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September 30, 2013 at 1:13 PM
The Port of Seattle Commission sent a strongly worded letter to Seattle Mayor McGinn today, urging the city to start over on the review process for a proposed sports arena in Sodo.
The Port has opposed the arena from the start, saying it would tangle traffic near the city’s seaport, threatening its competitive position and crowding out maritime and industrial businesses that support middle-class jobs in Seattle. The commission’s letter today is a reaction to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed arena.
“Not only are arena proponents risking Sodo’s full-time, middle class jobs, they are also gambling with city finances,” the letter says.
The Port claims that the city should have analyzed alternative sites for an arena, even though a private investment team led by Chris Hansen is only interested in the Sodo site near Safeco Field. The letter also says the traffic analysis in the report “lacks all credibility.” The letter urges the city to start the process over.
October 1, 2012 at 2:43 PM
Votes by Metropolitan King County Council Members Jane Hague and Kathy Lambert for a proposed professional basketball and hockey arena in Seattle are exacting a political toll.
Two Eastside developers and longtime supporters, Skip Rowley of Issaquah and Bob Wallace of Bellevue, emailed a letter to hundreds of business contacts saying the two council members “ignored the interest of their constituents” when they put the arena over the top on a 6-3 vote.
The County Council will take a second vote this month on a modified version of the $490 million agreement negotiated by investor Chris Hansen and the the Seattle City Council.
The developers’ letter said the initial deal would use scarce public resources in hard times, hurt Bellevue’s prospects for landing an arena, threaten to clog roads used by the Port of Seattle and be “a sweetheart deal” for Hansen.
“We didn’t send them to the County Council to make backroom deals,” the letter said.
The council members said there weren’t any secret deals and they were blindsided by what Hague, of Bellevue, called “the nastygram” sent by two longtime friends.
“It’s so naïve to think that Kathy and I, who I think are fairly adept and savvy council members, would cut a backroom deal when we can introduce legislation and negotiate right out in the transparency, the harsh light of day,” Hague said.
Lambert, from Redmond, said she and Hague addressed the concerns of Eastsiders and the Port by writing amendments requiring study of alternate sites and transportation issues. “We did not ignore the concerns of the people. We wrote amendments to strengthen things they told us,” she said.
Wallace said his main reason for opposing the arena deal is because a slowdown in freight movement through the Sodo neighborhood could lead more shipping companies to desert the Port of Seattle.
For Rowley and Wallace, Republican-leaning conservatives, the arena vote was their second big disappointment with the Republican council members in the past year. Hague and Lambert cast the deciding votes for a council-imposed $20 Metro Transit car-tab fee last year, reversing their previous position that voters should decide. They said they had negotiated Metro policy changes that would bring more buses to the Eastside.
After two maddening disappointments, Rowley said he probably won’t support Hague if she runs for office again.
Wallace said he will see what happens in the coming months. “Just because I disagree with somebody over something doesn’t mean I’m not going to continue to support them,” he said.
Rowley, Wallace, their wives and businesses have contributed more than $18,000 to Hague’s and Lambert’s campaigns since 2001, according to public disclosure records.
September 6, 2012 at 7:00 AM
Updated with a comment from Heather Weiner.
A letter last week from 13 state Legislators questioning Port of Seattle CEO Tay Yoshitani’s new board position at Expeditors International was drafted by Heather Weiner, the state political director for the Teamsters.
A forwarded e-mail to a state legislator shows the Teamsters were shopping around a draft on Aug. 23, looking for lawmakers who might sign it and add pressure to the Port Commission to publicly question Yoshitani about the board position. The letter says there could be, maybe, a possible appearance of conflict-of-interest. It stopped short of taking sides, but it definitely kept the issue in the news.
Weiner said state Rep. Zack Hudgins, D-Tukwila, asked her to shop around the letter because he didn’t have time. The Teamsters’ interest in Yoshitani’s board position, she said in an e-mailed statement, “is about a long list of incidents where the weak Port of Seattle Commission failed to hold its CEO accountable and allowed corporate interests to take over our public port. Whether under Mic Dinsmore or Tay Yoshitani, a weak port commission means the port ends up in chaos and strife.”
There are two other reasons the Teamsters may have been interested in getting that letter out.
First, keeping the controversy in the news could hurt Commission President Gael Tarleton, who is running for state representative in the 36th District. The Teamsters have opposed Tarleton since a dispute earlier this year about short-haul truckers.
