1. Two longtime high-level staffers at the Seattle Department of Transportation, council liaison Tracy Burrows and viaduct/520 engineer Stephanie Brown, announced they're leaving the department Friday, leaving two major positions vacant at a time when the council and mayor are embroiled in the debate over the deep-bore tunnel. Both staffers reportedly left of their own accord.

2. Last Friday, Fizz got a chance to ask Mayor Mike McGinn what he thought of his alma mater, the Sierra Club, endorsing city council member Tim Burgess. (As we reported earlier this month, Burgess, who's widely believed to be planning a run against McGinn in 2013, is the only tunnel proponent the Club endorsed.)

McGinn, the city's—if not the world's— No. 1 tunnel opponent, responded coyly: "I don' get involved in city council races."

OK, but surely he has an opinion about his likely 2013 opponent getting the nod from the anti-tunnel group he used to chair? "I don't get involved in council races." Yes, but doesn't he still talk to members of the Sierra Club? "I don't get involved in council races." So much for that line of questioning.

3. Here are some more outtakes from PubliCola's interview with state Sens. Lisa Brown (D-3, Spokane) and Ed Murray (D-43, Seattle), the senate majority leader and the ways and means chair respectively.

The Tunnel:
PubliCola: If Referendum 1 goes down, how do you respond? Do you respect the will of the voters?

Murray: I think the issue from a legislative perspective is trying to figure out what Seattle wants. So, the business community, the environmental community, labor, the mayor and council would really have to get on the same page if you want the legislature to open up the current plan. Because I'm not sure why my colleagues would want to get involved in another Seattle food fight down in Olympia in the middle of an economic crisis that just goes on and on and on. I think it would be on Seattle to pull its act together and come up with an alternative.

PubliCola: You want to know what Seattle wants, but would a 'No' vote mean Seattle does not want the $4.2 billion tunnel?

Murray: Sure. I mean I assume that's what it would say.

Brown: That's been the classic problem, I think. Groups are big enough to stop something, but not to create consensus to move something else forward. That's the dilemma. We need to come up with another statewide transportation package at some point to keep moving forward on infrastructure—transit, everything, as well as roads. And there's real problems when these kinds of controversies could shut the whole thing down.

Murray: It's not just to pin it on the current players here. This has been a pattern where Seattle comes down fighting themselves in Olympia. It's not limited to one mayor, one council, one set of interest groups. In this case it's reached a point where we're the progressive shining light of the state, and we don't look very good to our colleagues in Olympia, and I think around the state, when they watch different shades of progressives taking each other down over this issue again and again. So, yeah, if there's a vote and the vote goes one way I think people do have to basically say they stopped something, but so where's pulling everyone together in the same direction and coming down to Olympia and getting something done.

PubliCola: So a 'No' vote means 'No'. Does that mean you pause on the project and ask for a new solution?

Murray: My colleagues are not going to open it unless Seattle comes down united with a plan. Period. Because why would they get involved in another Seattle food fight? Again?

PubliCola: There is a $2.8 billion cap. If the project does go over budget, will you vote to say the state's picking it up and ignore the [overruns] provision?[pullquote]We have a lot of leverage to remove that language or to finance cost overruns as part of a larger package. —Sen. Ed Murray[/pullquote]

Murray: I was the prime sponsor of the [tunnel] bill. The house added language that I did not want in that bill. My position has always been that the state has an obligation for overruns on a state highway. Period.

PubliCola: And can you get your colleagues to vote for that?

Brown: Let me say, I was misinterpreted because I was asked at the Seattle club...  The question was what do you think will happen, not what do you support. So, the question was do you think the legislature will vote to overturn that provision, and I said 'No' because I knew it would not get through the house. [At the now infamous January 2011 City Club debate, Brown was asked if Seattle would remain on the hook for tunnel cost overruns. She held up a 'Yes' sign—Eds]. My personal opinion is that we should treat this project like other statewide transportation projects.

PubliCola: And could you get that through the senate?

Brown: That's another story. The senate didn't have that language. We passed the bill. It was added. It was explained to us by both the governor and the house that they felt this provision would let the bill get through the house. And that's how it happened.

Murray: That was the condition. Otherwise the bill was going nowhere. I actually, at one point, decided we needed to kill the whole bill, and the governor promised me that this issue would be taken care of at some point. It hasn't.

But let me play this out for you a little more. The issue of cost overruns would come up in the next few years—in the next few years as we look at trying to finance another transportation package in the legislature. That package wont happen without Seattle votes. You don't pass taxes without Seattle votes. We have a lot of leverage to remove that language or to finance cost overruns as part of a larger package.

PubliCola: There's $700 million that's not financed yet. Are we moving forward too quickly on this thing given that we don't have the money for it?

Murray: It think with an earthquake that happened over a decade ago, we're not moving too quickly on this. We had an independent financial review board put in place in '05. That review board came back and said this was a financially feasible plan and that the other issue can be addressed through probably tolling.  At that time. That was the theory.

PubliCola: Even tolls at $5 one way?

Murray: I don't know.

Brown: I think it does come down to: do we need a statewide transportation package? Yes, I believe we do. When that gets put together, we need a certain level of agreement on priorities in order for it to pass because it's going to mean raising taxes.

Murray: I do think that puts Seattle in the driver's seat through its legislative delegation to answer some of these issues on the viaduct and of course the issue that I think people should really pay attention to which is mitigation on 520. There are opportunities as the state looks at another transportation package.

More outtakes on the way.

4. A crew of Seattle artists, including the relentlessly talented SuttonBeresCuller, were given the run of four houses in North Capitol Hill that are slated for demolition (Seattle real estate company Point32 and Weinstein A/U architects are redeveloping the property as part of an urban infill project, restoring and expanding the adjacent landmark Deco BelRoy Apts.)



The result—dubbed Mad Homes—are rooms filled with glowing orbs; revolving sculptures that spin up through floor slats; upstairs obstacle courses; carpeting weaved from tee-shirts and pants suits; paintings that climb and stretch along staircases; and one home wrapped in red bands of canvas.

Tour Mad Homes between noon and 7pm daily through August 7.
Show Comments