ALMOST THERE, ONLY ONE MORE VOTE NEEDED, HERE’S HOW YOU CAN EASILY HELP.
Thanks to a torrent of calls and e-mails from citizens and businesses, we got four votes at the City Council March 2 against the new loophole in the noise ordinance; but we need a fifth vote to pass a brief new ordinance reversing that devastating result. [Too busy to read further? Please leave messages as suggested below.]
There's hope of reversing Monday's decision against allowing annual revisions in the new variance, which now can last the life of a public construction project. Thanks go to Nick Licata, Richard Conlin, Bruce Harrell, and Richard McIver for voting to allow yearly revisions. They stressed that a variance lasting many years cannot foresee all difficulties in regulating noise, and that the Department of Planning and Development and the City Council itself mustn't be denied the ability to revise it yearly to correct mistakes or omissions. Now they can help us get that fifth vote for the brief new ordinance that is required.
Most importantly, urge Councilmembers Tom Rasmussen, Jean Godden, Tim Burgess, Sally Clark, and Jan Drago to help pass a brief new ordinance reversing their March 2 vote against allowing annual revisions in the their public construction variance. As Transportation Committee Chair and Vice Chair respectively, Drago and Clark bear heaviest responsibility for this historic weakening of the ordinance (which until March 2 limited most variances to two weeks!). They passed the changes out of their committee without correcting DPD's failure to reach out to the public, develop alternatives, or identify the businesses, neighborhoods, and the disadvantaged who will be most hurt.
Rasmussen, Godden, Burgess, Clark, and Drago didn't acknowledge--hopefully didn't know--that their "forever" variance could allow all-night construction not just by WSDOT and Sound Transit, but also local road, bridge, sewer and water agencies, any local improvement district, City Light, the new jail, the Port, the Seattle Housing Authority, the Convention Center, public schools and colleges--in fact, any federal, state, local, or special-purpose agency that exists or might be invented.
Noise is harmful--some countries (even our own) have used it for torture. Seattle's noise ordinance (adopted in 1978) explicitly commits the City Council to protect the public's 'sleep and repose.' To be honest, the Council on Monday should also have repealed that uniquely strong commitment--but to honor it, the Council must not allow this new loophole to stand. In barring nighttime noise, the ordinance has for thirty years also protected against nighttime light, dust, vibration, and traffic--all will increase with the new variance that, for the life of the project, could allow construction 24-7.
Without a yearly opportunity to revise the variance, citizens and businesses from now on will have no recourse once they discover how grossly public construction is evading the noise ordinance's protections. Because of how the five Councilmembers voted on Monday, now if the City tries to tighten a variance's hours or noise levels, the construction agency will get a court to block the improvements, as the applicable law is what existed when the variance was issued. The March 2 repeal of checks and balances also makes it easier for regulators to be captured by the regulated. The Council simply must pass a brief new ordinance reversing this reckless, lasting blow to livability and democratic rights--and won't unless you call and write NOW. The decks are stacked against us, but we must try--for ourselves, and for future generations.
The Council must also reconsider its March 2 action because--after the public comment period ended--it suspended its rules to allow Sound Transit to strongly oppose Licata's amendment allowing annual revision of the variance. Revealingly, Sound Transit also acknowledged that it's been working quietly on the proposals since March 2006 with the City regulators (not for another two years did the public and the Council receive the proposals, in April 2008!). On March 2 the Council compounded this incestuous relationship by giving Sound Transit the last word, denying the public any chance to rebut its special pleading before giving Sound Transit what it wanted. Where's the Council's sense of fair play?
Please sound off (quietly) to all! Individually addressed messages are always more heeded than if sent to all Councilmembers in common. The fax number is (206) 684-8587; the address is City Council, P.O. Box 34025, Seattle, WA 98124-4025. Send e-mail and leave a voice mail. Here are the names and message (or just say you support the Quiet Alliance's effort at reconsideration):
The above alert was prepared by Chris Leman (Ph.D., political science) for the Quiet Alliance.
He can be reached at (206) 322-5463, firstname.lastname@example.org.