Two Cheers for Seattle Bureaucracy!


Over the recent years of pandemic downturn and its related challenges, we read and heard a lot about how bad things are in Seattle. I’ve added my two cents to that occasionally.

Here on a spring day, let’s tell a different story. Across the street from our little condo building is the “60th Street N.W. Viewpoint Park.” It is really just a wide strip of green, with a couple of benches, where people can look out on Shilshole Bay, the Puget Sound and, in the distance, the Olympic Mountains. Probably about 300 to 400 square feet. But I would guess that, per square foot, it gets more traffic — people walking, jogging, dog-walking, taking pictures — than any other park in Seattle.

There’s a lovely Big Leaf Maple tree on one side of the park, just beneath the fencing that keeps people from going over the bank to the water. However, it has been invaded by that hungry scourge, English Ivy, which loves to climb and choke trees. Maybe two weeks ago I sent an email to the Seattle Parks Department and said, “We’re in danger of losing this great tree,” and explained why. I had two responses within a week, one email and one phone call. (Work crew at right, Big Leaf Maple at left, you can see the invasive ivy, dark green).

The last two days there has been a crew of 4 to 6 people working over the whole embankment and clearing the ivy off the tree. It is the first time I’ve seen the tree trunk in years. An amazing response. My wife Linda visited with the crew, thanking them for their work. They told her that usually people are telling them to remove or cut back trees to enhance their view. They were pleased to be part of project to save a great, old tree.

And that’s not all. Linda has been leading a three-year long effort aimed at traffic calming on Seaview Avenue. Just north of us there’s a big straightway into Golden Gardens Park. Back in the day, this was a drag strip for Ballard youth. In front of our place Seaview goes into an “S” curve that crosses the railroad tracks for what locals fondly call “The Ballard Beaver,” an engine that runs rail cars onto a siding while they await further action.

But people hit the “S” curve going way, way more than the 25-mile-per-hour limit. So we started keeping track of all the accidents, which more often than not involved a drunk driver. There have been a lot, including a fatality (a flipped-out motorcycle), and a half dozen times speeding cars and trucks haven’t made the turn, but have plowed into parked cars . . . including our car. Totaled.

Cars coming the other direction, from Ballard, also careen off the roadway. We once had three or four Western Ash trees in front of our building. All have been taken out by cars, again often drunk drivers. We worry about someone plowing into our building.

So Linda started by contacting the City Council offices, and has been working with a group from the neighborhood, along with the councilmember for our district, Dan Strauss, and the Seattle Department of Transportation. Last night Linda led a community meeting where both Dan and Bill (SDOT guy) updated area residents on what has happened, what will happen, and ideas that are under exploration. Dan Strauss said, “the wheels of bureaucracy move slowly,” but they do move. Perhaps the most impactful change will be putting in cameras to clock speeders and send them a ticket for a moving violation. But getting that done requires action by the Seattle City Council and then the State legislature. There is currently a law against speed cameras in Washington State.

The pandemic has been a factor in slowing movement, but now that it is more or less behind us, and supply chains are moving again, things are picking up. At any rate, I’m happy to recount two stories of the City of Seattle heeding and responding to citizen requests, interest and involvement. Two cheers!

Anthony B. Robinson
Anthony B. Robinson
Tony is a writer, teacher, speaker and ordained minister (United Church of Christ). He served as Senior Minister of Seattle’s Plymouth Congregational Church for fourteen years. His newest book is Useful Wisdom: Letters to Young (and not so young) Ministers. He divides his time between Seattle and a cabin in Wallowa County of northeastern Oregon. If you’d like to know more or receive his regular blogs in your email, go to his site listed above to sign-up.


  1. Speed cameras are NOT illegal in the State of Washington. They do require authorization.

    But this session, recognizing that cameras do not racially profile drivers and DO improve safety, the Legislature passed a dramatic expansion of cameras. Speed detecting cameras will now be installed on freeways, particularly in construction zones.

  2. In addition, there are already cameras in numerous places throughout Seattle. Red-light cameras, “Don’t Block the Box” cameras, and a few speed cameras.

    With so many police departments, Sheriff departments, and the Washington State Patrol all short of officers, cameras are a good way to provide some enforcement of our traffic laws.

  3. Concerned citizens CAN fight City Hall, if they are civil and constructive. We’ve had similar positive results on Mercer Island. Volunteers remove ivy and help maintain our parks. That saves taxpayers’ dollars, as well. It’s how democracy should work.


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