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Northwest Voices | Letters to the Editor

Welcome to The Seattle Times' online letters to the editor, a sampling of readers' opinions. Join the conversation by commenting on these letters or send your own letter of up to 200 words

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August 16, 2009 6:11 AM

Seattle's proposed grocery-bag fee

Posted by Letters editor

Why I'm voting against the measure

I am voting against the bag fee because I think it will lay more grief on our low-income neighbors. Quoting advocates of the bag fee, "That claim (that the fee will harm poor people) is utter rubbish. Much of the fee revenue will be used to provide free reusable bags to poor people, and anyone who uses reusable bags will pay no fees." ["Vote to eliminate disposable grocery bags," Kathy Fletcher and Denis Hayes, guest commentary, July 28].

In other words, the stresses of time and money that make this additional little task difficult and expensive for poor people will be no problem once they receive some free reusable bags.

When people don't have enough money, they work two or three jobs, walk to the bus, ride multiple buses each day, and, like others, buy groceries on the way home, raise children, deal with medical problems, and learn a new transportation system.

Punishing stressed people because they forgot a bag is heartless. Let's reject the bag fee and minimize plastic bags some other way.

-- Kate Anthony, Seattle

Comments | Category: Local ballot measures , Seattle City Council |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

August 6, 2009 4:00 PM

Trimming trees: Is it about to get harder under city law?

Posted by Letters editor

An invasion of property rights in new tree-cutting rules

I do not like the tone of the new tree-cutting rules ["Tree-cutting rules to get more strict in Seattle," NWTuesday, August 4]. City Council President Richard Conlin is quoted as saying something about "our urban trees." That may be true for trees in parks and parking strips, but the trees on my property aren't "our" trees, they are "my" trees.

I have close to 50 trees on my property in West Seattle. I selected them, I paid for them, I dug the planting holes, I pay for the water at third-tier summer rates, I fertilize, I pay my gardener to prune, transplant or remove as I choose.

Some of my trees have been in the ground since the late ' 80s and are pushing 20 years old. If I decide I don't like their appearance or growth habits or there is another type of tree I want to grow instead, it is my choice what to do with them.

My garden is my art project -- it doesn't belong to the city. If I sell my property, it is the right of the new owners to decide if they want to continue our style of gardening. This is a private decision, and the city has no say in it. Some people don't like shade or trees hiding their houses.

The city of Seattle should put its own house in order and take care of its own trees. City Light crews still butcher trees to accommodate power lines; recycle trucks and garbage trucks routinely snag and tear branches of parking-strip trees in our neighborhood; trees in public spaces are frequently underwatered and ungroomed; the madronas in Lincoln Park are diseased and need thinning and removal of dead limbs; the Kwanzan cherry trees in the median on Admiral Way have been removed and replanted at least four times in the past two decades by street crews.

These sins against city trees are just the ones in my own neighborhood. Multiply that many times and city crews could be busy for years taking care of what they already have.

-- Kathy Schwartz, Seattle

Saving trees or letting government go unchecked?

Your headline regarding saving trees in Seattle is misleading and downright bad journalism. The new resolution, not yet a law, will allow the following, if passed into law: "... the Department of Planning and Development] may permit exceptions to this prohibition when evidence is presented that development of the site would be substantially precluded or prohibited or when documentation is provided by a licensed or accredited professional that the health of the tree would be ignorantly undermined as a result of construction."

This is a loophole that not only makes certain trees will lose out in any development case, it also creates a situation of government powers that are unchecked. If the DPD decides so, then any tree may be removed for development at any time, based on this clause.

You should do some investigative writing, not just promote what those in power want us to believe.

-- Thomas Erdmann, Seattle

Comments | Category: Environment , Parks , Politics , Seattle , Seattle City Council |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

August 5, 2009 4:00 PM

Elections: Who are the right candidates?

Posted by Letters editor

Carr has record of success, deserved endorsement

As a former Seattle police officer and detective, former chair of the city's Ethics and Elections Commission, current City Council member and chair of the Council's Public Safety Committee, I've had many firsthand experiences with Seattle city attorneys.

Tom Carr does an outstanding job as city attorney, ethically representing citizens and working diligently to protect taxpayers while finding humane and safe alternatives to incarceration. His innovative and highly effective approach to criminal justice slashed auto-theft rates by 60 percent, reduced jail bookings by 38 percent and made our neighborhoods safer.

Yet he knows we must do even more because he understands the critical importance of public safety. Carr's track record has earned him the highest rating from the Municipal League.

The Seattle Times overlooked Carr's overall job performance and experience in its endorsement of his opponent ["Pete Holmes for Seattle attorney," Opinion, editorial, August 3].

Regrettably, The Times allowed one issue to cloud its judgment, failing to recognize the complex and sophisticated nature of this critical position in city government. Tom Carr is the best candidate, and that's why the majority of my City Council colleagues have endorsed his re-election.

-- Tim Burgess, Seattle City Council member, Seattle

The Times endorses a candidate with no prosecuting experience

We at the Seattle Police Officer's Guild are concerned and disappointed to see The Times' endorsement of Pete Holmes for city attorney. Whether the Times editorial board likes it or not, experience as a prosecutor is critical, since about half of the position's activities have to do with criminal prosecution.

This sort of experience has a direct impact on public safety and our ability to protect the public from potentially dangerous members of society. Holmes has no experience as a prosecutor.

Only one of the candidates for city attorney has that experience, and that is who we endorse: The man who has been successfully filling this critical role in city government for the past eight years.

We endorse Tom Carr as city attorney.

-- Sgt. Rich O'Neill, Seattle Police Officer's Guild president, Seattle

Ellington's protection of children is not a first

Your endorsement of Judge Anne Ellington ["Re-elect Ellington to state appeals court," Opinion, editorial, August 3] praising her opinion that children in initial truancy proceedings are entitled to an attorney mistakenly said, "No other state offers such a right."

In fact, the right to counsel for children in truancy proceedings is not a novel or unique idea. For example, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Alabama and Nevada address truancy in Child in Need of Services, or CHINS, proceedings in which children are entitled to counsel.

Minnesota handles truancy as a CHINS matter, and the court must appoint a public defender before any out-of-home placement can be ordered. Wisconsin has a similar rule.

Arizona addresses truancy in its incorrigibility statute, and children have a right to counsel.

Oregon does not lock up children for truancy, although a parent may be cited if a child does not attend school.

Washington is in the unusual position of incarcerating children for not going to school, allowing prosecution of a child for truancy followed by a contempt proceeding. What the Court of Appeals did, with two other judges joining the unanimous opinion written by Ellington, was to recognize the due process right to a lawyer to protect children in hearings that affect their constitutional rights to liberty, privacy and education.

-- Robert C. Boruchowitz, Seattle

Common sense needed in school closures

I am the candidate not mentioned in the endorsement article ["For Seattle School Board," Opinion, editorial, August 3] regarding the School Board race in District 5, and it is time I speak for myself.

Some dismiss me as just being against school closures, but the work of the group for reopening TT Minor Elementary School includes a vision for an International School Program supported by many in the area. The TT Minor reference area -- not large or gerrymandered -- has the highest birth rate of any reference area in the Central Area cluster, and the fastest-growing number of children under the age of 5 of any reference area in the entire Seattle School District.

Therefore, if we really want neighborhood schools that are embraced by parents, the community must be included in deciding what type of program in places like TT Minor would make sense.

Unless all communities are empowered to advocate for their schools and programs, wonderful neighborhood school choices will be realized for some neighborhoods and not for others. I believe all the candidates, especially the challengers, have ambitious ideas for our schools.

The difference is that I will insist on your help to hold all the elected officials responsible for ensuring the Central District and all neighborhoods are proud of their schools and programs.

I will insist that parents and communities are included in the process of designing the programs and schools that all neighborhoods deserve. School assignments must make sense. We have to come together for the sake of our children, our families and our communities.

My candidacy is about all communities being treated fairly and equitably. Common sense can be applied to data.

-- Joanna Cullen, Seattle

Green candidates sure send lots of campaign mail

With the primary election in full swing, we in Seattle once more are getting bombarded with candidates' green credentials -- written on mounds of literature mailed to us and placed on our doorsteps. See any contradiction?

Yes, campaign literature is integral to our electoral process, but can't we get a little smarter about it? Making the literature smaller -- I like postcard size -- and more recyclable come to mind as a start.

Or perhaps just put it all on a Kindle?

-- Beverly Marcus, Seattle

Comments | Category: Election , Local ballot measures , Politics , Seattle , Seattle City Council , Seattle School Board |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

July 12, 2009 4:00 PM

Bag tax: Would measure save money or punish elderly?

Posted by Letters editor

Green Bag Campaign will save money in the long run

The Green Bag Campaign allows Seattleites to responsibly choose to reduce plastic waste in the Puget Sound and do our part in promoting an economy that does not rely heavily upon petroleum-produced bags with a 15-minute shelf life.

The fee collected allots for education of the general public and for millions of reusable bags to be purchased and dispersed for free or minimal cost. The slight inconvenience of purchasing plastic bags at grocery and convenience stores in the Seattle area is insignificant when compared with the millions of dollars that taxpayers spend each year cleaning up trash -- plenty of which is plastic bags -- in the Puget Sound area.

I urge fellow Seattleites to consider how beneficial the bag fee would be for this city and to vote for positive change this November.

-- Rachel Erstad, Seattle

Taxing bags aims to punish

Taxation to punish is wrong. Mayor Greg Nickels and the City Council have tried to punish those of us who disagree with environmental zealots by imposing a 20-cent tax on each bag of groceries or prescription drugs we purchase. As President Obama taught Congress when the national legislators wanted to pass a special tax punishing bankers for receiving exorbitant bonuses, taxation is not a proper vehicle to punish the opposition.

On Aug. 18, the primary ballot will include the bag tax. Please vote against it because it will increase the cost of groceries and prescription drugs.

Besides the cost issue, there is a fairness issue and a social concern. Is it fair that I would not pay this tax if I bought hair spray at a beauty salon but would pay this tax when they placed my hair spray purchase in a plastic sack at a grocery store?

Besides being unfair and a tax imposed to punish, my biggest concern is for seniors, of which I am one, and middle-to-low-income residents. We have the least ability to pay this tax. Imagine the squabbles with the bag boys and girls at the checkout stand when the clerk rings up the cost of each bag. And while the baggers can now divide the heavy stuff and make each bag manageable, if we are forced to load all into one or a few cloth bags, they will become too heavy for seniors to carry.

This is a horrible example of how environmental zealots drive the government of this city.

-- Kenneth F. Bertrand, Seattle

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July 9, 2009 4:00 PM

City management: Seattle officials rewarding poor performance

Posted by Letters editor

Resignations should come over $40k bonus

The Seattle Times informed the public of Mayor Greg Nickels inappropriately paying a bonus to Seattle City Light Superintendent Jorge Carrasco. When the city cannot balance its budget and the superintendent allowed City Light to have a $90 million budget gap, there isn't an acceptable reason to have paid Carrasco a discretionary bonus.

If Carrasco didn't find his salary without a bonus acceptable in the current economy, he should be looking elsewhere; he clearly hasn't been able to balance his own budget. Nickels' authorization to pay him to stay, again, is unacceptable as was quoted in the article:

"Certainly, any kind of bonus should be scrutinized during tough times and flush times," said Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chairman of the Energy and Technology Committee. "But in the next two years, that utility's going to need the best leadership possible, and Jorge has demonstrated the best leadership possible."

Not only do I expect the council to scrutinize Nickels insensitive and incompetent actions regarding this bonus, I also expect the rest of Seattle City Council to scrutinize Harrell's support of this bonus.

I am very hopeful that Harell does the right thing and resigns for supporting the bonus. We deserve top-notch leadership and neither Nickels nor Harrell represent the best that Seattle deserves.

-- Henry M. Pierce, Seattle

Why do blundering transportation officials still have jobs?

After reading an article on city officials Grace Crunican and Paul Jackson Jr. ["Crunican: Promoting manager an error," NWWednesday, July 8], it is absolutely beyond me why these two people still have their jobs.

We have the transportation chief, Crunican, acknowledging her inability to manage her staff. Isn't that what her position is all about?

And then as a reward for gridlocking the city streets during the snowstorm, Jackson gets his old job back. I guess his "problematic management style" doesn't affect his old position. Pity those poor employees.

So after a winter of discontent, a $515,000 contracted study, a reversal of opinions on personnel, I ask again: Why do these people still have their jobs?

