Embattled Seattle Parks and Recreation Dept. Superintendent Ken Bounds has announced his retirement effective February 2007, saving Seattle City Council the bother of forcibly retiring him in 2010.
Bounds, you’ll recall, was the major inspiration for Charter Amendment #8, the successful council-sponsored citywide ballot measure last month which stipulated that the heads of Parks and two other departments, now serving at the permanent pleasure of the Mayor, be subjected to four-year reappointments by City Council. Only Police and Fire are now exempt from the requirement; all eight other department heads must now go before council after fixed terms.
City Council (and Peter Steinbrueck in particular) in turn pushed the charter amendment because Bounds had in 2006 reached the apex of a long career of high-handedly pissing off neighborhood groups by stoking separate controversies this year at Gas Works Park, Woodland Park (both the zoo garage and a skatepark), Occidental Park, City Hall Park, Freeway Park, Loyal Heights Playfield, Magnuson Park, the wetlands abutting Union Bay, and, um… others. The Gas Works flap (over a back door city deal with One Reel to host its Summer Nights concert series and give One Reel $150,000 worth of park utility infrastructure upgrades) resulted in a successful lawsuit against the city. So did the Occidental Park remodel, though not in time to save the trees that lawsuit was intended to save.
Bounds, in other words, was costing the city and his close ally, Mayor Greg Nickels, both goodwill and money. Many of these controversies, like the concerts and the zoo garage (in anticipation of a new events complex), have commercial or property value elements, leading critics to charge that Bounds was doing Nickels’ bidding (so to speak) in offering up the city parks as a lucrative new source of income streams.
Nickels was effusive today in his praise of the outward Bounds. But you can bet David Della’s Parks Committee (with Della in a 2007 reelection year) and the full council will give whomever Nickels nominates to replace Bounds a careful, careful going over. Demands for more transparency and accountability will be prominently featured. And a bunch of neighborhood groups will be celebrating happy hours together this week.