Elizabeth Campbell is used to causing the powers that be fits.
As a second-generation activist and Magnolia native, Elizabeth Campbell already has a long and complex history of campaigning for various local and national causes. However her recent campaigns against the Seattle deep-bore tunnel may be her highest-profile work yet.
Campbell is working through an initiative campaign entitled ” I-101 Stop the Tunnel” through her organization “Seattle Citizens Against The Tunnel” (SCAT). SCAT also joined with six other groups to form the Protect Seattle Now coalition, mounting a referendum against the tunnel project.
While Seattle City attorney Pete Holmes has asked a judge to block the referendum until it is determined whether the document has legal standing, Seattle mayor Michael McGinn appears to be a bit more supportive of the issue.
“State law says Seattle will pay for all cost overruns on the deep-bored tunnel [sic],” said the Mayor in a statement dated March 31. “Before putting the public on the hook for cost overruns, we should first ask their permission. That’s why I support a public vote.”
Campbell picked up activism early in her Queen Anne neighborhood. She recalls her grandmother commenting on John F. Kennedy’s election. She went with her parents to the polls on election day.
“Back then, voting was a bigger thing,” she notes wryly.
Her mother worked on desegregation projects, as well as historic preservation efforts in the neighborhood.
Campbell’s great-great-grandfather, John Rankin Rogers, may have been the original activist in the family. He served as Washington’s third governor, from 1897 until his death in 1901. A populist Democrat, Rogers masterminded the "Barefoot Schoolboy Act" to improve funding for free education in the state.
Campbell studied journalism and wrote school paper editorials at Queen Anne High. She became “one of the first women carpenters in Seattle,” and was involved with promoting minority and women’s rights in construction trades.
After several years of building nursing homes with her husband in eastern Washington, Nevada, and Idaho, Campbell spent some time in Fall City in what she calls “my country period,” raising pheasants and keeping farm animals.
In 1988 she moved into the house on 24th Avenue West, in which she still resides. Her first two causes in her second phase of activism were the train noise from Interbay, and getting some relief from “the cut-through traffic on my street.”
She never did succeed at cutting down train noise. As for traffic, the city, after “a huge bureaucratic process” lasting four years, finally agreed to cut traffic in half by installing “Do Not Enter” signs along the street.
She joined the Magnolia Community Club and became active in local affairs through that. After a struggle of several years, she helped open the Ursula Judkins Viewpoint, named for a prominent Magnolia activist, at West Galer Street on the west side of the Magnolia Bridge.
She left the Community Club in 2006, however, unhappy that the president, Vic Barry, changed the organization’s bylaws. It became, she says, a source of information rather than an activist group.
Campbell says she’s always liked the viaduct because “it works!”
“Nobody has ever said that it’s not a good, functioning piece of highway,” Campbell contends. “Its only failure is structural, and even that’s debatable. There’s a piece of it that’s vulnerable, but not necessarily the whole thing.”
She also opposes the tunnel because local residents would lose their south access to the roadway.
“We don’t go over to Aurora and go through the Battery Street Tunnel,” Campbell said. “We’re accessing is down through Alaskan Way, down through Western.”
She sponsored the petition signature drive with the help of retired Seattle businessman Lee Rabie, who manufactured traffic-control devices. Those signatures cost, about $2 each, she says, as opposed to the $2.50 per signature which Protect Seattle Now put out for referendum signatures.
She chuckles when asked about the referendum challenge coming from the city attorney’s office.
“First off, it’s predictable!” Campbell said.
She also maintains that case law indicates that “the judge usually errs on the side of letting people vote first, not to pre-decide before it even gets there.”
Asked for the most important aspects of activism, she stresses money, and fortitude.
“Gathering signatures requires spending long hours outside, in all sorts of weather, especially over the fall and winter like our campaign, and even in the snow,” she explains. “ [I don’t know] how so many people are so dedicated to a cause such that they will for free spend eight to 10 hours per day, six to seven days a week, gathering signatures, sometimes at the rate of maybe only five or six per hour; not to mention having to move from site to site as the day goes on?”
“[The] adaptation of methods of protest and activism, perseverance, and cultivating a constituency and money for each issue is important,” she concludes.
Campbell graduates from the University of Washington this year, with a Master’s in Public Administration. In the meantime, her neighborhood watches and waits for the city’s next tunnel project volley.[[In-content Ad]]