Seattle Courant

Seattle City Council Reverses Decision to Release Mercer Mess Money

By Keith Vance
April 6, 2009 08:04PM

According to Councilmember Nick Licata - who voted against removing the spending restriction in February - the City Council was misled by Mayor Greg Nickels and Councilmember Jan Drago into releasing the project money.

As the story goes, Drago and Nickels both implied, in some cases publicly, that federal stimulus cash would be flowing through Olympia and up to Seattle to help out with our so-called "Mercer Mess." All that was needed to seal the deal was a little bit of enticement by the City Council to show legislators in Olympia that the Mercer project is shovel-ready, and lifting the spending restriction, would do just that.

Well money from the feds didn't trickle north to Seattle, and according to some, no one in Olympia ever seriously considered using stimulus money on local metropolitan projects such as Mercer or Spokane Street.

Licata said the reason for today's vote is because "we had a false impression we had the money when we did not." Licata, often the lone opponent of big transportation projects, said he finds it "gratifying" to vote in favor of a Mercer bill.

But the new proviso doesn't stop the project from moving forward. The Dept. of Transportation can complete the design phase, acquire land and put the project out to bid.

In a press release today, Nickels said: "The project continues to move forward on schedule and will go out for construction bids in late June, with the goal of breaking ground in late fall. Once bids are received, and before going to construction, an updated finance plan will be presented to the City Council."

Nickels appears confident the Mercer project will be done before the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement begins, yet, it's not clear how he's going to get the $50 million to complete it.

Just today, the mayor released a statement that the city budget deficit is now $29.5 million bigger than was previously thought. With the $13.3 million in reductions made in 2008, that's a total of $42.8 million in cuts for just this year, and 2010 looking even worse.

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Previous coverage of this issue ...
Seattle City Council Seeks to Reverse Vote Lifting Mercer Mess Spending Restriction
No Money For Mercer Mess, Who Knew?