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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

September 9, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Seattle Center project: Is there enough handicapped parking?

At Seattle Center, plenty of handicapped parking still available

The Seattle Times editorial about the Theater Commons [“A better way to honor Donnelly,” Opinion, editorial, Sept. 8] does not provide a complete description of the accessible parking changes at Seattle Center.

It does not address the expansion to more than four dozen accessible parking spaces in Mercer Garage. An elevated skybridge from the garage allows all patrons, with and without disabilities, to avoid the inconveniences of street crossing. There are accessible drop-off zones in front of Seattle Repertory and Intiman theaters. Outreach to theater patrons this summer informed us of specific disability-related issues beyond what the Mercer Garage can accommodate, and we are pursuing alternative solutions to accommodate those needs.

In a 20-year effort to increase public space, Seattle Center has phased out surface parking within its campus and transitioned to consolidated, integrated garage parking on the edges of campus. All of our garages provide accessible parking for people with disabilities. Could we have done a better job promoting the availability of these locations? Yes, and we take responsibility for that. Seattle Center relies on a good relationship with our community of patrons with disabilities to help us continually improve the center’s accessibility.

Theater Commons has been in the works for more than a decade. A portion of it was chosen to honor Peter Donnelly following his death earlier this year because of his long affiliation with the two theaters.

Implying that improved, integrated accessibility to the arts for everyone was somehow a disservice to Donnelly is disheartening. Theater Commons turns campus asphalt into open space and creates an inviting north entry point for all of our patrons, with and without disabilities.

— Robert Nellams, Seattle Center Director, Seattle

A question public officials should be asking

Is it necessary, or is it nice?

That is the basic question every public official, every committee, every task force that spends the public’s money needs to coherently answer.

These resources come from the sweat of citizen effort, given to our elected officials on the condition they be spent after careful consideration to protect, educate and facilitate the societal structure and opportunities necessary for us to succeed. These funds and taxes are not in any way, shape or form an entitlement that our government has an endless right to collect and spend as it sees fit.

For example, significant coverage was given last week to the potential loss of 13 disabled parking spots [“Theatergoers protest plan to move disabled parking,” NWTuesday, Sept. 1] to a memorial park near the Seattle Center Theater Commons, a project Seattle has apparently allotted $1.5 million for, matching other contributions and grants as part of a long-term master plan for more open space. At the same time, the Seattle Public Library system closed all branches in an effort to save around $650,000 and employee jobs.

This is not rant against government. We all have our pet projects, causes and things we ask our elected officials to do for us, places where we think the money should be spent. The open-space plan is certainly one of these. But there is no longer a surplus, and it may serve us to reconsider our priorities.

Look at the various publicly funded proposals, projects and studies going on around us every day, and simply ask the question: Is it necessary or is it nice?

It’s a pretty straightforward test.

— Richard W. Dow, Redmond

Comments | More in Disabilities, parking, Seattle

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