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Originally published November 2, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified November 6, 2007 at 1:13 PM

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Online-only letters Forlorn hope Editor, The Times: Regarding columnist Danny Westneat's "Candidate's keeping his faith" [Times, Local News...

Seattle City Council

Forlorn hope

Editor, The Times:

Regarding columnist Danny Westneat's "Candidate's keeping his faith" [Times, Local News, Oct. 28]: Actions always speak louder than words, and Seattle City Council Position 7 candidate Tim Burgess needs to be known by the company he keeps and by the track record he has, rather than by trying to tie himself to the reputation of Jim Wallis, national religious leader of the liberal Christian organization Sojourners.

Westneat says Burgess has an impressive résumé as a cop, humanitarian worker and businessman. Let's look at that list of credentials. Burgess wasn't a cop for very long; the work he did for nonprofit Christian humanitarian organization, World Concern, wasn't laboring in the fields like Mother Teresa; and as a businessman, his public-relations firm made millions doing business with organizations antithetical to his professed religious beliefs.

Religious fundamentalists are known for being doctrinaire and rigid in their beliefs and are usually intolerant of the viewpoints of other people. Leaders, especially politicians, must be able to compromise with other leaders to achieve the will of the people.

Burgess appears to be a person more interested in self than in being the kind of selfless leader who believes that justice must come before any kind of peaceful solution.

In downplaying Councilmember David Della's leadership skills and playing the race card, Burgess has proved to me that he cannot represent my concerns as a citizen of Seattle.

— David Enroth, Seattle

Fear not

Seattle City Council candidate for Position 7 Tim Burgess, like many thoughtful people, has changed his mind about a few things over the years. This is a good thing. People who cannot grow and change are more than a little scary. I would hope that such growth and understanding would be celebrated, not reviled.

Even more importantly, columnist Danny Westneat gave voice to the idea that religious faith can broaden our hearts and minds, increase tolerance and love, and call us to seek the good in others.

I know well that faith has been used in destructive and divisive ways. But there are many of us who hold to a genuine faith in God; it leads us to seek justice and inclusion for all people, protection and healing for our planet, and peace for all who live on it.

This is a faith that the people of Seattle need not fear. Even in our politicians.

— Rev. Lisa Domke, Seattle

A glass too many

So what else is new? Another local politician, Seattle City Council candidate for Position 3 Venus Velázquez is arrested for DUI ["Velázquez pleads not guilty at DUI arraignment," Local News, Oct. 20].

Ms. Velázquez issues the usual statements given by politicians caught driving under the influence: I exercised poor judgment. I really didn't drink that much. I am embarrassed and apologize to the community, my friends and supporters. Please offer your forgiveness. And, of course, please dismiss this one-time incident and concentrate on my community work and resume, and don't forget to vote for me!

Yes, Ms. Velázquez does have a decent résumé and I did vote for her in the primary. She will get my forgiveness and support if she considers working on passing a bill similar to one in the Nordic countries: No wrist-slapping; temporary suspension of driver's licenses is necessary in these countries. If you drive under the influence of alcohol and get stopped, you lose the right to legally drive — period!

What seems to be missing is the acknowledgment of what could have occurred. Ms. Velázquez and all those who drive with alcohol in their system have the potential for killing and harming innocent victims. With constant reports of deaths and injuries caused by drunk drivers, how could anyone who wants to serve the good of the public knowingly drive after drinking alcohol?

Oh well, no harm done, no one killed or injured — politics as usual!

— JoAnne Hardt Rudo, Seattle

The real Hague

In "Hague's bid for fifth term anything but uneventful" [News, Oct. 25], King County Councilmember Jane Hague, Position 6, is described as "polite, soft-spoken," with a "gracious" and "dignified" manner. The police officers who arrested her for drunken driving, however, described her as falling-down drunk, profane and verbally abusive.

No matter how much a person drinks, he or she is not somehow transformed from Dr. Jekyll into Ms. Hyde. The Romans had a phrase for the Jane Hagues of this world: in vino veritas. That is, "in wine, the truth."

Seattle voters should remember that the real Hague made a brief appearance only after she was arrested.

— Iain Moffat, Seattle

Brave new Seattle

In "Industrial-land fight goes to council" [Local News, Oct. 22], Seattle Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis is quoted: "This is kind of shaping up as a battle for the fate of industrial jobs in the city. It's downtown versus industry, white collar versus blue." This is not accurate; it's really the past versus the future.

