In a guest editorial today in PubliCola, Seattle City Council president Richard Conlin says the legislative provision pinning Big Bore tunnel cost overruns on Seattle taxpayers is much ado about nothing:
Much ado has been made about a state legislative provision saying that costs in excess of $2.8 billion will be paid by “property owners in the Seattle area”. No city council member supports a policy shift that would force Seattle property owners or local municipalities to pay cost overruns on a project managed by the state.
The Seattle City Attorney and legal professionals have clearly stated that this vague and unprecedented language is legally unenforceable. The legislature would have to take additional steps that have no precedent in state history to actually figure out how to charge a local government or property owners. Such steps would be vigorously opposed by all local governments around the state—and the work that the council is doing to develop regional and statewide partnerships positions us well to work effectively with these allies. Frankly, the issue serves only as a way to alarm and divide Seattleites.
Okay Richard, fine. I trust you on that. But instead of making these assertions in an online editorial, how about making it official? Why not just have the council pass a resolution restating everything you just said here, that the cost overrun provision is illegal and unenforceable, and that the council would vigorously oppose any effort to impose such on Seattle taxpayers. Hell, pass an ordinance prohibiting Seattle from paying for any cost overruns.
Then you, the rest of the council and City Attorney Pete Holmes can stand behind the Mayor as he announces his intention to sign the contracts, but with this caveat in place. (And if the Mayor still won’t sign the contracts without legislative action that he’s not gonna get, well then, that’s his problem.)
The way to get things moving is to help Mayor McGinn to live up to his campaign promise on this issue. You know, help him save a little face.
Is that so hard?