Urban Politics #22: History Of UP

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By City Councilmember Nick Licata.

Urban Politics (UP) blends my insights and information on current public policy developments and personal experiences with the intent of helping citizens shape Seattle’s future.



  • History Of UP
  • First City Council Public Forum
  • Internal City Council Rules
  • RTA Scoping Meetings
  • Monorail Madness
  • Blue Suit Power Meeting – In The Next UP


History Of UP

I started this E-mail missive just over a year ago, in the Fall of ’96. A separate E-mailing had also been sent to all UP subscribers with information concerning my campaign under the title “LICATA CAMPAIGN NOTES ” (LCN).

Urban Politics (UP) blends my personal insights and more formal information on current public policy developments with the intent of helping citizens shape Seattle’s future.

No public funds are used to publish UP nor does UP reflect the opinions, biases and mistakes of anyone but me.

Rules Of UP

If you got on this list for some unexplainable reason and want off, you can’t — just kidding! Requests to be removed will be honored.

At this time UP does not have a formal list serve manager. I hope to have one in the not too distant future. In the meantime, being added or deleted from UP may take some time.

I will attempt to broadcast a weekly UP, but this is not a campaign promise, so don’t be surprised if it comes out less frequently.

You are welcome to E-mail UP onto others. But I reserve all rights to publish all past and future UP editions.

Feel free to send your comments and suggestions, but given that I’m already receiving about 30 E-mails a day, it’s not likely that I’ll be responding like I had in the past.

UP is not an events calendar or a general issues bulletin. However, information sent to me regarding issues I’m working on or ones that I find important may be used in UP’s content.

First City Council Public Forum

Under Council President Jan Drago’s initiative the City Council held its first open forum to solicit public comment on what the City’s priorities should be for the coming year. Twenty-four citizens showed up at the Gatzert Elementary School auditorium to participate. An additional ten city employees also attended and were available for questioning.

According to City Council Central staff about a thousand notices were mailed out. While those who attended appreciated the cozy setting in which to meet City Council members and staff, there is some room to refine the marketing to accomplish a response rate larger than a quarter of 1%. Suggestions on how to improve outreach to the general public and community groups for future public forums would be appreciated.

Observations on the Public Forum:

Plus, most of those attending were from the Central Area and South Seattle. Plus, half of those attending said they voted for the Monorail – which just about reflects the general vote. Plus, not one of those attending said they used downtown parking lots. Could this be an indicator that there might be some support among Seattle residents for a parking lot tax to fund road repairs and transit improvements? Plus, Curt Firestone, Leschi Park resident and Seattle Greens member, proposed forming an Elections Reform Commission in light of the upcoming City Charter changes to evaluate different systems (such as proportional representation and district elections) for electing local officials.

Internal City Council Rules

The City Council at its year end business meetings, agreed to continue the present practice to allow any council member to attend and vote at any of the Council Committee meetings. This means that if an issue is of concern to a Council Member, he or she will be able to promote legislation at the Committee level.

It was also agreed, after some debate, to not allow abstentions on any votes of the full Council, although a member may be excused from voting because of a conflict of interest on a particular item. Abstentions could still be taken on Committee votes.

It was re-confirmed that all members of the press and electronic media shall have open and equal access to the internal Council offices as long as they have a press pass. Apparently some of reporters from the weekly publications were not getting the same access to the Council members as those from the daily newspapers.

RTA Scoping Meetings

RTA held four public meetings in Seattle as part of their Scoping Process to solicit public opinion and comments on the proposed “Link” light rail system going through Seattle. I attended two of them (held in the I.D. and Rainier Valley) and my staff attended the other two. I hadn’t heard of other City Council members attending them, but I did see some of their staff.

Paul Bay, RTA’s Link Light Rail Director, ran the meetings. It appears that from the first to the last meeting, there was a growing recognition that citizens wanted an opportunity to express their concerns as well as ask questions. RTA responded by providing a full array of staff and ample time for comments.

There seems to be a growing concern that the light rail system will have a strong visual impact on the communities it goes through. The trains will probably be about a football field long and the width of the rail road tracks and right of way is 28 ft. on the surface and 26 ft. if elevated. In-city arterials (such as the University Way and Rainier Ave.) vary between 60 and 90 feet wide.

Communities want to mitigate that impact. In particular there was a strong sentiment from the residential neighborhood north of the University District to bury the light rail line and not have it at surface level or be elevated. This of course adds cost to the project.

County Council Member Dwight Pelz, who attended the Rainier Valley RTA meeting, received strong applause when he suggested that his community wanted similar consideration, i.e. if RTA is going to bury in up North why not in the South?

In response to that concern there is an alternative being studied to take the light rail down to the industrial south of the sports palaces and then tunnel under Beacon Hill emerging near McClellan St. However, springs under the hill may nix that plan. Even if it was built, that still leaves the rest of Rainier Valley, with a possible elevated rail.

With these major concerns being raised by the communities and with the recent vote of the monorail, it seems only logical to take a second look at how RTA is trying to move people through Seattle.

To that end, Mayor-elect Paul Schell, and Council Member Peter Steinbrueck, and Council-elect Members Richard Conlin and myself, all signed a letter requesting that RTA extend its scoping process until the end of January. We were particularly concerned that many citizens would be gone during the holiday season. RTA did agree to do so. Curiously, a prior request by some city departments for the same extension was turned down. That demonstrates to me that if local officials act in concert we can get regional bodies to change their positions and respond to our concerns.

Monorail Madness

Well at least that’s how some public officials and civic leaders viewed the recent passage of the Monorail Initiative 41. How else can one explain that a campaign that spent $5,000, had no rallies, no community out-reach meetings, no focus groups, no paid media consultants, virtually no press coverage and a City Council resolution supporting a no vote – won! D-lysergic acid diethylamide tartrate in our public water reservoirs?

For better or worse, since I was the only winning Council candidate in this past election who actually supported the Monorail Initiative, I feel obligated to make sure that City Hall provides, to quote the Seattle P.I., “an open-minded and thorough assessment of the possibilities” of the Monorail. To that end I’m making two premises about the Monorail Vote:

1. People wanted it. They understood that the monorail technology is different from light rail, in that it is quieter (rubber tires), safer and unaffected by traffic congestion (above grade), and more convenient (i.e. it had more stations than RTA).

2. People wanted a public transit system that was something other than running more buses on the streets primarily serve Seattle residents.

I’ve also pulled together a monorail working group of about 20 folks to provide me some information and guidance. From this effort has come a letter that I’ll be sending to other public officials encouraging them to take the following steps to provide needed data and analysis in early 1998 to the ETC (the Elevated Transportation Company, which is the Public Development Authority charged with building and operating the monorail).

1) The City should convene a “mini-summit” of community leaders and transit authorities to help launch and guide objective consideration of how all or part of the ETC system might be developed as an “intra-urban” transit service integrated with and complementary to other transit systems.

2) The City Attorney should undertake an analysis of the Monorail Initiative language to elucidate key provisions, restrictions, and potential legal controversies in its text.

3) City transportation staff should join with representatives of the PSRC, RTA, WDOT, and Metro Transit to conduct a preliminary analysis of potential Monorail ridership along routes and from station nodes specified in the initiative; the Monorail system’s overlap with or duplication of current King County Metro Transit routes; and both the system’s potential conflicts and synergies with existing services and t
he RTA plan.

Keep in touch…

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