Incumbents, wannabe politicos split on monorail's future

Hopefuls for the mayor's office and four city council positions squared off at an Oct. 4 candidates forum at the Nordic Heritage Museum. Moderated by veteran KOMO-TV correspondent and analyst Bryan Johnson, the forum engaged a number of topics, including the fate of the monorail - a beleaguered transportation proposal up for a public vote once again this November.

Mayor Greg Nickels said it was a tough decision to impose a deadline on the Seattle Monorail Project's board to come up with a plan for raising more money or shortening the line.

"And it's particularly important voters get to make the decision in November," he added. Still, the mayor didn't think the chances of the mono-rail's survival looked good and suggested that rapid-transit bus service could ease the sting.

Mayoral candidate Al Runte said he wasn't ready to throw out the mon-orail quite yet, but he did take a swipe at Nickels over the subject. "This is the biggest transportation project in the city, and the mayor didn't make it work."

The eight city council candidates were evenly split over the chances the monorail will survive. Incumbent Richard Conlin thinks it's a dead issue. "It's clear that dream is not affordable," he said. "What they're proposing now is too little, too late."

His opponent, longtime Port Commissioner and Queen Anne resident Paige Miller, thinks the monorail might resurrect itself. "Like many of you, I am very upset by where we are right now," she conceded. But Miller also slammed the current city council for appointing monorail board members who didn't have enough experience to handle the job. "The first thing to do is find out what people want," she said of financing the scaled-back project.

Incumbent city council member Nick Licata would still like to see the system built because the city needs an alternative form of mass transit. "I think the monorail is a technology that may still be viable."

His opponent, Paul Bascomb, was less forgiving. "There's no way in the world we're going to be able to do it," he said. Instead, Bascomb added, the city should change that transportation approach and make it more regional.

Incumbent council president Jan Drago isn't ready yet to call it quits on the monorail, but she stressed she favors a multi-modal integrated transportation system for Seattle. "I think that could be a modern streetcar system."

Her challenger, Casey Corr, sees no future for the monorail. "I think it's dead, and it should be," he said. Corr also slammed the city council for missing a series of warning signs about the monorail plans. "I think they utterly failed to do their job of oversight."

Incumbent Richard McIver also thinks that the monorail is dead in the water. "I hope the voters will bury the ghost along with it," he added. As a more viable alternative, McIver suggested a rapid-transit bus system running on a dedicated right-of-way from West Seattle to downtown to Ballard.

McIver's challenger, King County Council member Dwight Pelz, thinks the monorail might survive the November vote. But he charged that the current city council did a poor job as gatekeepers for the first three monorail votes. He also accused the council of caving in to opinion polls.

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