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels' proposal tries to freeze our industrial area in the past, based on an outdated conception of what industry needs and what the city's industrial neighborhoods offer.

Those who oppose the mayor's downzone proposal understand that these diverse areas have already moved on and that no zoning will take us back in time. It will only prevent the areas from adapting to the changing times already upon us, doing more harm to industry than good.

— Joe Mitter, Seattle

City Council's greener future

I'm perplexed by The Times' recent endorsement of Councilmember Jean Godden for Seattle City Council Position 1, while "Improve Seattle Council" [endorsements, Oct. 7] primarily describes her significant failures.

The Times says Godden "brags about dreaming up the idea of the overpriced downtown tunnel, while 70 percent of Seattle voters opposed it." The Times adds that she's "beholden to the nightclub lobby" and then saddles its support with a "caveat."

The Times is essentially saying: "Hold your nose and vote for her." This is not a very compelling argument for voting for Godden.

Such a weak endorsement, coupled with the fact that even the 36th District Democratic Club didn't endorse her — I heard from one member the club found her too closely aligned with Mayor Greg Nickels and his pro-development allies, like development firm Vulcan, and quite a few preferred green challenger Joe Szwaja — leads me to conclude that the city can and should do better than Godden. So I'm giving Szwaja my vote.

The Times itself said Szwaja has a "strong record of community service." I think he's the better choice for improving our City Council. A local teacher and environmental activist, Szwaja also has public-service experience — he was twice elected to the Madison, Wis., City Council before moving to Seattle. He also ran an impressive campaign against Congressman Jim McDermott, D-Seattle, in 2000, earning 20 percent of the vote.

I guess you have helped me decide how to vote after all!

— Sue Peters, Seattle

Right of reply

The Times omitted some important information that could have provided greater balance to "Teacher targets popular Seattle City Council incumbent with broad support" [News, Oct. 25].

The report notes that I missed a TV interview without sharing the explanation I gave The Times — that I had to withdraw from that event after news I received about my mother's worsening brain cancer. The article seems to imply that my opponent, Seattle City Councilmember Jean Godden, has not missed any major campaign events, when in fact she skipped at least one major event — the community forum held by the Seattle Alliance for Good Jobs and the Environment (SAGE).

The report notes that I've had to balance my campaign with the fact that I am also a high-school teacher, but doesn't mention that while I cannot and would not leave school to do campaign work, Godden neglected her job and skipped a city-budget meeting on February 7th to attend a campaign fundraiser. And while The Times describes my analysis of my opponents' fundraising as "flawed," I stand by the accusation that my opponent has received too much money from people she is supposed to oversee — developers and public employees in particular.

Finally, while the article was supposed to provide Web-site information for both campaigns, it omitted mine completely.

— Joseph Szwaja, Seattle City Council candidate for Position 1

WASL

Knuckle down

Columnist Kate Riley finds it ironic her son passed the WASL ["Congrats, education officials, you've weakened WASL standards," editorial column, Oct. 29]. The only irony is it took her 10 years with this special child to recognize that any standard based entirely on "one size fits all" is unrealistic and problematic for many reasons.

There are two shams here. First, the federal government — through the No Child Left Behind Act — unrealistically requires all schools to make "annual yearly progress" toward 100 percent "pass" rates on state-determined standards or be penalized.

Second, our State Legislature adopted a "standard" as measured by a series of tests that, according to the experts who created them, were never designed for this purpose and would not accurately report the desired information.

Our Legislature did this because a previously implemented state program with a much different intent had required development of these tests and enough money had already been spent on test creation, they weren't spending any more. Instead, they found and paid a new set of experts to declare the existing tests were suitable for the federal requirement, over their original test creators' loud objections. Yet, we wonder why the "standards" debate continues after so many years.

If we expect reading, writing and math standards to be meaningful, we must recognize Ms. Riley's son — along with many other children — cannot be held to the same standard as other 10-year-olds for a good reason. Ms. Riley's concern that her son shows up in his school's "pass" column is equaled by my concern that, without the alternative-assessment option, he would be in that school's "failed" column. When his own mother has no expectation of him meeting the "standard" and his portfolio demonstrates achievement of expected, Individualized Education Program (IEP) based progress, why should his school, district or state be penalized in any way.

An IEP defines and measures progress in the achievement of a special education student's individual potential. Creating IEP involves parents and often includes requests for additional services to meet specific needs. Accountability comes directly from parent participation and expectations. Because Federal and State rules and regulations offer many avenues for inclusion of additional services, lowballing is not a realistic fear.

