On February 20, 2009, Council held another briefing regarding the December 2008 Winter Storm response. The briefing was the last of 4 scheduled briefings as a result of the “illegal procedural penalty” by the City (excuse my football reference). The “After Action Report” and “Corrective Action Plan” was presented and discussed by Council. Each department with a role in the snow storm submitted a “Corrective Action Plan.” Implementation of all the new policies in the action plan will be completed by September 2009. The action plan included 68 areas for improvement covering 12 agencies and departments.
As mentioned in an earlier blog posting, there was an overarching problem of determining the severity and duration of the storm and the lack of measures in place for different snow advisory conditions (from low to severe). More specifically, I saw two major problems in the City’s and County’s snow response: 1) snow plowing and 2) lack of communication among agencies. There should be a common sense approach in identifying the different response plan if 12 inches of snow falls over a 14 day period compared to the average 2 inch accumulation. The City cannot use the fact that this was the most severe snow storm in the last 20 years as an excuse or claim we now have 20-20 hindsight. The Executive and Council’s main function is to be preemptive and review all possible scenarios.
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A few weeks ago, our city experienced one of the biggest snowstorms in over a decade, replete with the usual post-storm analysis. The public’s perception of how the City handled the storm can best be described as “frustration on steroids.” As the Mayor graded the City’s response as a “B” and we questioned the vacation schedules of department heads, I kept reminding myself that we, as a City Council, are the policy leaders and community leaders. As such, the issues of “salt” vs. “GEOMELT” or whether the City is in a position to demand better bus service from the County under snow conditions….are issues that we could own. It could have been determined last year that our use of salt, which could end up in our creeks and Puget Sound, was not considered the major detriment to salmon. I have never blamed a teammate for a team loss and won’t start doing that now. Yes, there is plenty of room to blast the Mayor, the County and even the City Council, but that won’t clear the 1,531 lanes of primary and secondary arterials under a pre-determined plan for snow and ice routes. It is cathartic to state that we could have done a better job. As a City Council, our focus should be “What can we do better!”
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[UPDATE, 1/16/09] Mayor Nickels and SDOT submitted to the City Council a fully-funded plan to fix Mercer and Spokane Street Viaduct. The remaining $50 million needed for the Mercer project will be from the economic recovery package.]
The Mercer street debate is not a new debate, but one that seems to effectively polarize advocates and opponents. My training requires me to look for controlling precedent, case law or similar situations to arrive at a position that makes sense or, in the alternative, reach a new, unprecedented position because I believe the facts warrant such position. I have taken it upon myself to find information that I believe is relevant and not rely on the arguments or assertions of those who seemed to be vested in advocating for a certain solution.
The Mercer corridor serves more than 5000 vehicles per hour during the peak morning hour and more than 6000 vehicles per hour during the peak evening hour. This corridor serves as the main east-west arterial to access I-5 for residents of Queen Anne, South Lake Union and even Magnolia. In 2004, South Lake Union was designated as an urban center and is expecting tremendous growth in the coming decades. The population of South Lake Union has grown by 300% since 2000 and is expected to have 30,000 residents and ten-thousand new jobs by 2030.
Improving this corridor has been an ongoing discussion for the last 40 years, but the necessity to improve traffic flow at this corridor is the result of tremendous economic growth which has occurred over the last ten years and the projected growth for the next 20 years.
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