This morning, we resume our city-candidate closeups; we took a look at them all before the primary election, and with the general election nearing, we’re checking back in with the finalists in five city races – mayor and council. We’ve already looked at mayor (Joe Mallahan here, Mike McGinn here) and City Council Position 6 (Jessie Israel here, Nick Licata here); this morning, it’s City Council Position 8..
By Jack Mayne
Reporting for West Seattle Blog
Robert Rosencrantz has run for City Council twice before and lost. He says it is either the third time is the charm of it is three strikes and you’re out.
He is a commercial property manager and is running for Position 8 against Mike O’Brien.
Rosencrantz believes local issues should be controlled by the neighborhoods. Rewriting the now 10-year old neighborhood plans should not be done in City Hall, but in West Seattle and other urban centers. He said that while he served as president of the Montlake Community Council, he felt estranged from City Hall.
“I was one of those who felt the city was not responsive or they put it on the end of a treadmill loop,” he says. “We spent two years trying to get a little pocket park done.”
He calls attention to the recent struggle over putting parking pay stations in Fremont despite opposition from the area’s merchants, and a perception that the decision was made long before the “public comment” process began. Revenue for neighborhood business district parking should stay in the neighborhood, says Rosencrantz, declaring that he will propose an ordinance retroactive to 2008 saying pay stations (parking meters) would only be installed if neighborhood businesses wanted them, and that the revenue would be spent in that neighborhood.
“When the ordinance is there, the meters will come out if the Fremont businesses decide they don’t want them,” he says. “That will be a message that city government does not get in the way of fundamental democratic rights. There are costs to be borne for not shooting straight with people. Public embarrassment is a completely valid part of governance.”
Rosencrantz says he knows a lot about West Seattle because he was a volunteer for the Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association and its former director, Paul Fischburg. He was “an unpaid real estate adviser.” He said he got to see the changes and transitions there, along with the challenges of working families in the Delridge side of West Seattle.
He says he knows about West Seattle also because of the 34th District Democrats, who endorsed him (for the primary, it was a dual endorsement with David Miller, who didn’t make the cut for November).
“Going through that process, I realized these were working-class people who wanted a ‘get it done’ government — deeply frustrated about a disconnect from City Hall, a City Hall that has imposed its will on the neighborhoods, whether it is Morgan Junction or Alki or Admiral. A city should be smart enough, nimble enough to allow neighborhoods to have their own identity.”
He supports the deep-bored tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
“Four years ago when it was a cut and cover tunnel or an elevated structure, I said a cut and cover tunnel is going to decimate our area — a decade of business interruption for businesses that are hanging on in many cases,” Rosencrantz says. “We now have a deal, the state has allocated $2.4 billion with another $400 million possible. They had said Seattle is responsible for the reconstruction of the sea wall, utility relocation and surface street improvements. Those are Seattle responsibilities regardless of which option is chosen.
“Why would I support it? It’s a deal. It has a lot of people’s approval so far. (My priorities are to) rebuild a job-building economy. It is the best available option,” he says.
Besides, the Viaduct will stay up and operating until the tunnel is done. “There isn’t a wonderful option, they are all flawed. But a 5,400-acre industrial base (5,000 in the south end and 400 acres in Ballard) depends upon mobility and access. That is not going to happen with four lanes on I-5. That would be gridlock. “In a bigger regional sense, this works best of all,” he says.
Rosencrantz wants to have the City Council push for additional Metro bus hours in the city.
“There are hundreds of thousands of people who rely on the bus, whether it is to a light rail or to and from where they need to go,” he says. “I get asked over and over why light rail has opened and there is no bus service to it? What is going on here? Welcome to light rail, use it in good cheer, but there is no way people can get to it.”
He says regular bus routes that take people downtown are as crowded as ever because they don’t want to (or can’t) walk to the light rail stations, he says.
“West Seattle has a valid concern that tunnel preparation and tunnel construction will all occur with tunnel vision. No one will be thinking, will be have mobility alternatives for people to get where they need to go?”
But he says he differs from opponent O’Brien, who said in an interview that he supports putting tolls “everywhere.”
“He says we have to get people out of their cars and if we charge them enough money they will take the bus. I say, if we charge them enough money, jobs will go away and they will have to drive to Bellevue. We are already losing enough jobs. Seattle has lost 47,000 jobs in the last two years and Bellevue and Redmond have picked up 40,000. Somebody in the city needs to be “the strong, constant voice in city government, saying ‘you are going to be held accountable.’” he says.
Rosencrantz told the story of taking 18 months and spending $15,000 trying to get a permit to get a toilet and a sink in a legal office space. After the long wait, a city employee said the permit was about ready, but another employee would finish it and give it to him.
An hour later, the other person said the permit was “red tagged” and could not be issued and he could hire an attorney and appear if he wanted to. He said he finally found a supervisor who read the file and ordered the permit issued.
“I hope that a new administration at City Hall will have a more open-door attitude than now exists,” Rosencrantz said. Some contend that Mayor Greg Nickels ordered city staff not to cooperate with the City Council and that the Council was unable to push back.
Rosencrantz said he would move directly into such situations and talk with the employee holding things up and “95 percent of the time, the situation will be solved and in the other 5 percent I will tell them
to come to the City Council and tell us why this can’t be done. One person can make the difference. The new Council will push back if the mayor obstructs.”
Regarding the campaign against O’Brien, Rosencrantz says he and O’Brien have been “friends for years” and that the two agreed to run an honorable campaign for the job, and “we both have kept our word.”
In general, he says there are many people who have a frustration with government “but my role is to listen for the truth of what they are saying and find out how it is relevant to public policy and how an elected official could deal with it.”