A day after talking smack about Seattle's public spaces, Bremerton's mayor not only didn't back down from his remarks, he panned the area's leadership.

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A day after talking smack about Seattle’s public spaces, Bremerton’s mayor not only didn’t back down from his remarks, he panned the area’s leadership.

At a conference of mayors and leaders from 24 cities in Bremerton on Thursday, Mayor Cary Bozeman called Seattle’s downtown waterfront “an insult to American ingenuity,” the Kitsap Sun newspaper reported. Claiming there aren’t many great spaces in Seattle, Bozeman also suggested planting trees along Aurora Avenue “to block off the visual garbage,” according to the Sun.

Asked to elaborate on his comments Friday, Bozeman told The Seattle Times that the context of his remarks was “the lack of and the importance of creating great public spaces and having (other city leaders at Thursday’s meeting) set their vision higher.”

Bozeman, former mayor of Bellevue, said, “Seattle I used as an example of having neglected its biggest opportunity, which is its waterfront. And they’ve done a few little things, but down where it really connects to the city and where they want people to live, that’s where the opportunity’s been lost. It’s been lost since I was a young boy going to school there. It’s the same, it hasn’t changed, and it’s just because there’s been a lack of vision and leadership, and it’s a shame.”

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That said, Bremerton itself hasn’t been a model of beautiful cityscapes over the years. Like many small towns, it fell into decline as jobs and shopping malls drew people and businesses to the suburbs.

The huge Puget Sound Naval Shipyard still rises above the city as it has for more than a century. But now there are parks, art galleries, museums and restaurants in town.

“Well, we’re doing a lot of things here,” Bozeman said. “I mean we’ve redeveloped our waterfront, we’ve raised about $400 million, we’ve taken old parking lots on the waterfront and put in a fountain park, and we’ve created a new marina and we’ve created public walking spaces where our downtown waterfront’s now fully accessible to our public. I think Bremerton is being seen as a community that is beginning to redevelop our waterfront and make it a great public space. We’ve got a long way to go, but we’re working on it.”

As for Seattle, Bozeman expanded his critique to Pioneer Square: “It’s just been maintained as a less-than-mediocre public space.”

He singled out Green Lake as a great public space, “where people congregate, where there’s diversity, where it increases real-estate values, obviously — versus Lake Washington, where there’s none of that. You think about the leadership that failed the people that live in King County, I mean there’s, I don’t know, 5 percent of Lake Washington available to the public.”

Bozeman said he wasn’t referring to anyone in particular, though. “It’s a failure of leadership over the last 40 years, and it’s pretty obvious.”

He also said he’d have torn down the Alaskan Way Viaduct after the 2001 Nisqually earthquake. “That was an opportunity that will never be duplicated. That’s not only a visual problem, it’s a noise problem and it separates the city.”

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels’ spokesman, Alex Fryer, said he didn’t know if Nickels was aware of Bozeman’s remarks.

“We have a plan with the governor and the county executives to get rid of that elevated highway on our waterfront. We’re all excited about that. It’s dangerous and not particularly aesthetically pleasing, so we’re looking forward to getting that deal sewed up in the Legislature and moving forward. I think we’re just going to leave it at that,” Fryer said.

Mark Rahner: 206-464-8259 or mrahner@seattletimes.com

Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.

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