MAKING IT WORK
Seattle City Councilmember Richard Conlin
The purpose of this newsletter is to provide information, inspire involvement, and make things work in this great city.
February 9, 2006, Volume VIII, Issue 1
NEW COUNCIL COMMITTEE ASSIGNMENTS
On Monday, January 30, the Council adopted new Committee assignments for the 2006-2007 term. Most Councilmembers had only served two years as Chair of their respective committees, and Council protocol gives members the right to keep a chairmanship for four years. Having been Chair of Transportation for four years, it was most appropriate for me to move to a new Committee.
I was able to create a portfolio that will give me the opportunity to work on a number of very significant issues with a Committee entitled Environment, Emergency Management and Utilities. My committee will deal with issues of regional water resources and endangered species recovery plans; sustainability and the Office of Sustainability and Environment (including the Urban Forest Management Plan, Green Building, and climate change issues); water, drainage, wastewater and solid waste/recycling/waste reduction issues; energy and environmental policies and conservation programs and initiatives; and emergency preparedness, management and response. I will continue to serve on the Urban Development and Planning and the Parks, Education, Libraries, and Labor Committees. I will also Chair a Special Committee on Annexation and continue to be involved in transportation issues through my regional and neighborhood work, particularly on the SR520 Bridge replacement.
Six Councilmembers will continue their Committee Chair assignments: Jean Godden, Energy and Technology, Richard McIver, Finance and Budget, David Della, Parks, Education, Libraries, and Labor, Tom Rasmussen, Housing, Human Services and Health, Nick Licata, Public Safety, Governmental Relations, and Arts, and Peter Steinbrueck, Urban Development and Planning. Councilmember Jan Drago will take over from me as Chair of Transportation, and new Councilmember Sally Clark will Chair Neighborhoods and Economic Development.
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COUNCIL PRESIDENCY AND NEW COUNCILMEMBER
In early December, I had secured five votes to become the new Council President. However, Councilmember Jim Compton,
who had been one of my votes, suddenly resigned, and Councilmembers who had committed themselves to supporting Jean Godden
felt themselves bound to keep voting for her until she released them. This left us in a 4-4 deadlock until the new
Councilmember would be selected.
Recognizing that this would be a very awkward position for a new Councilmember, on Monday, January 23rd, I chose to
withdraw my candidacy, and endorsed Nick Licata. Councilmember Godden then also agreed to withdraw, and Councilmember
Licata was elected that day as President for the next two years.
The Council selected Sally Clark as our new colleague on Friday, January 27. Councilmember Clark brings a strong
commitment to neighborhoods, experience with the Council as a former aide to Councilmember Tina Podlodowski, and great
talent, intelligence, and energy. The Council received 98 applications for the vacancy, and took three weeks of open and
transparent public process to come to a decision. After publicly selecting 14 semi-finalists, the Council conducted
televised hour-long interviews with each, and then narrowed the field to 6 finalists. When Councilmembers were asked to
rank their top three choices, Sally Clark was the only candidate named by all eight Councilmembers. Ultimately she was
selected by a 6 to 2 vote.
In choosing candidates to vote for, I used these criteria:
- Commitment to Seattle values and involvement in a range of civic activities.
- Cultural competence and experience in working with diverse communities.
- Demonstrated ability to work collegially in a small group setting.
- Knowledge and engagement in a variety of issues, with special emphasis on key city concerns.
- Ability to thoughtfully assess alternatives, discuss options, and manage challenging problems and issues.
- Commitment to involvement with City government and clear enthusiasm for engaging in intense discussion and exchange
Choosing from among the many talented people was a challenging task. I ultimately voted for Sally Clark, Darryl Smith, Venus Velasquez, Stella Chao, and Sharon Maeda as finalists, with Stella Chao and Sally Clark as my top choices.
