Venting Nickels suggests secession
Frustrated by the state and federal gridlock on solving Seattle's transportation problems, Mayor Greg Nickels suggested secession at a Thursday...
Seattle Times staff reporters
Frustrated by the state and federal gridlock on solving Seattle's transportation problems, Mayor Greg Nickels suggested secession at a Thursday luncheon.
"Our region should declare its independence," Nickels said.
The Puget Sound regional economy makes up 67 percent of the state's economic activity, he said. "If we were a country, [our economy] would be just a little smaller than Thailand. We would be larger than Colombia, Venezuela. We are held back because our state and federal government still believe our economies are driven by wheat farms and timber logging."
Nickels spoke as part of a CityClub round table at Town Hall with Bellevue Mayor Grant Degginger and Redmond Mayor John Marchione.
Nickels suggested the region start by putting the Puget Sound Regional Council "on steroids."
The 32-member board, Nickels said, should shrink and take greater control of how to spend state transportation funds.
Nickels spokesman Marty McOmber later said the mayor's comments at lunch — such as, "I am serious when I say we ought to talk about independence" — were meant to be tongue-in-cheek. The mayor was venting his frustration after the state opposed transportation projects and gun-control legislation he wanted.
"We have rural legislators making decisions on things like the viaduct and whether we can keep our city safe," Nickels said.
The three mayors did not disagree on much in a discussion that ranged from homelessness and Highway 520 to improved regional cooperation. Degginger and Marchione both said they would not support a 20-cent fee on disposable grocery bags, as Nickels has proposed in Seattle.
Nickels said he disagreed with King County Metro's plan to distribute 40 percent of new transit service to the Eastside, while Degginger said the policy was necessary to improve service to the underserved suburbs.
A new Highway 520 Bridge is an example of an issue that needs execution, not more discussion, Degginger said.
The biggest challenge ahead is "to show some leadership," he said. "... We need to implement decisions, rather than talk about them over and over again."
All the mayors advocated for better transit service, including buses. Moderator James Vesely, editorial-page editor of The Seattle Times, asked them if they knew what bus route they would take to get to work in the morning.
Each knew the number of his route, which drew applause, though Nickels admitted he does not take the bus.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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