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February 12, 2007

Speaker Frank Chopp out of sync with environmentalists on transportation and land use

Frank Chopp has shown leadership in Olympia on the meat and potato Democratic issues like jobs, education, and healthcare. But when it comes to creating policies that favor smart growth and transit, the speaker is out of sync and out of touch with the values of urban environmentalists.

It’s very disheartening to see Speaker Chopp’s pandering to environmentalists saying he could support an at-grade replacement for the viaduct, and a greater investment for transit. If he truly stood for a surface replacement then he would push WSDOT and the city of Seattle to replace the viaduct with an at-grade roadway and would work to create funding for transit in the legislature. In reality, Speaker Chopp appears to believe that an elevated highway is good urban planning and that waterfront stakeholders will rally around a “pro-environment” elevated highway. This idea couldn’t be further from the truth. Urban environmentalists will never accept an elevated highway for the downtown waterfront. Environmentalists advocate for an investment in open space, transit and smart growth, and they do not support elevated highways in the middle of the densest part of the state and the center of the city.

The speaker has articulated a vision and worked tirelessly behind the scenes to have a huge new elevated highway built on the waterfront in downtown Seattle, replacing a 50 year eyesore and representation of our failed national transportation and land use policies. His auto-centric vision for the downtown waterfront is a vision that holds the private space of highway lanes over the public value of open space and community. His focus on rebuilding the elevated highway, and not taking a deeper look at how to create mobility in the center of the city are the kind of policies that have contributed to Seattle being ranked as having the second worst traffic congestion of any city in the nation.

Speaker Chopp’s anti-environmental vision for Seattle assumes Seattleites don’t want to enjoy their waterfront, which could quickly become the regions premier public gathering space. The Speaker assumes that the residents of his 43rd District and the rest of the city don’t want to build community and connect with each other in the center of the city. A world-class city has more than an art museum and symphony hall. A world-class city has beautiful open spaces, an effective mass transit system and quality affordable housing downtown and throughout the city.

There is a romantic vision of Seattle, and it couldn’t be more different from the city Speaker Chopp is working to build. It’s a vision of a city that captures the qualities that made Seattle great before the age of highways took American cities in a different direction. It’s the kind of city that was built in the early decades of the twentieth century when streetcar development created neighborhoods. It’s the kind of transit-oriented development that is happening now, where neighborhoods become transit hubs with density and affordable housing and open space and thriving neighborhoods attract families back to the city from the auto-dependent suburbs. We can’t forget that downtown Seattle is a neighborhood and the number one transit hub in the city.

The famous billboard twenty five years ago asking the last person to leave Seattle to turn out the lights couldn’t ring with more irony today, in a city and state that during that time has failed to get behind the eight ball on funding for transit and affordable housing development. Speaker Chopp is clearly out of sync with his district and fellow Seattleites on transportation and smart growth and really needs to examine why his leadership in the house for the past 9 years has failed to provide funding and create policies that are pro-transit and pro-environment. In Olympia we need an advocate for improving the quality of life in Seattle, not another roadblock.

Cross Posted on The Urban Environmentalist

Posted by EzraBasom on February 12, 2007 at 10:15 PM in Policy | Permalink



A lot of other people besides you can define such terms as "environmentalist," "progressive," "world-class city," and "quality of life" for themselves.

Your definition of these terms is not intrinsically any better than anybody else's, which might be quite different from yours.

Frank Chopp is Speaker of the House for the entire Legislature, and his constituency encompasses far more people, and far more viewpoints, than those who share your "vision." Please try not to be so condescending and so judgmental toward people who do not see the world as you might like them to.

Posted by: ivan | Feb 13, 2007 10:39:54 AM

Ivan is a prime example of what's wrong with tunnel opponents. These die-hard monorail supporters are just playing sour grapes in their attempt to punish the Mayor for "killing their project" even though it was the voters who killed it.

In fact, Ivan led the charge at the 34th District Demos to "keep hope alive" long after the wheels had fallen off the Green Line. The excuse Ivan used for a shrunken line which would NEVER help solve our regional transportation problems? "Nobody is perfect." These misguided efforts gave public transportation a bigger black eye than the Mayor ever could with his tunnel.

I would love to see how ivan and his Vashon neighbors would react if an elevated arterial like this one http://www.nwprogressive.org/weblog/2007/02/what-new-viaduct-would-look-like.html was proposed for Vashon's waterfront once a bridge was built to his island. I can guarantee you ivan would be singing a different tune.

Finally, it's nice to see there are still some monorail proponents out there who have seen the light, removed their blinders, and realize the politics of revenge don't help ANYBODY:


Posted by: Benjamin | Feb 15, 2007 11:31:48 AM

Another note to ivan: I can also guarantee you brown-tinted car-happy "greens" like Chopp would never allow an elevated arterial (or monorail, for that matter) along the Burke-Gilman corridor below his bucolic Wallingford neighborhood. Given the incredible congestion on E-W corridors across this city, such a proposal isn't too difficult to envision in 20 years.

If Chopp is still around then, can you imagine him explaining his preference for cheap, ugly, noisy, view-blocking cement to his neighbors - the same way he is now trying to force a re-built viaduact down the waterfront's throat?

Posted by: Benjamin | Feb 15, 2007 11:38:49 AM

Benjamin must be a member of Friends of Seattle, the organization that so fittingly refers to itself as "FoS," without a thought as to what else "FoS" stands for.

My position on the monorail is only a reflection of the 34th District Democrats' membership and of the population of West Seattle, White Center, Burien, and Vashon Island at large. The voters in our District are asking for an efficient way in and out of, and through town. Is that somehow unreasonable?

Benjamin's screed is laughable on so many fronts. In the first place, I am by and large an out-and-proud Nickels supporter, notwithstanding our disagreement on the Highway 99 issue. So there is no "politics of revenge" operating here, and Greg understands that. All I can do is laugh at this; it's too ridiculous to take the slightest umbrage.

In the second place, we need to be honest here about the true effect of not replacing the Viaduct. It will either lessen or impede traffic flow.

Some people might be fine with that. I am not. Route 99 is a state highway, and the state is REQUIRED BY LAW to maintain traffic capacity and flow on that highway.

Tough shit if it is ugly. The city and the county have had chance after chance, opportunity after opportunity, to put in mass transit systems that would have obviated the need to replace the Viaduct with an elevated highway.

I supported every single such effort, and I will continue to support any other such effort -- Sound Transit, the Monorail -- whatever. None of them, it seems, were ever good enough for the Benjamins of the world, who make the perfect the enemy of the good almost as a Pavlovian reflex.

Until such time as there is proper mass transit in place that people will use, personal transportation will have to remain an option for people who find it more efficient. People are entitled to their reasons. Even Ezra Basom and the other would-be social engineers are welcome to their reasons.

The big tunnel is dead. "Tunnel lite" is dead. The eco-weenies and the FoS people who insist on their "vision" and their fantasies of a "world-class city," whatever that means and whoever is to decide, seriously do not give a rip if vehicle traffic in this town is brought to a screeching halt.

That absolutely, certainly will be the case if the Viaduct is not replaced. If the Governor and DOT decide that the Viaduct will be replaced, and certain politicians try to monkey-wrench the project, then you will see some real "politics of revenge" in this town, and it will make the present flap look like the Teddy Bears'Picnic.

Posted by: ivan | Feb 16, 2007 6:06:53 AM

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