Monorail Q&A

Quid Pro Recall

Interesting "Monorail Q&A" [Oct 20]. Here's another one:

Q: For what amount of money can the journalistic integrity of the Seattle Weekly be bought? A: However much the anti-monorail insert cost.

Come on, even if there was no quid pro quo going on, it's really bad form to run an insert ad from a group and then write a long editorial supporting that group's position, which is thinly veiled as a Q&A. That Q&A was as one-sided as a statement from the Bush campaign about Halliburton.

For example, "Q: Would an approved I-83 mean the end of the Seattle Monorail Project? A: No. . . . SMP could continue to exist and collect taxes."

Hello! I-83 would prohibit the monorail from traveling above city streets. SMP would still be alive, but the monorail would be dead as a doornail. The "No" answer is an attempt to mislead by splitting hairs.

Jeremy Dwyer


Same Old Mantras

Seattle Weekly keeps chanting the same old mantras about the monorail ["Monorail Q&A," Oct. 20]:

(1) "They could just expand bus service." The bus is slow, and therefore only good for short commutes. (2) "They could just expand light rail." Even if Sound Transit could stay within its budget, the train would stop at lights just like the bus. (3) "The route is questionable." The public hearings provided many chances to question the route. The final plan left some people unhappy. Guess what? So would a new plan. (4) "The columns would be unsightly." Downtown buildings are mostly huge concrete columns; why worry about obstructing them with midsized monorail columns? (5) "The trains would be noisy." I can't even hear the Seattle Center monorail over the noise of cars and buses. (6) "It costs money." So do gridlock, road maintenance, traffic accidents, and smog-related illnesses.

Enough meditating already—start the construction.

Ben Asher


She Says Yay!

Rick Anderson's story on the monorail recall initiative was perfect ["Monorail Q&A," Oct. 20]. It was written to perfection in pointing out real concerns without being a naysayer. Well done! Bravo!

Melody Sarkies


Light Rail to Ballard

Thank you for Rick Anderson's "Monorail Q&A" [Oct. 20]. Anderson quoted monorail activist Peter Sherwin as saying that Sound Transit has no plans to serve Ballard. Mr. Sherwin is incorrect. Sound Transit's Long-Range Vision includes both a Sounder commuter rail station in Ballard and a light-rail line connecting Ballard to the University District and downtown Seattle, offering the public the vision of a truly integrated transit plan for Seattle.

The Ballard segment was not included for funding in Sound Transit's Phase 1 because the public and the Sound Transit Board determined it was a lower priority than the initial segment from Sea-Tac to the University District and Northgate, due to lower ridership potential and regional significance. However, serving Ballard and other northwest Seattle communities would be a worthy addition to the light-rail "spine," and has long been a part of Sound Transit's vision for the future.

Larry Phillips

King County Council Chair and

Sound Transit Board Member


Charter Fools

As a public school teacher, I am appalled that the Weekly would endorse a yes vote on Referendum 55 ["Defend the Homeland!" Oct 20]. Charter schools will undoubtedly take money out of existing public schools. Those who read The New York Times know that in the most extensive study of charter schools nationwide to date, it was found that students in charter schools do as well as or worse than their public school counterparts. How many Seattle Weekly readers know that under Washington's charter school law, teachers would not be allowed to organize in their local union for the first five years of the charter school's existence? Also, the voters of this state have turned down charter schools twice on statewide ballot initiatives, yet the Legislature found the time to pass it into law despite this clear message from the voters. In your endorsement you say, "We think this modest experiment is worth trying in Washington." Do we really want to experiment with our children's futures, especially when the experiment has failed in every other state that has tried it? This is one more attempt by conservative interests to weaken the voice of labor unions and to further weaken the public school system, which currently needs all the help and support it can get.

