Urban Politics #60: Multilaterial Agreement On Investment (MAI)


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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.

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CONTENTS:

  • Multilaterial Agreement On Investment (MAI)
  • The Convention Center Vote
  • Announcing The Poet Populist
  • Two Public Hearings: Added Activities & Noise

Multilaterial Agreement On Investment (MAI)

At Monday’s (4/12/99) Full City Council Meeting, the Council passed Resolution #29926 that I sponsored along with Peter Steinbrueck and Richard Conlin by a vote of 8-0. The Resolution expresses Seattle’s concern with provisions in the MAI that could restrict the City’s ability to regulate the activities of individuals or corporations impacting land uses, labor practices and the environment.

The MAI had been negotiated within OECD” which has the 29 most affluent nations. Although the OECD has formally dropped discussing this proposed treaty, other international organizations, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), are likely to take up provisions of this treaty. Consequently it still remains a potential threat to our City.

Nearly 70 countries and 600 organizations had criticized MAI as a threat to democracy, sovereignty, the environment, human rights and economic development. They accused the MAI of giving corporations the “sovereign power to govern countries” because it would allow them to sue local, state and federal governments if they violate the open access provisions of the treaty.

Seattle critics of the treaty said its provision to ban performance requirements could jeopardize local laws that guard against banks redlining poorer neighborhoods or those that establish environmental standards or tax incentives. It could also hinder the City and County from enacting local hiring requirements for public projects or enacting land use laws for managing growth that diverge from some national standard.

Because of this potential local impact, the King County Council on 12/14/98 unanimously passed a resolution opposing the MAI; Snohomish County passed a resolution opposing the MAI in March, 1999. Other municipalities passing resolutions opposing provisions of the MAI are: Olympia, Tumwater, San Francisco, Oakland, Houston, Boulder, Berkeley, and Vancouver, B.C. In addition the Western Governor’s Association, The National Association of Counties and The WA St. Assoc. of Counties and Cities have also done so.

To see the text of the resolution, check the Seattle City Clerk’s website and type in “29926″ in the “Resolution No.” section.

The Convention Center Vote

Last Monday the Transportation Committee voted on an extensive list of elements composing the final Convention Center Street Vacation Ordinance which the Full City Council voted on this Monday (4/12/99). Although 20 separate votes were taken I’ve listed votes on only the 10 that I considered the most important.

Some Key Framing Votes at the Transportation Committee Meeting
on 4/5/99

Those asterisked passed.

WSCTC to reduce Truck Bridge width
Vote: 2 yes (Licata, Steinbrueck), 7 No

WSCTC to reduce Pedestrian Bridge width
Vote: 3 yes (Licata, Pageler, Steinbrueck), 6 No

WSCTC to eliminate Galleria
Vote: 4 yes (Donaldson, Licata, Podlodowski, Steinbrueck), 5 No

WSCTC to recess the Eighth Ave. Cover
Vote: 2 yes (Licata, Steinbrueck), 7 No

* WSCTC to provide $30,000 for a neighborhood Restricted Parking Zone
Vote: 6 yes, 3 No (Choe, Drago, Pageler)

WSCTC to provide $90,000 per year to neighborhood non-profits during
construction
Vote: 2 yes (Licata, Steinbrueck), 7 No

* WSCTC to provide neighborhood visual amenities at 9th & Pike St.
Vote: 7 yes, 2 No (Pageler, Steinbrueck)

* WSCTC to continue the Advisory Committee
Vote: 9 yes

* WSCTC to replace 22 downtown carpool spaces
Vote: 8 yes, 1 No (Pageler)

WSCTC to address neighborhood traffic and parking issues
Vote: 4 yes (Conlin, Licata, McIver, Podlodowski), 5 No

The most controversial votes were to eliminate the $3.7 million galleria spanning most of Pike Street between 7th and 8th Avenues, to reduce the width of both the bridge and pedestrian overpasses, and finally to recess the 8th Avenue cover to allow for some variation in the solid wall fronting Pike street. All of these measures were defeated.

Nevertheless the Convention Center did agree to some amenities. They committed to spending $200,000 for greater lighting along their perimeter. This was a public safety concern for the residents. They will also continue the Construction Advisory Committee to monitor construction and to advise on issues impacting neighborhoring businesses and residents.

The Convention Center will also contribute $30,000 to setting up a restricted parking zone within these communities to help manage their parking problems. Another $250,000 will be spent on streetscape improvements and/or for parks at Pike/Pine/Boren. This will help Capitol Hill from being physically isolated from downtown because of the massive Convention Center straddling Pike Street.

