About eight community members attended Seattle City Council member Tom Rasmussen’s Little City Hall at the Queen Anne Community Center (1901 First Ave. W.) on July 29. The small turnout made the event feel more like a political dinner-table discussion than a city hall event.
From Mercer Street to right-of-ways along Westlake Avenue to the monorail and bicyclists, transportation was a major topic at the meeting.
One big topic was Mercer Street changing to a two-way. One woman pointed out that the Mercer two-way change was designed many years ago, before the increased traffic from South Lake Union. With the added traffic, it’s often easier to walk, she said: “I think people here have given up on buses because they’re stuck in the same traffic.”
As to what he could do about transportation problems, Rasmussen, chair of the council’s Transportation Committee, said he could take them to the Seattle Department of Transportation to see what it can do and ask “why” if officials say no.
Multiple residents complained that the Aurora Bridge was dangerous and needed signs for the inevitable slowdown in the right lane as people turn at Raye Street. Signs on Aurora Avenue North are more complicated because it’s a state road, Rasmussen said.
Bicyclists’ bad behavior was another big topic. One community member suggested some way to tax or trace bicyclists. Bike taxes often don’t pay off because they are so costly, Rasmussen said; he suggested current cyclists follow the rules, which will influence others to behave.
“We’re in a time of transition with a lot of variety of [transportation] choices,” he said.
As for Metro plans, sales tax and a one-year property tax seem to be the city’s only options, he said: “We have to turn to [our taxpayers] more and more...for things that have traditionally been paid for by the state.”
Another woman stopped into the meeting to talk about parking. She said on her street in Queen Anne, people will park their cars to take the bus elsewhere, sometimes leaving their cars for days at a time. That type of situation is not unusual, Rasmussen said.
Regarding growth, Rasmussen said he views his job as a City Council member to “see our neighborhoods have the highest quality of life as possible,” he said. He noted the need for alternative transportation methods to support that density.
One of Rasmussen’s goals is to save greenspaces and open spaces, and he wants to use the sites of Seattle City Light’s no-longer-needed substations. State law dictates that City Light must be paid for the land, and with parks being short on money, Rasmussen wants to start a fund that would buy the substation sites to become greenspaces throughout the city.
When one neighbor said it seemed like there wasn’t enough money to pay for all of the city’s plans, like universal preschool and the Metropolitan Park District, Rasmussen replied, “What some may consider glamorous, others would think are fundamentals.”
The meeting wrapped up with a discussion of the new district-based City Council in Seattle. Rasmussen said the only people to benefit from this new system are the candidates, who will have a significantly smaller area to campaign; the constituents will lose the attention of the other neighborhood-specific council-members.
“Some people feel their neighborhood was being neglected, so now [they think], ‘At least we have one person in our area,’” he said. “But I said, ‘You’re losing eight.’”
Rasmussen said he does plan to run for the seat in his neighborhood of West Seattle.
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