Out of Bounds

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.


  1. 1

    Wells spews:

    I think Occidental Park needed a remodel, but didn’t get the ideal one it could have. The other park projects you list, and a few not listed, I agree were sorely mishandled, poorly designed, artsy-fartsy ass-backward and insulting to the point of tyrannical. I wouldn’t place all the blame on the chief. It takes a lot of carefully organized idiocy to screw Seattle’s public parks up so badly. City employees who can be manipulated into proselityzing that the Emporer’s New Clothes are truly fine, don’t come cheap.

  2. 2

    harry poon spews:

    ” … outward Bounds.” Good one.

    Too bad you couldn’t have somehow combined the “Della” surname with the word , “Street”.

  3. 3

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    I keep hearing that Nickels is a dictator, but when he was up for re-election, nobody ran against him. Why is that?

  4. 6

    shoephone spews:

    Actually, Steinbrueck was not the true friend neighborhood groups needed in their corner. When push came to shove, he often voted in favor of Bounds’ and Nickels’ questionable Parks policies. His support of the charter amendment was based more on his personal animus for the mayor than his commiseration with community groups. Conlin was a good listener, but Della was really the only one who went to bat for us (no pun intended). And his chief of staff, the late Tatsuo Nakata, was our best advocate of all. His legacy lives on.

    Thank heaven for small favors. You can bet my neighborhood group will be raising glasses of champagne in celebration this week.

  5. 7

    Former Voter spews:

    Roger Rabbit says:

    I keep hearing that Nickels is a dictator, but when he was up for re-election, nobody ran against him. Why is that?

    As a local attorney you well know that in this town, very few ideas or agendas get advanced unless the Political Establishment and Wealthy Elite are on board…

    The Hefty Fellow from West Seattle has spent his adult career on the government payroll, from his start as an apparatchik for Norm Rice, to the County Council, to the Mayor’s Office.

    Hizzoner is the PEWE’s man.

  6. 8

    rhp6033 spews:

    Sorry for being off-topic, but I couldn’t wait to bring this up.

    As many of you know, under Republican leadership Congress broke a record for the least number of days worked, at 103 (7 days less than the 1948 “Do Nothing” Republican Congress). But even this is an exageration, as the “three day workweek” schedule began late on Tuesday, and ended early on Friday. Wednesday was the only full scheduled day of work on the Congressional calendar, and they didn’t even work those days during the extended 6-day Memorial Day holiday, the August recess, the April recess, the November recess (okay, I guess you get the picture).

    Now I’ll be the first to admit that just because nothing much is happening on the floor of the Congress doesn’t mean that they aren’t working. There are committee meetings, sub-committee meetings, party meetings, meetings with military/government officials, fundraising obligations, visits from lobbyists & constituents, etc. Also, it is reasonable for them to return to their home districts on a regular schedule in order to see their constituants there, and to hear their views. And returning to the home district over a weekend is a considerable burden to some Congressmen, especially those on the west coast or in rural areas where commercial flights have limited schedules, or you have to drive for hours to get to the nearest airport.

    But you don’t hear the west-coast Democrats complaining. In fact, Dem. Congressman from they are applauding the new schedule, as they want to get right to work when they get to Washington.

    The REALLY interesting comments come from the Republicans. Reb. Blunt (R-MO) opined that the new schedule would help the Republicans undercut the Democrats in the 2008 elections.

    “”They’ve got a lot more freshmen then we do,” he said of the Democrats. “That schedule will make it incredibly difficult for those freshmen to establish themselves in their districts. So we’re all for it.””

    And from Rep. Kingston, (R-GA):

    “But Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., said: “Keeping us up here eats away at families. Marriages suffer. The Democrats could care less about families, that’s what this says.”

    Source: http://seattletimes.nwsource.c.....yer06.html

    No wonder the American voters gave the Republicans such a thrashing. One Republican Congressman makes it clear that they didn’t intend to really do any business in Washington, instead they considered time in their home district solidifying their political base to be the highest priority. No wonder they rubber-stamped the Bush administration and allowed lobbyists to write their bills for them. And another Congressman from Georgia, for whom the travel time home wouldn’t be that significant of a burden, is complaining that working more than three days a week takes too much time away from his family! Makes you wonder if those guys ever had a real job in their lives.

  7. 9

    rhp6033 spews:

    Correction: The sentence in the above post # 8 should read: “as the ‘three day workweek’ schedule began late on Tuesday, and ended early on Thursday”.

  8. 10


    Lordy! While I understand the frustration with Nickels and his executive cabinet, I don’t think this victory is that great for the city.

