Letters to the editor
May 7, 2008
Nonmotorized plan shortchanges Hazelwood neighborhood
As the nonmotorized transportation plan nears City Council approval, there’s a problem: The relatively modest sidewalk projects requested by citizens do not appear in the project list. Instead, there’s a list of costly mega-projects.
Top rank goes to segment S9A: Newcastle Golf Club Road from Coal Creek Parkway to just east of 136th Avenue. For an estimated $2.6 million, the project puts sidewalks on both sides of S9A – which already has sidewalks on both sides.
I’d give priority to Southeast 73rd Place where it joins 129th Avenue just south of the library site. Southeast 73rd lacks sidewalks, and it’s the neck of a funnel; autos and pedestrians from much of Hazelwood use it to get downtown. It curves and dips, visibility is poor and parked cars force pedestrians from the gutter into traffic. And the new library/apartment complex will likely increase the traffic (and risk). But Southeast 73rd is part of segment S30, ranked sixth – which pushes construction well past 2014.
S30 is estimated at $1.5 million. The Hazelwood community requested a smaller project. Using the $256-per-foot cost estimate for S30, a sidewalk on one side of the street from 129th to Donegal Park would cost about $513,000; Southeast 73rd Place alone would cost about $145,000. Southeast 73rd wins on a cost-benefit basis – more bang for the buck.
Aside from the ranking tables (spreadsheets) produced by a consultant, the bulk of the nonmotorized plan is of high quality: attractive in appearance, well organized, and full of good ideas contributed by a capable and hard-working staff and committee. But the tables – and the method used for ranking – need review and correction. Trails, too: For example, the Hazelwood Trail, which the council voted to complete in 2005, is delayed past 2014. And short connectors (e.g. paths between cul-de-sacs) aren’t ranked at all.
I’d list and rank the handful of citizen proposals (including short paths, and years-old sidewalk requests from Hazelwood and Windtree). I’d try the methods used by other cities. And I’d give priority to the small, cheap, high-benefit projects.
Public hospital district outdated, unfair
A leader of a support group for Valley Medical Center has written that it is somehow inappropriate to keep up the pressure to eliminate Public Hospital District No. 1’s taxing authority. I disagree. I only wish that our own 41st District legislators would join with Sen. Pam Roach in trying to do away with an outdated and unfair tax.
I’m no Tim Eyman, pretending that we can have government services without paying for them. I voted yes on the library bond and yes on paying for light rail and road improvements, and I always support school levies, even though my children are long out of the K-12 system. This is different. Let me explain why.
I am a lifetime member of Group Health and intend to stay with it for the superior service and coverage it offers. But because I live in the older part of Newcastle, this year I will pay $222.74 in property tax to support a medical establishment I will never use. Does that seem fair to you? It doesn’t to me.
Public hospital districts were formed in 1945 to ensure that medical care was available in rural areas – which this then was. But the era of horse pastures and barns is long gone from King County and so should the hospital district concept be. My civic leaders keep telling me that we live in an “urban village.” If so, isn’t it time to rid ourselves of this rural artifact? If hospital districts are such a good idea, let’s tax everyone statewide – or at least everyone in Newcastle.
The vast majority of hospitals in our county get by just fine without a taxpayer contribution and so should Valley Medical. If they are as good an outfit as their advertising (paid for with my money) says, they shouldn’t have any trouble attracting enough patients to meet expenses. The folks from the tax-free part of Newcastle who use the Valley Medical clinic in Newcastle can start paying the actual, unsubsidized cost of their care and I’ll spend my limited resources where they work for me.