-- Michael Kaulakis, Port Angeles

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July 7, 2009 4:00 PM

Backyard cottages: Is Seattle getting too packed?

Posted by Letters editor

City Council's cottage proposal could make Seattle affordable

The Seattle City Council's willingness to consider allowing backyard cottages throughout the city deserves a hearty "Bravo!" Perhaps with a bit of encouragement, the council could enact the policy without limits on how many are built per year and without owner residency requirements.

Even with a downward trend in home prices, Seattle is still unaffordable. The backyard-cottage proposal will encourage construction of small units, allowing some who otherwise couldn't live in Seattle the opportunity to do so. It will also add to the stock of housing available to low-income and homeless people. The difference between an 800-square-foot cottage and living on the street or in a shelter is both substantial and reason enough to allow the cottages.

Of course, some will complain that cottages will mean "those people" will move into their neighborhoods or that their serenity will be disturbed. Why is it that a property owner's rights must be trumped by those who don't own the property? And why is it OK to effectively zone "those people" out of some neighborhoods?

Or is this just hysteria? Experience with the cottages in southeast Seattle suggests that it is.

Too many reasons for it, too few against -- let's give it a shot.

-- Scott St. Clair, Olympia

Cottages will make neighborhoods more dense

That Bryan Stevens of the Seattle Department of Planning and Development can actually state that the addition of backyard cottages will not increase single-family neighborhood density indicates he needs a new job in the private sector.

-- Don DeWeese, Seattle

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June 24, 2009 2:42 PM

Seattle's Street division

Posted by Letters editor

Costly report just another blunder in mismanagement

Reading The Times article "Street-division managers get blame in huge report" [page one, June 20] -- a report that cost $500,000 -- I was struck by what was not reported in the story.

The city's collective-bargaining system negotiated with its employees obviously has failed. I was a union representative for several city departments in the mid-'90s and I cannot say I am surprised. The labor agreements with the city provide an excellent system of problem solving and arbitration when used correctly and would have saved Seattle taxpayers a half-million dollars and dealt with bad management, too.

Unfortunately the city of Seattle has over the years piled layers of bureaucrats on layers of bureaucracy. During my tenure, I found each city department created its own human-resources and labor-relations operations such that they were uncoordinated and unconnected, each unable to make any final or binding decision. Employee input was normally met with contempt by the bureaucrats in charge.

The hiring of expensive outside consultants is only part of a larger story missed by Times reporters. The story and the larger question is why Seattle government can't use the perfectly good labor-relations tool they have with its labor agreements. And why do the taxpayers pay for redundant consultants and the costly, cumbersome system now in place?

-- Bill Johnston, Tacoma

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June 22, 2009 4:29 PM

Rainier Club earmark

Posted by Letters editor

Subsidizing the wealthy's windows? Not in this era of change

Editor, The Times:

President Obama's call for change in earmark spending found $7.7 billion in earmarks in the first round. But it appears our state's representatives have still not heard the president's message.

U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott is seeking funding that will help pay for replacement windows at the elite and posh Rainier Club ["Seattle elite private club in line for $250,000 federal earmark," page one, June 22]. It is bad enough that in our present economy, our government is literally printing money to cover reckless spending. But our elected officials have no problem dipping deeper into our pockets and adding to our country's financial woes for personal pet projects that serve very few of us.

To be sure, the Rainier Club is a beautiful building in downtown Seattle that is a historic landmark. It should be protected. And if it were a building that we all get to use, I could see making a case for using taxpayer money to help fund needed renovations.

But this building is not for public use. The 1,200 exclusive and prominent members who enjoy their private club could easily dish out the extra $208 it would take to finish the job.

It is about the same as one month's dues. They could spread the payment out over 12 months, similar to how responsible Washington homeowners can spread out the expenses of window replacement. That boils down to under $20 per month. That is less than some of these members pay for lunch.

Get real, McDermott, and the rest of Congress. The American public voted for "change."

And, at the rate you are spending, that is all we will have left!

-- Derek Mitchell, Seattle

Rainier Club can't afford repairs, taxpayers can't either

So the Rainier Club is requesting an earmark from us, the taxpayers, for $250,000 to repair its lovely building. The wealthy members of this club can't afford that pittance to make their private building presentable enough for them to use and enjoy. Well, I can't afford it, either.

Shame on you, Rep. Jim McDermott.

-- Mary Ann Douglas, Shoreline

Values of leaders evident in trivial earmarks

The Seattle Times provides a valuable public service when it exposes the intolerable situation that Seattle's finest must endure while attending the Rainier Club with its pitted window sills. No man should be required to endure such squalor!

Fortunately, we have a congressman who is ever alert to this type of threat to our status as a world-class city. He has stepped forward, federal check in hand, to rectify this terrible injustice.

SORROW (Society for the Rehabilitation and Renovation of Windowsills) will also be sponsoring a fundraising drive, and I urge everyone to contribute generously.

But seriously, the real tragedy of this ridiculous fiasco is that it trivializes the importance of the stimulus program and undermines our confidence in the new administration.
It also gives us valuable insight into the (lack of) values of our leaders.

-- Merle Hanley, Seattle

A compromise: Both parties cease complaining

Let's stop complaining about the $250,000 proposed subsidy to the poor members of The Rainier Club. Don't you know that executive compensation went down last year ["Northwest CEOs' paychecks shrank last year," page one, June 21]?

In the interests of political compromise, I suggest we all agree to stop complaining about taxpayer support for repair of the private Rainier Club's windows and in turn all the club's members agree to stop complaining about "socialistic" subsidies like government-aided health insurance for the poor, unemployment compensation, food stamps and state and federal aid to families with dependent children.

-- Bill Laughlin, Seattle

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June 17, 2009 4:00 PM


Posted by Letters editor

Oh the irony: homeless neglected while convicts cared for

As a homeless person, I am frustrated after reading Nancy Bartley's article ["Homeless camp now on state property," NWWednesday, June 10] on the homeless encampment on state land just outside Seattle city limits.

I am not "homeless" by the federal definition, since I have my pickup to sleep in, but I am homeless, nevertheless.

I do very much resent all the money society spends caring for criminals in jails and prisons, while ignoring the basic needs of those whose only offense is the inability to afford a home. It makes me almost want to get arrested

Of course, I would be trading my freedom for three squares and a pad, medical and dental care, perhaps even an organ transplant, along with TV and other amenities. Freedom loses some of its appeal when you're tired, wet, cold, hungry, maybe have a toothache and are broke to boot.

The homeless group in the article has organized to try to obtain a little security and dignity, and they don't even have porta-potties, while convicted criminals have all their basic needs met.

It makes you wonder about societies' priorities, doesn't it?

-- Gene "Sarge" Sargent, Milton

Comments | Category: Seattle City Council , homeless |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

June 15, 2009 4:00 PM


Posted by Letters editor

City acts like a criminal by towing cars

I often read funny things about the stupidity of criminals, but I never thought the city of Seattle would fall into that category. I was wrong.

Your headline ["Hey, Seattle: Where's my car?" front page, June 8] has a picture next to it of a parking sticker for which the purchaser clearly was sold parking time until 3:35 p.m., yet "legally" lost his car to a tow-truck operator before that time expired.

The explanation provided by the city says the problem could be corrected, but the system "would lose its convenience factor."

Are the leaders of Seattle so stupid they can't see the sheer ignorance and unfairness in this fiasco? At a time when every cent of tax money is needed, it is beyond comprehension that any action like this would be tolerated to discourage tourists.

-- Robert C. Dille, Redmond

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May 15, 2009 4:00 PM

Balkanizing City Council

Posted by Letters editor

Beneficial to add more voices

Unless the usual union members or activists are called out, Seattle's City Council meetings are notably quick and bland.

Frankly, the city could really benefit from just an ounce of Balkanization. The fact that your editorial ["Don't Balkanize Seattle City Council," Opinion, May 14] cited only one expert -- from the naysaying Chamber of Commerce, no less -- demonstrates the heavy investment here in the status quo.

For all its thousand-and-one neighborhood councils, Seattle's various enclaves are pitifully voiceless. Why be so dismissive of "yet another attempt" to add to the discourse currently controlled by the mayor?

-- Daniela McDonald, Seattle

Looking for middle ground

Please reconsider your "Don't Balkanize Seattle City Council" editorial and join me in proposing a middle ground for populating city councils in medium to large-sized cities.
How about a council that has both at-large and by-district members? Maybe six elected in districts and five elected at large, for instance.

This enables people who are less well known, or with fewer resources, to try their hands at the district level, likely broadening the number of candidates. Those who are successful at that level might well run citywide in a later election, joining other at-large members in the group who will have demonstrated electability in the larger constituency. Gee, maybe this would serve a winnowing process for producing -- gasp! -- mayoral candidates.

And residents will be the big winners. Their district representative will feel a special responsibility for localized problems, from potholes to cocaine dealers to hours at the branch library. It ensures that all parts of the city will have representation in the city's legislative body. And the at-large representatives should bring a broader perspective to those big issues all cities face.

This approach combines the best of both, making it a true middle-ground option that I believe the thoughtful Seattle Times' editorial writers would embrace enthusiastically. And you can -- all it takes is a modest little "oops," a new perspective and another editorial.

-- George Randels, deputy mayor and City Council member, Port Townsend

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April 30, 2009 5:00 PM

Seattle snow response

Posted by Letters editor

Mayor's grading system flawed

When I was in school, the grading system was:
Grade A, superior.
Grade B, excellent.
Grade C, average.
Grade D, needs improvement.
Grade F, failing.

I realize that grade inflation is prevalent in some schools these days, but for Seattle's mayor to elevate the grade he gives for the city's snow-removal efforts from a D to a B seems an extreme case ["Seattle council blasts chaotic snow response,", Politics & Government, April 29]. And even after new information was dug up by The Times and included in the City Council's report, his spokesman says, "We are going to stand by 'needs improvement.' "

Which school system did Mayor Greg Nickels attend?

-- Gordon Kramer, Seattle

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April 25, 2009 6:00 AM

Fire department ethics scandal

Posted by Letters editor

Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times

Seattle Fire Department Battalion Chief and whistleblower Jim Woodbury, during an interviewed with the Seattle Times.

Conduct calls for harsh discipline

Editor, The Times:

The citizens of Seattle deserve better. The administering of a verbal reprimand by Fire Chief Dean to one of his employees is just beyond the pale ["Report: Fire official's demotion not retaliation," page one, April 22].

It was alleged that Fire Department Lt. Milt Footer had failed to bill the Seattle Seahawks' owners $195, 697 for fire services, as well as "demanded" a backstage pass to a popular event. That waste of public funds clearly violates the public's trust in the fire department and constitutes unethical conduct. Such conduct while employed by a public agency calls for harsh discipline, not a mere slap on the wrist.

However, it appears Fire Chief Greg Dean's verbal reprimand of one his subordinates will stand. The legal concept of double jeopardy will preclude the chief from administering further discipline.

Mayor Nickels, it is now time to replace the city's fire chief, who in all likelihood was aware of this fact.

-- Donald E. Olson Jr., Tacoma

Where there's smoke, there's fire

There is an odor wafting northward to my home in Lynnwood that is dismaying as well as disgusting.

Just how stupid do Seattle Fire Department officials and the Seattle Mayor's Office think their constituents really are? A reasonably intelligent eighth-grader can connect the dots and come up with a picture that looks depressingly like bad business as usual in the way public servants have responded to whistle-blowing by one of their own.

It strains credulity to have us believe that assistant fire chiefs did not know of Jim Woodbury's whistle-blowing when they demoted him and cut his pay 22 percent after he objected to Lt. Milt Footer's betrayal of public trust. Even more appalling was to read that the city of Seattle wasted $500,000 investigating this sorry mess to come up with a conclusion that defies description in language printable in a newspaper.

I've lived in the Seattle area for 35 years and it's sad watching a city I love being led by people who are not competent to keep the streets plowed and to keep the fire department shoveled out when its members foul their nest.

It's time for fresh leadership for Seattle and for its fire department.

-- Diane E. Young, Lynnwood

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April 15, 2009 4:00 PM

Open City Council meetings

Posted by Letters editor

Demanding answers

I am confused. Seattle City Council President Richard Conlin writes that the council is dedicated to open government ["City Council committed to open government," Opinion, April 13], yet it is clear that City Council members directly participated in a strategy to skirt open-meetings rules until The Seattle Times revealed this ["Mayor, council want closed budget talks," NW Thursday, April 9].