Dave Amidon


Suck IT Up for I-884

I read Seattle Weekly's endorsement to vote against Initiative 884 with interest, but I disagree with your conclusions ["Defend the Homeland!" Oct. 20]. Your paper is obviously correct that sales tax is regressive, but since our state is stubbornly against a state income tax, we are pretty much stuck with a regressive tax structure. Should we then resolve ourselves to a poor education system? Or should we just suck it up and pay the regressive taxes that we, for whatever perverse reason, demand? I'm for doing the latter.

Adam Griffith


Laura, Not Sam

The Seattle Weekly endorsement of Sam Reed for secretary of state is much like other Reed endorsements ["Defend the Homeland!" Oct. 20]. Reed is commended for committing to having paper audit trails for electronic voting systems in 2006. None of his endorsements stress that he was forced into that wise decision or that he has permitted the use of electronic systems without a paper trail in two Washington state counties and uncertified software in King County.

Our votes are too important to cut corners with technology that can potentially disenfranchise voters. Laura Ruderman is committed to providing modern, certified, and verifiable voting systems in a timely manner. She'll also make sure that any electronic voting system in use in Washington is not made by politically active companies, to reduce even the scent of fraud. She will work to make our initiative process less susceptible to fraud by creating standards for petitions and making sure that initiative signature collectors are paid hourly, not by the signature, as is now the norm.

The Weekly also does not consider other important issues such as the pursuit of fraudulent charities and the privacy of victims of domestic abuse that Ruderman has championed. Although the Weekly failed to see these important differences, I hope readers will and vote for Ruderman.

Rob Frankland

Bainbridge Island

The news that quits

Thank you to Knute Berger for his comments on The New York Times' endorsement of John Kerry ["Mossback, "Opinion From the End Times," Oct. 20]. I had exactly the same reaction. Their editorial page has done nothing but hem and haw for the past couple of years about Bush. The strongest thing they said about him in the past was that they were "disturbed" about one thing or another. They have failed dismally—as have the rest of the mainstream media— to alert this country to the disaster that is unfolding before us.

Alan Boyd

Flanders, NJ

We received many letters in response to Rick Anderson's "Monorail Q&A" and SW's election endorsements, "Defend the Homeland!" Following is a selection of letters that did not appear in our print edition this week. They are largely unedited; any factual statements they contain have not been confirmed by Seattle Weekly.

Enough questions—Just Build it!

How many times does Rick Anderson have to ask and then answer the same question about I-83 (will it kill the monorail? Three, in case you weren't counting. If one is trying to obscure the truth, repetition is a good thing; just ask Karl Rove.

Pile on top of that a lot of irrelevant statements about how many free bus rides and other stuff you could get with the monorail budget (he could have said the exact same thing about light rail) and how many parking places it would displace (hey, I thought that was the idea!), as well as unfounded conclusions about depleting the city's car population (actually, neither the monorail nor light rail go everywhere; folks are still going to drive cars, just not as much), and you've got the Weekly's position on the issue. He also includes the requisite whining about how much car license tabs will go up, as if God is supposed to come down and pay for mass transit. And then there is Henry Aronson's weird world in which monorail riders never get off downtown and ride the free bus. I would rebut the 16-page anti-monorail propaganda booklet in last week's Weekly, but suffice it to say that if Rick Anderson and the Weekly want to be Martin Selig's bitch, so be it; just stop stinking up the city with your pile of rancid red herrings.

Jeremy Smithson


Monorails and the congestion humbug: The benefits of having above or below-grade rapid transit alternatives to augment surface-level transit and street traffic in congested urban centers are commonsensical, and demonstrably obvious to any traveler to London, Manhattan, or San Francisco—to name three. The Underground, the MTA, and BART of these cities do not remove the congestion or clear the rush-hour gridlock on the streets above. By such standard, they are a clear failure—and yet the rational citizens of these same places are seeking to expand these rapid transit systems for one simple, basic reason: They're necessary. More pavement is not an option. Like it or not, Seattle will only get larger. Our need to efficiently move higher numbers of people will only get greater. Once Sound Transit returns the downtown tunnel buses to the surface, street traffic will only be denser. As I sit stuck in this traffic (excepting those trips to Tukwila via light rail), shall I sit inside a small aluminum shell I call my own or stand (hopefully sit) in a larger aluminum shell I share with lots of other people? Either way, I'm sitting/standing—stuck—not moving. As Sound Transit discovered, subways are not a very cost-effective alternative in the Puget Sound area, especially as much of Seattle sits on glacial till (gravels, sands, clays); tunneling downtown in the '80s revealed digging there will always be a wet, messy, and expensive affair. Our best alternative is to, yes, rise above it all. Build the SMP. And despite the costs of tunneling, monorails are not constrained to the air; tracks can be placed at or below grade, if desired.