    I live downtown, and Occidental Park has been nothing but trouble for years. It’s been remodeled, and it’s a 180 degree difference. The tree cover was overgrown. The cobblestones had ‘ankle breaking’ qualities. The 70’s era pergola was being used as a urinal. The park needed some work. The usual handwringing Seattle left (aging hippies who live in $800,000 houses but deny me, a renter of a studio downtown, the chance to have a decent city park) went into overdrive, paying more atttention to the 17 trees than the humans who use the park (or misuse it).

    As for Gasworks, it’s true the city tried to jam the One Reel group in there with little notice. But the neighborhood (Wallingford) was not so much against the “Summer Nights” concerts as they were ANY use of the park for ANY type of festival. Gasworks Park is not a pocket park. It’s a city jewel, and thanks to the objection of a smal few, the rest of us don’t get to have outdoor summer shows in the park. It’s a shame.

    Lots of the complaints against the park dept. were shamless NIMBYism at it’s NIMBYest. That’s not to say Nickels and Bounds are blameless, but we can expect more of this sort of thing in the future.

  9. 11

    Had Enough Yet? spews:

    Why do people keep falling for this?

    The city knew years in advance that pier 62/63 would be unavailable, and that South Lake Union Park was little more than a stop-gap (Thanks to Allentown). Likewise the city and county knew for years that the trolly barn would have to go to make way for SAM’s sculpture park.

    Still they treated both situations like sudden emergencies as a way to go around public process. This is becomming more and more commonplace in Seattle and Bounds was a repeat offender. The zoo’s need for a parking garage took on “critical” stature the minute anyone questioned the project. You’d think Phinney Ridge was in danger of collapsing under the weight of all those cars.

    Thanks to Wallingford neighbors for calling Bounds’ and the city’s bluff. We need department heads who will plan ahead and work with the community. Not pull fire alarms to get out of taking a test.

  10. 12

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    7 So you’re saying Big Money owns politics and decides who we get to vote for? As Bill Gates would say, tell me something I don’t already know.

  11. 13

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    10 Oh c’mon now, Will, you know that $800,000 doesn’t buy much house in Seattle anymore. Besides, there’s still affordable housing available — a comfy burrow in a public park costs nothing!

  12. 14

    Thorn in the Parks' Side spews:

    Couple of items:

    1. Both Parks and One Reel dismissed Gas Works as a viable venue – it was a directive that came from the Mayor’s office directly.

    2. The Contract the city signed when they accepted $10 Mil from Paul Allen (in March 2005) for the redesign and rebuild of So. Lake Union Park clearly stated no concert series were to be held there, yet the City didn’t tell One Reel till 6 months later.

    3. The reason the suit was successful is because the siting at Gas Works placed the concerts on top of a remediated toxic waste site and for that reason (and that reason alone) the court ruled that the City needed to do an environmental analysis. As someone associated with another concert series that has used Gas Works yearly since remediation, I was appalled that all the rules that we were forced to abide by (no driving or placing loads on the grass etc.) were summarily thrown out for One Reel. It was wrong and so the judge ruled…

    As for Bounds – he was nothing more than a puppet of the Mayor’s office and the new Charter Amendment will help insure that there will be no more puppets…

  13. 15

    norwester spews:

    You know, a lot of people use dog parks and ballfields and concerts–but nobody wants to live near them. Of course, anything in any of these categories that is proposed is going to be vehemently opposed by those with the resources to oppose them.
    Economic justice would demand that all neighborhoods carry their share of inconvenience. Unfortunately, since some of the best parks in the city are in the nicest neighborhoods, just about anything the city proposes in any one of them is going to be battled by NIMBY’s and CAVE’s–with the money to battle on and on and on.
    This isn’t Bounds’ fault. You can say he didn’t try hard enough to make nice with the neighbors; but the fact is that when people don’t want something in their neighborhood and have the money to fight it, there’s simply not enough nice to change anything.
    When I first moved here, one of the first things I noticed was how nice the parks are. Then I saw what babies some people can be. There are a lot of folks here that expect the parks system to improve without hurting anyone’s feelings or inconveniencing anybody. I remember reading about some huge, huge fight over –of all things— a potting shed in a p-patch. IIRC, somebody got their knickers in a twist because they weren’t in on the decision to move or enlarge (or whatever) the 10×10 potting shed. From the news coverage, it sounded like the fight got really ugly–over a potting shed! That’s when I realized that the citizens simply don’t realize how good their parks system is here.
    Maybe the answer is for the city to tell the citizens to forget about having any new improvements to their parks unless everybody agrees. Yeah, that’ll work.