We, the people, demand to know who on the council devised this strategy and met in groups of four to avoid a public meeting, as would be required if five and a quorum were present. Was Conlin there? What really happened here?

Do the right thing.

-- Louis W. Frillman, Seattle

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April 15, 2009 4:00 PM

The budget struggles of government

Posted by Letters editor

City: Spending cuts neglect what's important to citizens

Faced with a tax shortfall caused by widespread financial fraud in the private-sector economy, Mayor Greg Nickels proposes to neglect the earthquake protection of our emergency-services facilities ["City facilities to take tax hit," NW Tuesday, April 14]. And then, of course, parks and libraries are thrown in for cutting, too.

When a politician is readying the electorate for a big tax hike, it would not do for the voters to think the money was needed for upkeep on the mayor's limo or for more publicly financed infrastructure around some tycoon campaign-financier's development project.

I suppose it is just sour grapes to suggest that the wealthy who caused our economic downturn should have to wait for recovery to get their subsidies. Better we crush the firemen in eight of our firehouses when the next earthquake strikes.

Once again, Mayor Nickels shows he knows what is important -- to him.

-- George and Patricia Robertson, Seattle

State: Avoid tuition increase -- tap UW endowment fund

Gov. Chris Gregoire proposes a 30 percent tuition increase over two school years to raise $190 million for the state's four-year universities ["Gregoire: Raise tuition 14%," page one, April 8]. Without supportive data, I estimate the tuition increase at the UW will bring in about $100 million.

The economy is in a deep recession -- a financial crisis, by some measures. So why increase tuition? The UW is a business. Its business is educating students. How many businesses are increasing prices during this recession? I guess not many.

The tuition increase would dump the entire financial burden on the students (and their families) at a most terrible time in the economy. Is there an alternative solution?

Yes -- just tap the endowment fund for the whole $100 million. At its high point, the fund was around $2 billion. Currently, I guess the fund to be around $1.6 billion. The $400 million drop is due to the recession.

Likewise, the additional $100 million drop to offset the proposed tuition increase can be charged off to the recession. The $100 million will fund UW operational expenses. The tuition will remain frozen at its current level.

Harvard has only recently started using its endowment fund for the direct benefit of its students. The UW should do the same. If not now, then when?

I do not know the policy regarding use of the UW endowment fund. However, should the policy be "no direct benefits to students," then change the policy.

-- Bob Conrad, Seattle

Federal: Overspending in an economic depression

I'm studying U.S. history at the high-school level and I'm sorry a periodical like The Times would publish an article like "A Keynes moment" [Business & Technology, April 12].

Saying FDR did not spend much on stimulus is absurd. Roosevelt spent more money and raised taxes more than any president before him. In addition, he started dozens of government programs. All they did was raise taxes and cause inflation.

The only way to say FDR didn't spend much is if you compare his spending to Obama's absurd $9 trillion budget, which will not help the economy any more than Roosevelt's millions did.

Most economists now see that Roosevelt's spending probably made the Great Depression worse. My fear is that Obama will make the same mistake as Roosevelt: overspending.

-- Andrew Kato, Renton

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April 12, 2009 4:50 PM

Open Public Meetings Act

Posted by Letters editor

Amend to include punishments for violators

Next January, legislation should be introduced to amend RCW 42.30, the Open Public Meetings Act, to make it a gross misdemeanor (one year/$5,000) to violate that act ["City lawyer, state challenges council's closed sessions," page one, April 10].

Further, the threat of force or the use of force to violate that act should be a class C felony (five years/$10,000).

It should also be amended to make violations privately actionable, with punitive damages to to exceed nine times compensatory damages. Sovereign and limited immunity should be explicitly prohibited under the Open Public Meetings Act.

I've long considered that law to be toothless. Possibly criminal prosecution and losing one's property would make it significantly more effective.

-- Steven L. Kendall, Seattle

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April 12, 2009 4:44 PM

Seattle's Clear Alleys Program

Posted by Letters editor

A solution causes more problems
I am surprised that no one seems to be reporting about this Clear Alleys Program ["Seattle dumping the Dumpsters," NW Tuesday, March 10].

I live downtown, and suddenly I cannot put trash out. I cannot even purchase the garbage bags from the program. I have to go through the apartment manager only. I can only get one bag per week, and maybe an additional one. This isn't including the recycling bags that I will also have to purchase.

I recycle and do what I can, but suddenly I cannot do anything. I am finding other residents putting garbage behind hallway doors or just plain dumping it in the alley.

Why can we not just use any reasonable plastic bag? I understand there are costs, but this is ridiculous!

-- Annette Fallin, Seattle

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April 11, 2009 9:00 AM

Seattle City Council's closed sessions

Posted by Letters editor

Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times

The Seattle City Council listens to a resident during a meeting on the city's snow-removal procedures.

No more secrecy

Editor, The Times:

Calling the requirement to keep government deliberations open a "red herring," as Seattle Councilmember Tim Burgess did in Friday's story on closed council sessions ["City lawyer, state challenge council's closed sessions," page one, April 10], is a good example of why they need to be open.

If he is so disdainful in public of the people's right to know, I can only imagine what is being said when he has "the ability to talk freely and debate issues without being worried about how our comments will be interpreted."

Where has this guy been for the last eight years? We have just come out of an era of government secrecy so vile that our country has been reduced from the shining beacon of people's rights to a corporate wasteland where people are merely serfs used to bolster the holdings of shareholders. I want to know every word my representatives say. I want to hear every nuance, see every comma, note every facial tic, if necessary, to determine that person's right to represent me. People are homeless because of secret meetings. Wake up! Better yet, with an attitude like that, resign.

-- Mark Barabasz, Hansville

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March 26, 2009 2:02 PM

The sidewalk to nowhere

Posted by Letters editor

City's infrastructure planning lacking

Hats off to Sara Jean Green for bringing the city's ill-conceived and wrongheaded sidewalk ordinance to light ["Janitors path to dream: Pave it, city says," page one, March 24].

Of course, if she used a big bad developer as an example, there would be no outcry (due to Seattle's defensive penchant to punish all ambition).

What's wrong is that the city has no plan for continuity or completion to bring basic infrastructure to these neighborhoods. For it is not the sidewalks that are the costly factor; it's the requirement for street widening, curbs and drainage that is the backbreaker.

Since development is infill and houses generally last 50-100 years, the result will at best create a patchwork of curbs and sidewalks of varying age and quality, with streets expanding and contracting from house to house. At no time will the job ever be complete.

The great objection is that it is a complete waste of money to pay for curbs and drainage when there are no storm sewers in these neighborhoods. Where and what do you drain to and will it just be torn up when sewers eventually arrive? Just the plans, permits and review fees can cost as much as Jesus Barajas' $15,000 estimate. The sidewalks themselves are not a big deal and are typically replaced during construction.

I believe what "real cities" do is to float a bond to pay for the infrastructure, which is then carried out in a well-planned, consistent manner; the funds are recouped in the inevitable rise in assessments on the improvements increasing the neighborhood property values. It is more efficient to have one plan and one contractor for the entire neighborhood than to reinvent it with each property, although this would eliminate the steady stream of review fees to the city.

-- J. Fred Stukenberg, Seattle

Council actions inconsistent

I don't understand the hand-wringing by the Seattle City Council that was described in the article regarding the expensive sidewalk construction required of Jesus Barajas as part of his home-construction project. The council is acting as if there is nothing they can do.

A couple years ago, a developer proposed a project down the street from me that clearly should not have been allowed under existing Seattle construction and zoning codes. In fact, the city's hearing examiner stated exactly that in their evaluation. Yet the City Council held a couple hearings and then voted to override the code and allow the development.

So when members of the City Council shrug their collective shoulders and declare there is nothing they can do, they are being disingenuous at best. The detailed minutia of city code allows them to make exceptions, and they know it. If Barajas was a friend of City Hall, this would not be happening to him.

Without a doubt, sidewalks are a good thing, especially in urban villages. It is major failure of the city to declare a neighborhood an urban village and then not follow through with the required infrastructure investment.

But the fact that nobody on the City Council will step up and go to bat for Barajas on this one project and correct this ridiculous application of a flawed ordinance is just another example of how out of touch Seattle's leaders are with a significant majority of its citizens.

-- Jim Mabe, Seattle

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March 10, 2009 4:00 PM

Seattle noise rules

Posted by Letters editor

A win-win: fixing potholes and prohibiting costly nighttime construction

What on Earth was the Seattle City Council thinking this time around ["Seattle council votes to soften noise rules," Local News, March 3]?

I pity the poor residents who will shortly begin to feel the effects of this senseless decision, which will virtually permit construction noise 24/7.

Instead of pursuing "noise abatement," the council is basically giving consent to round-the-clock and, apparently in perpetuity, totally unacceptable noise levels resulting from big construction projects.

Shame on each and every council member for their uncaring and thoughtless attitudes. The city council most likely also never looked at the budgetary side of this issue.

Every middle-school-age youngster knows today that the least expensive work is done during daytime hours, while swing shift and night work are at the very least 10 percent more costly.

If the council feels that they have this kind of money at its disposal, maybe it should spend it on filling the endless number of potholes in our roads, which wreck the vehicles of drivers commuting to and from the city, as well as from Puget Sound to Lake Washington.

This would be a win-win solution. The neighbors in the areas where construction is going to happen would get their well-deserved nighttime rest, and all of us could drive more safely on better-maintained roadways.

-- Ruth Quiban, Seattle

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March 6, 2009 4:57 PM

Seattle noise rules

Posted by Kate Riley

"Forever" variance: a lasting blow to livability

Regarding "Seattle council votes to soften noise rules" [Local News, March 3], Jan Drago and Sally Clark, Seattle transportation chair and vice chair, created this huge loophole, joined by Seattle City Councilmembers Tim Burgess, Tom Rasmussen and Jean Godden.

Their "forever" variance could allow construction 24/7 for Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and Sound Transit, but also any six-month or more project by local road, bridge, water and sewer agencies; Seattle City Light; the jail, Port; Seattle Housing Authority; Convention Center; public schools and colleges; and any other federal, state or local agency that might be invented.

The variance could run for the life of each project, and the council couldn't legally change it once the public discovers how grossly noise standards are evaded.
It's a reckless, lasting blow to livability and democratic rights.

Rules against nighttime noise have also protected against light, dust, vibration, and traffic. All will worsen if this new variance allowing construction at night is allowed to stand.

The Quiet Alliance calls on the Seattle City Council to enact their proposal as a brief new ordinance; until then, every business, citizen and neighborhood is at risk.

-- Chris Leman, Seattle

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February 28, 2009 3:36 PM

Mercer Street rebuild

Posted by Kate Riley

Billions solely to beautify

The Seattle Times

Mercer Street often is clogged with cars.

Editor, The Times:

Here is another fine mess you've gotten us into: Seattle City Council voted to beautify the Mercer Street mess ["Mercer Street funding plan OK'd," Around the Northwest, Local News, Feb. 24].

Led by councilwoman Jan Drago, the council approved to make Mercer into a wide boulevard with street parking and a tree-lined median down the middle. But, according to transportation experts in the city, this will only make Mercer Street beautiful -not functional.

Eastbound traffic on Mercer Street with fewer signals will be thrown directly onto Interstate 5, making rush-hour traffic on the freeway even more of a nightmare.

But, what about potholes in the streets of Columbia City and Wedgwood or the sidewalks of Rainier Valley and West Seattle? What about Queen Anne, Capitol Hill, Ballard, Greenwood and other neighborhoods in the city?

Let's not forget we are in the worse recession in 70 years; the city council seems oblivious to this fact.

I agree Mercer Street is a mess, but lets find a solution to fixing the traffic problem other than spending millions of dollars just to make it beautiful.

-- Robert Sondheim, Seattle

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February 10, 2009 4:00 PM

Parking and driving in Seattle

Posted by Letters editor

More lots mean more congestion

Here's a harbinger to the future of autos versus bicycles in Seattle: In Ballard there are 10 to 15 new condo projects. Each structure will station about 300 cars in underground parking.

When the depression ends and the condos fill up, look for 3,000 more automobiles in Ballard alone for bicyclists and pedestrians to contend with.

Do the math for all of Seattle's new condos. Look forward to untold traffic congestion and increased carbon monoxide. Market Street (with four bus lines) is already at capacity, particularly in summer.

So much for pro-development Mayor Greg Nickels' "green" city.