I won't rehash any more of the major arguments in favor of a monorail for a fourth time, but here are four ancillary considerations specific to this go-around.

The MVET: Only vehicle owners pay this tax; every vehicle owner who itemizes deductions on their IRS return may deduct much of this tax.

Construction jobs: The SMP is no longer a mere figment or just a hippy-dippy idea; it's real, something concrete, and on track to start pouring real cement. Since it was approved by the voters two years ago, the SMP has spent over 100 million dollars in design, planning, and property acquisition in preparation for ground-breaking later this year. At the same time, contractors and subcontractors have been busily scheduling and planning to build the voter-approved project. Companies involved in the construction of public transit systems carefully plan years in advance. A major portion of the Seattle construction calendar for 2005–2008 is the SMP. These projects don't happen overnight. If overnight the project is summarily voted away, there is nothing to replace it. Those jobs are gone.

Property values: Real-estate investors and home buyers have been purchasing properties, particularly in Ballard, during this two-year period near the planned Green Line, awaiting its construction and use. Properly zoned by the city, these properties are inflating in value—not deflating—in anticipation of the SMP and should continue to do so in future.

Better parking: We can use what we already have; the Green Line will finally allow existing public parking facilities from the Seattle Center to SoDo to be better utilized. Attendees to major events at these places could park at one location and use the monorail to quickly get to the other. Restaurants throughout downtown could offer menus tailored for performance- or concert-goers. Parking garages filled with cars during the day wouldn't be just wasted space at night. The Green Line will allow the thousands of individuals nightly using the Seattle Center to actually have a timely and efficient means of getting there, an alternative to the already-congested streets.

Vote No on I-83; continue to invest in Seattle's future.

Laurence Ballard


Weighing in on SW Endorsements

I just read that Seattle Weekly is the only newspaper in town to endorse the monorail recall. Naturally, I was curious as to why you would do such a thing, so I went online to read all about it. I skimmed through the many endorsements you gave to candidates with a thoughtful, responsible approach to government: Kerry and Edwards, Patty Murray, Adam Smith, Sam Reed, Christine Gregoire, Deborah Senn. Each of these candidates has pledged to defend the public good, even at the expense of corporate power brokers.

And then I read your endorsement of I-83, an initiative that is funded almost exclusively by three powerful corporate interests whose goal is to "monkey-wrench" a thrice-voter-approved public works project. Allow me to summarize your position on the monorail: We don't think it's bad, but we have some nits to pick with the plan and think it maybe could use some more work; so let's vote to send a message, Tim Eyman–style, that, uh, we support, uh, you know, skepticism and caution.

Cowards! What is wrong with you? You endorse an effort that will surely—not "perhaps"—kill the monorail project, but you can't even bring yourselves to admit that those are the consequences if I-83 is approved. You say a yes vote "could . . . prevent a flawed plan from sinking us further into a transportation money pit," but you ignore the fact that the monorail will cost less money to build than we thought it would in 2002. Perhaps this cost savings is what you refer to when you say "the project . . . will fall short of what voters intended when they approved it in 2002."

The voters intended to build a monorail, from Ballard to West Seattle. That's what we're going to get. You acknowledge that the project has "asked for voters' approval and oversight every step of the way," just as promised. After two years of citizen input, compromise, and planning, and with financial difficulties overcome, it's time to build what we promised ourselves.

