Public safety tops for Licata
City Councilmember Nick Licata says he is focusing his reelection campaign on public safety strategies to reduce crime on city streets by ramping up police visibility and increasing communications between law enforcement and citizens.
He also suggests that one way to alleviate pending traffic problems for West Seattle might be building the monorail from downtown to West Seattle, saving the Ballard route for another project, another time.
In roughly nine months, 25 new Seattle Police officers are to be trained and ready for duty and Licata said he would like to have more officers devoted to bike and foot patrol in areas like Alki Beach where there is concern about crime.
Many criminals are habitual lawbreakers often going in and out of the police and justice systems, costing taxpayers money and resources, he said.
Hiring more police officers is a key part of the solution, he said, but more importantly, concentration should center on better police management and tactics to get regular offenders away of criminal behavior permanently.
"Treatment on demand" is one option suggested by the two-term council member. Licata said that would require partnerships with law enforcement and social services to help alleviate public safety concerns in the city.
After someone is detained, instead of only going through detoxification, or sitting in a jail cell, Licata envisions having an accessible counselor or social worker available for the person.
Licata also recognizes the importance of preventive measures for crime problems, although he admits the process is more complex than treatment.
"Prevention in some ways is the most cost-effective, and the most critical," said Licata, adding more youth events available at community centers are a good place to start.
Another important aspect of public safety Licata wants to encourage is increased community awareness about crime in neighborhoods.
He would like to see all Seattle Police precincts replicate the actions of the South Precinct's crime prevention coordinator, Mark Solomon.
Solomon creates biweekly newsletters available to citizens that address public safety concerns such as preventive measures for crime prevention. The newsletter also provides crime statistics and seasonal crime trends as well, but precincts are not required to compile and distribute this information to the public, said Licata, and right now it depends on motivation from the precinct to produce the newsletters.
"I would like to have some standardization in this area," he said. Offering a free composed list of reports and crime statistics would help to better inform residents regarding criminal activity in their area, Licata added.
"The more information you can provide citizens the better our democracy will function," said Licata.
Licata's opponent, Seattle realtor Paul Bascomb, seems to be relatively unknown in Seattle, at least politically, and Licata said he doesn't know much about him or his campaign issues.
Licata, however, prides himself on being an active citizen of Seattle even before he held an elected office.
He has served as a City Council member for seven years and his background in journalism and involvement with city politics has helped to diversify his interests and concerns.
"I've always been motivated by dual concerns of the quality of life in our city," he said. The environment and social justice have been topics of importance for Licata in the past and present. If he is re-elected, Licata said he hopes to create more open space for parks and steer the city away from pursuing dollars for new projects and instead focus on fixing the existing problems, such as bridges and roads that need repairs.
His platform also emphasizes the importance of fair distribution of public resources to the diverse communities of Seattle as efficiently as possible, which he believes to be imperative to a balanced society.
Licata has mixed feelings about the Seattle Monorail Project, now in limbo due to public alarm over the $11 billion projected cost to build and finance the project. He believes it could still be a viable development but echoes the financial concerns shared by many. He fears the monorail staff may have locked themselves into a formula that doesn't allow flexibility to get the funding they need.
"I hope they come back with a feasible plan, and it may need another vote," said Licata.
The monorail could be a very important mass transit system that helps to facilitate to the future growth of Seattle, he added.
"We have very congested traffic corridors and as the city grows in population it will become more important," he said.
Licata is also a longtime supporter of the rebuild option for the Alaskan Way Viaduct, but he is concerned that the viaduct issue is currently being overlooked.
If we actually had enough money to build a tunnel to replace the viaduct with federal money, said Licata, he could see the validity of the tunnel option, a project that is said to cost $4 billion dollars but which only $2 billion has been allotted by Legislature.
"The reality is we don't have the money," he said. "Seattle wants a Cadillac and all we can afford is a Chevy."
People who believe that the tunnel will pay for itself are basing their opinions on reports that are more "wishful thinking than analytical," he added. "There are no statistics that have proven these claims."
No matter what the future is for the viaduct, it soon will be out of commission for possibly up to three years while under construction. It is a unique problem and something must be done to accommodate traffic that use the viaduct daily, said Licata.
Providing West Seattle traffic with continuing access to downtown would be of special concern, he said. One option he suggested would be to build at least a portion of the monorail from downtown to West Seattle.
The water taxi could be another possibility for transportation while the viaduct is unusable, but Licata said more boats, additional bus connections and more frequent routes would be necessary.
In response to claims that the City Council shows weaknesses in its dealing with Mayor Nickels, Licata claimed many members are hesitant to oppose issues that the mayor supports because it means going up against a lot of resources that the City Council just doesn't have access to.
"We could be much more aggressive, but there are limits to what we can do," said Licata.
Licata said he and Nickels always don't agree on issues, and he is more often willing to counter the mayor's proposals than others.
"But we communicate well, and I don't hold grudges," said Licata.
Rebekah Schilperoort can be reached at 932.0300 or email@example.com