-- Bob Miller, Seattle

Craft a carbon waiver

As a person who doesn't use my car very often, I have always disliked the 72-hour parking rule. But now, when everyone is calling for people to cut their carbon emissions, the rule seems particularly troublesome.

I got a note from the police explaining that the 72-hour rule helps with street cleaning. In my neighborhood, if my car isn't there, someone else's is, and I don't believe I've ever seen evidence of a street cleaner running on my street.

The note also said if I want to park for longer, I should use a parking lot. That just seems to say that I don't have a right to have my car on the street, but my carbon-spewing neighbors who use their cars every day do.

One last reminder from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), "Driving a private car is probably a typical citizen's most 'polluting' daily activity."

Can someone craft a carbon waiver for the 72-hour rule that would allow me to leave my car at home and take the bus?

-- Gina Hicks, Seattle

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January 13, 2009 4:01 PM

Alaskan Way Viaduct

Posted by Letters editor

Cars in the basement,
citizens on top

Washington State Department of Transportation

The south terminus of the proposed tunnel would be near the SODO stadiums.

Editor, The Times:

Just looking alongside the elevated [Alaskan Way Viaduct], all one sees are dirty tired buildings, covered in decades of soot and neglect. This is what a new elevated roadway promises, too. A tunnel, opening up the city to the Sound, will promote a vibrant edge where windows are battened and unopened now. ["Tunnel: A deal, but how to pay?" Times, page one, Jan. 13.]

How can a serious city planner support a proposal that replaces the breezes on the Sound with fumes and the roar of traffic and accidents? How can we as a culture elevate cars and denigrate ourselves? Cover ourselves in grime and block off the views of the Port, the Olympics and the water?

Remember, no matter how expensive the tunnel, the benefits in access to the Sound will outnumber it; the rise in real-estate values and taxes to the city will pay for it; we all will be proud of our waterfront and the linkages between the urban and the natural environment.

Portland's downtown had a renaissance after tearing down the elevated roadway. San Francisco destroyed its elevated roadway after earthquake damage. There are precedents. We can improve our city by putting the cars in the basement and our citizens on top.

The Sydney Opera House cost $140 million, an astronomical sum back then. Yet now, the world over, it is a symbol of the whole country, for visitors and its citizens alike. Long after the hand-wringing about price is over, will we be proud of the roadway, or will we have "settled" for a "cheaper alternative" that doesn't change a thing?

-- John Richards, Tacoma

We already said no

Wasn't it just a few years ago that "we the people" voted no on the tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct?

Well, once again the political powers that be have decided "we the people" can't make decisions of any importance and made their decision that the tunnel was the right choice and the bill for their great plan will be shoved down our already gagging overtaxed throats.

Gee, its wonderful to be part of a democracy here in King County and Washington state, where votes count only if Gov. Christine Gregoire and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and their royal courts approve.

-- Jeanne Read, Seattle

Yes to the tunnel

I am in complete agreement with King County Councilmember Larry Phillips regarding the subject "Putting the viaduct in a tunnel lets city, neighborhoods thrive" [guest column, Jan. 11]. Our commitment to the region will play out over the next 56 years as it has in the past 56 years.

We must come up with a replacement that addresses the problem -- make that, the opportunity to create what our children will have to live with -- now. I side with you completely regarding getting it done right this time.

-- Wayne Lubin, Seattle

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January 13, 2009 4:00 PM

Bike tabs

Posted by Letters editor

Tax for biker minority

You are 100 percent correct in proposing a bike tax in Seattle ["Tale of two cycling cities, Chicago and

Honolulu," James Vesely column, Dec. 14].

The gas tax and general fund have been providing millions of dollars for bike lanes and paths to be used by a small, but vocal, minority of citizens.

It is about time the bike riders participated in paying for the facilities they enjoy.

-- Walter Appel, Lynnwood

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January 11, 2009 6:01 AM

Snow removal

Posted by Letters editor

No salt, no bus

I understand the city of Seattle maintains an Office of Emergency Management. Who are these people? What do they do and how much do we pay them? Why hasn't The Times addressed the role -- or, I should say, non-role -- of that agency in the recent snow and ice emergency?

I live in the suburbs and rarely get downtown, but I'm angry that some bus commuters were stranded in the city by Metro's inability to perform, exacerbated by Mayor Greg Nickel's "hold the salt" policy.

Perhaps City Hall could figure out a way next time to deal with those who were forced to stand in the cold for hours, waiting for their bus that never showed up.

One possibility might be to periodically run chained busses down Third Avenue with large banners on the side saying, "Emergency shuttle to Qwest Field Exhibition Hall Warming and Re-Routing Center."

-- Jim White, Lake Forest Park

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January 8, 2009 4:00 PM

Seattle snow job

Posted by Letters editor

Time to take responsibility

I am sorry that Seattleites have become such a bunch of whiners that they think snow is a disaster. It's not. It's an inconvenience, made worse by the lack of reliable public transportation, a population that apparently can't take care of itself, and a pitifully self-absorbed view of entitlement.

Ask a Katrina survivor if having your trash on the curb for two weeks is worth the rants and raves we've heard. Ask a flood victim who lost everything if not being able to get to the store justifies the anger and sense of betrayal we hear in people's voices these days.

I guarantee you that if the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) had voted to buy 10 more snowplows in July -- at the expense of some other service -- there would have been public outcry that it was unjustified.

We all need to take responsibility for our community's well-being and be prepared to take care of ourselves and each other.

-- Cai Hadfield, Auburn

One definition please

In response to the failure of communication between Metro and the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) about plowing the streets ["City never responded to Metro's plea to plow," page one, Jan. 7], I think part of the communication problem is that "plowed" means different things to different people. When Metro Transit general manager Kevin Desmond asks for streets to be plowed, he is asking for the streets to be cleared down to bare pavement as soon as possible. This is what most people mean by "plowed."

When Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels or Grace Crunican of SDOT says the streets have been plowed, they are saying that the plows have been used to pack the snow down on the streets so that only four-wheel-drive vehicles and front-wheel-drive vehicles with chains can drive on them. This leads to long-lasting ice, especially if the weather stays cold, and makes it very difficult for buses to get around. This is a bizarre interpretation of the word "plowed."

The city needs to change its plowing policy to focus on clearing streets. Even with only 27 plows, major streets could have and should have been cleared.

Eight to 12 inches of snow over several days is not a natural disaster; it should be manageable.

-- Sandra Perkins, Seattle

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January 6, 2009 4:31 PM

Storm postmortem

Posted by Letters editor

Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times

Seattle City Councilmembers Tom Rasmussen, left, and Tim Burgess listen to Seattle Department of Transportation Director Grace Crunican answer questions during a meeting to review the city's reaction to the recent snowstorm.

The snowball rolls downhill

Editor, The Times:

Seattle's machinations over last month's winter weather continue to make headlines ["City roads chief gets icy reception," Times, News, Jan. 6]. Your readers, however, should be wondering whether Seattle's elected officials are taking a reasoned approach or whether The Times is stirring the pot. Along with tales of the most recent national financial rip-off, attempts at a bailout and congressional political infighting, it would be encouraging to know we're a bit more rational.

We should be asking what level of snow and ice "response" is appropriate and affordable.

Mayor Greg Nickels' decision to renew use of salt during such storms seemed abrupt. Would it have made much difference for these storms? The City Council's investigation, reported in The Times, appears to be an attempt to place blame for an act of God. Didn't other jurisdictions in the region witness the same storms with similar difficulties? Isn't Spokane, with more experience with these conditions, still buried?

The storms were sensational in a devastating way, coming at an inopportune time for the holiday season. But, if they were an anomaly and we're unwilling to spend the money for "a plow on every street," elected officials should simply make sure city staff is asking, "What did we learn and how can we improve our response next time?"

-- Martin Nizlek, Bellevue

Low-salt diet preferred

With temperatures dropping again, it's as good of time as any to tell Mayor Greg Nickels (and the rest of Seattle) that using salt on the road is a bad idea. It's corrosive.

You saw how dirty your car looked after driving through the snow. Imagine that instead of a mixture of dirt and sand, it is salt, slowly eating away the finish on your car. There is no way you are going to wash your car in this weather, so that salt will be encrusted for some time, exposing areas that will begin to rust when the snow does melt.

The effectiveness of the current plows has been extensively debated, but what about salt? Rock salt lowers the freezing point of water only1-3 degrees. With the temperatures we had during our winter storm, this solution would be only partially effective

-- Micki Ream, Seattle

Slip-sliding away:
post-storm bike hazards

In the wake of recent snowstorms, the city of Seattle scattered sand on the streets. This has created hazardous conditions for cyclists. The loose sand presents a braking problem, particularly on steep hills for bicycle commuters.

On some roads, the loose sand together with debris that emerged from the snow covers the right shoulder, leaving cyclists little choice but to go out into the center or the right-hand side of the lane, increasing the chances of a possible collision with an oncoming car.

If the city has made a mess, it should to clean it up. We should call on our public officials to sweep the streets clean for the New Year.

-- Ruth Wilson, Seattle

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January 5, 2009 5:00 PM

Seattle snow removal

Posted by Letters editor

Time to get real

The Greater Seattle lowland areas receive a large snowfall like this once every blue moon. For Seattle and other cities in the area to spend tax dollars on unnecessary snow-removal equipment and supplies that will, for the most part, stand idle is irresponsible. Citizens need to "get real" and understand that Seattle, as well as surrounding area cities and small towns, did a good job of keeping the major streets clear and passable.

Streets make up thousands of miles in the Greater Seattle area. No reasonable amount of snow-removal equipment will be able to clear all of these streets. Sometimes we, as citizens, have to prepare ourselves for this type of event, not expecting and relying on government to solve all of our problems, especially the weather.

I am confident that public works officials in the Seattle area are looking at how they can make improvements for upcoming winter storms.

-- Scott Newbold, Auburn

Governments should make safety a priority

Having lived in areas with both frequent snow/ice storms and infrequent snow/ice storms in the winter, I believe I can offer some perspective and even a good idea or two regarding the area's snow-removal woes.

Cities and counties with few snow/ice storms do more than the municipalities and counties surrounding the Puget Sound. Our local and county governments acted irresponsibly and inexcusably during this and earlier snow/ice events.

To be fair, it's not just Seattle mayor's issue, despite the focused news coverage of Mayor Greg Nickels. Many of the area's elected officials are insubordinate on this issue. Snow/ice removal is not a new issue in the area.

What makes our local government differ from those more rational governments are indefensible eco-activist philosophies and irresponsible (and perhaps illegal) refusal to provide prudent public safety and infrastructure for healthy commerce.

Accepted best practices in government programs and accounting apply all costs and benefits to the served public before creating policies and practices. Costs to commerce due to customers, workers, and materials not able to move following a storm are huge. The cost due to unsafe public roadways is great, especially when governments don't barricade unsafe roads. Dare I say, the likely direct cost to governments pales in comparison to the costs to public safety and commerce.

So, what should governments do if budgets would be strained by doing their best to provide safe roads and movement by commerce? The answer is simple: Priorities. Set prudent priorities. May I suggest the three most important and inviolate priorities of local and county governments are to provide for public safety, provide for healthy commerce and provide for effective education. I submit, all other policies and programs are predisposed and subordinate to these priorities.

In this area, prudent cost/benefit analyses are either absent or infrequent and shallow in scope. Perhaps making local and county governments legally accountable for violating governing enabling acts, articles of incorporation and mandates is in order.

Sadly, our elected officials only make excuses or downplay their responsibility and accountability to the public they serve. Nickels proved this beyond any doubt during meetings with the news media. May our memories be long and our votes be accountable.

-- Dick Schaertl, Kirkland

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December 25, 2008 4:10 PM

Riding out the snow

Posted by Letters editor

Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times

One of the many cars stuck in the snow and slush over the past week.

When in Rome

Editor, The Times:

If the Romans could salt Carthage, why can't Mayor Greg Nickels salt Seattle ["Sand on roads worse than salt, environmentalists say," Times, News, Dec. 24]? Whatever happened to the concept of the "greater good for the greater number?"

The argument of salt going into the Sound is ludicrously oxymoronic; there is salt in the Sound.

And if you own a business, an apartment or house, a coffee shop, a restaurant, a concert hall, you are obligated to clean those sidewalks adjacent to your property, so people aren't breaking their asses, elbows and pelvi on your mis-account because of snow/ice/snow buildup.

Not everyone has the luxury of being a weather shut-in.

The church is nearby, but the roads are icy; the tavern is farther away, but I shall walk very carefully.

