Councilmember Licata left office on January 1, 2016.
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Urban Politics #50: Olympics – Still Dead?

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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.


Olympics – Still Dead?

On October 19, eight of nine City Council Members co-signed a letter to the Seattle Bid Committee stating that we could not support a resolution in favor of a bid for the 2012 Olympics. Portions of the letter are reprinted below. . In the end, it was a Council consensus opinion. In fact, because of a lack of support, it didn’t even came up for a vote. No Council Member was willing to sponsor a resolution endorsing the Olympics.

The citizen response to this issue was overwhelming, far beyond anything I’ve seen so far. Over 90% of the hundreds of emails, letters, and phone calls I received were against a Seattle Olympics bid (not even counting the nearly 1000 replies to my email survey). The public response was very important.

After the Council sent the letter, a Bid Committee Member said in a radio talk show that they would re-direct their efforts toward the state government. Without support from the Host City, it’s unclear how they could succeed, unless the US Olympic Committee changes its rules. They are also approaching Tacoma as a potential “Host City”.

The Council has not been approached by the Bid Committee since our letter was sent, however the King County budget proposed by Ron Sims does include $75,000 to review the Olympics bid and its impact. Several County Council Members have said they intend to remove it from County’s budget.

It’s probably safe to say that the Bid Committee’s efforts will continue at least until December 31, 1998, the official deadline imposed by the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Excerpts of Council letter to Seattle Bid Committee

We would like to acknowledge and thank the Seattle Olympics Bid Committee for your hard work over the past four years in seeking the Olympic bid for Seattle, and express our appreciation to the USOC for the opportunity to consider Seattle as a the host city for the 2012 Summer Olympiad.

For a number of compelling reasons, we regret that the City of Seattle cannot put forth a resolution in support of a 2012 Olympic Bid. Perhaps most importantly, we cannot indemnify the Olympic organization against legal liabilities, nor provide any guarantees for cost overruns or losses. This pre-condition is untenable.

Over the last several weeks, we’ve heard from hundreds of our citizens who have expressed strong opposition to bringing the Olympics here. The greatest concerns that we’ve heard, our that the Olympics will not result in significant long term net public benefit to our city, nor solve our enormous regional problems in transportation, the environment, and housing.

an appropriate *Northwest* vision for the Olympics might have included:

Regional participation, possibly crossing local political boundaries and extending from Vancouver, British Columbia to Portland, Oregon.

The appropriate and equitable distribution of risk by creating agreements to structure financial liability and indemnification in ways which fit our region’s legal requirements and fiscal priorities, and hold our City harmless.

More extensive citizen participation in the evaluation process, including early local elections.

“Legacy” investments to assure that our city’s priorities for housing, neighborhoods, infrastructure, and transportation improvements are strengthened and advanced, not diluted.

In short, it is because of these unresolved issues, and the fact that our citizens have not shown the level of enthusiasm needed for such a monumental undertaking, that we are unable to advance a Seattle bid for the Olympics.

Status On The Arboretum Plan

The Arboretum has recently garnered a lot of attention public attention, just as it did in the 1970*s.

*The Arboretum Plan, A Greenprint for the Future* was published in May, 1997 by the Arboretum and Botanic Garden Committee (ABGC). This committee governs the Arboretum, and is composed of the University of Washington, the City of Seattle, the non-profit Arboretum Foundation, and the State of Washington. The City of Seattle owns the parkland (its formal name is the *Washington Park Arboretum*); the University of Washington owns the plant collection. The process involved scoping meetings and went on for 2 years.

For a few months, it sat unnoticed. Then, the Montlake community held a meeting in March of this year, and voted 100-9 to pass a resolution listing numerous objections to the plan. Since that time, several community groups have joined Montlake with similar objections, and they have together formed the Arboretum Park Preservation Coalition.

At heart, the basic conflict is “What is the Arboretum”? Whereas the neighbors and community groups see the Arboretum as fundamentally a park, the Arboretum Foundation focuses on the plant collection.

Originally, the Dept. of Parks & Recreation had planned to proceed with an Environmental Impact Statement earlier this year. However, with the controversy, plans were delayed. The Parks Dept. decided some months later to have the Board of Parks Commissioners facilitate a series of public workshops on the Arboretum. The first took place on October 21 the following three are on November 12, 19, and December 10 (the Parks Dept. announcement is below).

The Arboretum Park Preservation Coalition (APPC) has a number of objections to the Master Plan (the *Greenprint*). First of all, they don’t like the changes proposed in the Master Plan, which include adding buildings and roads, re-configuring the plant collection, adding bridges, and removing trees (early proposals for fencing and fees have been withdrawn). The Master Plan calls for $45 million in renovations; there has yet to be much discussion of financing. The Arboretum Foundation paid $400,000 for the Master Plan; I told the Parks Dept. I didn’t want any city money spent on an EIS.

Some elements of the Master Plan are not controversial; the community has wanted a bike trail for generations, and everyone seems to support daylighting Arboretum Creek. The APPC emphasizes that these elements were included in the as-yet-unfinished Jones & Jones Master Plan from the late 1970’s. This Master Plan came about as a result of the Arboretum controversy from the mid-1970’s. At that time there was a proposal to develop the Arboretum with fences and admission fees. It spawned a sharp community reaction that led to a city ballot initiative banning fencing and admission fees.

From the 3 workshops the Parks Dept. will put forward alternatives to the City Council, which will consider them in a resolution setting the terms of an EIS, if the effort is to proceed. If it does, the City Council and UW Board of Regents would need to agree on a proposal to be adopted for anything to happen.

It was my original understanding that the Master Plan would not be the basis for the workshops; it appears that it is, however. Another issue that came up earlier this year was governance, with the ABGC calling for the Arboretum Foundation to be the governing body for the Arboretum. This proposal seems to be temporarily on the shelf.

Official Parks Notice On Arboretum Workshops

Workshops will be held on November 12, November 19 and December 10, all meetings from 7:00 to 9:30 p.m., in the Alki Room at Seattle Center’s Northwest Rooms (in the northwest corner of the Seattle Center campus).

The purpose of these workshops is to gather citizen comments on particular issues raised by the plan, and, where possible, develop ideas that can be used to revise the plan.

The format for these workshops will be as follows:

Workshop #1: Review of history, mission, roles and responsibilities, and problem statement for the Arboretum, i.e., why is there a need for a master plan? Small group discussions will focus on questions related to education and facilities.

Workshop #2: Small group discussions will focus on the botanical collections and natural features, as well as recreation and community uses.

Workshop #3: Small group discussions will focus on parking, traffic, circulation and safety and security.

Next Steps The likely next steps in this complex process in early 1999 will include a January 1999 meeting of the Park Board to present a summary of workshop findings, and the subsequent development of a revised plan.

While the workshop results will provide information that may be used in establishing a scope for the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), there will still be other steps in the EIS scoping process. A detailed schedule and explanation of these steps will be outlined at the first workshop.

Once an EIS has been completed (a process that is likely to take up to a year), any plan would need the approval of the Seattle City Council and the University of Washington Board of Regents. Only then would implementation of the plan be considered.

For more information on the Plan and the process, please call 233-7929 or e-mail

Keep in touch…


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