My SeattleScape colleague Matt Hays has done a great job of laying out some of the tired arguments in favor of the waterfront tunnel boondoggle in his SeattleScape post below. I won’t bother to refute them because others far more capable than I have addressed the overruns, what could go wrong, (OK I talked about revenue underruns ), climate impacts, and why there are better and more sustainable options.
But here’s the deal, there already is a referendum scheduled on the tunnel: in 2011 there are five members of the current Seattle City Council up for re-election should each of them choose to run. Whether a referendum on the tunnel project specifically gets put on the ballot or not, five pro tunnel Councilmembers will have to face the music next fall in forum after forum about their choice to support the tunnel. And some of us fully intend to exploit the opportunity for accountability. Seattle may yet see another movement like the Choose an Effective City Council (CHECC) movement of the late 60’s that can muster a pro-sustainability majority on the Council.
Now let me issue a warning to those who might smugly laugh as they sit upon their massive campaign war chests in the form of a name: Rex Burkholder. I highlighted Rex Burkholder’s campaign for election to the Presidency of the Metro Council in Oregon in a post called “Bridge Across the Sustainability Gap,” calling out his support for the Columbia River Crossing project, Portland’s own big unsustainable highway project. Burkholder, like Richard Conlin, was Mr. Sustainable for many years, biking to campaign events, supporting carbon neutrality, and being an all around champion of every sustainable idea and concept in the Portland region.
Burkholder got a lot of heat from supporters for his advocacy for the highway project and he ended up losing his election. Now I have no crystal ball app on my I Phone, but I would say that however this all turns out, the current City Council, like Burkholder, will be faced with a lot of people who expect them to lead the sustainability charge in our city and in our region—not flummox it by building more highways. Time will tell whether “the Get it Done Gang” will face a similar political fate as Burkholder did. But there are few better ways to close the Sustainability Gap than at the ballot box next November.