And second, raising questions about the Yoshitani’s ethics and the Port Commission’s ability to oversee his contract makes the Port look bad just when it’s trying to make its case against a proposed basketball and hockey arena in Sodo. And the Teamsters, generally, support the arena because it would create jobs.
Arena proponents, with nothing much to do other than wait for a City Council vote expected later this month, are delightedly watching the drama. Public pressure is mounting, the CEO is defying the governing board, and members of the divided commission are sending out individual statements about the situation.
Politically, the timing of the Yoshitani controversy could hardly have been worse.
“We have a situation where by far the largest opposition of our political goals is using our public’s money in a way that we think might be unethical,” said Brian Robinson, president of the pro-arena group Arenasolution.org.
That’s a drum they will keep beating until Tuesday, when the Port Commission meets to discuss Yoshitani’s contract. That discussion has nothing to do with the arena, technically. The City Council is expected to take action on that at the end of September.
Tarleton said all the noise is interfering with the Port’s ongoing negotiations with the city to make a deal about the arena.
“When there is a perception that the commission is in a state of disarray, it makes it very hard to talk about steps we can take going forward,” she said.
July 23, 2012 at 5:00 PM
The Metropolitan King County Council could vote as early as next week on a proposal to invest up to $80 million to build a sports arena in Seattle.
In a move that surprised some council members, Budget Chair Joe McDermott pushed Monday for the proposal to move from his oversight committee to the full council for its action.
After nine committee meetings on the proposal, he said it is time for all nine council members to focus on the deal.
McDermott’s move was unusual because his budget committee did not vote on the arena deal. McDermott said if he waited until his next committee meeting in late August, the full council might not get the proposal until Labor Day. And by pushing the proposal to the full council now, he will clear the decks for his committee to focus on its primary duty, which is working on the county budget, he said.
But Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer said if McDermott had the votes to move it out of his committee he probably would have already. Instead, von Reichbauer believes McDermott wants to put pressure on skeptical Seattle City Council members by moving the proposal through the county. “That’s the only reason,” said von Reichbauer, who has called for a public vote on the proposal.
McDermott said that’s not the case.
The County Council voted 8-0 to take up the proposal Monday. von Reichbauer said he doubted it would be approved next week.
The legislation before the council would approve $5 million in bonds for the project if investors led by Chris Hansen land just an NBA team; if investors bring both NBA and NHL teams to the arena the county obligation would grow to $80 million.
Shortly after the council vote, a pro-arena group praised the action. “If the proposal passes the King County Council floor vote as many expect, passage of the arena proposal would then shift to the Seattle City Council, which appropriately carries the bulk of the fiscal obligation,” said a news release from arenasolution.org.
Councilmember Larry Phillips called McDermott’s move “really bad form” during the meeting. Phillips did not return to the full council after it recessed to discuss McDermott’s pitch.
Later, Phillips said he agrees with von Reichbauer that the move is “totally, absolutely” designed to put pressure on the Seattle City Council.
July 19, 2012 at 6:05 AM
People on both sides of a debate over a new basketball and hockey arena in Sodo are building teams of their own. That would be teams of consultants, and they have hired more than a few to handle the political and communications hurdles they anticipate.
We’ve covered former Seattle City Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck’s $40,000 contract with the Port of Seattle. He’ll work on the land-use angle. The Port is also negotiating a contract for a consultant to handle communications about the arena, but they wouldn’t confirm the consultant’s name Wednesday night.
The Manufacturing Industrial Council, which opposes the arena, is working with Pacific Public Affairs.
On the pro-arena side, private investor Chris Hansen has hired Rollin Fatland, a longtime local political consultant and former deputy King County executive. Working for Fatland is top Democratic consultant Christian Sinderman, for political advice, and lobbyist Lynn Claudon, a land-use specialist and the wife of former Seattle Mayor Charley Royer. (Royer’s son, incidentally, is arena opponent and shipping industry lobbyist Jordan Royer).
Mayor Mike McGinn has hired Tim Ceis, the former deputy mayor who started a private consulting business after McGinn ousted his boss, Greg Nickels, from the mayor’s office in 2009. McGinn also hired New Jersey-based arena consultant Carl Hirsh.
July 13, 2012 at 6:10 AM
Good morning. Happy Friday.
Secretary of State Sam Reed has taken our collective temperature for the upcoming August primary election and concluded we are, well, warmer than normal. Reed predicts better-than-usual turnout for the Top 2 primary that begins next week. Reed bets there will be 46 percent turnout, compared to the 43 percent average for previous presidential/gubernatorial years. Ballots go out starting July 18.
