Assault on West Seattle
Thanks so much for providing responses to Knute Berger's [Jan. 19] column "Who Killed Lesser Seattle" [Mossback, "More or Lesser?" Feb. 9]. I agree with Berger about being thankful to return home to Seattle after visiting outside our city limits. This is one special city that is on the cusp of losing its unique qualities because of overzealous opportunists. I moved here from Santa Fe, N.M. Before that, I lived for many years in New York City, and I think I have a solid background to know when there is too much building and development for an area—what works and what is overkill.
I settled in West Seattle five years ago, and I love it. Two years ago, I moved to one of the new condos a block from the Alaska Junction. I know my building was part of a plan to create an urban village and I'm part of the gentrification of an area in need of improvement. But it's distressing to hear and see the plans for creating an urban village in the junction area. A few condos, stores, and restaurants can revitalize an area. Too many condos and apartment buildings—plus the monorail—will forever corrupt what's most appealing about the junction and the cozy, small-town feeling of California Avenue. Plans are under way for the latter, and more's the pity. Crowds, no parking for all the visitors of folks inhabiting the condos, concrete monorail columns useful for graffiti and other posted notices, and places to hide from unsuspecting pedestrian victims. Urban grit replaces the peaceful and inhabitable urban paradise of West Seattle.
So it's not just downtown that is under assault. It's all the areas in the city where eager builders and business owners see profit possibilities at the expense of understanding all the consequences of their vision. Balance is what's needed, but so far I fear we won't get that kind of consideration.
I'll Take Manhattan
Knute Berger deserves enormous praise for allowing some of us anti–Lesser Seattleites to rant at him in his space last week [Mossback, "More or Lesser?" Feb. 9]. Even more to his credit, his responses were judicious and gracious.
Still, he manages to avoid the real issues at stake in the ongoing debate about density and the future of Seattle. Berger claims that density is not "a panacea" and that there is "too much developable land . . . for Seattle to be an effective density sponge." Nice straw man, there, fella. Nobody claimed that urban density is a panacea, and nothing is going to stop suburban sprawl in its tracks. But some cities (Portland; Vancouver, B.C.) have done a better job than others at providing alternatives to sprawl, alternatives that do indeed slow it down.
Fact is, every couple living in a Belltown mid-rise or a Fremont town house and walking or taking the bus to work is one less far-flung suburban couple occupying a single-family home and driving 20 miles each way to the office. Multiply that couple by thousands, and you have a measurable, positive impact on open space, farmland, and freeway congestion. And on the Earth. One argument in favor of density that somehow never managed to show up in a Mossback column is the huge environmental benefits of urban living. Keep in mind that a typical Manhattanite consumes a fraction of the planet's nonrenewable resources burned up by the typical single-family-home-dwelling, lawn-watering, car-dependent Seattleite. That's because Manhattanites live in much tighter quarters, which require a lot less fossil fuel to heat; they walk or ride the subway; and they don't water the lawn because they don't have one. Seattleites' grandiloquent worship of the environment is belied entirely by the shabby way our lifestyle choices affect the Earth.
Does Geov Parrish read his own column ["Eyman's Good Idea," Feb. 9]? In one breath he says, "[State Auditor Brian] Sonntag . . . is widely regarded as competent and professional." Yet Parrish ignores Sonntag's own opinion on Initiative 900: "Sonntag himself has been critical of [Tim] Eyman's initiative; he doesn't want that much power." Maybe Parrish explains it earlier in the article: "I cannot for the life of me think. . . . "
Lake Forest Park
Shame on Geov Parrish for supporting Tim Eyman's initiative proposal to require "performance" audits of state, county, and local agencies ["Eyman's Good Idea," Feb. 9]. I'm sorely disappointed that someone with Parrish's liberal credentials could be beguiled by corporate buzzwords like "effectiveness" and "accountability" and fall into the trap of supporting Republican-inspired attacks against our vital government agencies.
Reality check: The highest purpose of state, county, and local agencies is to provide a stable base for our public service employee unions, which in turn support the campaigns of good Democratic public officials, who in turn establish, fund, and nurture these public agencies. Dealing with a particular problem that a given agency has been created to address is merely the pretext our leaders must use to sell these agencies to a self-absorbed public in the first place. Placing "performance" ahead of the institutional stability of public agencies and the income security of public employees is not only putting the cart before the horse, it is also the thin end of the wedge: I-900 is nothing more than a sneaky attempt to stifle the growth of the public sector, and part of a broader right-wing agenda to actually reduce it.
Liberal commentators like Parrish would do better to adhere firmly to the principle that if the people of the state desire more "effective" services, they can forgo some of the Chinese-manufactured junk they are buying at Wal-Mart and pay additional taxes to support bigger and better public agencies. With a cooperative media, it is rarely that difficult here in Washington to gin up some kind of "crisis" to justify another tax increase. What we don't need to do is support another risky Republican scheme that could end up undermining a status quo that has served us so well for so long. There is no "effectiveness" crisis in the state of Washington.
In a snippet about the Seattle Central Community College confrontation between a student group and Army recruiters, Geov Parrish stated, "Nobody was hurt in the incident, in which students ripped up recruiting literature and verbally confronted recruiters" [Buzz, Feb. 2]. I would like to highlight the fact that the Army recruiters retreated when confronted, while those who claim to be antiwar verbally assaulted them and destroyed property. It is doubtful that those students involved are antiwar. It is more likely that they are cowards and hypocrites. They are cowardly because they don't want to risk their lives to protect their country. They are hypocritical because they resort to violence to attack symbols of the Army that protects their right to free speech. They say the Army is wrong for resorting to violence, and yet the group they are attacking does not respond? Had the protesters been right in their views, the Army recruiters should have beat the living crap out of these adolescents; they did not. Where's the logic? These kids need to stop living the fantasy of the '60s.
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