Councilmember Licata left office on January 1, 2016.
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Urban Politics #204: Monorail Vote

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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.


Monorail Vote


My Background On The Monorail

I have supported monorail technology since my election to the City Council in 1998. At that time I was the only city councilmember who supported the monorail. In 2000, I proposed to fund a study of how a monorail could be built. The Council refused to even consider my measure. Initiative 53 was then introduced and passed by the public, and did essentially the same thing as my proposal. I then served as chair or co-chair of Council committees dealing with monorail issues.

Since that time I have argued that Seattle needs mass transit to offer an alternative to residents relying on the automobile. I believe that a monorail serving the western portion of the city offers Seattle residents a faster and safer means of transportation than cars, buses or trolleys. In addition, it is quieter than the light rail’s steel on steel technology.Ê

I have also argued that it must be financially sound. I am not willing to support any project, no matter how much I believe that it is an inherently good one, unless there is a solid financial plan to execute it. I introduced a resolution along these lines in 2003, which lead to the Council’s independent financial review.

Up until the most recent monorail proposal I had supported the effort in the hope that such a financial plan could be provided. When the $11 billion dollar plan was unveiled, I quickly realized that the Seattle Monorail Project Board had to make a dramatic and drastic change in order to win public support and I sent a letter to them asking that they do so. The next day they dropped that plan. I have since encouraged them to come up with an alternative one, while others on the Council have argued for the entire project to be abandoned.Ê


City Council Sept 23, 2005 Resolution On Monorail

With the deadline approaching last week to place a measure on the November ballot, I co-authored a resolution that required the SMP to at least come up with some type of proposal that could be financially sound and place it before the public by next February.

My resolution stated that: an advisory ballot measure, as proposed by the Mayor, would not resolve anything; evidence to date showed the motor vehicle excise tax was not adequate to fund the 14-mile long Green Line; and called on the SMP to place a measure on the ballot by February, 2006 to either 1) increase tax revenues; 2) reduce the project scope and cost; or 3) terminate the project, and to let the Council know the Board’s intent to have a public vote by October 13, to allow enough time for the Council’s financial review.

I felt I could gain majority support for this resolution at the Council, despite a number of members ready to attempt to end the project.

On September 22, when I introduced the resolution, it appeared that six of the nine City Councilmembers supported my resolution. The support of at least two of the six Councilmembers appeared shaky. Three Councilmembers supported a resolution to oppose the project.

Later that night, and the day before the deadline for placing a measure on the November ballot, the SMP Board met and passed a resolution that did not recognize that the project lacked funds to build all 14 miles; did not include a binding commitment to place a measure on the ballot in November, 2005 or February, 2006; gave no indication of a commitment to a public vote by October 13; and proposed a timeline that was unlikely to allow for a complete financial review.

This had a cascading effect the next morning at the City Council. With the SMP Board taking this position, support for my resolution collapsed. As a result, the rest of the Council supported a McIver resolution which stated the Council did not intend to authorize issuance of construction permits for the Green Line. I did add an amendment that asked the state legislature to integrate the SMP’s resources, planning and assets into a regional transit authority that can serve the transit needs of Seattle residents.

I supported the Council’s resolution out of a grave disappointment that the SMP Board had not acted responsibly and had thus promoted the end of the project. Apparently they too finally recognized that the City was serious, and within hours of the Council vote they met and agreed to place a measure on the ballot asking Seattle voters to approve a shortened monorail route that would hopefully prove to be financially feasible.

I look forward to reviewing their plan and will work to see that the City cooperates with the SMP should that measure pass.

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