Why Does Frank Chopp Hate Seattle?

By Josh Feit April 22, 2009


1. Why Does Frank Chopp hate Seattle? That was my thought after I ran into Seattle-area Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-36, Queen Anne) in the halls of the legislature building yesterday afternoon.

Rep. Carlyle was carrying around a photocopy of an amendment to the Viaduct bill (hammered out by leadership) that he believed persecuted Seattle. 

"I thought we were supposed to be about 'One Washington'," Carlyle said, referring to Majority Leader Rep. Frank Chopp's mantra that all legislation is supposed to benefit the whole state and bring legislators (urban and rural, West and East) together. "So, why is one project in Seattle being treated differently than any other project in the history of the state?" 

The amendment, sponsored by House transportation committee chair Rep. Judy Clibborn (D-41, Bellevue, Factoria, Newcastle), says any cost overruns on the Viaduct tunnel project have to be paid by Seattle-area businesses—a standard for a state-funded project that Carlyle argued had never been applied to locals before. (Without any local accountability measures, for example, Rep. Carlyle pointed out, the state has spent $1.56 billion on 405.)

The state has committed $2.4 billion plus $400 million in tolling revenues to pay for the tunnel project.

However, Seattle—Carlyle pointed out—is  putting up $1 billion for the surface and street fixes on the  project. (True.)

Carlyle wasn't simply standing up for his turf, though. He believed the amendment, if passed, would set a "dangerous precedent" that locals across the state could now be held accountable for cost overruns "on any bridge, ferry, roads, or building project." 

Later that afternoon, Carlye sent an email to his House colleagues (linked in full below the jump) where he called the amendment "inequitable and punitive" and wrote:

This policy change is an abdication of the state’s fiduciary obligations, in my view, and encourages spending inefficiency or worse. 

We are one city, one county, one state.  We need to come together and see the viaduct, 520, I-90, I-405 and other projects in a comprehensive regional vision.  We are better than this.

2. In addition to the Viaduct bill, here are some other outstanding questions to watch as the session winds down this week: 1) Will the budget deal (apparently ready to be announced today) go with the Senate version (decimated) or House verison (intact) on General Assistance for the Unemployable?; 2) How much Metro bus funding will King County come away with in the local options bill?; 3) Will the legislature side with big business or labor on the (now-pro-labor)  bill to expand unemployment insurance payments?; 4) Will low-income seniors lose Medicaid and Medicare coverage? And 5) will Rep. Sharon Nelson's (D-34, W. Seattle, Vashon) pay day loan bill die, now that the House refused to concur with the Senate's watered-down version?  

...whoops, I left out 6) Will Rep. Eric Pettigrew's (D-37, S. Seattle) 3/10-of-a-cent sales tax increase for health care pass the House? It passed out of committee yesterday, but, well, maybe there's a reason I forgot about it. 

Here's Rep. Carlyle's Email re: The Viaduct

From: Carlyle, Rep. Reuven

Sent: Tuesday, April 21, 2009 3:35 PM

To: @HDC Members

Subject: Serious Viaduct Amendment

Caucus friends:

Regardless of where you stand on the Alaskan Way Viaduct issue, I would like to draw your attention to an inequitable and punitive amendment (826) that would require any tunnel cost overruns to be paid solely by property taxpayers in the “Seattle area.”

This Clibborn amendment has negative implications for ALL future capital, ferry and transportation projects since it sets a serious and dangerous precedent. It is punitive against Seattle-area (undefined boundaries) taxpayers who are already shouldering the non-state portion of this agreement.

This also sets the public policy precedent that future state project overruns (buildings, ferries, roads) of any type or size are vulnerable to becoming the obligation of local governments in which the projects reside or benefit. It could even have the unintended effect of prohibiting FEDERAL dollars being used for cost overruns.

This policy change is an abdication of the state’s fiduciary obligations, in my view, and encourages spending inefficiency or worse. Under this proposed amendment, the state DOT has literally no incentive to manage the tunnel budget wisely since the agency itself is not constrained by concerns over cost overruns. The state is currently responsible for the tunnel (even counting $220M of federal money toward the state’s contribution) and the city is responsible for $1B worth of surface, utility, seawall and other improvements. This amendment changes the terms of the agreement. The I-405 project alone, by the way, totals $1.6B with no parallel financial, project management, schedule or other oversight or restriction by the state.

We are one city, one county, one state. We need to come together and see the viaduct, 520, I-90, I-405 and other projects in a comprehensive regional vision. We are better than this.

Regardless of your position of the tunnel, or your final passage vote on SB 5768, I sincerely ask you to vote against this unprecedented and unfair amendment.

Thank you for your consideration.

Reuven Carlyle

State Representative

"Thundering" 36th Legislative District


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