Weeks at a time go by without a peep from Greg Nickels on anything. Then, on the eve of his hosting a U.S. Conference of Mayors “Climate Summit”, he’s everywhere, he’s everywhere!
Down at South Lake Union, symbolically test driving a new red streetcar. “It’s kind of like back to the future,” Hizzoner said. We could forgive him the cliche if it were actually true, but not even the most publicity-whoring fatcat of Seattle yore would have built a 1.3-mile glorified amusement-park ride for the equivalent of $47.5 million inflation-adjusted dollars. Back in the day, streetcars were for transportation. They ran across town, they ran to Fremont, to Phinney Ridge.
As for the SoLa streetcar, I’d rather walk a few blocks and burn the calories. Or ride my bike and get there a lot quicker, with zero! carbon footprint!
Speaking of which…no sooner had the Mayor relinquished the photo-op wheel of the streetcar than it was off to City Hall for the big Progress Report on Climate Change. The short take: Seattle is down 8 percent in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990, putting us within the Kyoto Protocol target of 7 percent reduction by 2012, as long as we don’t blow it in the coming four-plus years. The summary of the report does not give much actual data on how the figures were arrived at, and I’m skeptical that there isn’t some book-cooking going on here. But even if we accept the summary’s conclusions, it’s just plain crass for the Mayor to time this thing so close to the national hoo-hah. After this weekend I doubt we’ll hear a peep about the Kyoto Protocol till Nickels announces his candidacy for re-election in 2009.
Meanwhile, there was Mayor Nickels again yesterday, patting himself on the back for the city’s Bicycle Master Plan, another brick in the reduced greenhouse-gas wall. On Monday, the plan goes before the City Council, and let’s hope the Council can find a way to reconcile its worthy goals with its lousy (so far) implementation, starting with the mess at Stone Way. Originally slated for full bike lanes, this crucial north-south bike commuter route was pared back to the confusing, mixed-signal “sharrow” markings after Fremont mogul Suzie Burke complained the bikes would interfere with truck traffic. As a result, cars and bikes have to criss-cross each other’s right-of-way on Stone Way, creating a certifiable death trap that helps neither side and endangers both. From Erica’s report it seems light bulbs are going on in Council chambers, albeit dimly. The good folks at Cascade Bicycle Club, who led two protest/solidarity rides around Fremont this summer, are on the case as well.
To sum up: Is an ego made of carbon, and if so, does it have a footprint? I would love to give Mayor Nickels the benefit of the doubt in all things green, because I support what he supports and believe in what he says he believes in. On the other hand, I don’t promote a mammoth parking garage in Woodland Park Zoo while talking about the need to discourage car culture in Seattle. I don’t extol greenhouse-gas reductions while pimping a waterfront tunnel, a gargantuan SR-520 Interchange and a Trojan Horse highway expansion levy (Prop 1) in the guise of rapid transit. And I don’t talk about more liveable and lively neighborhoods while seeking to cram “69,000 new jobs and 56,000 new residents” into them.
“Trends indicate that Seattle will become even denser, and that’s good news for our climate,” the report states. Hold on: It’s only good news if the density in Seattle reduces suburban sprawl, halts highway expansion, diminishes reliance on the automobile and curbs wasteful growth. So far, the tradeoffs just aren’t there, and all the mayor’s press releases and all the mayor’s men can’t put that Humpty together again.