Saturday, January 12, 2008

On City Government, Football & Other Contact Sports

What could be better than being in the sunshine again and watching the Seahawks score on a takeaway less than 30 seconds into the Packers game?
We’ll see if that happy moment holds up during the course of the game, but even if it doesn’t it really won’t matter in the greater scheme of things, will it?

Its been over a week since my last blog, time that was spent in traveling almost a 1000 miles south through some interesting weather in a van loaded with stuff destined to remain in San Francisco after we have departed for our next destination.

Reoccupying our former abode and the associated fixing up and reconnecting with neighbors has taken a little time, as has catching up on much needed rest.
And now, as if on cue, the sun has returned and it is time for some fun!
That’s where the Seahawks come in, I hope! [Now they’re up 14-0 with over 10 minutes left in the 1st quarter!]

Football and fun aside, city government must continue providing essential services and addressing issues as best it can, hoping that the solutions reached will be effective and lasting in value.

I’m confident that the new –and not so new- City elected officials are up to this task, and indications are that the transition has been reasonably smooth so far.
With other things occupying my time and a slow dial-up Internet connection, I haven’t spent much time keeping abreast of things, but from what I have read, here are some comments on a few issues.

Waterfront Redevelopment:

The idea of a Public Development Agency has always made sense in my mind, whether it will cover just the City’s portion of the Waterfront District or not. The Port would be smart to willingly do the same, but their culture has blinded them to this reality.

Also, the lack of information –planning & financial- provided regularly to the City Council has been a major concern that has been expressed frequently.
Now that a Master Agreement and Development Regulations are expected this year, it is not only appropriate, but essential that the Council –and the public- are kept fully in the loop and made aware of the options being considered.
There is a limit to what the City can reasonably finance, and a sequence of providing essential infrastructure that makes sense.
I’m glad the Mayor is forcefully making that point. And, it is good that the Council has decided to establish its own Waterfront Committee to cement better liaison and input to this undertaking.

The issue of Waterfront impact fees also needs re-addressing, either up-front or deferred with certainty of payment. If the Port disagrees, that is their prerogative, but it is the City’s decision!
The Inter-local Agreement and subsequent Supplements clearly allow for such changes, which can be initiated by either party. This has always been the case, despite the persistent claims of some critics.

But the spirit of cooperation between City and Port should be retained and continuously renewed, for that is the foundation of the ultimate success of the Waterfront Redevelopment.
It is also particularly critical to keep the clean-up momentum moving forward since that action will facilitate whatever redevelopment scenario will follow.


Setting up this committee with a more comprehensive purview is a positive step that I hope will also reflect the way the City will consistently address this general subject and its several subsets.
Using the new transportation concurrency requirements will help put teeth into its intent.
Just how the regional transportation planning will be changed remains to be seen, but the issue of UGA arterials and connectors continues to need serious attention.

Parks Recreation & Open Space Plan:

The update due this year will need to correct some obvious inconsistencies that impacted the Land Supply discussion last year and earlier.
The Parks Committee of Louise, Jack and Stan is the strongest I can imagine, and I think they will do a first rate job on this working with the Parks Dept.

Lake Whatcom Reservoir:

We will have to see what progress 2008 will bring on this conundrum.
First, the City & County will need to consummate more than talking about it.

Then, the DOE will need to finally issue its TMDL Study, which has now been in progress for 9 years. [Technically, the Agency has up to 15 years]
The final issuance of that document would give elected officials some official ‘cover’ for taking whatever corrective action they will.
But, we already know what the Phosphorus Limits ought to be, both in urban and rural settings, don’t we?

Maybe the City will also get around to acting on the WAB Recommendations regarding how to care for the watershed properties now owned by the City’s Water Fund.

And then there’s the matter of the County ‘Park’ to be gained by the ‘reconveyance’ of DNR forestlands. That ought to create enough distraction by itself to prevent any other meaningful action to be taken.

Land Supply & Use:

This is a topic that has already gotten too much attention.
Who cares? Besides the developers, the no-growth ideologues, and folks who were duped into thinking the City’s lengthy analysis really meant something, I mean?
Just make sure the City isn’t committing to more growth than it can reasonably accommodate. Otherwise, we’re kidding ourselves in the opposite direction.

Besides, the County likes things just as they are, and it’s their decision!


I’m glad to see the scoping & planning process is proceeding ahead in anticipation of the public being able to decide on its future needs soon. The process has been very deliberate and slow as is fitting in matters like this. The Library Board is getting good advice from its consultants, who are legitimate experts in assessing community library needs.

While there will always be diverse opinions on such things, these are actually helpful to any rational discussion because they force thinking about options that might not have otherwise been considered. And, if a community can’t have an intelligent discussion on something like a new Public Library, what topics can we discuss?

Aside from fairly assessing future community needs in terms of space & function, the issues of cost, transition plan, parking and branches all come with the territory. All of these are part of the mix that has to be sorted out and presented to voters in the best combination, form and timing possible. It would be great if whatever evolves from this process passes the ballot on the first try. We’ll see soon.

Open Public Meetings:

One item on the agenda for the January 13 meeting is a discussion of how to televise ALL Council meetings –evening and afternoon- and make them more readily available for the public to access in a timely fashion.

Suffice to say I am delighted this is about ready to come to pass!
I believe most citizens do want their officials to meet and deliberate in as open a forum as possible. That’s also the law in the State of Washington. At essentially no extra cost, the proposal now before the Council has no downside that I can see.
Do it!

Now, here we are a little later in the Seahawks-Packers game.
Just under 9 minutes left in the 3rd quarter and the Packers are ahead 35-17!

What happened?
Oh well, there’s still time left to play, and there are more important things, aren’t there?
Care to guess the final score?