The Really Kick-Ass Playground Levy

Imagine, say, a Tom Douglas restaurant/cafe nestled within a

Imagine, say, a Tom Douglas run family cafe, nestled within a "rainbow nest dome" like the one at the Takino Hillside Park in Sapporo-shi, Japan. That's the kinda creative thinking I'm advocating.

In fighting the proposed Chihuly Museum Chihuly-branded glass art gallery, gift shop, cafe and Space Needle-affiliated catering hall on 1.5 acres of Seattle Center land currently occupied by the Fun Forest, it is important to make it clear that we don’t just oppose the proposal, but that we support an alternative that better meets the needs of all Seattleites.

Of course I’m talking about the really kick-ass playground that I’ve proposed here. And here. And here, here, here, here and here.

While many have derided the Fun Forest as a rundown, cheesy, underused eyesore, few would argue a downtown with no grade school, no playgrounds, no ball fields and no basketball court, needs even fewer amenities for young families than we already have. But the pro-Chihuly crowd is quick to argue that there is no money available to build alternative proposals, while the Wright family is prepared to commit $15 million to their for-profit venture, including as much as $500,000 a year in rent.

It’s this or nothing the glassoholics warn us, and thus the city would be crazy to turn down such a “gift.”

But there is money available to build the proposed children’s garden and water feature/skate rink on the north end of the site, as well as the really kick-ass playground I’ve proposed for the south end. All we need to do is ask.

Of course, I’m referring to Seattle taxpayers, who have long been generous with their dollars when its going to something they support, and whom I’m guessing would be more than willing to fork over a few dollars a year each if pitched the kinda family oriented redevelopment I envision.

Now, I’m not talking about a full blown Seattle Center Levy; that might be too expensive and too complicated and too much of a temptation for political mischief to make it to the ballot and past voters in a timely manner. No, I’m talking about a very limited levy aimed solely at redeveloping the Fun Forest into an admission-free, world-class, family-friendly attraction filled with amenities for both children and their parents.

For example, in 2008, 59-percent of Seattle voters approved the Parks and Green Spaces Levy, raising $146 million, and costing the average Seattle homeowner an additional $80.78 per year over the six-year life of the levy. I doubt most voters even understood the specifics of what the levy would pay for; we just like the notion of “parks” and “green space,” and so we voted yes.

Now imagine a Really Kick-Ass Playground Levy that would raise maybe only a tenth of that money. Only 8 bucks a year to build something really, really cool that your kids and your grandkids will use again and again, instead of some elitist, $15 admission “museum” you might visit maybe once, but that would lock up and enclose an acre and a half of precious open space for generations.

I don’t think it would take much to sell this levy to voters.

I know there is a majority of council members who aren’t too enthralled with the Chihuly proposal, if not downright opposed, but nobody’s pitched a way to fund an alternative. Until now.


  1. 1

    DB spews:

    Plus Chihuly glass is so lame. I see it everywhere in the city, who would pay $15 to see more of it?

  2. 2

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    When you see a public meeting dominated by suits and PR types, as happened the other night, you know damn well someone’s angling to make a trainload of money off a guileless, unwitting public.

    The same thing happened in Birmingham, Alabama, although in that case the ripoff artists weren’t a developer and glass artist, but Wall Street bankers.

    What happened in Birmingham is that residents’ sewer bills went up 400%. And the residents had zero say in it.

    “In 1996, the average monthly sewer bill for a family of four in Birmingham was only $14.71 — … before the county decided to build an elaborate new sewer system with the help of out-of-state financial wizards with names like Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase. The result was a monstrous pile of borrowed money that the county used to build, in essence, the world’s grandest toilet — “the Taj Mahal of sewer-treatment plants” is how one county worker put it.

    “What happened here in Jefferson County would turn out to be the perfect metaphor for the peculiar alchemy of modern oligarchical capitalism: A mob of corrupt local officials and morally absent financiers got together to build a giant device that converted human shit into billions of dollars of profit for Wall Street — and misery for people” like the 1,000 county workers who lost their jobs when the financial house of cards credited by the bankers collapsed.

