because someone's been holding on to supposedly damning, and very ancient meeting transcript for a very, very long time, waiting for just this moment.
Dom: Freiboth claims, “That’s not accurate” while Moon is speaking, supposedly correcting the record about the stakeholder process that said a deep-bore tunnel wasn’t viable. Freiboth is officially the Joe “You lie” Wilson of this debate.
Eli: He's also packed the house with orange-vested union construction workers.
Dom: Moon says the stakeholder process recommended against a deep bore tunnel. “The politics changed afterwards,” she says.
Mike O'Brien would like to change the conversation to the EIS, pretty please.
Rasmussen is talking, inexplicably, about electronic parking signs. Meanwhile, I am longing for another drink. Booo, City Hall, booo for being dry!!!
Dom: The idea that surface/transit doesn’t deliver a “world-class waterfront,” as Freiboth claims, is deeply disingenuous. Traffic does, in fact, occur on all the world-class waterfronts.
Dom: Essex asks a very good question: Would O'Brien support a tunnel that carries more cars? O'Brien doesn't really answer, but returns to the point that this tunnel is only going to carry 41,000 cars a day.
Mike O'Brien: "This plan to build this tunnel is broken... we need to sit down and fix this. We need to fix this today. I don't want to create a ton of capacity for cars, I think the things we're investing in are deeply screwed up."
KISSES!!! MIKE O'BRIEN HEART, HEART, HEART!!!
Eli: Rasmussen tries to dismiss the 41,000 figure. "My understanding of an Environmental Impact Statement is that they deal with worst case scenarios."
McGinn is holding up his hand, waiting to pounce on this one.
Cute: O'Brien's thirsty, so he's pouring water from a silver City of Seattle pitcher into his plastic bike water bottle. On Message Mike!
Dom: Moon says WSDOT needs to solve the dilemma, caused by tolling diversion to surface streets, of choosing between a tunnel we can’t afford or a tunnel people wont use. "Either they're [WSDOT] going to charge such a high toll that users aren't going to use it or they're going to face a 400 million funding gap," she says.
Murray, in turn, dismisses surface/transit, but he has no numbers like Moon does. A surface option without a tunnel is a disaster, he argues. Where's the plan for replacing the tunnel, he asks. What's the alternative?
McGinn: "I actually have that in my notes."
Eli: McGinn, countering Murray's argument that nothing ever gets done in this town: "We're not here today because we spent too much time studying. We're here because we didn't listen to what we studied." (Meaning, the voters rejected the tunnel, but the powers that be rammed it through anyway.)
McGinn: "The fact are—I'm with O'Brian—this project's broken. It's time to wake up and smell the recession and get real about this project."
One more time, here's the talking point for anti-tunnel folks tonight: "The project's broken."
Eli: The mayor is officially campaigning against the tunnel now. So Rasmussen's right on at least one point: McGinn is going back on his pledge not to stand in its way.
Dom: Freiboth claim that McGinn isn’t driven by facts, but emotions, because surface/transit wasn’t that great. The problem here—yet again—is that the tunnel backers themselves are hiding from facts. They have yet to show the facts, the math, on how they handle the 65,000 to 75,000 cars per day that don’t use the viaduct.
Eli: And now, Cary Moon delivers a primer on how the surface-transit option works. Essex tries to rush her. Like a lady, she won't be rushed.
Dom: Making the case for a surface/transit alternative, Moon says that restriping downtown streets can bring us more lanes downtown, as can reworking Mercer and Denny to increase throughput.
Murray: "Cary Moon must be causing Kemper Freeman and his friends in Bellevue to do jigs... I'll tell you, while I'm in the legislature it's not happening." (Meaning: The re-striping of I-5 to add another lane that's proposed in the surface-transit option.)
Rasmussen sees three scenarios: Close the tunnel because we keep "debating and dithering.. Imagine if we had to close the project because of your dithering." Or the viaduct collapses and "you have to send firefighters in to pull people from the rubble," and I assume the third scenario is letting the deep bore tunnel go through.
Eli: The mayor rises to his feet to stand over Ramsussen and tell him that he does, in fact, take safety seriously and has a plan for how to take down the viaduct to protect the public and provide for enough car capacity elsewhere.
Rasmussen doesn't buy it. The mayor starts to stand and loom over him again. Essex says: "It's ok mayor, you can sit."
Dom: Murray is trying to blame the backlash against his highway project for a fracture in a "progressive coalition," while failing to acknowledge that it's his flawed, poorly financed, inneficient project is the source of the problem. Shorter: Pot to kettle, "You're black."
Now's time for audience questions: Essex keeps them on point. Awesome.
Dude asks about overruns and says that budgets, public safety, health, etc. will be decimated throughout the state.
Rasmussen: The idea that we're taking money from families is not true and you know that... if the viaduct is shut down and people need to get to the hospital, we're stuck. It's a social injustice!!!
Eli: Did Rasmussen just call traffic jams a social injustice?
He totally did.
Dom: IS BACONCAT APPROACHING THE MIC NEXT???!!!
Question: Does anyone support the anti-tunnel initiatives? Both O'Brien and McGinn say they support the toothless Sierra Club initiative.
Dom: McGinn still needs to look at one of the tunnel initiatives (I-101)—WHAT HAS HE BEEN WAITING FOR?
Eli: Murray: "Well... um... as i said earlier... let me phrase it this way..." Ed! Are you listening to Rasmussen? We're running out of time!!!!
Dom: Murray takes his trope out of the barn for another lap: “Your comments are part of the fracturing of the Democratic collation.”
Eli: What is Ed Murray talking about? Is there Obama stimulus money in the pot of tunnel funds? Did I miss that somehow? If not... why does he keep coming back to parroting a Krugman riff on the size of the Obama stimulus plan?
Freiboth says that since he gives to soup kitchens or some shit he knows about social justice. It was completely nonsensical. The construction half of the room applauds.
Baconcat asks: Why hasn't Ed Murray actually worked to get the transit that we want?
Murray responds: What's killing the alaskan way viaduct is the city isn't unified, basically. Mayor responds the city isn't unified because it's a bad plan. "He's right," says the mayor. "We're not unified. Because it's hard to unify behind a bad project."
Woman asks a question about electricity. It goes nowhere. Another woman says she read the EIS—wild applause (it's over 700 pages long)—then she clarifies: she read the executive summary. "I thought, why are we talking about the tunnel, it sounds like a really great idea! The views will be better... only one or two minutes at an intersection... it had those things in it. How do we go about making sure the things listed in the EIS..." aw, fuck it. She is making no fucking sense. I give up.
Rasmussen says that people will have to "prove to us" that things are going well. I applaud him for attempting to answer a question that was never really asked.
Cary Moon hits on Pioneer Square and potential damage to infrastructure: "If there are problems, we don't have money to fix it." How are we going to pay for problems, budget, funding plan "before we take another step towards this boondoggle."
HEART HEART HEART CARY MOON SQUEEEEE!!!!!
Eli: Cary Moon calls the whole tunnel project a "boondoggle" and demands that public officials give people a full funding plan.
Dom: Murray's leaned sideways in his chair and glazing his eyes at people asking questions,like the sitting version of a drunk swagger.
Dom: Has anyone changed their mind as a result of tonight's discussion, asks Porter? Not a single person raises their hand.
Eli: FAKE SMILES ALL AROUND!
And that's it, folks! Civic engagement at its finest!!! Curtsy, bow, goodnight!