One Question for Reuven Carlyle and Jeanne Kohl-Welles About the Arena

By Erica C. Barnett August 14, 2012

The race for 36th District state representative heated up yesterday over---what else---the proposed $500 million arena deal. Both Democratic candidates running for the seat being vacated by Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson came out swinging on opposites sides of the issue.

Progressive Majority activist Noel Frame struck first yesterday, accusing her opponent, Seattle Port Commissioner Gael Tarleton, of being an "obstructionist and naysayer" by opposing the arena. The Port says the arena could have a devastating impact on its operations, slowing freight traffic, encouraging non-industrial uses in the industrial SoDo area, and creating conflicts with pedestrians.

In her statement, Frame accused Tarleton of acting as "a mouthpiece for the Port and powerful maritime interests (many of whom are funding her campaign) who seek to undermine the proposal to protect their own narrow interests.”

Later that day, Tarleton struck back, saying that in asking questions about the arena, she was merely trying to protect the taxpayers' interests. "It is not my job to increase the profit margins of private developers on the backs of working people, union jobs and taxpayers," Tarleton said in a statement.

Given that arena issue has big implications for the 36th Distirct—KeyArena, which could be threatened by competition from a new arena, is in the district—we turned to the 36th District's current incumbents, state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles and state Rep. Reuven Carlyle, both Democrats, to see if they could adjudicate or at least bring some seasoned perspective to the squabble between their two prospective future colleagues.

Our question: Who's right---Frame or Tarleton?

First up, Carlyle:
For Noel to jump very quickly and aggressively into one position is fine, so long as she acknowledges that there are a number of very substantial risks associated with this deal.

Gael has a very strong fiduciary responsibility on the Port to look structurally at the enormous pressure around industrial zoning in the cit. The fact is that the arena, in and of itself, is probably relatively modest in terms of its incremental impact but the cumulative pressures, from Ballard to SoDo, are enormous, and she is right to be cautious and to be thoughtful and analytical.

I believe that the 36th is particaularly exposed to those direct impacts. We will feel the negative effet of the industrial land pressures we will feel the impact of not having a plan for KeyArena.

I am incredibly distressed at the fact that there is not a strategic plan yet to support the long-term interests of the Seattle Center, anchored by KeyArena. We are putting a bullet in the head of KeyArena. We have to have a community-driven plan that puts that community resource to its highest and best use, whether it's a new STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics] school or some other type of use that we haven't even thought of. But the idea that it should simply be a 5,000-, 6,000-, 7,000-seat modified arena is not thoughtful.

That’s not to say there’s not a solution here. I’m incredibly optimistic that there is a win-win.

And here's Kohl-Welles:
I see what they both said as falling on a continuum. I am more inclined to have the position that Noel has taken. I do want to support the arena, but with the caveats that Noel mentioned and that I’ve heard Gael mention too. We want to make sure that the traffic issues are dealt with, and KeyArena, of course, is a big issue for the 36th.

I think this is a great deal. It’s hard to imagine having much better of a deal than what’s been proposed. Having the Sonics back would be very helpful to our economy.
Noel brings out a valid point about what this could bring to the Georgetown and SoDo area, including for small businesses. There are many advantages to it. But we do have to take heed of the issues that the Port has raised.

I think Gael has a unique position of being president of the Port Commission and she has to be very mindful of what the impact could be on the Port, traffic congestion, and the all the issues they’re dealing with. I think Gael has taken a harder-line position than I am comfortable with. I think we have to see what the mitigation efforts will yield.

Neither Carlyle nor Kohl-Welles has endorsed any candidate in the 36th, and both say they have no plans to do so. Dickerson has endorsed Tarleton.

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