    “And once the giant shit machine was built and the note on all that fancy construction started to come due, Wall Street came back to the local politicians and doubled down on the scam.” Having already robbed ratepayers once, they returned to rob them again “”using a blizzard of incomprehensible swaps and refinance schemes … every time Jefferson County so much as breathed near one of the banks, it got charged millions in fees.”

    How bad did it get? This bad: “There was so much money to be made bilking these dizzy Southerners that banks like JP Morgan spent millions paying middlemen who bribed — yes, that’s right, bribed, criminally bribed — the county commissioners and their buddies just to keep their business. Hell, the money was so good, JP Morgan at one point even paid Goldman Sachs $3 million just to back the fuck off, so they could have the rubes of Jefferson County to fleece all for themselves.”

    Thus, “While for many Americans the financial crisis remains an abstraction, … in Jefferson County you can actually see the rank criminality of the crisis economy with your own eyes …. Here you can see a trail that leads directly from a billion-dollar predatory swap deal cooked up at the highest levels of America’s biggest banks, across a vast fruited plain of bribes and felonies … all the way down to [the] sewer bill and … mass layoffs[.] Once you follow that trail and understand what took place in Jefferson County, there’s really no room left for illusions. We live in a gangster state[.]” Over 20 local officials and businessmen have been convicted of corruption in federal court, and some of them have gone to jail, but that doesn’t help the ordinary citizens who were cruelly victimized by the Wall Street bankers.

    Roger Rabbit Commentary: Beware of artists and PR flacks bearing glass bowls full of shit.

    Believe me, even though I can’t quite put my nose on it, there’s something about this whole Chihuly deal that doesn’t smell right. Public land, private profit … yeah … but beyond that, someone needs to take a hard look at the fine print to see who gets stuck with the losses if paying customers for this shiny new glass museum don’t materialize. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion the losses, if this enterprise loses money, will somehow get externalized to the public owners of the public land they want us to sign over to use for making private profit. That’s how these deals usually work.

    By the way, there’s still kick-ass journalism in this country; just don’t look for it in the Seattle Times. The above article came from Rolling Stone magazine, and I encourage you to read the whole thing, using the link I provided. If you do, you’ll understand with clarity why the Tea Party folks demonstrating in the streets are mad at the wrong people, and have hitched their wagon to the wrong ideology, because this is what crony capitalism always looks like.

  3. 3

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    I’ve lost count of the number of tax increases you have proposed the last 6 years..
    Is it 173…or 174??

  4. 4


    Cynical @3,

    Hmm. So rather than giving voters the option to raise their own taxes to pay for the things they want, we should just let rich people build the things they want, on public land, simply because they have the ready money on hand? Why do you hate America?

  5. 5


    Tom Douglas went on Dave Ross today now there’s a good chance the Lake Union July 4th celebration will be saved.

    Goldy, go on the Dave Ross show to get the ball rolling on this.

  6. 6


    Troll @5,

    In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve already helped get the ball rolling on this. The Wrights are on defense, and what a couple weeks ago they thought was a sure thing is looking less and less sure with every passing day. Emails and phone calls to council members are running 10 to 1 against, and that’s without the need to bribe folks with gift certificates and such.

    But from the outset, I didn’t want to just be like the Party of No, and always sought to offer a practical and preferable alternative. And that’s what I’m continuing to do.

  7. 7

    Max Rockatansky spews:

    goldy hates money when it is held in the hands of private citizens…accept when it comes to himself and his imaginary social elites…..

  8. 9

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @7 “goldy hates money when it is held in the hands of private citizens…accept when it comes to himself and his imaginary social elites…..”