But the Council did not require the Convention Center to fund economic development positions to primarily assist small businesses on Capitol Hill and First Hill. Many fear that the Convention’s construction activity will deter customers from visiting their businesses. They remember that many small businesses along Third Avenue financially suffered during the time that the bus tunnel was being constructed.

The final vote this Monday was to formally approve the street vacations based upon the final package of requirements that the Convention Center had to meet as determined at the Transportation Committee’s meeting.

Although the sky bridges had been assumed as far back as 1994, when there were 3 of them but for a smaller total width, the mitigation measures had not been determined. I had hoped that the Convention Center would have recognized that it had an obligation to do more and fund an appropriate mitigation package similar to what the Mariners had done. In their case, they provided $1.5 million to the surrounding communities. Most of the proposals presented by the Capitol Hill and First Hill communities were similar if not identical to what the Mariners had provided the International District and Pioneer Square communities.

Last Wednesday Seattle Times editorial writer O. Casey Corr pointed out that a much earlier decision to place the Convention Center downtown over the freeways set the stage for its inevitable expansion. He concluded that once the City Council had been led to the well by the Center, it had no option but to drink from it, i.e. approve the expansion. The Convention Center was so certain of receiving final approval for its expansion that it had already spent over $44 million toward it before receiving the Council’s approval.

Looking over past documents, it’s clear to me that the City has slowly been sinking more and more resources into this venture in the continual hope that it will receive a significant payback down the road in spin off economic activity.

The original 1994 Convention Center Expansion Study said that the City would not have to contribute to the project if it expanded north instead of east. It did expand north and the City contributed $7.5 million plus giving over all the revenue from its Freeway Parking Garage. The Convention Center took over the management of that garage and is now charging double what the city had been charging only 5 years ago. Soon, if not already, the Convention Center will be collecting over $500,000 a year from a garage that the City built with public funds.

Will the City recoup its investments? A few years ago, using their figures, I projected that our annual rate of return in the form of tax revenue would be less than 2% for the next 20 years. I hope we do better. It remains to be seen.

The vote this Monday was 7 in favor of the expansion and 2 against. I joined Council Member Peter Steinbrueck in voting against it. Even though I knew the expansion was inevitable I couldn’t bring myself to endorse it. I think I would have if the Convention Center had been more responsive to the surrounding residents and businesses, and if it had been willing to scale down its design and make it less obtrusive. But the design changes that were made and the mitigation that was offered, while positive, I believe fell short of what Seattle deserves.

You can obtain information directly from the Convention Center by visiting its website at: http://www.wsctc.com/

Announcing The Poet Populist with assistance from Frank Video

As Chair of the Council’s Culture, Arts, and Parks (CAP) Committee, I will announce and introduce the City’s, and perhaps the country’s, first civic Poet Populist. The announcement will be made at the Committee’s upcoming Wednesday, April 14th meeting, beginning at 2 PM. The Poet Populist will offer brief remarks, followed by a reading of an original work.

Many people may be familiar with Poets Laureate. Robert Pinsky currently holds that title for the United States and Dr. Mona Lake Jones does so for the City of Seattle. In San Francisco, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, one of the founding members of the Beat Generation of literary rebels and outsiders, is that city’s official Poet Laureate.

But, what is a Poet Populist? The 2nd College Edition of the American Heritage Dictionary defines a laureate as “one who receives highest honors.” Populist is defined as “a philosophy opposing the concentration of power in the hands of corporations, government bureaucracies, or the rich.”

Noting the irony of a government bureaucracy endorsing a philosophy opposing government bureaucracy, I asked those attending the recent Seattle Neighborhood Arts Celebration held at Benaroya Hall to cast their votes for Seattle’s Poet Populist. People could choose a poet rather than having one chosen for them. I hope this new civic role will expose citizens to fresh and compelling voices…not unlike the poets of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s Beat Generation.

The Poet Populist’s first community appearance will be during Seattle’s hosting of one of the national Grand Poetry Slams, starting at 8 PM, this Wednesday, April 14th, at the OK Hotel Cafe, 212 Alaskan Way S.

Two Public Hearings: Added Activities & Noise

1) The timing of the Added Activities Public Hearing has been changed. It is now Thursday, April 22 at 5:30 p.m. in City Council Chambers. The last UP had a different time.

2) The Public Hearings on the Noise Ordinance Revisions will be Tuesday, April 20 from noon 1:30 p.m., and Tuesday, April 27 from 7 to 9 p.m.

All the hearings will be in City Council Chambers on the 11th floor of the Municipal Building, at 600 4th Avenue between James and Cherry. For the evening hearings, enter at the 5th Avenue entrance.

Keep in touch…

 

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