“The people of Washington are pretty revved up by the campaigns and issues this year and that should result in a darned good turnout, starting with our primary election,” Reed said. “We have an extremely competitive presidential race nationally and the media, campaigns, parties and special interest groups have been flooding us with campaign coverage and voter information.
Likewise, in this state, we have one of the nation’s hottest races for governor and we have an unusually high number of open statewide elective offices, including governor, secretary of state, attorney general and auditor. Washington voters also will be electing three brand new members of Congress, following our redistricting and retirements of incumbents. A U.S. Senate seat is on the ballot and people are already buzzing about our ballot measures that are on tap for November. Our Legislature, the courts and other important state and local offices also offer lots of excitement.”
Political wonks may be interested in the chart offered below by Reed’s office.
|State Primaries in Presidential Election Years|
We’re pretty revved at the Politics Northwest blog, or, at least, ready for a busy few weeks leading up to the Aug. 7 primary. Take a look at our upcoming calendar of live chats, debates and all-around important election dates. We have a chat on the proposed basketball arena next Thursday, July 19, around noon, featuring Chris Hansen, who wants to build the arena, and Dave Gering, of the Manufacturing Industrial Council, who is not so hot for it.
You have to love all the predictions in the heat of the summer about the results in the fall. The Hill says Democrats are a little more likely to keep control of the U.S. Senate, and less likely to grab control of the U.S. House.
Hey, take one extra minute to like us on Facebook, Seattle Times Politics: Election 2012.
July 5, 2012 at 7:30 AM
If former Seattle City Council member Peter Steinbrueck is considering a run against Mayor Mike McGinn, his new job as an anti-arena consultant for the Port of Seattle puts him in a good position.
While he is being paid up to $40,000 this year to represent the Port’s interests with regard to a proposed Sodo basketball and hockey arena, he will find himself back in the public spotlight opposite McGinn, the face of the arena proposal.
Steinbrueck, who decided not to run in 2009 despite public pressure, told Seattle Times reporter Bob Young this week that he has not decided whether to run for mayor in 2013.
Meanwhile, add a shipping trade group to the list of maritime and industrial groups opposed to the arena. In a letter to Mayor Mike McGinn and King County Executive Dow Constantine, the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association wrote that the city and county should not agree to a memorandum of understanding with arena investors until all the impacts are studied.
The letter concludes:
“PMSA members are willing to participate in a decision-making process that is open and fair, but cannot accept an incremental fait accompli, beginning with an MOU that gives short shrift to SEPA obligations, and could potentially harm PMSA members’ interests as well as those of the region as a whole.”
A town-hall style meeting about the proposed arena has been scheduled by City Council member Mike O’Brien and King County Council member Bob Ferguson for Tuesday, July 10 from 7-8 p.m. at North Seattle Community College in the cafeteria in the College Center Building. The address is 9600 College Way North.
And if you’re into that kind of thing, the City Council will continue its analysis of the arena Thursday, 2 p.m., in council chambers.
June 27, 2012 at 2:54 PM
About 30 union construction workers rallied outside Seattle City Hall Wednesday in support of a proposed new sports arena, saying it could create several thousand jobs.
The construction trades have been particularly hard hit by the recession, with about 30 percent of union workers out of work for two years or longer, said Lee Newgent, executive secretary of the Seattle Building and Construction Trades Council. ”Many of our members are at the end of their unemployment extensions, they’ve lost their health care, their homes are in foreclosure, their divorce rate is up. These are Depression-era unemployment numbers.”
Unions are divided over the proposal by San Francisco hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen to build a $490 million sports and entertainment venue with $200 million in public funding. Longshoremen and marine cargo unions oppose the proposed Sodo location, saying it could hurt already congested freight traffic in the area and drive away port business.
The Seattle City Council and the Metropolitan King County Council are currently considering an agreement to fund the arena and return professional basketball to Seattle and attract a National Hockey League team.
Newgent said his members support making improvements to the roads in Sodo, but he said the traffic problems existed before the arena was proposed and that the new arena wouldn’t add significant impacts.
“The building trades recognizes that a working port in an urban area needs infrastructure investments,” he said.
Iron workers, plumbers and pipe fitters, cement masons, laborers and insulators all were represented at the rally. Many carried signs that said “WE NEED JOBS NOW!”
Dave Myers, executive secretary of the Washington State Building Trades, said the arena project represented a “glimmer of hope” for union construction workers. He agreed with Newgent that labor could come together around the new arena if elected officials supported transportation improvements in Sodo.
“The building trades are committed to working with all the parties looking for solutions,” Myers said.
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