LEGENDARY Washington Sen. Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson helped craft the concept of environmental reviews that look at alternatives before elected officials make up their minds on significant public projects.
The proposed professional basketball and hockey arena in Seattle is turning the concept on its head.
It appears the Metropolitan King County Council and the Seattle City Council will make the state Environmental Policy Act a box to be checked, because they have already decided.
A curious footrace is under way to approve a $490 million deal with investor Chris Hansen to build the arena in Sodo, abutting the city’s industrial zone and Port of Seattle.
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The County Council and the City Council need to make it abundantly clear that any votes of approval are a step in a process, pending substantive transportation and alternative site reviews, including on the Eastside. A cynical, rote march through administrative process will haunt both jurisdictions with voters.
Failure to explore all potential sites is a gross disservice to county residents and the economic health of the county.
Make a commitment to the broadest possible review. Say it aloud, in a public forum. Do not bury the appearance of good intentions in the fine print and footnotes of an impenetrable document. Officials need to go on the record.
The Sodo arena deal tampers with the vitality and viability of the Port of Seattle, a primary engine of the local economy. Faulty assumptions about the impact of arena traffic can create circumstances where Port customers decide to look elsewhere.
A panel of experts last summer noted scant attention had been paid to the capacity of Seattle to support two more sports teams. Discretionary spending has limits, and the money to support basketball and hockey will come at the expense of other teams and entertainment venues.
Precious little attention has been paid to impacts on Key-Arena, taxpayer investments there and the consequences for the surrounding neighborhood.
The two councils must commit to exploring all sites and options, and their environmental and economic consequences.