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SUMMER CONCERTS AT GAS WORKS PARK
On Monday, January 30, the Council agreed to allow the Parks Department to proceed with arrangements to host the Concerts
on the Pier series at Gas Works Park. The Council required Parks and One Reel, the sponsor of the concerts, to work with
the affected community to develop a working agreement that will:
-- Ensure that sound levels are mitigated;
-- Manage traffic within one mile of the concert site to minimize its impact on the community, and encourage concertgoers
to use public transportation;
-- Manage parking so that adequate parking is still available for residents and businesses;
-- Restore the Park to its original condition at the end of each concert season;
-- Minimize the presence of equipment and structures;
-- Protect the existing soil remediation project.
The Council also required an annual evaluation of the series and that a new venue be selected after the 2008 season.
The Parks Department has also reoriented the concert venue to ensure that access remains open to areas of the Park that
were of greatest concern to community members.
I very much regret that there was conflict between One Reel, a nonprofit organization with a strong record of community
involvement, and members of the Wallingford community over this proposal. The Parks Department did not approach the
community in a timely fashion. The community should have been worked with much earlier, before a decision had been made,
and had the opportunity to review the proposal and work with Parks to address issues like parking and noise impacts.
I believe that many of the concerns could have been mitigated, and that the path towards an agreement would have been
The South Lake Union community, which was originally skeptical of the move to South Lake Union Park when the downtown
pier location had to be closed for renovation, wound up enthusiastically supporting the concerts after the first few
demonstrated the effectiveness of the management plan. It is regrettable that development plans for South Lake Union Park
required moving the series again after only one year.
The Summer Nights concerts are enjoyed by thousands of Seattle families, and I hope that ultimately most people in
Wallingford will find that their presence enhances the neighborhood. Arts events are very appropriate uses of Parks,
but must meet reasonable standards for noise, parking, and traffic impacts. I will continue to monitor the work of the
Parks Department in ensuring that these issues are addressed.
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SONICS AND KEY ARENA
Over the next few months, the City Council must decide about a proposed major renovation of Key Arena under pressure
from the professional basketball teams. The Sonics and Storm are an important part of the Seattle sports scene, and I
regret that they are threatening to leave Seattle if they do not get their way on Key Arena. The Arena was renovated to
the Sonics specifications in 1995, and performed well until 2001. Since then, for reasons on which the interested parties
do not agree, the Arena has not delivered the expected revenues, and the City has had to pay millions of dollars out of the
General Fund to cover the debt service on the improvements.
The Sonics have proposed a package of some $220 million in modifications to the Key Arena that they argue are necessary.
They propose that the taxpayers fund these improvements and turn over the management of the Key Arena to the Sonics.
While some of the improvements will improve the field area and seating capacity of Key Arena, much of the proposal is
designed to improve the concessions areas to create what will be in effect a shopping mall.
While I certainly wish the team well, I am concerned that the taxpayers will not receive a return on their investment if
this plan is implemented. I am also concerned that turning over the facility's operations and revenues to the Sonics will
further erode the City's finances, and that creating this expanded business area will cut into the revenues of other
businesses in the Uptown community.
An analysis of Key Arena finances indicates that it can operate at a profit with concerts and other sports events
without the Sonics, although under the current financial arrangement Key Arena will be more profitable with them. I am
willing to discuss renovations and improvements that will improve the bottom line for the City and taxpayers, but I will
not support any renovation that is not designed to provide a return on investment to the taxpayer. My impression is that
there may be some modest improvements that meet this standard, but that the proposed $220 million package is likely to fail
The Council is currently evaluating the City's options on the Key Arena, and will make a recommendation sometime in April
as to a formal City position.
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"It is not your obligation to complete your work, but you are not at liberty to quit."
-- The Talmud
"It may take a village to raise a child, but history also keeps telling us it takes a village to burn a witch."
-- Laura Miller
Citizen participation and engagement are critical for maintaining democracy -- fostering it is a key task of elected officials. It's my hope that this newsletter will inform you about issues, inspire you to get involved, and that together we can make things work better in this great city. Please send me your feedback, so we can keep things lively, interesting, and useful. And please forward it along to friends who might be interested. You can get more information or send me feedback through the City Council website at http://cityofseattle.net/council/
Your Seattle City Councilmember
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