By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Along with the City Council races, the “Move Seattle” levy – Seattle Proposition 1 – is the biggest thing on your soon-to-arrive ballot. A mini-forum with reps from both sides headlined this month’s Southwest District Council meeting, along with a Port of Seattle update on the Terminal 5 modernization project, and a briefing on a new project for the West Seattle Timebank.
Toplines on all of the above follow, plus a few extras:
‘MOVE SEATTLE’ LEVY: Councilmember Tom Rasmussen began with its backstory, saying it’s bigger than its predecessor, Bridging The Gap, because “the need is greater” – not just in maintenance, but also in citizens’ “desire for safe and walkable neighborhoods.” He said the region overall needs billions and billions of dollars of investment, and that’s how the city wound up putting a $930 million levy on the ballot, “meeting three significant needs – maintenance and repair … congestion reduction … (and) Safe Routes to School,” $400m, $300m, $200m respectively. For those concerned about accountability, he mentioned a citizens’ Oversight Committee will be set up. Rasmussen insisted, “The promises made in Bridging the Gap were kept. … I’m very, very proud of the work that SDOT has done. … If we’re going to meet the needs we hear about, we’re going to have to supplement federal and state dollars,” and that’s what voters are being asked to approve.
Pete Spalding, at SWDC as the WS Chamber of Commerce‘s rep, challenged the contention that Bridging the Gap had met its goals, asking about the Lander Street Grade Separation project in SODO, among other things. Rasmussen said, “It was not intended to be funded by Bridging the Gap.” (We checked on that while writing this story – it was listed in the BTG measure’s text as a “funding priority,” third paragraph from the end; also, WSDOT described it as part of BTG; and news coverage in 2006 did too.)
Eugene Wasserman spoke in opposition to the levy, saying the League of Women Voters had raised issues similar to . He said Lander *was* a “named project” in Bridging the Gap and that the money was moved over to Mercer by the City Council. (We checked on that and found various online news references including this one.) “and there’s a great dispute about whether Bridging the Gap met its goals,” which he alleged were changed later. He pointed out that the list of projects in the “Move Seattle” levy are “illustrative,” not mandatory. He also observed that at least four of the Councilmembers who voted on this will not be on the council for the nine years over which it would play out (Rasmussen and Nick Licata are leaving by choice; Jean Godden lost in the primary; John Okamoto is serving an interim term that ends soon.) He also noted other taxes and fees that voters are paying already, including the car-tab fees for Transit Benefit District Prop 1. “We think in a city where people have trouble affording to live, passing a general levy is too much. He also said SDOT has projects that are way over budget and were not transparent – the seawall and the streetcar. The levies “really start adding up,” he contended, saying opponents want a “no” vote so that the new council can take on the task next year.
Morgan Community Association‘s Cindi Barker asked about Wasserman’s point that the list of projects was not necessarily a fixed list – Rasmussen noted again that the categories must be met, unless there’s a 3/4 vote of the City Council would be required. A bit of a squabble between Rasmussen and Wasserman subsequently erupted regarding the opposition campaign’s backing – Wasserman said the main funder had opposed the county transit proposition, not the city transit proposition that followed after the county measure’s defeat.
Spalding asked: What about equity for the projects?
“What is the need of a particular part of town? Are we going to be giving our best to that area based on its need?” is how Rasmussen said it would be viewed.
Fauntleroy Community Association‘s Marty Westerman asked: “We seem to be building things we can’t afford to maintain … I’ve expressed concern about the funding mechanism – we seem to be loading property tax repeatedly without finding other sources of funding,” and he mentioned a variety of levies.
“We do have a very regressive tax system in this state,” Rasmussen acknowledged, “but we have some other options – the commercial parking tax, the employee (head) tax – it was wildly complicated, businesses were suffering and they asked us to remove the employee head tax.” He mentioned the Tim Eyman initiative that bagged the motor-vehicle excise tax, “which was considered fair and equitable … the options we have are only those granted by the state.” He then brought up development impact fees, adding: “The problem with that, though, is that the fees can only be raised for that part of town (where the development happens).”
Wasserman said Bellevue and Kirkland have impact fees and that Seattle should have moved to them a long time ago.
Ray Krueger asked what happens to projects in progress if “Move Seattle” isn’t passed. “Fewer projects will be started,” Rasmussen envisioned.
Yes, there would have to be staff cutbacks in SDOT if the levy didn’t pass, Rasmussen acknowledged. Wasserman countered that he had been around the city for years and “no one ever gets laid off.”
TERMINAL 5 MODERNIZATION UPDATE: Paul Meyer from the Port of Seattle offered a “counterpoint to last month’s meeting” (WSB coverage here), at which the SWDC heard from T-5 neighbors who are advocating for a full environmental review of the plan. (Many of those neighbors returned to the October meeting to see what Meyer would say.)
