EDITORIAL | Put 'bunker' money to good use

It’s official: Local activists have “blocked the bunker” … at least for now. Last week, Mayor Ed Murray announced that the city was pressing the brakes on the $149 million plan for a new North Precinct building for the Seattle Police Department on Aurora Avenue.

Instead, the city will conduct a Racial Equity Toolkit review of the proposed precinct, along with a taking a closer look at design elements that increased the project cost.

Thank goodness.

For all of the issues Seattle is currently facing, now is not the time to waste even a cent when it comes to a big project.

As we’ve stated before, we agree that there is a need to replace the current precinct. It’s more than 30 years old and has now outlived its useful life.

But with a project cost that had ballooned from an original, seemingly much more reasonable budget of just under $90 million, the time had come to step back and reassess just where the money is going.

Hopefully, by the time the review is done, that $150 million current figure is slashed substantially.

Just think about what else could be done with that money. 

City leadership already wrings its hands over an inability to hire enough police officers to adequately staff it ranks. Homelessness continues to rise at an alarming rate. Residents in Seattle’s north end have complained for decades about a lack of sidewalks in their neighborhoods. Traffic is a mess. Add to it all that at times it feels like the state legislature is allergic to helping on these matters, handcuffed by partisan gridlock that shows no signs of getting better

There are more than enough problems that need fixing right now, and none of them would be solved by building the nation’s most expensive police precinct. Yes, it’s true, the city doesn’t have to have tunnel vision to allow some issues to fall by the wayside entirely while focusing on others, but for the sake of prioritizing, the new building shouldn’t be near the top of the list when it comes to hashing out the budget. It’s not a matter of not spending the money altogether, it’s about spending it right.

The “Seattle Process” is much maligned, and oftentimes for good reason. If an issue is discussed for too long, the problem city officials are aiming to solve in the first place usually gets worse by a time a plan is finalized. That makes it harder for said solution to take hold. If a project is discussed for too long, construction costs tend to rise.

Of course, with a project this expensive to begin with, taking a long, hard look at our priorities and what the new facility reasonably needs to have, makes sense.

Whatever is saved? Well, maybe we can start tackling some of the other issues we’re facing on a daily basis.