In fact, IEP imposes the best standard possible. In order to end the "standards" debate, we should eliminate the current standard and demand IEP for all students. Then every child could be working toward his or her individual potential.

— Jim Scott, Snohomish

Mental-health plan

Saving lives

I just want to publicly thank County Executive Ron Sims for including the funds to implement the Mental Illness and Drug Dependency Action Plan in County budget.

The prevention and treatment aspects of this plan will result in diversion from unnecessary jail stays, homelessness and costly use of the emergency health-care system. These will save lives and dollars as, once again, King County moves to the forefront of providing services at a level designed to improve the plight of thousands, ranging from the working poor to the homeless population.

— Suzanne Wietting, Bellevue

Transportation package

The holy grail

Regarding Joni Balter's "After the defeat of Proposition 1" [editorial column, Oct. 25]: The Sierra Club opposes Proposition 1 because it has too many roads serving the suburbs and not enough high-capacity transit for Seattle. Their perfect plan would be greener and likely involves congestion pricing and widespread tolling to force everyone out of their cars.

Bellevue billionaire developer Kemper Freeman opposes Proposition 1 because it doesn't have enough roads and spends too much on high-capacity transit he will never use. His perfect plan would somehow cram multiple lanes onto Highway 520, Interstate 405 and Interstate 5; cost many times what Proposition 1 will cost; take forever to get environmental permits and would not provide long-term sustainable-transportation relief.

Balter opposes Proposition 1, taking the Goldilocks approach looking for a transportation plan that makes a big difference but isn't too big and not too small, but is just right for both Seattle and all other cities to support.

We have widespread transportation problems that get noticeably worse every year. Given the diverse needs that exist across the three-county Puget Sound area, there can be no perfect plan that every special interest will support.

If you like having to sit in stop-and-go traffic, then go ahead and vote "no" on the roads-and-transit package, but don't expect something that perfectly meets your needs to come along any time soon. The absolutely wrong thing to do will be to do nothing while the roads-and-transit holy war

— Jim Edwards, Sammamish

Path of war

It's hard to believe that highway-happy opponents to the roads-and-transit measure can argue with a straight face that what we really need is more road capacity. And it is even harder to believe that the Sierra Club is aiding and abetting that agenda.

If you visit some of these crazy Web sites funded by Bellevue developer Kemper Freeman, you'll see that their number-one congestion-relief highway project is adding lanes to Interstate 5 through downtown Seattle! And where exactly would those go? The cost of that idea would make the entire Proposition 1 package look like a drop in the bucket.

And do you know what another of their top congestion-relief ideas is? The so-called I-605 project — paving over farmland and woodland at the foot of the Cascade Mountains to give suburban sprawl another strong boost.

Wake up, Sierra Club members, you are being used! Proposition 1 gives the region an excellent mass-transit system and shuts the road warriors up. If they succeed — with the help of the Sierra Club — in killing this proposal, they will be better positioned to fight any other transit alternatives you think you might put forth.

— Scott Gifford, Seattle

A penny taxed

I would like to vote for Proposition 1, even though I'm more than concerned about how much it could all cost. But I refuse to agree to use the sales tax to fund it.

We already pay four cents per $10 to Sound Transit, not to mention that we're still paying that [blessed], stupid 5 cents per $10 for that stupid monstrosity they play baseball in — which could have cost two times less if they hadn't put that [blessed] retractable roof on it — and now Proposition 1 wants us to add four more cents per $10 for Sound Transit, bringing their total to nine cents and another cent per $10 for roads. Until our children have grandchildren.

How 'bout Sound Transit gives every person in the three-county area a free annual Sound Transit pass if their income is less than $30,000 per year. Maybe, just maybe, that would begin to make up for their taking so much in sales tax from the poorest residents of the counties. It might not be enough to fix the imbalance, but it could be a start.

— Miryam Gordon, Seattle

Hope springs eternal

As an 18-year-old speaking for Washington's future, I believe Proposition 1 is extremely important.

With the traffic issues today, they are only going to become increasingly worse. I think light rail is much more important than the expansion of our roads. With light rail, people will be able to commute much easier and take traffic off the roads without having to expand them.

It would be better if the ballot was expanded with the choice of only light rail. The expansion of roads will cause too much chaotic traffic at the time of implementation. Speaking for the future, I think light rail is critical to our traffic solutions and the expansion of roads is not.

— Natalie March, Seattle

Rainy-day fund

Odd measure out

Senate Joint Resolution 8206 proposes a constitutional amendment to establish a rainy-day fund for use in hard times or emergencies. While such a fund is very desirable, it doesn't belong in the state constitution; it belongs in statute.