-- Fred Ketteman, Seattle

Make it work

What is the city thinking? So we are saving the environment by not letting salt run into Puget Sound. The Sound is saltwater and has a lot less salinity than the ocean due to the freshwater runoff.

Ask the guys at Bangor who submerge in the Sound; they will tell you. Salt probably will be the most benign thing we will ever dump into the Sound, ever.

The consequences of this policy are devastating. Emergency/fire crews cannot respond, mail is not delivered, garbage is not picked up, people cannot get to work, buses don't run, caregivers cannot get to those they care for and people cannot shop.

This policy has to change. The mayor and City Council's job is to make our city work.

-- Chris Warner, Seattle

We are not salmon

Former Mayor Paul Schell lost his job because of his gross misjudgement of WTO [World Trade Organization]; Mayor Greg Nickels might see his job in jeopardy for putting the welfare of Puget Sound salmon above the need of the people of the community he leads to be able to move about.

-- Wight Reade, Seattle

Chill out

I applaud the city's policy of not using salt on the roads.

The East Coast has already made a mess of a lot of their local environments, but maybe we will be able to avoid that outcome. Salt is not only harmful to the Sound, but it also damages the soil's ability to grow plants. It is also corrosive to everything metal, including your car.

We have very little and infrequent snow in this area and I think most residents can manage to survive a few inconveniences in their daily lives once every five or 10 years. Take a break and try to remember why you are here on Earth.

-- Elizabeth Erickson, Seattle

Makes total sense

Let me get this straight: the city of Seattle refuses to use salt on the roads for fear that it might pollute Puget Sound, which is a body of saltwater.

-- Dick Dickinson, Seattle

Lean on each other

I applaud the city of Seattle's choice not to use salt on our roadways. We do not need to add to the burden of the Puget Sound ecosystem, upon which we all rely, for our transient convenience.

Everyone with a passing knowledge of Seattle weather knows that we get snow almost every year and heavy snow every 10 years or so. This weather is no surprise and we have had days of warnings.

A reasonable person will have prepared for this with, at a minimum, tire chains, a full tank of gas and a few days worth of extra food. A well-prepared person will have an all-wheel-drive vehicle because they are not only better on snow but also on wet pavement, which we get a few times per year, too.

We live in an urban environment and also within neighborhoods, so with a little extra effort and concern for our neighbors, we should all be able to feed and care for ourselves and each other.

Perhaps this is an inconvenience, but tolerable. The snow is not going to stay and things will be back to normal soon. No need to panic.

This inconvenience has everyone in a tizzy and calling for greater expenditures for snow plows, chemical and salt for the roads. What we should be doing is helping each other to get through this. Shop locally instead of driving to Costco or a mall. Car pool to work.

We certainly do not need to poison the environment to mitigate a minor, transient inconvenience.

-- David Gill, Seattle

Don't sacrifice your car

In your front-page story you attempt to minimize the environmental impacts from the use of salt on the roads, and it is considerable.

I am less concerned with the environment as I am with the condition of my car. Salt will rot a car's body and undercarriage in an incredibly fast and destructive manner.

Ask anyone who lives where salt is used on the roads.

Cars thus rendered old and useless before their time quickly become piles of junk in wrecking yards, where even the parts cannot be recycled. There's your environmental impact.

Most years, we have no snow and usually in the years when we do it is gone in a day or two. I for one won't care how bare the streets will become from the use of salt. I won't be driving my car on any road thus treated until it is thoroughly washed away.

-- Marshall Dunlap, Kent

Be warned

Our recent small snowstorm has unveiled how weak and fragile our city's infrastructure systems are. Yes, the recent winter storms that came through our region are very unusual and have caused major chaos for the area. But compared with the other larger cities in the East Coast in which I've lived, this event is not that big of a deal for the winter season.

I agree with all of the contributing writers and the stories regarding all of the issues we are faced with. This storm is not considered a "real emergency," but what if the city were faced with real natural disasters, or a "real emergency?" We have only one freeway [Interstate 5] to get in and out of the city.

Not using salt to de-ice the road? What about sand that will end up in our water and drainage systems that will cause serious damage to the systems?

Seattle, we all need to re-evaluate and adjust our infrastructure and be prepared for real emergencies that can be devastating to our livelihoods.

And to all the city officials and the mayor, shame on all of you.

-- Joseph Woo, Mercer Island

Sending the bill to you

Seattle's snow-removal policies have now incapacitated our city for seven days. To think that using salt in this one incident is going to cause any type of measurable harm is nothing short of lunacy.

The lack of leadership and willingness to be flexible during "The December Storm" staggers the mind.
Shall we bill you, Mayor Greg Nickels, for the lost wages, accidents and lack of retail sales that have resulted from your inability to make an intelligent decision that would protect our city and offer basic services?

I am talking about some reasonable thinking in this one extraordinary situation.

It is a shame that our leadership has not shown the ability to step up and demonstrate "extraordinary" thinking in this case. The price tag on this to our city is rising as we speak.

-- Janet Engel, Seattle

Calling all authorities

For 18 years, I have been using Metro as my main means of transportation. For 18 years, I have yet to see a planned, organized response to winter snows. It seems it is always improvised from year to year with nobody taking the time or effort to learn from the past.

King County Executive Ron Sims is supposed to be the head of Metro. In all of his time in office he has shown no leadership in planning for these sorts of disasters. It is clear that the current series of days of collapsing bus service falls on him and his lack of leadership.

I would hope that somebody in Metro would call a conference of appropriate authorities, including riders, and plan for different response levels to Seattle winter storms.

This plan would include reallocation of resources, a way of educating the public of those plans, and finding a means to keep riders informed of the situation.

But given the level of customer service on fair-weather days, I doubt it will ever happen until somebody replaces Sims and shows some appropriate leadership.

-- Don Carter, Seattle

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December 24, 2008 12:10 PM

No salt for Seattle

Posted by Letters editor

Courtney Blethen/ The Seattle Times

Pedestrians take over Denny Street on Capitol Hill. The street has been closed to vehicles all week due to dangerous snowy and icy conditions.

What's a few kids?

Editor, The Times:

I'm a little tired of all of the letters scolding Mayor Greg Nickels for not putting salt on the road during this severe weather ["Seattle refuses to use salt; roads 'snow packed' by design," Times, News, Dec. 23].
So a few buses filled with kids might go off a bridge.

Don't people realize that the salt on the roads might get into Puget Sound and pollute the saltwater with salt?

I drove in severe weather for most of my adult life in Alaska before I moved here. The mayor is teaching these city folks how to be independent and protect the environment at the same time. No salt on the roads means no salt polluting our green parks and being ingested by the helpless birds and fishes in our local area.

Nothing could make a granola-eating tree-hugger like me happier.

If I need traction I always keep a couple of dead spotted owls in my trunk. You just throw them under the tires when you get stuck. Nothing gets better traction than a spotted owl, not even chains.

-- Dennis Doucette, Auburn

SUVs make a comeback

I just wanted to thank the Seattle government for their stand on not using salt on the roads during this terrible snowstorm. It is absolutely awful to think that salty runoff could possibly make its way to the Puget Sound, which last I checked was comprised of saltwater.

But, honestly, Seattle's use of sand instead of salt cleared the roads of all traffic, allowing my 6,000 pound, 15 mpg, 4-wheel-drive truck traffic-less transportation for a solid four days.

Finally, my tax dollars hard at work to relieve congestion.

In addition, I am glad that Seattle has finally put its foot down and decided full-heartedly to support the promotion of oversized, overweighted gas hogs.

-- John Foster, Bothell

I don't get it

The Times revealed that Seattle is not salting our icy and dangerous streets for fear that the salt will ultimately leach into Puget Sound. Isn't the sound already a saltwater body of water. Am I missing something?

-- Martin Paup, Seattle

The benefit is greater

The first question to be asked about the decision not to use salt on the roads it simple: Did anyone determine the amount of salt to be used would be sufficient to have any measurable environmental effect on Puget Sound?

Puget Sound is large and deep, with strong tides assuring rapid mixing. Was there any calculation of salt concentration of runoff water showing a higher concentration than that of the Sound?

Road salt contains calcium, which is also a component of seawater, integral to the formation of crustacean shells. Road salt is mildly corrosive, but as snow is rare here, it will quickly be washed away from cars and structures once typical rains resume.

Salt has long been routinely used for melting. Whatever problems, it has been almost universally concluded that the benefit is greater.

The consequences are not trivial and are beyond the obvious impassibility of streets and unnecessary property damage. People are missing work and income. This past week is crucial for many retailers and the lost business causes genuine hardship to both business and employees. Can anyone in City Hall show evidence of equal benefit from this absurdity?

-- Bronston Kenney, Shoreline

Sidewalks are for people, not snow

Tuesday's story about the messy condition of Seattle's roadways overlooks the condition of the sidewalks.
I have it on the authority of the chairman of the City Council, Richard Conlin, that there is a code requirement that sidewalks be cleared of snow by property owners, who otherwise can be fined.

However, the requirement is ignored by many property owners with impunity.

-- Anita Warmflash, Seattle

Blatant disregard

The complete inattention and indifference that the cities of Olympia and Lacey have shown toward the enabling of transportation around the city streets during this freak snowstorm is utterly unbelievable.

No roads have been scraped, people are ruining their bodies and vehicles trying to drive on clots of snow and ice mixed with slush that are six or more inches deep.

Driving on these roads is like driving on the rocky bottoms of river beds. Do you know we have had no trash pick up?

What about the fact that this is an emergency? What about renting backhoes and tractors and clearing the ice-rocks from the city and neighborhood streets?

What about asking the neighboring cities for help?

Why is it OK to just wait until it warms up? I am reminded of the tales of governmental disregard in New Orleans during/after the flooding of Hurricane Katrina.

What about people who need an ambulance? What about the large elderly population in Olympia? Why is it acceptable to make them navigate river-rock roads?

Never have I seen such an inept, blatant disregard for citizens and their well-being.

-- Carolyn Foster, Lacey

Never again

The abominable response by the city of Seattle to this winter's unusual storm is about as responsible as the federal response to Hurricane Katrina. Not only is it foolish and inept, it's arrogant.

Those of us who've lived other places where snow and ice are handled competently have been appalled by the manner in which a major U.S. city has been paralyzed for a week because of Mayor Greg Nickels' ridiculous attitude about possible solutions.

This is not to say that we are not concerned about environmental matters. But Seattle's knee-jerk response has been way out of balance considering the situation.

Since these storms do not happen often here, let's try something different. Let's say for the first week of a major storm like this one, we can use salt for the roads and we can use decent blades on the plows -- blades that will actually clear the roadway.

That won't be enough to do any significant harm to the environment and it won't cause rust on our cars. After that, we go back to the current methods.

But we never again leave the city in the paralysis in which it's been this past week.

-- Molly Cook, Langley

Do more than this

If it's economics, say so.

If it's poor emergency management, apologize, but don't pull the "green card" with total disregard for public safety.

"By design," two charter buses narrowly escape a crash onto Interstate 5. Vehicles spin out, businesses are temporarily shut down. Hundreds of cars sit idling in snarled traffic.

The storms crippled the entire region. Where are the state Department of Transportation snowplows?
Thanks to city and county employees for their hard work under challenging conditions. But this was not an unexpected storm.

We shouldn't see young soldiers stuck at the bus station, or a mother and her children sleeping on the floor at Sea-Tac Airport for days. Airlines had no choice but to cancel flights when they couldn't get new supplies of de-icing material delivered. What a blow to their financial stability in these times.

The mess in Seattle can't be "by design." Alex Wiggins [chief of staff for the Seattle Department of Transportation], please say you did all you could do.

-- Anne Varga, North Bend

Let's get salty

I'm all for not dumping toxic crud into Puget Sound, so as not to screw up the lives of salmon, clams, orcas and so forth. But Seattle's policy of just packing down the snow on city streets into ice confines the city's human folks to their caves until the weather seriously warms up.

How about using sea salt on Seattle streets? It would make Puget Sound a few hundredths of a percent more salty.

-- Chuck Hastings, Federal Way

Take the hint

I ventured into Seattle [Tuesday] for a business meeting and sought to escape at 2 p.m. via Mercer Street to the freeway. I have never seen a street in worse condition. It literally felt like moving east in a boat.
Drops off ice mounds in some case were 8 to 10 inches.

I'd say a better plan is warranted for clearing Seattle's streets.

I drove home to Lynnwood, and there was ice here and there, but on the major arterials there was pavement under the tires. Is the region's premier city clueless or just poorly led?

