MAKING IT WORK
April 19, 2004, Volume VII, Issue 3
Seattle City Councilmember Richard Conlin
The purpose of this newsletter is to provide
information, inspire involvement, and make things work
in this great city.
VIADUCT EMERGENCY CLOSURE PLAN
GREEN-DUWAMISH SALMON RECOVERY
QUOTE AND DEEP THOUGHT
VIADUCT EMERGENCY CLOSURE PLAN
On Monday, February 28, the Transportation Committee began its work on the Safety and Transition Plan for the Alaskan Way Viaduct/Seawall Project with a public review of the Draft Emergency Closure Plan prepared by the Washington and Seattle Departments of Transportation. We knew that the Emergency Closure Plan was still fairly sketchy, and improving it is a key goal of the Safety and Transition Plan Resolution that I developed. However, both the public who attended and the Committee members were surprised at the lack of specifics that one would expect in a workable plan.
We learned that, while there was a general plan in place, very few specific preparations have been made, particularly in the event that a closure lasts more than a few hours or days. The proposed vehicle detour route described in the documents is characterized in one place as having "…an almost jarring complexity. Every element of the loop route will need to be examined for improvements that reassure the driver that they are traveling on a coherent route."
Specific plans for adding and rerouting bus services have not been developed. The report notes surface Alaskan Way has been designated for both transit and freight routing in the event of a closure, and that "It would also be preferable during a closure not to mix truck and transit routes where possible…" but specific ways to avoid that have not been selected.
While clear signage advising people that the Viaduct has been closed and specifying alternative routes will be required, arrangements for ensuring that portable variable message signs and flashing beacons can be obtained have not been made. This poses the possibility that these devices will not be available for deployment if they are located at private businesses that are also impacted by an earthquake.
There was also a lack of clarity as to the lines of authority for emergency management. While a police incident commander on the scene would make the initial decision to close the viaduct, there are several entities that would have responsibility for coordinating follow-up decisions, and the lines of communication and preparatory work were not as clear to the Committee as we believe would be necessary in order to successfully manage this emergency.
This public review strongly reinforced the need for continued work and oversight on the Emergency Closure Plan. The Departments are working to develop a more detailed and effective plan, and will report back to the Committee in early summer. We hope it is a plan that will address these issues and alleviate some of the concern that many of us felt when we heard the presentation in February.
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Casa Latina, a nonprofit organization that works with Latino day laborers and community members, is proposing to relocate its work from its current Belltown locations (several scattered sites) to the former Chubby and Tubby store in the Rainier Valley. Regretfully, this proposal has engendered considerable community conflict.
Councilmembers Della, Drago, and I sponsored reserving $250,000 in the 2006 budget to help Casa Latina relocate. The Council did not provide this funding specifically for the Chubby and Tubby location, and the Council placed a series of conditions that Casa Latina will have to meet prior to receiving the funds, including developing a credible financial plan as well as working with the community and providing evidence of community support for any location that they wind up selecting.
Casa Latina is an outstanding organization, and a well-organized and important service for people who are sorely in need of assistance. They were initially invited into the Belltown community to help manage the increasing number of Latino day laborers who are not served by the Millionaire's Club organization (which requires documentation of legal status for its clients). The Belltown location has won the support of the community for the work it has done, but there is agreement that the problem of day laborers loitering on the street has not been solved, partly due to the limited capacity of the Casa Latina site, and partly because they came into a difficult situation with an already established street day laborer presence.
Casa Latina believes that developing a new location with the ability to consolidate their services would allow them to function effectively in providing jobs for day laborers while also providing services that will allow the laborers to pursue longer-term education and employment opportunities. Programs for women and children would be sited at the same location. Casa Latina believes that they can create an environment that minimizes the risk of an on-street presence of day laborers that are not working with the organization.
Rainier Valley organizations and nearby residents and businesses have objected to the move, expressing two significant concerns: that Casa Latina's presence in this location would not contribute to the economic development strategy for this area, and that new congregations of street day laborers would emerge that would present both a potential public safety problem and a further handicap in pursuing economic development. Sadly, some of the opposition to the Casa Latina move has been expressed in racially charged terms, stereotyping all Latino day laborers as people who will be a public safety risk and will harass and endanger children walking to school.
I have great confidence in Casa Latina's ability to conduct a safe and appropriate operation wherever they relocate. Casa Latina is not the cause of day laborers being on the street and potentially causing problems, but rather is a solution to the presence of day laborers who have few other alternatives. Those who work with them are required to work out of the office and organization and not on the street.
However, the concerns raised are legitimate ones, and Casa Latina must demonstrate that it will contribute to the Rainier Valley and not create further problems. The City is currently engaging in a community mediation process to attempt to resolve this conflict, and the Council will watch this carefully as we move closer to the decision as to whether or not to release the money in 2006.
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GREEN-DUWAMISH SALMON RECOVERY
Water Resource Inventory Area 9 (WRIA 9) has released its draft plan for salmon recovery in the Green-Duwamish River watershed and the near shore habitat of Elliott Bay and southern King County including Vashon and Maury Islands. Public comment will be taken on the plan until April 25, after which the 26-member Steering Committee (on which I represent Seattle) responsible for the plan will meet to make decisions and adopt a final version. The Green-Duwamish plan will form part of the overall salmon recovery plan to be submitted to the federal government as part of the state's response to the listing of Chinook salmon and bull trout as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. You can review the plan and make comments at http://govlink.org/watersheds/
The upper reaches of the Green-Duwamish River are behind the Howard Hanson Dam, which provides flood protection for the Green River Valley, and are not accessible to salmon. The lowest part of the river, the Duwamish estuary, is a Superfund site. In between, the river includes farms, forests, suburban subdivisions, and several cities, and sustains a number of salmon runs, including both wild and hatchery Chinook runs. The plan includes a series of actions, estimated to cost several hundred million dollars, including providing fish access around the dam and opening up habitat above Howard Hanson, as well as purchasing and restoring critical habitat areas in the middle and lower reaches of the river.
The goal of the plan is to be scientifically sound, effective, fair, and realistic. It is based on extensive research designed to determine the critical factors that are limiting Chinook runs in the Green-Duwamish. A key finding of the scientific study was the possibility that the "transition zone," located at the last bend of the river before the area where it is straightened and channelized, is the area where it is most important to conserve, improve, and restore habitat. This is also the furthest place where salt water reaches, and juvenile salmon pause here to complete the change in their metabolisms that will allow them to adapt to marine waters. To complete the transition, they must have adequate food and shelter from predators and sufficient room to share this area with the several million hatchery fish that are released in May and June each year. Because it is located in the center of the urbanized area, this is also one of the most expensive places to acquire land or restrict land uses.
Funding resources have not yet been identified for the level of salmon recovery contemplated as necessary. Thus, the WRIA Steering Committee may have to make difficult choices, such as whether to focus on the significant resources required to secure the transition zone, or to focus on acquiring, protecting, or restoring upstream land that may be less expensive. Of course, much of this upstream land is agricultural, and preservation of farmland is also a public policy objective. Public input and an indication of what choices the public is willing to make will be important in guiding the Steering Committee's decisions on these kinds of issues.
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"I don't need for this nation to be perfect in order for me to love it; I love it because it is home, and because all of the touchstones of my life are here. More than anything, though, I suppose I love the opportunity this nation affords me to engage in struggles for decency... Whereas some people view America primarily as a place of economic opportunity, I see it as having afforded me the chance to make something of myself by exerting relentless energy in the effort to hold up my end."
"Gentlemen, we have run out of money. Now we have to think."
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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