The constitution is a document that should broadly establish philosophy and processes of governance — not the specifics of budgeting. If this measure passes, it will cast very specific provisions in stone, thereby limiting the Legislature's ability to develop a needed budget. Statutes, on the other hand, are more flexible and can be changed if flawed.

And this measure contains one flaw from the gitgo. Except in major emergencies, it requires a 60 percent majority vote in both houses of the Legislature to access these rainy-day funds. That means that a minority of legislators in either house could prevent the use of such funds in times of need. Thus, just one person could hold the fund hostage — perhaps to secure a favorable vote on some pet measure in exchange. That can happen more easily with a supermajority standard.

Vote "no" on Senate Joint Resolution 8206. Send it back to the Legislature to do it right.

— Margery Krieger, Edmonds

School levies

In the loop

The school districts of the 1970s operated from a taxpayer-funded bully pulpit, from which they intimidated parents into voting for all school levies — using administration buildings, board and PTA meetings, school open houses and after-school activities to make the school-levy voting very lopsided in the schools' favor.

The schools also sent propaganda messages home with children to their parents. The schools, having the personal profiles and preferences of the students and parents on record, were able to threaten them with the removal of their preferences in the event of a levy failure.

It is most apparent to me that the supermajority is necessary to keep the playing-field level for the taxpayers, since without it the school districts pack a very big weapon against the taxpayers.

More than three decades after being out of the school-district loop, what I've noticed is that the loop has gotten bigger, but nothing has really changed inside it.

— Mike Bocatch, East Wenatchee

Matter of tax

With respect to school-levy proposals, it should be obvious that a reasonable, well-thought-out, detailed proposal will get much greater support from intelligent voters than one asking for the moon. The vast majority of levy proposals do pass, even with a 60 percent approval required. The real impact of this proposal will be to encourage districts to propose much higher levy amounts. The ads supporting EHJR 4204 say as much when they claim passage will mean smaller classes, more books and other niceties.

Passing the resolution doesn't provide these things; increasing taxes does. The claim by supporters that its passage will save money by reducing delays and repeat elections is absurd.

I hope the people who feel that only a simple majority of voters should be required to pass a school levy are willing and anxious to get a much-higher tax bill.

By the way, I've never voted against a school levy, but there could be a first time for everything.

— Gary McGavran, Bellevue

A word for the wise

In "How's school going: We got 60% right" [Northwest Voices, Oct. 23], reader D. Kevin Baker assails the school-levy system for being "unfair to homeowners because those who don't have to pay are allowed to vote to increase the taxes of those who do." That is true — but only as it pertains to the homeless.

The truth is, both homeowners and renters support the schools and pay the property tax. Landlords do not pay the tax; they collect it from their tenants as part of the rent they charge and send it in to the county.

All households pay the property tax.

— Al Rasmussen, Seattle

Halloween-costume danger

Perils of racism

Regarding "Playing dress-up with the big kids" [Northwest Weekend, Oct. 25]: The "Asian Warrior Demon" image looks frighteningly similar to the 1890s propaganda used to drive the Chinese out of Chinatowns up and down the West Coast.

Portraying Chinese as "foreign devils" and a "Yellow Peril" fueled the Exclusion Acts that all but stopped Asian immigration to the U.S. until the 1960s.

I realize the intent of the photographs was a cool Halloween costume for adults, but I found the thoughtlessness and lack of historical perspective unnerving. The 20-something Asian friends I polled all found it mostly harmless while we older Asian-Americans found it offensive.

I hope this means progress and a decrease in racism, but remember, the murder of Vincent Chin was only 25 years ago.

— Shirley Oliver, Bainbridge Island

Visitor center will close for good

Farewell to Mount St. Helens

Why would we close the Mount St. Helens Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center? ["Mount St. Helens visitor center soon closing for good," Travel, Oct. 22]. Because our state government has consistently cut the center's funding since it opened.

Thousands visit the center every month. Many have come to remember and love this monument for the natural wonders of our time. Since the center has fallen into disrepair due to the lack of funding, its doors will close on Nov. 5, when the last visitor leaves. This is a perfect example of how sad society has become.

Will this be the only historical site the government will close, or what's next?

— Rosalyn Langer, Seattle

A mount of money

Mount St. Helens Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center is soon closing for good because of the lack of federal funding. Perhaps we can buy more patrol boats with the money we save.

— Bob Scola, Issaquah

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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