-- Bill Kirlin-Hackett, Lynnwood

Do more research

I am disappointed at Susan Kelleher's investigative reporting concerning Seattle's refusal to use salt on its roads. Kelleher fails to describe fully the principles, conversations and reasons that begot Seattle's current policy.

Moreover, she primarily compares Seattle's response to urban areas that are not near large, ecologically sensitive bodies of water. Those cities do not have to consider the impacts of salt on Puget Sound.

Denver's complaint about sand causing problems is true for them; however, its impacts in Seattle may be different due to variances -- for example, in municipal infrastructure and snow type. The use of salt and de-icer by WSDOT [Washington State Department of Transportation] does not baptize their effects in waterways.

To be sure, Seattle's response to this snow has not been effective; policy changes must certainly arise. Nonetheless, rashly adopting a policy to use whatever chemical or salt "works" in the short-term would supplant a wiser principle of considering the long-term effects of everything we do.

-- Daniel Escher, Bellingham

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December 15, 2008 11:53 AM

It's cold

Posted by Letters editor

Global what?

Boy, with all this global warming, I'm freezing to death ["It's only begun: More snow, cold temperatures expected," page one, Dec. 15].

Just where is all that heat hiding now when we could really use some?
Wasn't our governor promising that the Cascades would be suffering snow-free droughts by now? Maybe the Seattle climate-action-now people have an answer.

I know, the City Council can build an entire network of trolleys, without any source of funding; surely then they can figure this one out.

To be safe, call former Vice President Al Gore on this right away. I think he's on vacation at the North Pole, now that it's a sauna.

I greatly appreciate your assistance on this hot issue.

-- Steve Keeler, Seattle

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December 13, 2008 4:12 PM

Mayor Nickels and the city budget

Posted by Ken Rosenthal

Sound familiar?

Our honorable mayor thinks that now is the ideal time to push forward 20 to 30 percent raises for three of the city's top department heads because, "part of having a well-run city government is attracting and retaining top-quality directors." ["Hefty raises for top city posts? Not a chance," page one, Dec. 11.]

It seems to me that this is exactly the kind of irrational hubris that led countless boards of directors to hand out $100 million dollar bonuses to idiots who couldn't be counted on to balance their own checkbooks, let alone the national banks and multinational companies for which they were ultimately responsible.

This request is yet another example of how hopelessly out of touch with the basic needs and desires of Seattle residents Mayor Greg Nickels is. At the very least, it should be regarded as a slap in the face to any hardworking, competent taxpayer forced to toil under this administration and its fantasies.

-- Alex Baker, Seattle

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December 13, 2008 4:10 PM

A desire named streetcar

Posted by Ken Rosenthal

Take your ideas to Nowhereland

What are these people thinking? ["Council supports streetcar expansion," page one, Dec. 9.]

In a city that is choking on its existing gridlock, the mayor and the Rubber-stamp City Council are considering more of those snail-paced, go-nowhere-fast, totally outdated and ridiculously expensive monstrosities? These people must be out of their collective minds.

If they are so enamored by those contraptions, let them buy a track out in Nowhereland, pay for it and the cars out of their own pockets and then go and play with their silly toys; don't hang those albatrosses around the public's neck.

Those folks' idea of a world-class city sure has an awful smell to it, not to mention the waste of our hard-earned tax dollars, for which their must be a long list of better uses.

-- Ruth Quiban, Seattle

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December 12, 2008 1:56 PM

Seattle's proposed streetcar expansion

Posted by Kate Riley

Use what we've got

The City Council's ill-conceived plan to further develop the streetcar system is fiscally irresponsible at a time when budget cuts have been announced that are hurting women, children and the most vulnerable among us ["Seattle council supports streetcar expansion," News, Dec. 9].

Council members are acting upon the interests of big-property developers rather than workers who rely on public transportation. Expanding Metro bus lines would save money, as they already have an infrastructure in place.

It's time the City Council was accountable to working people—not corporate interests.

-- Christina Lopez, Seattle

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December 7, 2008 3:17 PM

Seattle streetcar line extension

Posted by Kate Riley

Think of something less preposterous

With the exception of Seattle City Council members Nick Licata, Tom Rasmussen and Richard McIver, the other council members must be living in Alice's Wonderland ["Seattle City Council divided over future streetcar lines," News, Dec. 3]. They are either ignorant, stupid or so far removed from the problems of everyday citizens they haven't a clue where money comes from. They have no empathy for the struggling average person who can scarcely pay for his mortgage, food, transportation, etc., and may lose his job.

Of all the ridiculous ways to squander our hard-earned tax dollars, more streetcars are the most absurd. Economists' prediction of a $5.1 billion shortfall in our state's two-year budget mandates cutting expenditures to the bone and eliminating all but essentials.

For bike riders, rails in the street are extremely hazardous, and more pollution would follow increased congestion. Streetcar tracks would impede traffic flow and increase gridlock.

Thank you council members Licata, Rasmussen and McIver for opposing this inane proposal and for listening to the people you represent.

-- Helen and David Belvin, Seattle

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December 5, 2008 1:38 PM

Seattle's trees

Posted by Ken Rosenthal

Get off my lawn

It becomes quite evident that at least one member of the Seattle City Council has no concept of the right of private property ["Seattle City Council may limit tree-cutting by property owners," News, Dec. 2].

Council President Richard Conlin was quoted in The Seattle Times saying, "Removing trees causes soil erosion, increases pollution and decreases property value and it's unattractive." That statement is unsupported by facts. That is not to say that under certain conditions each may be true of a specific parcel, but it is the property owner's responsibility to deal with the consequences of his actions.

Authoritarian government is quite "unattractive," especially if executed without judgment.

The council has enough on its hands without overstepping its bounds on trees.

Perhaps there could be a "tree-removal credit." Each land parcel would get three a year and these "credits" would be bought and sold, like carbon credits.

-- Jim Ewins, Seattle

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December 5, 2008 1:34 PM

Seattle transportation

Posted by Ken Rosenthal

Start now on the viaduct

Has anyone asked Washington State Department of Transportation engineers what they think of moving the Alaskan Way Viaduct to Western Avenue ["All viaduct options are unfriendly to pedestrians, study finds," News, Dec. 4]. It seems it could be built while the present viaduct is still moving traffic.

This would only shut this main thoroughfare down for months instead of years. It could be configured to minimize noise and have levels for shops, buses and parks, connecting easily for pedestrians to First Avenue.

This would save the taxpayers a lot of money and inconvenience -- plus open Alaskan Way for wonderful connections and possibilities for the public, and tourism from the city to our waterfront. These possibilities could dovetail with the rebuilding of the waterfront's sea wall.

-- John Willett, Poulsbo

Streetcars? Think rural

This new plan to extend the streetcar lines has to be one of the worst ideas our City Council has come up with in a while ["Is Seattle ready for more streetcars?," page one, Dec. 3].

Anyone commuting to Seattle can tell you this plan will only negatively affect Seattle's transportation system. There are some major aspects that need to be taken into account before putting this $685 million plan into action, such as the location of the railways.

A big problem with this system is that the City Council is totally disregarding rural communities. The rub is that many of the people who are going to be contributing taxes for this rail system live in the rural communities.

I know the plan is to tax local business but many of these people who are running the businesses are commuting from places like Bellevue, Redmond and Everett. Instead of putting a slow rail system through Seattle, they could put rail systems leading into the city and maybe break up some of the congestion on the surrounding freeways.

What we should do is take ideas from much older cities such as New York City, which has subways downtown and light-rail trains coming from surrounding communities.

-- Shayne Mooney, Redmond

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November 17, 2008 3:53 PM

City life

Posted by Ken Rosenthal

Here come the tumbleweeds

What a clever idea. The economy has gone down the toilet, downtown merchants are scrambling to get more Christmas shoppers and Mayor McCheese [Greg Nickels] decides to raise the cost of parking a car downtown ["Nickels, City Council propose spending cuts, higher parking fees to meet budget shortfall," News, Nov. 7].

I'll bet that works really well.

Seattle city government has been making downtown less easy to use for 20 years and, like many others, I do my best to stay the heck out of there unless it is absolutely necessary or I can travel in a large group. I feel really sorry for the merchants who have invested money in building space and inventory to try to make a living down there.

And I don't even feel like I have a dog in this hunt anymore.
Goodbye Tuba Man. Happy Trails

-- Addison Double, Seattle

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November 14, 2008 4:32 PM

Seattle City Hall

Posted by Ken Rosenthal

The hills are alive

Mayor Greg Nickels's marketing team missed the ferry on naming Seattle "City of Music" ["Seattle, City of Music," editorial, Nov. 8].

A better name would have been "The Sound of Music." No?

-- Felicia Brooks, Mercer Island

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November 12, 2008 3:37 PM

Mayor of the City of Music

Posted by Ken Rosenthal

See you at Hempfest, dude

I would like to congratulate Mayor Greg Nickels for his latest accomplishments in these difficult times.
Proclaiming Seattle as "The City of Music" was a courageous and brilliant move that will send other cities scrambling to match this bold declaration ["Nickels proclaims Seattle the 'City of Music,'." Times, News, Oct. 30]. I can't quite figure out why he did it shortly after closing down a few local music venues, but who am I to question the grand plan of the mayor of the City of Music.

Moving forward with his ban on legally permitted handguns in city-owned parks and buildings will ensure that only criminals and gangbangers will be packing heat on city property. This will help to ensure hassle-free stickups and robberies, which will undoubtedly reduce the overcrowding problem in our prisons. Counterintuitive yet absolutely brilliant.

Regarding the mayor's earth-changing plan to put a fee on the use of plastic bags: Although it is a bit early to speculate, many observers believe that this move will likely end the worldwide threat of global warming and help him win that long overdue Nobel Peace Prize.

Finally, unnamed but reliable sources at City Hall have informed me that Nickels plans to permanently shut down all of the city's Mexican, Chinese and Japanese restaurants in an attempt to bring an immediate halt to illegal immigration.

These actions didn't seem to make much sense until I suddenly remembered his previous proclamation to make marijuana possession the lowest priority for Seattle police. See you at next year's Hempfest, dude, and keep dreaming up those wacky ideas.

-- David Archer, Seattle

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November 11, 2008 4:04 PM

City of Seattle budget cuts

Posted by Ken Rosenthal

Think again, Mr. Mayor

Once again, Mayor Greg Nickels wants to punish, instead of educate, the citizens of Seattle ["More budget cuts ahead in Seattle to meet $19M shortfall," News, Nov. 8].

Raising parking rates downtown seems to be the wrong thing do during this economic crisis. Driving buyers from our downtown stores to the suburban malls makes no sense at all. Is this also another attempt to try to
get Seattleites out of their cars? Once again, not the way to go, Nickels.

The governing bodies of this city never seem to look beyond the end of their noses at the big picture. Do we just throw more people on the already overtaxed bus system? How about providing tax incentives for those who ride bicycles, use car pools, walk or take the bus? How about working with Metro to improve the bus system first?

Now what about budget cutting? How about starting with the endless, useless studies this city is known for, or cutting the pay of one of the most overpayed city employees in the country?

I am a small-business owner and when we are faced with a budget crunch, the first thing that gets cut back is my pay. Why can't this principle be applied to our government as well? Squeezing more blood out of the already economically ravaged citizens of Seattle doesn't make sense. Go back to the drawing board, Nickels, and think again -- this time with a little foresight.

-- Robert Sondheim, Seattle

It doesn't add up

When will Mayor Greg Nickels and the City Council start living in the present economic reality, and when will we as Seattle residents hold our elected leaders accountable for their budgeting decisions? While it's admirable the city is making cuts to close its funding gap, why raise parking rates? As with any tax, behavior will adjust. There will be quicker or fewer trips for shopping, eating out etc.

This not only offsets the anticipated revenue benefit; it reduces retail sales and business taxes, which account for nearly 50 percent of the city's tax base, hitting local merchants and consumers at the worst possible time.

But more important than this economic illiteracy is the "buried lead" in the story -- that the city is considering "two or three layoffs" to help close the gap. Is that a misprint? On the same day GM and Ford announce thousands more layoffs, our city leaders can come up with just two or three expendable city employees?

As taxpayers seeing property values drop and neighbors laid off, we should be asking why the city is cutting less than 1 percent ($26 million) of an $8 billion budget. And why, when we're all cutting back our budgets, is the city's growing nearly 15 percent?

