Councilmember Licata left office on January 1, 2016.
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Urban Politics #66: Mariners Want More Public Dollars

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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.



  • Mariners Want More Public Dollars
  • Parks Department Citizens Panel
  • Parks Exclusion Ordinance
  • Arboretum Update

Mariners Want More Public Dollars

This Monday Night at 8 PM I will be appearing on KOMO ( Channel 4) TV’s “Town Hall” Show for a live panel discussion on the above topic. Others on the panel will be, Former Governor Mike Lowry (who called the special legislative session to publicly finance the Mariner’s baseball stadium), Rep. Steve Van Luven (a leading legislator promoting the stadium legislation), and County Council Member Greg Nickels (a leading County Council Member advocate for the Mariner’s stadium).

I’m on the panel because, not only being a City Council Member, I was also the co-founder of Citizens for More Important Things (CMIT). We spearheaded the, initially successful, effort to defeat King County Council’s proposed public subsidy of the baseball stadium by a sales tax increase in the County. On September 28th, CMIT defeated the Stadium Ballot by less than a 1% margin, even though we were outspent 50 to 1. The next day Governor Mike Lowry called a special session to entertain another public financing proposal to build the stadium with Representative Steve Van Luven as a sponsor.

The legislation passed and was sent onto the King County Council that voted on Oct. 23, 1995 to approve (10-3) a new publicly subsidy program for the Mariners Stadium. CMIT responded by filing Initiative 16, which gathered 70,000 signatures within 8 weeks. The Initiative would have required voter approval of county bond issues in excess of $50,000,000 for constructing or remodeling buildings. This would have forced the county to obtain voter approval for the new Mariner’s and Seahawk’s stadiums.

However, Superior Court Judge Kathleen Learned ruled that Initiative 16 would not apply to the stadium bonds. In her defense of the state’s Stadium Act and the county’s ordinance she wrote:

“Again the Constitution does not exist to protect the public from the weakness or failings of its public officials.” Made me wonder, what’s it for then?

The rest of the history involves unsuccessful lawsuits to stop the public subsidy of the stadium because it violated the State Constitution. The stadium went on to be built and run over budget as we predicted. That now brings us to the present Mariner lawsuit to force King County to provide them more public dollars.

Issues 7, 8, 9, 13, 14, 15, 21 of Urban Politics also include information on the Baseball Stadium.

Parks Department Citizens Planning Committee

At the Mayor’s request, the Parks Department and the Parks Board have established a Citizens Planning Committee (CPC) to discuss park needs and priorities, and the revenue strategies which might finance them. Without doubt the City’s lobbying for major changes in state legislation to create a special Metropolitan Parks Districts (MPD) for Seattle was, in my humble opinion, a rolling disaster. A combination of poor communication and education from the City, coupled with even poorer citizen outreach resulted in a barrage of criticisms from a number of quarters. I have no wish to repeat that experience.

Consequently, I encouraged the Parks Department and Parks Board to begin a long and thorough review of park issues before the City goes back to the legislature or to the polls to fund Seattle’s parks and regional facilities, like the Zoo and Aquarium. Recognizing the need for greater outreach and public exposure of the CPC’s work, committee members requested Parks to broadly publicize future meetings and allow for public testimony at the beginning of each meeting.

The next meeting is scheduled for July 7th at 6 PM in the Denny Park Meeting Room. For more information contact the following Park Staff, Jennifer Cargill 684-7187, or Beth Purcell at 684-7143. I have also requested that the Parks Web site provide information on CPC’s work, such as a list of its members and agendas. Channel 28 is also being approached to televise the meetings.

On another front, I have begun talking to past critics of the MPD. I met Friday with Sen. Mike Heavey (34th District), who was a critical player in defeating the City’s MPD legislation. He mentioned three concerns, which I also share: 1) the need to avoid MPD revenue being used to augment the City’s general fund rather than providing additional park revenue, 2) the need to cap the MPD rate lower than the currently allowed 50 cents per $1,000 of property value, 3) the need to get taxpayers outside of Seattle to share in the cost of regional facilities like the Zoo and Aquarium.

Parks Exclusion Ordinance

Legislation proposing amendments to the above ordinance will be voted on at this Monday’s Full Council meeting. At this time only Council Members Steinbrueck, McIver and I are supporting substantial changes to the ordinance. Those changes are described in UP63 (5/13/99).

If we fail to obtain 5 votes, I’ve worked with CM Steinbrueck to submit another set of amendments, which, although not as far reaching, will still address some major concerns. In an email to other Council Members, Steinbrueck has written:

“the changes we propose preserve the basic intent and “value” of the ordinance (i.e. to provide an immediate and effective action to exclude from parks individuals who engage in minor illegal offenses) while strengthening the due process aspects of the law (for which it has been criticized) including prior warning, right to appeal and escalation of penalties issues.”

Arboretum Update (with assistance from Newell Aldrich)

The Department of Parks & Recreation released their Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Scoping Report on May 26, 1999. You can view this at the Parks & Recreation website.

These options were presented in the Culture, Arts and Parks (CAP) Committee on Wednesday, June 23, 1999. A resolution (Resolution 29978) on the EIS Scope passed by a 3-0 vote in the CAP Committee. I expect it to pass at the Full Council on Monday, June 28. The Resolution notes that the EIS will be used to evaluate the proposed Arboretum Master Plan and alternatives. I added a section that Parks shall report back to the CAP Committee by September 1 on financing for the complete EIS.

Parks made a number of changes from the Draft EIS Scoping Report that have satisfied the concerns of the Arboretum Park Preservation Coalition (APPC). At the CAP meeting, APPC member Peter Staten thanked Parks for their work in incorporating the changes they had requested. One key addition is a supplemental financial report.

After Full Council approval, the EIS will begin. Parks expects to complete the Draft EIS in late 1999. After the Draft EIS is released, Parks will hold a public hearing; there will also be a public comment period. Parks has noted they will schedule the comment period so that it does not coincide with the holiday season.

Parks will then consider the public comments, and prepare a Final EIS, with a public comment period and a public hearing as well. Only then will the City Council become involved in the process, when it receives recommendations from Parks. Parks estimates this will be the second quarter of 2000.

Previously, there was a discussion on the Arboretum in the CAP Committee on Wednesday, April 28. Representatives of the Seattle Department of Parks & Recreation, University of Washington, Arboretum Foundation, and Arboretum Park Preservation Coalition participated in this discussion. Representatives from these groups also participated in a tour of the Arboretum to the CAP Committee Councilmembers May 28.

Any changes at the Arboretum will need to be approved by both of the governing agencies for the Arboretum, the Seattle City Council and the University of Washington Board of Regents.

Issues # 40, 42, 50, 52, 59, and 61 of Urban Politics also include information on the Arboretum.

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