Community Post

Dear City Leaders:!3{2}Please Think Big

There’s a story in today’s Seattle Times about a list of “Ready To Go” infrastructure projects that was put together by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The good news is that the Madison Valley flooding project made the list with a request for $40 million.

And although the article was a bit unfair by focusing only on one small solar panel project in Seattle, I read through the whole list (warning: 4MB file) and was struck by how much it lacked.  For example, after all the talk of an unfunded $800 million network of streetcars in the city, Seattle has nothing listed under the transit section of the report. In the public safety category, there’s a measly request for funding for 11 new police officers, in a city that has over a thousand cops.   Possibly most infuriating, we’re talking about closing a neighborhood elementary school due to the poor condition of its building, but there’s no request for money to rehab the city’s schools.

There’s going to be a big federal stimulus package, and it’s time for our local leaders to think similarly big about all of the things that we should have been building for years but haven’t due to the lack of funds.

Here’s some examples of what I think should be priorities:

  • $500 million for a citywide, municipally-operated broadband network with affordable, high-speed fiber-optic connections at each home
  • $500 million to construct and repair sidewalks throughout the city
  • $250 million to take ugly, outage-prone overhead utility wires and bury them underground
  • $250 million for a 4-mile streetcar connecting us to the new light rail stations at McClellan, I-90, and Capitol Hill, generally running along 23rd Ave
  • $120 million for a 2-mile streetcar along 12th Ave, assuming First Hill wins their effort to put one further west.
  • $100 million to improve the sewer system to eliminate overflows into Lake Washington during periods of heavy rainfall
  • $100 million for pedestrian safety and traffic calming improvements throughout the city, such as new round-abouts, traffic signals, cross-walks, curb-bulbs, etc.
  • $50 million for a new or significantly upgraded building for TT Minor
  • $35 million to replace the old Soviet-inspired Medgar Evers Pool
  • $30 million for a new police headquarters building in the East Precinct
  • $20 million to build a new community center for Madison Valley
  • $9 million to repave 23rd Ave from I-90 to 520
  • $6 million to build a new Fire Station in the CD
  • $5 million to purchase and renovate Washington Hall for use by neighborhood arts groups

It’s easy to come up with a list of as much as $2 billion with the projects like those listed above.  And yes, that’s a huge amount of money.  But if Obama comes out with a $1 trillion infrastructure package, a city like Seattle should be able to get at least $4 billion of that if we play our cards right.

The trick is to think big and get beyond the pet projects downtown like the Mercer St. mess that city leaders have wanted to do for years.  We need to get some real projects done out in the neighborhoods of the city.  Things that will last for generations and make it a much better place to live and work.

All it requires is some vision, some determination, and a willingness to involve real people in the neighborhoods in the process.

0 thoughts on “Dear City Leaders:!3{2}Please Think Big

  1. I was with you until the bit on Mercer. This project will remove a nasty highway running through a neighborhood (South Lake Union) and replace it with a much more livable two-way boulevard. They will also reconnect the grid at Aurora as part of this project. This will connect neighborhoods (SLU and Uptown/Lower Queen Anne) in the process. I think it qualifies as something that will last for generations and make (the city) a much better place to live and work.

  2. I’m not saying don’t do the Mercer project. My point is that it’s an example of the downtown-centric thinking that could limit the scope of what we could achieve citywide over the next few years.

    Downtown is great! I want it to be better! But there’s a need to think about a lot more than the handful of projects that have been on the lists of downtown interests for the last several years.

  3. I don’t have time at the moment but just have to say that the $7 million for solar at Qwest field would be better spent on a solar project that better and more directly serves the public. Put the solar back into our grid, or use it for projects on large public public buildings where the taxpayers pay the bill.

    Also I wish that the charge for energy would be as great or greater during the months that many buildings are excessively cooled. During cold months the Utilities charge a premium price for warmth. (not fair) Finally we get a little warm weather and all are shivering or using sweaters to keep warm. This happens often in publicly and privately owned buildings. One public building that immediately comes to mind is the meeting room in the Capital Hill Library.

    Why do the large hotels and corporations that overly cool their buildings and build buildings that are less efficient than they should be get the break on price?

  4. Solar. Yes, put solar panels on the big buildings like, for example, the NEW emergency command center! Consider also, stimuli (maybe not part of the ‘ready to go’) that create small businesses and real rebates for many of us homeowners to have solar panels on our own roofs.

  5. Another example that comes to mind is the grocery stores that offer refrigerated products on open shelves and keep the whole store very cold in hot weather to accommodate the needs of these same products so they will stay fresh.
    Put them behind glass doors so you don’t have to cool the whole building!

  6. Well, there will be a lot of other elements to the stimulus than infrastructure projects — so we aren’t getting 4 billion or anything close. And I love some of the things on Scott’s list – but these things need to be “ready to go” — i.e. all of the endless planning and approval is done, so people can start working on them ASAP (which is probably why so few Seattle projects on the list — it would probably be a 12-18 month approval process if I wanted to go outside and build a snowman right now).

    But the broad point is right. And it’s not just thinking big – it’s thinking big about the fundamentals of a city (public safety, decent schools, solid transit,, etc – that we have such hard time with. Why? Because the Mayor and friends are much more concerned about solar panels in a semi-public stadium (and charging poor people for plastic bags) than these kinds of things.

    Manny Diaz from Miami, an extremely successful mayor, is President of the Conf of Mayors. (Nickels is VP). Miami has 6 PAGES (100s) of school construction projects. Seattle has, um, zero. Miami Dade scores of Public Safety projects – Seattle 2. On transit Miami recommends a bunch of projects. Seattle couldn’t come up with anything on that either. Only place where it is close is Energy (of course). That’s either negligence — or just a reflection that our political leaders are a lot more focused on their pet projects than the day to day things that impact people’s lives here. (And so NOTHING on our cities wish list is ready to go).

    But here’s the real beauty of the $7 million for the Quest solar panels. In a packages that’s primarily about putting people to work, it would create … FOUR JOBS. Wooo Hooo!! Pretty much offsets the WAMU collapse right there.

  7. and we desperately need a new Mayor.

    I mean the City’s entries on the wish list, not Scott’s wish list posted above. I sometimes think the Mayor’s office doesn’t actually talk to anyone who lives here.