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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

August 24, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Nickels a lame duck: Did Seattle vote out a great mayor?

Nickels cut funding that was empowering Seattleites

Editor, The Times:

I was disappointed to read Danny Westneat [“Seattle likes debate, not action,” NWSunday, column, Aug. 23] parroting the tired refrain of the Greg Nickels administration: You need to choose between engaging citizens and getting something done. History shows this is a false choice.

Norm Rice involved 3,000 citizens in his education summit, paving the way for the Families and Education Levy. He then empowered 30,000 citizens in a bottom-up neighborhood planning effort that, under the Paul Schell administration, resulted in voter-approved bond and levy measures for 27 new and improved libraries, 13 new and expanded community centers and 100 new and enhanced parks. Schell tripled the size of the Neighborhood Matching Fund, a program that has empowered tens of thousands of residents to implement more than 4,000 community self-help projects.

And what has the Nickels administration accomplished? As Tim Ceis says, “This isn’t supposed to be a participatory democracy.” So it killed the bottom-up planning program and made deep cuts to the Neighborhood Matching Fund. Nickels’ administration opposed the successful citizen-initiated parks levy.

True, Nickels did get new fire stations along with huge cost overruns. He secured a new streetcar for Paul Allen while reducing bus service for existing riders. It took seven years to reach an agreement on the waterfront tunnel precisely because Nickels tried to impose his own solution; Nickels’ failure to listen to the people may mean this project will never be built.

It is telling that the politician who focused on his own legacy being more than “footprints in the sand” left the rest of us stranded in the snow. I hope our next mayor will understand that Seattle’s active citizens are its greatest strength.

— Jim Diers, Vashon [Editor’s note: Diers, former director of the Department of Neighborhoods, was fired by Nickels.]

A ‘B’ for snow, a ‘B’ for understanding what Seattle wants

Greg Nickels deserves a “B” grade for his understanding of and comments about the voters who favored other candidates in the primary.

— Russ Baker, Federal Way

Nickels did more for Seattle than it knows

Mayor Greg Nickels has long done the right thing regardless of political expediency. He was one of the first elected leaders in the country to support President Obama, at a time when it was risky.

He led a national movement to stand up to the Bush administration on global warming. Out of fundamental decency, Seattle provided health benefits for domestic partners of city employees. He finally brought a viable public-transit system to our city. And our dangerous and blighted waterfront freeway will be replaced, reconnecting the people of Seattle on foot and bicycle with our tremendous God-given natural asset, our waterfront. Our city will be greener, more livable and even more beautiful.

The people in Seattle (or the few who voted in this primary) have spoken, and Nickels will not be the second Seattle mayor in history to be elected to a third term [“Nickels all but finished,” page one, Aug. 21].

I have known Nickels for 14 years, and I can say this for sure: Whether you agree with him or not on issues (and yes, he is human just like the rest of us), Nickels’ integrity, love for this city and leadership are unassailable.

I thank him for his service and will miss him as our mayor.

— Manrita Sidhu, Seattle

Nickels couldn’t manage the nuts and bolts

Danny Westneat ignores a major reason that Seattle voters decided to toss out Mayor Greg Nickels: nuts and bolts.

Certainly, some folks perceived Nickels as a strongman and wanted a return to process in decision making. But many others, including me, think he just didn’t manage the city very well.

The 2008 snowstorm and its self-congratulatory “B” grade indicate Nickels was badly out of touch.

But I also think of the mayor when I get jarred by potholes, read about stupid actions by city departments, try to find a parking place I can afford, learn about yet another bureaucratic barrier to business, wonder why city employment levels and pay are not reigned in and ask myself why Seattle is more friendly to misbehaving drunks in Pioneer Square than to citizens who pay taxes and want to enjoy the place with their families.

Was Nickels too corporate? Hardly. He has worked his entire professional life in government. It’s about time Seattle has a mayor who can manage the nuts and bolts of the city. I think someone with experience in the private sector has an excellent shot at doing a better job.

— Phillip Johnson, Seattle

Forward-looking mayor paid the price for progress

Danny Westneat’s column on why Seattle didn’t vote for Mayor Greg Nickels was so great that I have decided to save it as a clipping, but unfortunately, as with some of his other fine columns, he came to the table too late.

Nickels has actually been a fine mayor for Seattle, and he deserves a lot more credit for what he has done than discredit over what he didn’t do during two weeks in December.

It is possible to both love Seattle and to seek change when change is for the better — such as gentrifying South Lake Union and adding streetcars and light-rail trains with their attendant transit-oriented development.

The current mayor had plenty of vision to look beyond repairing potholes, and he paid the price for it. As Westneat correctly said, what we will get for it is endless dithering for yet more time on the tunnel question.

As I have argued many times lately on the Seattle Transit Blog, all of this second-guessing elected leaders leads to an inefficient use of democracy as a weapon and risks being saddled with an electorate unwilling to trust and leaders unwilling to lead for fear of being closed down.

Nickels served as a punching bag in this election and got beaten by it unfairly in my view, showing flaws in a primary process that is more about ego than anything else.

I think a fine way to honor his leadership would be to let him retain a seat on the Sound Transit board so his voice can continue to be heard. I do not have any confidence that the two candidates in November have anywhere near the current mayor’s breadth of leadership on transportation issues for Seattle.

Mike McGinn is a one-issue candidate who will plunge the city only to yet more turmoil over the tunnel-vs.-street-option replacement for the viaduct, and in the meantime, nothing will get done and prices will rise.

— Tim Whittome, Issaquah

Nickels stood above the crowd

I didn’t vote for Mayor Greg Nickels the first term, but he has brought home the bacon on transportation issues and does not deserve the eye-rolling commentaries and citizen complainers. Yes, I didn’t like the snow either. Big deal.

Now one candidate for mayor seeks to undo half that critical progress of the last two terms and kill the Alaskan Way tunnel.

I think Danny Westneat’s Aug. 23 column nailed it. Nitpick if you want, but Nickels turned out way above the crowd. He got something done. Unusual.

Now, are we going to revert to type and start “Doin’ The Seattle”? Yuk!

Please don’t, people.

— Don Bell, Seattle

Comments | More in Election, Local ballot measures, Politics, Seattle, Transportation

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