    You are misinformed, deluded, just plain stupid, or whatever. What Goldy and I are against is public money and public private somehow ending up in private hands for private gain. Back in the 50s, when I was growing up, this was called “stealing.” Now, some folks call it “business,” but I prefer to call it “a piece of shit.”

  9. 11


    Why not go with the levy BUT charge non citizens for using the facility?

    The way this could work would be simple. Anyone with Seatttle Drivers licence would get free admission for themselves and perhaps two adult guests. Tourists and folks from Hunts Point would be able to buy a season pass or daily tickets .. maybe combined with passes to the Science Museum and the EMP?

    Hell, if the Wrights want to chip in, maybe there can bea free ride on their Space Needle?

    I also supect Nintendo and MS might chip in either by hbuying naming rights or creating themed attractions.

    This would not only make the levy hard to resist, it wouls make the kid’s center an attraction that should be able to improve over time.

  10. 12

    jcricket spews:

    Public land, private profit … yeah … but beyond that, someone needs to take a hard look at the fine print to see who gets stuck with the losses if paying customers for this shiny new glass museum don’t materialize. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion the losses, if this enterprise loses money, will somehow get externalized to the public owners of the public land they want us to sign over to use for making private profit. That’s how these deals usually work.

    This is exactly what I, too, have been saying for the last week or so. What happens when the business model runs into the brick wall of reality? EMP has Paul Allen writing a $15-$20MM check every year to cover the shortfall of the receipts. Is there such a Plan B for this Chihuly place? If the anticipated profits are not there, who will be the ‘deep pockets’ that keep it going? Is there a Plan B? Will there be a sweetheart deal / exit strategy at the expense of the citizens of Seattle?

  11. 13


    There is plenty of underutilized enclosed space on the site. This is a land grab, by insiders, absent free market competition.

    It is both wasteful of the enclosed space already there, and cheating the public out of maximizing the potential revenue from that location should it be made available for commercial use.

  12. 14

    Luigi Giovanni spews:

    Goldy Goes to City Hall:

    Jesus Christ, David, a one~eyed huckster and his supporters walked all over you.

    This is one amusing spectacle.

    It’s all over, yet David, with his delusions of grandeur, about himself and his visions, thinks he has influence.

    David, according to you, facebook pages are influential. The facebook page in favor of the one-eyed huckster is gaining momentum, while your side has nothing.
    Chihuly, the huckster, would bring that much-needed, much-wanted, world-class status to Seattle

  13. 15

    proud leftist spews:

    14: “Chihuly, the huckster, would bring that much-needed, much-wanted, world-class status to Seattle”

    You can’t be serious.

  14. 19

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @14 Chihuly, 69, could be pushing up daisies before this thing is built. Then what?

  15. 22

    czechsaaz spews:

    There are a few Facebook groups up now OPPOSING the idea. But not being well funded by the Wrights or a PR firm, they aren’t bribing fans or buying Facebook ads…

  16. 23

    Luigi Giovanni spews:


    It doesn’t take a sugar daddy or a PR firm to setup a facebook page. David has plenty of time and programming skills.

  17. 24

    N8 spews:

    Goldy, I like “glassoholics”, but what about plain old “glassholes”? Chihuly is the ugly stain on what is otherwise a proud tradion of northwest art. I just went to the Renwick gallery in DC (part of the American Museum of Art) and hands down the ugliest objects in the entire building were Chihuly’s. Thanks for fighting the food fight.

  18. 26


    Let Chihuly make a kick ass attraction of slides (water?) out of glass. Make it something that (I secretly love some of his stuff) would be a legacy. Could you imagine sliding down some amazingly colored surface? Kids would love it. I know it’s crazy…completely fucking crazy, but it would be fucking amazing and much better than some crappy museum where nothing is to be touched. It would be so Seattle.

  19. 27

    Hoppy spews:

    YES to this proposal. Can we get a City Council member or four on board? Bagshaw & Godden have expressed discomfort with the Chihuly Hole. Let’s take this off the ‘tubes and onto the ballot.