-- Stu Haas, Seattle

Don't mess with consumerism

Addressing the Seattle city budget problems is important, but increasing the charge for parking on the streets of Seattle is not a way to increase revenue; in fact, it is a true discouragement to shoppers who will go elsewhere to buy things. The merchants will not be getting sale taxes that would go into the city coffers.

Regarding the increase of two to three layoffs to the previously proposed cuts of 10 to 12 is only going to save the city money if the positions are permanently and completely eliminated, not transferred to other city departments. When laid off, the employee should be permanently and completely removed from the payroll.

In a related matter, at the county level, $90 million could be saved by not recreating the unnecessary Mosquito Fleet, and, at the same time, eliminate the 0.25 percent sales-tax increase that was created by the County Council without any presentation to the citizens of King County. This would be a way of saving money and letting the county residents retain some money. There should be no tax, fee, surcharge, assessment, etc. imposed without the expressed and explicit approval of the voters.

-- John Marthens, Normandy Park

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November 10, 2008 3:43 PM

Seattle's budget shortfall

Posted by Ken Rosenthal

Raise your hand for people

Thursday's edition of The Seattle Times decried Seattle's budget shortfall ["Shortfall of $19 million expected in city budget," News, Nov. 6]. The mayor's office had the temerity to say that no vital services would be cut and that this budget "focuses on compassion."

Effective Dec. 31, Cascade People's Center in South Lake Union, the only family-support center in the core of Seattle, will close because of funding cuts from the city. Cascade People's Center is a vital community link and has been for more than 10 years.

Councilmember Jean Godden was quoted as saying that the budget will focus on "what Seattleites want." Since 2007, Seattle has increased funding to criminal justice by more than $5 million yet no leader has stepped forward to commit the mere budget dust of $75,000 needed to keep the doors open for Cascade People's Center, where key prevention programs are provided.

Raise your hand, Seattle. Do you want a place for a young person to become a community leader instead of a gang leader? A place for the unemployed to use our computers to look for work, and a safe place to sleep rather than be arrested in their tent for the crime of homelessness?

Raise your hand Seattle. Apparently, it's up to us.

I vote for the city to prioritize people in its planning. I raise my hand for the people served at Cascade People's Center. This is what matters. This is vital to the safety and well-being of our South Lake Union neighborhood and Seattle.

-- Janet St. Clair, Seattle

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November 5, 2008 3:10 PM

Seattle's Tuba Man

Posted by Ken Rosenthal

Step up or step out

I awoke on Election Day with a sense of anticipation and hope. I felt we were about to enter a new era in our country, state and city.

My heart sank as I read of the brutal death of an icon of Seattle, Edward McMichael, the Tuba Man ["The Tuba Man, Seattle sporting events fixture, dies of injuries from beating," News, Nov. 4]. He was a gentle man who was a delight to see and hear as we walked to different events in Seattle. He died as a result of a mugging on Fifth Avenue and Mercer Street. This is all too common in Seattle.

My wife and I live on the edge of Belltown, the city neighborhood becoming renowned for muggings, shooting, drug dealing and killing. We have been awakened more than once by the sound of gunshots followed by the shrill of sirens and police cars roaring down the streets.

As we all know, Belltown is not the only Seattle neighborhood with these problems. It has been repeated in Pioneer Square, White Center and many other neighborhoods.

Yet as our neighbors and visitors are being beaten and shot, our political leaders appear to be numb.
Community safety is one of the prime roles of government. However, Mayor Greg Nickels, the City Council and the police chief are silent. More importantly, they fail to act. They fail to admit that Seattle is a war zone.

Thugs and gangs brutalize our streets, and the elected officials do nothing.

It is past time for action.

But on the day when this country turned a leaf in the election of a new president, I call for action -- for the elected officials to step up or step out. There has been a death of leadership. The Emerald City has lost its sheen. It is time to end the mouthing of simple words and the token patrols for a day or two.

If the mayors in New York City and New Jersey can provide the leadership to dramatically reduce crime, killing, mugging, rampant drug dealing and petty crime, we know it can be done.

This is a call and a challenge to the mayor, City Council and police chief to step up or step out. People are dying in our streets. If you are not up to the task, admit it and step aside.

-- Gordon Enk, Seattle

Now he's gone

Tragic news in the paper today: Seattle's Tuba Man [Edward McMichael] is dead. On Oct. 25, the Tuba Man was near a bus stop in the 500 block of Mercer Street when he was attacked, beaten and robbed by a group of young thugs.

For those that may be a little foggy on who the Tuba Man was, think about all the Seahawk, Mariners or Husky games you've been to and you've probably seen the Tuba Man sitting somewhere near the stadium playing his tuba. Now he's gone.

But hey, Mayor Greg Nickels has bigger things to worry about besides crime; he's fighting the great war against "paper or plastic" at the grocery store.

In the words of those great cartoons of the past, "Help me Mr. Wizard!"

-- Dennis Chandler, Seattle

Tears of sadness

Today feels like Christmas, New Year's Eve and my birthday all rolled into one. I am elated over the election. For the first time in more than eight years, I feel hope and promise that our country will get better again.

However, when I read about the shocking death of the Tuba Man, my tears of joy, became tears of sadness. He always made me smile whenever my husband and I attended numerous Mariners, Seahawks, Storm and Sonics games. I thought it was extra fabulous hearing his tunes as we entered the opera house to attend a performance.

His spirit, style and music made him a Seattle icon that is extremely hard to find these days. I will miss him. I hope that the local sports and arts organizations will find a fitting way to pay tribute to him.

-- Jen Kozel, Seattle

Sad day

I recently relocated to Boston and was saddened by the news of the loss of what I thought to be a Seattle icon. My friend at work used to give Ed [Edward McMichael] his extra ticket for the Sonics and marveled at the excitement Ed had when being able to see the game.

It is sad that a man with Ed's love for people would exit this Earth on a violent note. We only seem to notice the finer things in life when they are gone.

My son and I will miss the sound of the tuba as we entered Seattle Center for a hockey game, or listening to that hardy laugh and tuba sounds after the Mariner's game. My friend from work will truly miss the conversations he had with "Tuba Man" and he will never forget his real name, as his name is also Ed.

So long, Ed, yours sounds and good heart will be missed. Sorry, Seattle, for your loss.

-- Marvin Blaylock, Needham, Mass.

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November 2, 2008 3:41 PM

Weighing local ballot measures

Posted by Kate Riley

Light-rail expansion is the right path
As a Seattleite, I often pride myself on being in an area where voters take a deep look at the issues or candidates and make the intelligent choices.

It's great that Sound Transit Proposition 1 has received so much coverage this year but I'm afraid we can't see the forest for the trees ["Bus vs. Light Rail," Times, page one, Oct. 29].

The debate has become bogged down by numbers from both proponents and opponents of Prop 1: $17.9 billion vs. $107 billion; 1 million riders per day vs. 1 percent of daily trips; transit relief in 2 years or 15 years.

Instead of voting based on misleading numbers, I hope voters will choose between the competing visions for the transportation future of Seattle.

I strongly believe the integrated and diverse-transit network promised by Proposition 1 would lead Seattle down the right path. It's a path where commuters have real transportation options. A path where the most heavily traveled transportation corridors will be served by high capacity and efficient light rail. A path that will address congestion, the increasing cost of energy, population growth, over-dependence on fossil fuels, global warming emissions and unseen challenges over the horizon.

Choose your vision, and vote for it on Nov. 4.
-- Alison Graham, Seattle

Follow the leaders
I recently spent almost a week in Portland and took their Max light rail every day. It's a great system and It's packed with riders. It's has spurred intelligent development all along its route.

Vancouver's Sky Train zips you along its line and major buses run so frequently that you don't need to even carry a schedule. Every major European city has major-rail transit, and lots of the smaller systems.

Here we are in Seattle, voting down initiative after initiative to catch up with other major cities to and actually build some decent public transit.

Sound Transit Proposition 1 may not be perfect, but it gets buses on the ground now, and builds or extends light rail along our key regional corridors, so other forms of transportation can plug into them.

There's a reason it's supported by every major environmental groupI hope we'll finally take the chance to build the core transit spine that will knit our region together, let us use our ever-more-expensive private cars far less (or in many areas and for many people not at all), and let us deal with the overriding threat of global climate change.

-- Paul Loeb, Seattle

Get on with it
Contrary to your story, I do not regard an expanded-bus system as an alternative to light rail.

No matter how many additional buses are put on, I would not ride the bus, except in a dire emergency. Buses are inconvenient and they clog traffic.

As someone who has lived in cities with light rail systems both here and abroad, I appreciate their convenience and speed and how they free the rider from traffic congestion.

I have long hoped Seattle would at last muster the political will to build a light rail system.

-- Jon Lehman, Seattle

Continue the growth with the parks levy

On Oct. 27, a ceremony celebrated the accomplishments of the 1968 Forward Thrust bond issue and announced the new name for Freeway Park as "Jim Ellis Freeway Park."

Forward Thrust was described as setting "the stage for Seattle to become one of the premiere cities on the west coast and to win awards such as most-livable city."

In more recent years, voters approved measures such as the 1989 open space and trails bond that preserved more than 600 acres of green space in Seattle, and the 2000 pro-parks levy that funded park acquisition and development projects in nearly every neighborhood in Seattle.

Seattle Proposition 2 on the Nov. 4 ballot, the parks and green spaces levy, will continue this legacy. If approved, the levy will provide funds to preserve key properties in Seattle's green spaces and to create and improve parks in our most densely-developed neighborhoods.

As our city continues to grow, we need to ensure that it grows intelligently and ecologically, and remains a place we are happy to call home.

Like Forward Thrust, the Seattle parks-and-green-spaces levy will help ensure that Seattle remains a livable city.

--Catherine Anstett, Seattle

We're pushing out the little people
A plea to my fellow Seattleites: Citizens, before we do what we've done countless times before and vote for every tax hike presented to us, I beg you to stop and consider the ultimate consequence of this seemingly knee-jerk choice. That is, the end of Seattle being a livable city for anyone but the rich elite.

How so? All of the apparently small and allegedly justified taxes, whether they be minor increments in the sales tax, property tax "lid lifts" or even specific taxes on hotel rooms, car rentals and restaurant meals, mound up year after year. Taken together they are eating away at the standard of living of the everyday, hardworking Seattle resident -- that is, you, me and probably most folks you know.

Even if we don't pay a given tax directly, we're still paying them in the form of higher rents or increased prices for just about everything. Every store you shop at that incurs those new taxes (which would be every store within the city limits) will pass them on to you in the form of higher prices.

It's an all but perennial chant among political candidates to maintain Seattle as a place for working families, but despite the populist appeal of the phrase, little is actually done.

Most if not all of those same candidates, after having entered office, propose these nickel-and-dime tax increases that by small but definite degrees erode the income of our "working families" while providing little if any real benefit.

They all talk a good game about improving the Pike Place Market, expanding and improving parkland or increasing mass transit, but what good is any of it if you can't afford a sudden hike in your rent or increase in food prices?

Given embarrassing failures like the automated public bathroom debacle, do you really think government officials will be any more careful with our tax dollars in the future, especially since we've previously been so enthusiastic to give them up? And in our current economic travails, asking to have yet more money taken out of our hands and put into government-run projects (or even more reckless para-governmental authorities like Sound Transit) seems masochistic at best.

So please, fellow Seattleites, steel yourselves and turn a deaf ear to the pleadings of those who, despite their expressed good intentions, would in sad fact make our city a less livable one for those who can least afford it: you and me.

Vote "no" on all of the myriad tax proposals Tuesday. What good is a "world-class" city if only the upper class can enjoy it?

-- Frederic Riebs, Seattle

You don't know me
Driving north of downtown Seattle made me wonder what those people with political bumper stickers, those people with signs in their yards and those standing on the street waving political signs must think of me.

They are advising me, a complete stranger, to vote the way they are planning to vote. Why in the world would any sane person make a decision to vote the way those strangers are going to vote, just because they advertise on their car, lawn or on a picket-like sign?

One does not know how responsible they are, nor is it it is known what their educational background is for them to be qualified to make the choices being recommended.

In addition, it is not known how thoroughly they researched the opposing candidates' positions, nor what their motives are for voting the way they plan to vote.

Despite all of that, they want a person to trust their judgment and vote as they will vote. They are insulting a person's intelligence.