Ralph Bodenner


Charter schools are much more than just a harmless experiment. Referendum 55 would allow charter schools to be formed in a public school district even when the locally elected school board refuses to charter them. The state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction has the authority to require the local board to turn over taxpayer funds, public facilities, and students to the chartering organization.

The administration must be nonprofit, but may subcontract instruction to for-profit companies with "canned" programs or to special interest groups—selling our students to the lowest bidder—which could potentially increase segregation, separation of students by economic class, or other forms of discrimination.

Charters have more allowance for waivers from required teaching credentials and teachers may potentially be certified with nothing more than "training" based on a purchased curriculum alone—not on state standards.

The employees may not be part of any union except of their own small school, for at least 3 to 5 years from the school's formation and are excluded from existing district wage agreements and benefits.

The money to support charter schools is taken from the local school district budget. The local school district would have to continue to provide services at virtually the same level it does now, but with less money: School buildings would still have to be maintained, buses operated, teachers and staff provided.

In Washington we can—and do—provide virtually any kind of alternative a community wants within the public education system. Seattle has entire schools based on alternative concepts. Effective alternative programs are operating in even the small communities of the rural counties, such as Chimacum and Quilcene in Jefferson County.

Charter schools will simply drain already tight resources with no consistently demonstrated return and no local accountability for their programs or results.

Barbara E. Morey


Oh, Weekly! You endorsed charter schools, and now you get a failing grade. Your anemic endorsement of charters: "Their purpose is to teach kids in new ways." There's a big leap of faith between purpose and reality. Your endorsement says that charters would be "unhampered by the bureaucratic baggage of public schools." Just remember that annoying baggage was written by the same lawmakers who wrote the charter school law. If these regulations are so onerous, why not just repeal them from public schools? But the Weekly may be right; to some, requiring certified teachers is a necessity, such as in real public schools, while in charter schools (where it's optional under this law), it's a real bother. And accountability? How about the large charter school group in California that this September shut down its schools without warning—12 days before school—leaving 8,000 students, and their parents stranded without their immunization or school records?Who do you think was left to pick up the pieces? Public schools. Lastly, the truth is that in 39 states in hundreds of charter schools with thousands of students, it has been proven that, overall, charters perform no better than public schools. So what's the point?

Mel Westbrook


I couldn't help but notice that in your endorsement for the 2004 presidential election, you singled out Ralph Nader for name calling. My Webster's defines "megalomaniac" as one suffering from "a delusional mental disorder marked by infantile feelings of omnipotence and grandeur." Ralph Nader and Peter Camejo may be many things; honorable and dedicated spring to mind, but mentally ill does not, and this act by your editors is both juvenile and unprincipled.

The Kerry/Edwards ticket has quietly taken tens of millions of dollars from Republican donors, and consequently supports the substance—the wars, the USA Patriot Act, the appointment of anti-choice judges, tax cuts for corporations, the destruction of any social safety net, and more—of the Republican agenda, but with a friendlier, more well-spoken implementation.

I believe that the world is at a point of great crisis. More and more I'm finding strength in the writing and speech of Arundhati Roy, who said, here in Seattle and in reference to the upcoming presidential election, that the citizens of the U.S. may act expediently but that they must act with principle. She went on to imply that no person of principle could cast a vote for John Kerry. I believe that to be correct.

Your endorsement, and the childish insult tacked onto the end of it, do not reflect well on your editors.

I've enjoyed reading your paper in the past. If you find you have principles in the future, principles that direct you to make tough choices in the face of incredible adversity, I may pick it up again at some later date.

Already missing Tom Tomorrow . . . 

Jeff Cochran


Cast your vote! Write to Seattle Weekly, 1008 Wester Ave., Ste. 300, Seattle, WA 98104; fax to 206-467-4377; or e-mail to By submission of a letter, you agree that we may edit the letter and publish and/or license the publication of it in print, electronically, and for archival purposes. Please include name, location, and phone number.

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