MAYOR OF HAVES?
While I am thankful George Howland has such keen insights into local politics, and indeed he has been on the mark on many occasions in the past, he seems to have missed the mark in his article exploring the animosity between Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and the Seattle City Council ["The Mayor's Machine," June 11].
The reason for all the tension in City Hall, as I see it, is that the mayor has proven himself to be disingenuous and unsympathetic to the plight of our most vulnerable citizens. Take the battle over the city budget that occurred last November. The mayor proposed a budget that would drastically reduce spending on social services in our city. The council demonstrated their opposition to the budget by standing up in support of social services at a public hearing.
What seems to be at stake in the upcoming City Council election is the type of city Seattle will become, not whether the mayor can get along with the City Council. Is Seattle to be a city of haves and have-nots that placates the interest of business? Or is Seattle to be a city that citizens of all income levels can call home?
John M. Denooyer
Seattle Human Rights Commission
CHEERS FOR THE BOSS
The Nickels piece was wonderful ["The Mayor's Machine," June 11]. As an honorary West Seattle townie, it was good to see he can play hardball. The council has long been a navel-gazing sitcom of the worst sort. I know they are diligent about the detail tasks that comprise much of their work, but, to me, the article underscores the possibility that the "at-large" basis for councillors is a noble idea that has failed and there may be some merit to the long-derided ward heeler system more common in mature cities.
We have a rootless cabal of the "like-minded" rather than an assembly of advocates from the various regions of the city. In two years of residence, I can't recall a single visit of any of these dilettantes to my neighborhood. Maybe some did actually visit, but I doubt it.
To me it may be worth it to get rid of the whole at-large system and return to ward-based advocacy with its glorious deal cutting and hard focus on specific areas. Maybe the voters, especially the poor, will actually find this fun and want to vote. What reason does any naturalized citizen or low-income person along Delridge have to vote for the likes of Compton or Pageler?
My friends laughed at Nickels when he got elected. But I'm pleased to see he has some backbone and wants to fix the grotesque stranglehold process has imposed on the city. And I'm a lefty from hell.
PIKE PLACE POT STIRRING
We represented the Citizens Alliance to Keep the Pike Place Market Public, the entity formed by Peter Steinbrueck to prevent the Urban Group from taking control of the Market in the early '90s. We are writing to rectify misimpressions created by Rick Anderson's June 11 Buzz item criticizing the Market PDA's effort to develop the creamery site. The PDA plans to use tax credit financing to develop the site for low-income housing and for relocating and expanding the Pike Market Senior Center. The development will in turn allow the Pike Market Medical Clinic, which has operated at capacity for years, to expand into the present senior center space. This will greatly increase the number of patients that the clinic can treat.
Anderson's piece is critical of the development, suggesting that it is similar to the Urban Group transaction and therefore a risky tax scheme. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Urban Group deals involved purported purchases of the Market buildings by the Urban Group, financed by notes and deeds of trust granted to the PDA. The transactions were never intended to be real sales; they were a bit of funny businessnot illegal, just an elaborate threading together of loopholesthat allowed private investors to take advantage of tax benefits not available to the PDA. The deals depended on the good faith of the investors to return title to the properties to the PDA when the tax benefits were exhausted. The Urban Group instead charged the PDA with mismanagement and tried to strong-arm its way into control of the Market. Thankfully, the courts would have none of it, and the Market remained in the control of the citizens of Seattle.
The creamery transaction is also financed by tax benefits, but there is no funny business in this deal. It poses none of the risks of the Urban Group deals. In the first place, tax credit financing is a creature of statute, specifically authorized by Congress to encourage the financing of low-income housing and the refurbishing of historic areas. The tax credit investors are not vested with title to the property. The property will be held by a limited liability company, of which the PDA will be the sole managing member. The tax credit investors purchase interests in the LLC, and those funds are used to finance the development. The investors are non-managing members and will not have any votes, management, or control of the LLC. When they receive the benefit of their tax credits, they simply terminate their interests in the LLC. Finally, the PDA is not giving the investors any secured interest in the Market property, such as a deed of trust, which could be foreclosed in the case of a default.
In short, the analogy between the transactions is a false one. Anderson's piece is an obvious bit of pot stirringpitting Steinbrueck against Charlie Chong, and the Market merchants and tenants against the PDA. Anderson has this fun, however, at the expense of the seniors who would receive the benefits of a new, expanded senior center and an expanded medical clinic.
and Len Barson
I think those 90-degree days went to Mike Henderson's head ["Joltin' June," June 11]. He should turn the baseball cap around to the front. How soon we forget 116 wins followed by a humiliating rout at the hands of the corporate pin-striped bores from the Bronx. A triple crown, 112 wins, and a .340 average for Edgar are pleasing statistics, but they add up to nothing if the M's can't find a way to beat the Yankees in the postseason.
I'd like to see Martinez win a championship as much as anyone. I'd love to see the Yankees sent packing. Is there anyone more dull than Joe Torre, except maybe Dr. Henry Kissinger? But I think I'll keep my enthusiasm in check for now. I see another October collapse on the horizon.
STEERING READERS WRONG
The article "Bus-ted" by Mark D. Fefer [SW Behind the Wheel, May 28] contained misleading statements that uninformed readers would accept as scientific fact.
The first point is that diesel- and gasoline-powered vehicles cannot be directly compared in terms of their smog-producing potential. Diesel hydrocarbon emissions (more properly, VOC emissions) are not anywhere near as chemically reactive in the atmosphere as gas engine emissions. Hence, they cannot be compared on a pound-for-pound basis. The nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions are similar, however. NOx emissions actually reduce smog formation in this region, as well as in most urban regions of the nation. Therefore, on a per-passenger basis, the bus rider reduces more smog than car NOx emissions. Any government official who supported the "hydrocarbons plus NOx equals smog" thesis or contributed to it in this regard does not understand smog chemistry.
The second point relates to diesel soot emissions. Although they are known to be carcinogenic, actual regional monitoring data for the cancer-causing chemical constituents in diesel soot do not show that the public is at a significant risk. Alternatively, the retrofit technology cited by Metro's Jim Boon may well increase the risk of dioxin emissions from buses equipped with the catalytic filters he talked about. Further, these devices will increase smog levels because of lower effective NOx emissions, as well as pose a potential nitrogen dioxide (the toxic component of NOx) exposure threat to children riding on buses so equipped.
Kay H. Jones
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