-- Thomas Markley, Bellevue

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October 27, 2008 4:40 PM

KeyArena remodel

Posted by Ken Rosenthal

Courtney Blethen / The Seattle Times

From left, Sherrie McCrorie, of Port Angeles, Ed Honeycutt, and his wife Lois, of Sequim, are dazzled by the "Falling Water Designs" display on their annual trip to the Northwest Flower and Garden Show at the Washington State Convention &Trade Center in February.

Don't forget the convention center

Editor, The Times:

Recent news stories regarding the city's plan to address KeyArena and return the NBA to Seattle fail to mention critical facts about the funding plan that could affect the outcome ["Seattle wants to divert hotel taxes to fund KeyArena remodel, get NBA team," Times, News, Oct. 25].

The Washington State Convention & Trade Center is in the preliminary stages of a plan for a much-needed expansion that will rely heavily on the taxes mentioned in these news reports. The bulk of the 7-percent tax in question is dedicated to retiring the existing debt and would be the source for debt service of the expansion. It is uncertain whether these taxes are sufficient to fund both the convention center and KeyArena.

It is important that these taxes be used for their original purpose and that the convention center continues to produce revenues for the city and state

Our convention center is recognized as one of the best-managed facilities of its kind and its revenue per square foot is among the highest in the U.S. However, our facility is increasingly outsized by convention-center expansions in key competing cities.

We rank 68th in the nation and many lucrative meeting and convention groups have outgrown us. We're turning down more business than we're booking.

The convention center has engaged a team of professionals to study the feasibility, cost and financing strategies attendant to the proposed expansion. And, in light of current economic conditions, we have been analyzing the financing capabilities of this tax stream. When these studies are complete, I am sure our hotel-industry leaders and those of us associated with the convention center would be pleased to discuss possible solutions for KeyArena.

--Frank Finneran, Seattle

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October 26, 2008 6:43 PM

Seattle's Proposition 2: Parks Levy

Posted by Kate Riley

Don't forget
An off-leash dog area for Queen Anne and Magnolia will be developed with $140,000 if Proposition 2 passes ["Seattle voters will decide fate of $146 million parks levy," Politics & Government, Oct. 23].

The Times' list of Seattle parks levy projects failed to include these two critically needed and long-awaited projects that will satisfy the needs of thousands of Queen Anne and Magnolia dog owners.

-- Sharon LeVine, Seattle

What have they done for us lately?
While everyone supports better parks for Seattle, now is not the time to pass a new $146 million property-tax levy.

According to the Seattle Parks Web site, only about 70 of the 100 projects promised in the year 2000 pro-parks levy have been completed. Only about 15 projects were completed last year, so there is still about a two-year backlog of unfinished projects at the average and current rate of completion.

Seattle Parks and Recreation should complete the projects that we were promised, and give the citizens a full account of what was accomplished compared with what was promised, before we commit to more.
I personally am still waiting for the $441,600 Green Lake shade garden, which the Web site says will be complete in "Summer, 2007." When I see it complete, then I will support a new parks levy.

-- Jeff Howard, Seattle

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October 18, 2008 3:57 PM

Seattle parks levy

Posted by Ken Rosenthal

Make up for past mistakes
There are many more compelling arguments to vote for the Seattle Parks levy than The Seattle Times recently had to offer ["Approve Pike Place Market upgrade; reject Seattle Parks levy," editorial, Oct. 7].

This election is the public's chance to tell its government what it wants. By voting yes on Proposition 2, citizens will know that dedicated funding will go to improving their parks.

As Seattle becomes more densely populated we need to make sure we provide the open spaces for reflection, recreation and experiencing nature.

Many neighborhoods in Seattle don't have parks nearby due to the lack of foresight in the old days.

We can only try to make up for that now. Opportunities will be lost if we don't renew the levy. There are many great projects in the levy package that address a wide variety of needs.

Getting a chance to vote on the levy is a chance to decide how important parks and open spaces are to each of us -- and that is a good thing.
-- Bill Farmer, Seattle

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October 18, 2008 3:53 PM

Seattle's mayor and guns

Posted by Ken Rosenthal

Concealed permit is a deterrent
The arrogance of Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels is boundless. As the mayor of the "Peoples Republic of Seattle," he has decided his word is above the law and the constitution of the state of Washington. Article 1, Section 24 and more specifically RCW 9.41.290, state the following: "Due to state pre-emption, no city, town, county or other municipality can restrict your right to keep and bear arms more than the state" ["AG says Nickels' authority restricted on guns," news. Oct. 16].

Washington state issues concealed-carry permits to citizens for a reason: so they can protect themselves.
Nickels' comments that he has a "moral obligation" to make sure there are no guns at Seattle public facilities would be laughable if it weren't pathetic.

In what world is a criminal going to heed Nickels "morality" clause?

What they will do is know that any Seattle public facility is a Greggie-poo "no gun zone" and take advantage of the unarmed sheep.

Having a concealed permit is a deterrent to criminals. The inherent element of doubt of who is carrying makes people think twice.

I, for one, look forward to The Second Amendment Foundation and RKBA [right to keep and bear arms] organizations filing a lawsuit against the mayor.

Nickels is an imbecile whose time in office has lasted too long. Hopefully, the voters are tired of his foolish policies.
-- Mike Ballsmith, Snoqualmie

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October 15, 2008 4:18 PM

Seattle Parks levy

Posted by Ken Rosenthal

Seattle voters can be surprising
The Times apparently forgot how to write an editorial in its Oct. 7 piece urging voters to reject Proposition 2, the parks levy ["Approve Pike Place Market upgrade; reject Seattle Parks levy," editorial, Oct. 7].
Instead of persuasion using compelling facts, your newspaper made assumptions, implying a vote was either/or, [Pike Place] Market or parks, the levy might become permanent and voters won't vote for the levy because of ballot fatigue, overtaxation and the economy.
None of this can be proven or tested.
The Times is presuming to speak for us voters, not providing reasons why we should or should not vote.
Voters need to know that a 16-member oversight committee will carefully review all levy spending. They should know that their tax assessment for parks will decrease, that the levy will complete a critical part of our popular Burke-Gilman Trail and that projects benefit all neighborhoods.
Seattle voters can be surprising; we deeply value tradition and quality of life. Abundant parks are one of our city's unique assets, along with the Market.
When times get tough, people make priorities. Don't arrogantly assume you know what they will be.
--Judy Moise, Seattle

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October 8, 2008 2:01 PM

Seattle parks levy

Posted by Ken Rosenthal

Parks for next generation
I strongly support Seattle Parks For All Proposition 2, and this is why: I watched as the grass-roots committee developed a comprehensive package of park projects that provides a rare opportunity to invest in a parks legacy for generations to come ["Yes on market upgrade; No on parks levy," editorial, Oct. 7].

This comes at a unique point in our history. Seattle's density is increasing at an all-time rate, and vacant land is virtually disappearing. At the same time, Seattle's parks are increasingly heavily used.

With Proposition 2, we have the opportunity to address these needs with a package that will benefit every citizen in the city.

Every area will receive new neighborhood parks, and missing links will be completed in our open-space and trail systems. Proposition 2 will also provide new recreational opportunities for our citizens and improve our citywide treasures, such as the Arboretum, Discovery Park and Jefferson Park.

Our citizens faced a similar decision almost 100 years ago, when Seattle was still virtually covered with trees. With incredible foresight, our community invested in implementation of a citywide Olmsted Plan and set aside hundreds of acres of land to form the backbone of our park system.

With Proposition 2, we can leave a legacy for the next 100 years.
-- Karen Daubert, campaign co-chair of Seattle Parks For All, Seattle

Pass levy for community
Financial times may be tough, and many (including your newspaper) don't seem to believe that renewing a parks levy now is the right thing to do.

As a new homeowner with a tight budget, I understand this. But I support Proposition 2 because public parks are precisely the type of civic infrastructure that we need most when we are pinching pennies. Public parks provide the quality of life that I searched for when choosing to live in Seattle, and a continued investment will ensure world-class parks long into the future.

Not everyone can escape to the mountains or ocean on the weekends, but everyone can enjoy our public parks, the open green spaces, beaches, various trails, playing fields and playgrounds.

This proposition will cost the average homeowner $81 per year to continue investing in the parks that so many enjoy. That's less than the current parks levy, and is an investment well worth making.

Furthermore, the projects in the levy are spread throughout Seattle's neighborhoods, providing a place for all to gather. This levy is about what sort of community we create for every citizen in Seattle and for the future.

I hope others will join me in voting "yes" on Proposition 2 to ensure the communal health of our city.
-- Tricia Vander Leest, Seattle

Parks a wise investment
The Seattle Parks and Green Space Levy is being supported by my neighbors because it is a wise investment.

By supporting the parks levy, voters can enhance the lives of people of all ages, economic and cultural backgrounds right now -- and also leave a legacy for future generations. The parks levy was put together by a group of dedicated volunteers who value community, the local economy and the environment.

Please join this group by voting "yes" for parks.
-- Cheryl dos Remedios, Seattle

Levy wasn't created in haste
As chair of the Citizen Advisory Committee that prepared the Parks and Green Spaces Levy package Seattle residents will vote on this fall, I tend to disagree with the Times editorial that it "feels hastily put together."

The diverse projects chosen for the $146 million parks levy were selected from existing neighborhood and other city plans based on years of grass-roots input and citizen efforts. The committee identified the highest-priority, most feasible projects that provided green space in Seattle's most underserved neighborhoods. See them all at

Our city must keep our open-space investments at pace with the growth in population and density if we are to maintain the quality of life that attracts business and keeps our communities safe and enjoyable. Now is not the time to turn our backs on green space, especially in the neighborhoods that need it most.

Quality public parks are even more important in tough economic times. For less than a quarter a day for the average homeowner, we can ensure that our entire community has free access to recreational open space. Vote "yes" on Proposition 2 this fall and continue smart investments in our public parks and green spaces.
-- Beth Purcell, chair of Citizen Advisory Committee on Parks and Green Spaces Levy, Seattle

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October 8, 2008 1:58 PM

Sidewalk cafes

Posted by Ken Rosenthal

Proposal discriminates against blind
Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels is a champion of saving the environment. However, both he and the Seattle City Council majority lack sensitivity to people who are blind or sight-impaired.

The City Council vote Monday ["Seattle council backs more sidewalk cafes," Local News, Oct. 7] can only be construed as discrimination against pedestrians and those who are disabled. Encouraging more sidewalk clutter by reducing sidewalk-cafe permit fees by 74 percent will mean impeding access to those who cannot see.

We hope the public hearings on this issue will result in testimony by those who are disabled and who want to walk in safety.
-- Bill Wippel, executive director of Tape Ministries Northwest, SeaTac

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September 29, 2008 5:05 PM

Homeless in Seattle -- the Nickelsville debate

Posted by Ken Rosenthal

Times doesn't speak for Seattle
I am a well-to-do downtown resident and I am appalled by Mayor Greg Nickels' lack of sympathy for those who are less fortunate. The Times Sept. 24 editorial, "Seattle doesn't deserve this pink tent city," does not speak for all of Seattle's residents.
Yes, we are a liberal city but, apparently, our mayor is not. The statement that the "people of Seattle do not want such a thing or deserve it" is not true. Most taxpaying residents are appalled by Nickels' treatment of the most vulnerable people.
I also take issue with the statement that Seattle "has offered shelter space to anyone sleeping in the parks or in the woods." How does one offer something one does not have? The shelters are full, and there are more than 2,000 men, women and children who were without shelter on some of the coldest days last winter.
The city has added about 20 beds since then and is destroying low-income housing in favor of huge, million-dollar condos, whose builders are getting tax breaks.
Our homeless need to be treated like human beings. The Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness is being used as an excuse to displace people or [ignore them]. Many homeless folks have died on the streets already this year.
Nickels should be told to back off and allow people to survive as best they can until they can find places to live. Our mayor should be allowing the creation of more low-income housing instead of encouraging, with tax breaks, developers of fancy condos.
In today's economy, this problem will only increase, as people lose their homes and look for affordable places to live.
-- Loretta Pirozzi, Seattle

Cruelty toward homeless
The large photo of a man in a pink tent and two police officers, accompanying the story "Uneventful police sweep clears homeless camp" [Local News, Sept. 27], caught the attention of my 6-year-old son.
After I explained that the man in the tent was homeless and that the police were making him move because the tent was on land that didn't belong to him, my son had this to say: "I think that man doesn't have enough money. Why are the police officers being mean to him? Police officers are supposed to be friendly and help you."
Mayor Greg Nickels, could you please explain to my son why your police officers are being mean to homeless people? I certainly couldn't.
-- Cindy Gilbert, Seattle

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