I agree with the Seattle Times editorial board: “It’s time to end the pingpong match over the viaduct tunnel project.”
It’s much too dangerous to play a pingpong match over or under the earthquake damaged Alaska Way Viaduct. And who the hell schedules a sporting event in the middle of a freeway? What were the organizers thinking?
But once I got past that headline, the Times editors lost me:
To outsiders looking in, Seattle leaders have nothing better to do than play political pingpong on the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
Oh. Political pingpong. I get it now. It was a metaphor.
But perhaps I was just distracted by the ed board’s mysterious claim of psychic powers:
State lawmakers approved the project, the governor favors it and the region — save for one activist mayor — considers the matter settled.
Hear that? Except for Mayor Mike McGinn, the entire region favors the Big Bore tunnel, even me! Wow. The Times must know me better than I do. Amazing.
Okay, all snark aside, there is a germ of an idea in the Times editorial that could be promoted to help settle this dispute — assuming the Times is at least as interested in ending this pingpong match as it is in flinging the paddles at the Mayor — and it has to do with the controversial cost overrun provision:
At issue for the mayor is language in state legislation that attempts to lay potential cost overruns on an ill-defined group of Seattle area property owners who benefit from the project. McGinn seeks language in contracts with the state that delay the project until the Legislature changes the legislation.
The Legislature will not reconvene for certain until January and is not inclined to eliminate that verbiage because the governor, city attorney and most of the City Council consider it unenforceable.
[…] It is interesting to note the state legislation attempting to take the unprecedented move of dumping overruns on a city through which one of its roadway passes never mentions the city of Seattle as a corporate entity. That more than suggests it would be difficult to sue the city.
The Times goes on to suggest that if Mayor McGinn won’t sign the contracts, then Seattle City Council president Richard Conlin should sign them instead, despite the fact that it’s not at all clear he has that authority. But as long as the Times is demanding that the Council take the initiative in the ed board’s campaign to embarrass and diminish the Mayor, why not instead use the cost overrun issue to promote unity?
Why not suggest that the Council pass a motion rejecting the cost overrun provision, declaring that it will not authorize city funds to be used for that purpose, and will not authorize any taxes or taxing districts to collect such funds? If the provision is really as illegal and unenforceable as the Times suggests, then why not have the Council back up the Mayor on this issue, and allow our city government to speak with one voice in defense of city taxpayers? I mean, if the provision is as meaningless as the Times suggests, why not move this thing forward by allowing the Mayor to save a little face?
Of course, if Mayor McGinn still refuses to sign the contracts, then he’ll have backed himself into a corner. But he’s not there yet, so the smart political thing to do would be to create a scenario in which everybody can be a winner.
Unfortunately, I’m guessing the Times’ politics are about as smart as its headlines.