First, he offered background on the Terminal 5 modernization project – saying the world’s shippers were using larger vessels, and mentioning the big vessel that was here a few weeks ago at Terminal 18 on Harbor Island. “Terminal 5 we thought was quite the state of the art in 1994,” he said. “We’re not expanding it, we’re not making it larger, we’re not doing anything to change the current footprint – what we do need to do is to support what they call the crane rails, because we need bigger cranes.” They’re taking 20 feet off the wharf, going to put larger concrete piles, then put it back. Behind the bulkhead, they’re putting in more pilings. And he mentioned they will need to dredge to make it deeper for the larger vessels – 50 feet now, 55 feet after the work. They also need to supply more power to the site. “We have submitted an application that many of you have commented on, and many of you have commented on the environmental review – the city is looking at our application and will be looking at it to see if there are environmental impacts, whether it meets standards … city noise code, various regulations.” He ticked off a list of other permits needed, from state and federal governments, “tribal concurrence,” shoreline, water quality.
Asked if the port is considering installing shore power so T-5’s future visiting ships can use it, Meyer said that if the terminal’s (not-yet-signed) post-modernization tenant wants it, they’ll put it in. Much discussion ensued, including the question of why not just install the capability instead of waiting for someone who wants it. “It’s not as easy as just a plug,” Meyer said, noting that the cruise ship terminal has it. “Yes, in the wealthier part of town,” observed SWDC co-chair David Whiting of the Admiral Neighborhood Association, nodding to the environmental and health concerns from air quality on this side of downtown.
The Port countered that most cargo ships coming in don’t have shore power. What would it cost to just be ready for it? pressed Cindi Barker. Meyer said he doesn’t know. Some ports require it, others said, especially in California, “and those vessels will be visiting us (too),” said an attendee.
Port communicator Mick Shultz talked about a cleaner-fuel incentives program, ABC Fuels: “Very successful program, but it was superseded by federal requirements that took effect last year” – Emissions Control Areas, requiring 1/10th of 1 percent (or less) sulfur for ships operating close to the U.S. His contention was that the ships already are burning cleaner fuel, and that California is requiring shore power among other things because air pollution is so much worse there. “Because we have far less pollution here, the feds have not made those requirements.” He also mentioned ScRAPS, paying truck drivers up to $27,000 to get old trucks off the road.
Meyer said federal regulations might be on the way requiring them to use shore power, as well as “scrubbers.”
Barker asked about the environmental impact statement that the Port doesn’t think it has to seek but that neighbors want to see done. Meyer said they believe their environmental review “determined that it would still meet the standards and the land use code … if we operated in a fashion similar to what we’ve done in the past. We did offer that we would phase it, if we needed to do more improvements, or increase the volume that would come to this port – we would know that when we got further along with tenant negotiations.” Right now they are talking with a prospective tenant and believe the tenant will “likely want more (cargo) volume” to go through T-5, in which case they would expect to do additional environmental review.
(P.S. This wasn’t mentioned at the meeting, but the Port Commission’s agenda for tomorrow [Tuesday, October 13, 1 pm at Pier 69] includes a discussion of an early part of the modernization project, the “test pile” phase, needing more money added to the budget because the lowest bid was more than 10 percent over projection. Here’s the memo.)
WEST SEATTLE TIMEBANK UPDATE: Tamsen Spengler came to SWDC about a new project for the WS Timebank, which she leads as its president. First, a quick history – timebanking is “an exchange of services between neighbors,” a concept born on the East Coast, which has spread to 350 timebanks across the U.S., including one founded in WS three years ago. WSTB now has 109 members – say, you go wash your neighbors’ windows, and the time you spend doing that goes in the bank so you can use it to get help with something that you want. The new project: They’re seeking a more diverse membership and are planning to reach out to various cultural communities in the area; they applied for and received a $21,000 city Department of Neighborhoods grant to help with that. They’ll be working with the White Center Community Development Association, the Vietnamese Cultural Center, Southwest Youth and Family Services, among others. The grant money will be used for translating materials and to hire interpreters for upcoming community meetings. WSTB is also hiring a part-time coordinator, and will have food and child care at monthly meetings. Spengler summarized, “We’re going to be pretty busy this next year trying to get our membership to look more like our community looks … this is about building a community.” Want to get involved? Start at westseattletimebank.com – and/or go to the Timebank’s monthly orientation meeting this Thursday (October 15th) – details in the listing on the WSB West Seattle Event Calendar.
Among the many relatively quick mentions at the meeting:
HUBS/SDOT EVENT: Wearing her preparedness hat, Cindi Barker announced this event, similar to a presentation given to the WSTC some months back:
We have had our share of local challenges and emergencies on Seattle roads recently. But what will happen in a large scale disaster? Join the Seattle Emergency Hubs to hear Lawrence Eichhorn, SDOT Emergency Manager, describe the department’s preparedness and response plans. Everyone welcome!
When: Oct 22, 2015, 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Where: Downtown Seattle Central Library, 4th Floor, Room 2, 1000 4th Ave, Seattle
7:00 – Welcome from the Seattle Emergency Hubs
7:15 – SDOT program
8:00 – Q & A and discussion
For more on the West Seattle hubs, go here.
DESIGN REVIEW: Barker summarized the city’s proposed changes as “two tracks” – some projects will still get community meetings, while some projects, if affordable housing is involved, will see developers just asked to “talk to the neighbors” – in a meeting with no staff members involved. There’s one more open house ahead – but CIndi says they need feedback. That meeting is this Wednesday, in north Seattle – details here.
The Southwest District Council meets on first Wednesdays most months, 6:30 pm, at the Sisson Building (home of the Senior Center of West Seattle).