King County Council member Dwight Pelz, D-Seattle, and initiative king Tim Eyman scratched, bit, and clawed their way through a forest of hyperbole, insult, and accusation thick enough to cut with a chain saw. The occasion for the spat was an invitation from Seattle Weekly to debate Eyman's work for the King County jail guards' union, who hired him to help them push Initiative 18, which would cut the King County Council from 13 to nine members, saving between $2 million and $4 million a year. The union has it in for the council because it made large budget cuts at the jail. Eyman explains, "To voters, having a Cadillac Council of 13 politicians is a lower priority than protecting critical government services." In response, Pelz, who finds the whole thing unbelievably ironic since the cuts are at least partly due to Eyman's own tax-slashing initiatives, compared the union's hire to "Bush hiring bin Laden to help him find Saddam Hussein."
In other Pelz news, the County Council member says he's seeking a legal opinion on whether the King County Monorail initiative filed Monday violates the county charter by directing the council to spend nearly $9 million on monorail planning. "There's no process that allows [citizens] to direct the County Council to spend money," Pelz says. The initiative, which would create a planning board to come up with a countywide monorail plan, contains a number of other oddball provisions. For example, the board's 11 members would be chosen by a massive 66-member "citizens' caucus" (one observer compared it to the Constitutional Convention), chosen by regional city councils and the County Council. And if the initiative is ever ruled illegal, it contains a poison pill that would prohibit King County from spending any money on transportation planning "of any kind" until it funds the monorail. Ed Stone, spokesperson for the monorail group, was not familiar with the legal issues Pelz raised, and initiative author Cleve Stockmeyer was unable to respond to a call on Tuesday.
If the monorail wants to make the case for its faster-is-better ethos, it need look no further than the sorry saga of the Burke-Gilman Trail, whose 1.5-mile "missing link" in Ballard has been the subject of on-again, off-again discussions for the past seven years. At a packed, often rowdy Monday night hearing of the Seattle City Council's transportation committee, the arguments that had been heard so many times before broke down thus: On one side, union members who work for the companies that abut the proposed "Green Route" argued that allowing cyclists into a dangerous industrial area would be a recipe for disaster. (In a particularly surreal moment, one Salmon Bay Concrete and Gravel truck driver strode to the microphone clad in full bicycle gear, helmet and all.) On the other, bicyclists argued that riding in the street, as they're currently forced to do, is far more dangerous than riding on a route adjacent to driveways and railroad tracks.
So where does all this rhetoric leave the link? The council will take up the issue again next week, but completing the Burke-Gilman will likely take years. And nothing will happen unless the cash-strapped city can come up with the moneyaround $7 millionto fill in the missing link.