by Kirby LindsayAs the original Buckaroo Tavern marked its last few weeks, Ed Plute could be seen, sitting at the sidewalk café rail, with his red t-shirt – doing what he could to stop another “mega-project,” as he calls it. He wants to stop the building of a tunnel along the Seattle waterfront, as a replacement for the Alaskan Way Viaduct. “Anything else but,” he explained.
Self-described as “a very concerned citizen,” Plute has taken a serious interest in public policy over the last few years. A Seattle resident since 1985, Plute has also lived in Ketchikan, Alaska where he ran for Mayor entirely, by his account, to alert people to cost overruns on the ‘bridge to nowhere.’ “I didn’t want to win,” he explained, and he lost, at his recollection, by only 200 votes.
‘Stop The Tunnel’
Today Plute says he will win, as he champions the petition drive for City of Seattle Initiative 101. He encourages people to read about the issue at his site, StopTheTunnel.com, and to visit the official initiative website, SCATNOW.com, to print out petitions.
According to Plute, the tunnel will cost $8 billion “when it’s said and done.” The construction, which includes digging through questionable soils under a variety of structures (including the federal building), will not be insured against catastrophes. “I called Lloyds of London, and they will not insure it,” he said, “contractors can’t get insurance for it.”
“My preference is a retro-fitted viaduct,” he explained. Using FlexSteel, he believes the viaduct can be rebuilt, with another layer added under the two roadways, for parking, “that pays for itself and alleviates the parking problem Downtown.” Beneath that, on the roadway level, he wants bicycle lanes and a series of parks designed by local artists.
Yet, he will not push his plan – he simply doesn’t want the tunnel, and its associated costs. “I’m trying to protect all the citizens of this city,” Plute explained, “taxes are supposed to be spread evenly, not just on one section.” He can’t see spending $8 billion on a single project in a city of 550,000 people. “If cost overruns equal just $1 billion,” Plute said, “it can cost $1,600 per household in property taxes.” By his estimate, this tax burden would send apartment rents skyrocketing and make properties in Seattle unsalable.
To get to a vote, the initiative must gather 20,692 signatures, by February 1, 2011, according to Elizabeth Campbell, Chair of Seattle Citizens Against the Tunnel (SCAT). If the signatures receive validation, a vote would be held, most likely, by special ballot sometime in the spring of 2011. The petition states that a tunnel shall not be built to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
A Vote of No Confidence
“They are not listening to us,” Plute insisted about the Seattle City Council, “I’m very upset by this.” Once he helps stop the tunnel, “my next project is to go after the City Council,” he explained, “everything they are approving is against the people, and it is time to go after them.” He wants a vote of non-confidence held on the entire Council, and replacements elected that would be more responsive to voters.
Plute ran for Mayor of Seattle in 2009, as a write-in candidate, and said he will run for office again. Even though he didn’t win last year, “everything I’ve said in my campaign promises, I’ve done.” He has also has to shelter the homeless in an empty warehouse in South Seattle, temporarily, with those who work, and behave, earning privileges.
Private citizens can still direct public policy, Plute insisted, and “the initiative system is still viable.” Initiative 101, “will work. It will make it law.” He wants everyone to rally behind this cause, as he gets the word out. “This is very important,” he insisted, “rents will go up, businesses will leave. It’s not good for anything!”
©2010 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.