One Question

One Question for Peter Steinbrueck

PubliCola talks about the arena with former city council member Peter Steinbrueck, the only arena opponent among the major mayoral contenders.

By Erica C. Barnett January 24, 2013

Peter Steinbrueck. Image by Carryn Vande Griend


One Question

Former city council member and current mayoral candidate Peter Steinbrueck swears that he's happy about the potential of this week's big Sonics news. Pointing out that his son is the starting point guard at Nathan Hale High School, he says his family loves basketball and would be thrilled to go to Sonics games. "[My son] wants them back. I want them back."

But Steinbrueck has been an outspoken opponent of the arena, both before and during the campaign. In June, he testified against the arena at a city council hearing, arguing that it would harm the city's manufacturing and industrial businesses. In July, he made the antiarena case at a PubliCola-sponsored arena debate.

And at his kickoff announcement, he called SoDo "the absolute worst place to be locating the arena," because it would harm industrial businesses and create traffic gridlock. 

So today's One Question is for Peter Steinbrueck: If you're elected, will you agree to let the deal go forward, but then fight the project once you're in office—the way Mayor McGinn said he wouldn't fight the tunnel, then immediately turned around and fought it?

The issue for me has always been about the impacts in that location specifically, and about the risk, which has not been fully vetted by any means, in terms of the ability to maintain and optimize freight mobility and logistics with the marine cargo shipping business, which is a huge, globally competitive business and a mainstay of our regional economy.

"Does the public bear the cost [of arena mitigation], or does it just not get done, which is what happened with the last two stadiums."

It's not the port’s burden to prove a negative. They should not have to disprove claims that it won’t harm traffic. It is for the proponent, as it is in any project, to analyze independently and as objectively as possible potential environmental impacts.

That’s not all I’m concerned about, because there will undoubtedly be a significant mitigation need—I'm convinced of it, from what I know—that will be tied to that site specifically, and this is why we should have a backup [site], in Seattle. 

But we don't. 

Yes, we do. We have two potential sites [in the Rainier Valley and in Bellevue]. I don't accept that because the investor, the speculator, has decided independently that that’s where the site should be, then that’s where it's going to be, goddamn it. If he’s willing to pay the extra $200 million to cover the mitigation costs that would make it work and be feasible, okay, I'd say 'great,' but [my question is], does the public bear the cost or does it just not get done—which is what happened with the last two stadiums.

[Safeco Field] resulted in the displacement of more than 600 manufacturing and industrial jobs from that area. Those are living wage jobs with an average income of $70,000 today. We need to understand the full impacts and costs, and then we could decide, is this the best location? Or is it the only location, because it's the only one Hansen has said he'll agree to?

 "The city and the proponent [Chris Hansen] have discouraged consideration of other sites. "

There are two other intriguing sites that have the potential of less negative economic impact and potentially positive economic benefit—one in Rainier Valley, near I-90 [at the site of the former Sick's Stadium], where 60 percent of the fans will be traveling to get to the arena from the Eastside—and with a Sound Transit station right next door. I think that needs to be on the table. But the city and the proponent have discouraged consideration of other sites. I haven’t written the Seattle Center site off either.

And then, of course, the Eastside is standing in waiting. And I am not suggesting that we want to see the Sonics go to the Eastside. I would like to see them in Seattle on a personal level. [But with] a million vehicle trips per year coming into the SoDo industrial center, who can say that's not going to have a traffic impact? You'd have to be an idiot to think it won't be. 

If this is the site, if it’s a fait accompli, if it’s the only way to bring an NBA team back, if that is the irreversible course, then what I would do as mayor is ensure that the mitigation is covered and that it does not in any way diminish the ability to move freight in and out of our ports, and that the public doesn't pay the costs. This has been pitched as a no-cost deal to the public. I don't believe that even today, but those are the two issues that are drivers for me. 

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