In The News

Questions over whether 4 buried reservoirs can withstand quake

This article first appeared in the Seattle Times on November 16, 2012.

Four years after discovering leaks in what were supposed to be waterproof reservoir covers, the city is investigating whether four new underground reservoirs were adequately built to withstand earthquakes. City officials say there’s no threat to water quality or public safety and the reservoirs are working as designed. But Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) has spent almost $1 million in the past 18 months to analyze the problem and could spend millions more if the four giant underground vaults that hold the city’s drinking water need seismic retrofitting.

Ray Hoffman, director of the utility, said he doesn’t believe the city will be on the hook for the costs of the analysis or for any additional reinforcement. The project engineering … Continue Reading »

Appeals court: City’s yellow pages law unconstitutional

This article originally appeared in the Seattle Times on October 16, 2012:

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against Seattle’s crack-down on yellow pages directories. The phone books are protected under the First Amendment, the court said, so the city can’t require them to get a permit or offer an opt-out system for residents who don’t want a commercial phone directory delivered to their door.

The Seattle City Council voted two years ago to create an opt-out registry for Seattleites who want to avoid unwanted yellow pages. To pay for the program, the city planned to charge yellow pages distributors $100 a year for a license, plus a disposal fee. Council Member Mike O’Brien sponsored the rules and gained publicity by offering to take any unwanted phone books his … Continue Reading »

Tear Down The Tarp Event

Click here to watch a KIRO7 clip of Jean celebrating the expansion of ROOTS Young Adult Shelter.

With rate hikes coming, what City Hall must do

This article first appeared in the Puget Sound Business Journal:

Rates for Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) are headed up. That is not popular news in difficult economic times. But it is honest news.

And, while no one wants to pay more, it’s important to make sure that the City is offering reliable, high quality services that continue to protect our environment.

Mayor McGinn is proposing increased rates for three services (drainage, wastewater, and solid waste), raising the typical combined single-family monthly bill for those services to $23.26 per month by 2015 – a 22% increase compared to 2012. Cost drivers of this increase are replacement of two antiquated transfer stations, complying with federally mandated Clean Water Act requirements and the increasing cost of base services. These are essential needs.

There is no final … Continue Reading »

Sewer hike may be 22% if county rate increase added

This article first appeared in the Seattle Times
September 19, 2012

A Seattle City Council committee Tuesday will discuss a rate hike for garbage, sewage and stormwater service that would increase bills 22 percent through 2015.

The proposal was described as a 12 percent rise by Mayor Mike McGinn in June, but that didn’t include a 10 percent increase assessed by King County for its wastewater-treatment services, or annual cost-of-living adjustments in contracts with garbage and recycling collectors, said Councilmember Jean Godden, chair of the Libraries, Utilities and Center Committee.

“The mayor’s proposal does not tell the full story about rate increases,” Godden said. “It’s extremely important to be transparent with ratepayers. We know these increases are coming.”

Godden’s committee will discuss the rate proposal at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. Godden said previous mayors also … Continue Reading »

Paying Tribute to Kathi Goertzen

On September 10th, it was my great honor to present Kathi Goertzen’s family with a proclamation honoring her enormous contribution to our region. She video of the presentation here.

Seawall meets its nemesis, the gribble

Originally published July 20, 2012, on

There’s a piece of wood on desks down at City Hall. The chunk, with its dozens of air pockets and traverse cavities, resembles a rotting wedge of Swiss cheese. But, in reality, the crumbling wooden chunk is a piece of the Seattle seawall, the nearly mile
and a half wall that separates downtown Seattle from the salty waters of Elliott Bay.

That barrier, built between 1916 and 1936, extends from South Washington Street to Broad Street. It was never designed to withstand earthquakes or heavy tides. Nor to resist invasion by generations of gribbles, a tiny marine worm.

The city has been patching breaks its seawall for decades, but there is no getting around reality – … Continue Reading »

Chris Hansen’s Sodo arena plan: Seattle Storm should be more than an afterthought

Originally published July 15, 2012, in the Seattle Times,

AMID all the hoopla over a potential new arena, there has been one forgotten player. No one, it seems, is talking seriously about what the addition of another professional sports franchise or two — and another sports emporium — would mean to the future of the Seattle Storm.

Failure to talk with, and about, the WNBA franchise is quite an oversight. For openers, it’s worth reviewing the team’s history. Remember that in 2008, when the Oklahomans were determined to hijack the Sonics, it looked as if they were going to drag the Storm off, caveman style, to Oklahoma City as collateral damage.

At almost the eleventh hour, a group of professional women miraculously came to the team’s rescue and managed to scrape … Continue Reading »

Seattle City Council approves plan to protect local waters from sewage overflow pollutants

Ballard News Tribune
June 21, 2012

On Monday, June 18, the Seattle City Council unanimously approved a first-of-its-kind agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Ecology that will ensure the systematic control of Seattle’s chronic sewage overflows, while allowing the city to use cost-effective and environmentally beneficial projects to control and treat both storm water and sewage.

The agreement, which took city, state and federal officials four years to negotiate, could save utility ratepayers as much as $375 million through 2025.

“This is a smart, responsible, and cost-effective way for Seattle to meet the goals of the federal Clean Water Act — using a new integrated approach that allows us better tools and strategic investments to protect the environment,” said Councilmember Jean Godden, chair of the Libraries Utilities and Center Committee, … Continue Reading »

Most City Council members oppose putting arena on ballot

The idea of a public vote on the proposal to build a $490 million sports arena in Sodo was floated this week, but a majority of Seattle City Council members say the decision is theirs to make.

Council members grilled San Francisco hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen in a two-hour question-and-answer session Wednesday, the day after the Metropolitan King County Council did the same.

Hansen is seeking $200 million in public funding to build an arena and return professional basketball and attract a professional hockey team to Seattle.

He answered nearly identical questions Wednesday, though the city’s focus centered more on the fate of KeyArena, where the Sonics played, as well as whether the overall proposal complied with Initiative 91, which requires the city to see a return on any investment in a … Continue Reading »