Mayor Mike McGinn and a panel of city officials held a Town Hall meeting at Ballard High School on Wednesday night.
McGinn opened the forum with statements about the Ballard’s transportation issues, saying, “I know Ballard. All three of my kids have gone through Salmon Bay. I know what it means to travel to Ballard, through Ballard and hang out in Ballard,” said McGinn.
McGinn spoke about energy conservation and budget woes, “Our buildings are colder in the winter, and will be warmer in the summer. We looked at as many things as we could to find efficiencies.
How do you spend your money in a way that gets you twofers and threefers,” McGinn said, emphasizing the need for frugality when it comes to city spending.
The mayor then opened the floor to questions from the audience. He heard questions including how to handle urban loneliness, job cuts, zoning, homelessness, transportation, and disaster preparedness.
Zoning was a key issue for about a dozen citizens who raised concerns over a planned townhouse development in their neighborhood. Saying the developer’s plan violates existing zoning codes on their block, the group expressed their disappointment in the permitting process.
John Callahan’s home is right next to the construction site. After the meeting he said he realizes the comments from his neighbors may not have any bearing on the outcome of the issue. “We may have lost this battle, but the war isn’t over.”
Homelessness was addressed a number of times at the meeting. Members of the community expressed concern over the lack of shelter for the growing numbers of homeless in the area. One man raised a parking ticket he received for car camping, asking for more understanding on the part of the city when it comes to those who have lost their homes.
The tunnel replacement for the Alaskan Way viaduct was another issue echoed by a few audience members. Jack Ellison from Seaview Avenue brought up the issue of dirt-displacement, asking about the “100,000 dump trucks that (would be) traveling through the city. How’s the city going to handle that, and where is all that dirt going anyway?”
The question raised some chuckles and applause. McGinn took that opportunity to bring up the inevitable tolling that would be required to finance the $400 million project.
“Data shows that only 40,000 cars would use the tunnel if it’s tolled. That means all the remaining traffic would be on the surface. (Washington Department of Transportation) data shows that there will be more congestion and delays caused by the tunnel plus toll option than any other alternative,” said McGinn.
“And, we’ll find out where the dirt goes,” added McGinn.
The final question of the night came from audience member Kim Kerrigan. She asked the mayor about loan modification, the sale of Puget Sound Energy to foreign investors, and the city’s earthquake and tsunami preparedness.
McGinn addressed earthquake preparedness, saying the city has a response plan in place. He said the city has stockpiles of food and water for libraries and community centers that would serve as shelters.
After the meeting, Kerrigan said she hopes to see more Town Hall meetings like this one. “I think having a regular Town Hall on a monthly basis really works. We’ve lost the art of face-to-face, heart-to-heart, soul-to-soul. To build those relations, to be ready for anything, is the point. I feel there was a sincere attempt to hear people tonight,” said Kerrigan.
Contributor Meghan Walker is an intern from the University of Washington School of Communication.