Politics

Tom Rasmussen’s Folly

"Hello, I'm Tom Rasmussen. I supported the tunnel. I fucked up. I therefore resign. Enjoy the fiasco, Seattle!" Photo: josh bis / The Stranger
“Hello, I’m Tom Rasmussen. I supported the tunnel.
I fucked up. I therefore resign. Enjoy the fiasco, Seattle!”
Photo: josh bis / The Stranger

Apparently, Tom Rasmussen wants to spend more time with his tunnel.

That’s quite understandable, considering all the time and effort he’s spent nurturing it in recent years.

When the two-term Seattle City Council member announced on January 23 that he would not be seeking re-election for a third term this year, Seattle’s chattering classes quickly went to work speculating online about the ultimate reason why. Typically, when government officials bow out of office under a cloud of controversy, the standard official reason given is this: “I want to spend more time with my family.”

Unlike with most such shady government resignations, Rasmussen’s particular controversy is more stupid than sordid. For several years now, he’s been a key supporter of the deep-bore tunnel project, now widely considered Seattle’s worst transportation fiasco ever. Is his local political career now the first to fall prey to the Bertha backlash?

As the council’s longtime transportation committee chair, Rasmussen was an ardent champion of city legislation enabling the tunnel project, and he often publicly ridiculed high-profile tunnel opponents such as former mayor Mike McGinn. Among the criticisms Rasmussen mocked before the tunnel option was officially approved were these: the project might have cost overruns, fall behind schedule, or get stalled during construction.

Obviously, all these things have now come to pass. Rasmussen will now leave office with the tunnel project in official fustercluck limbo. Will he be held accountable for the problems created by the Bertha fiasco? It’s noteworthy that The Seattle Times — also an ardent tunnel cheerleader back in the day — reported Rasmussen’s announcement with absolutely no mention of his role in the tunnel fiasco.

Rasmussen was the second incumbent council member to bow out of the 2015 race last week. Nick Licata, council member since 1998 and our current city government’s most stalwart progressive, announced on January 21 that he is also leaving at the end of his current term. Licata’s apparent primary reason for leaving is more noble than Rasmussen’s: Seattle’s new district election system would force Licata to run against kindred council progressive Mike O’Brien, since both live in the new District 6.

Thus, Licata leaves Seattle City Hall with an exemplary legislative résumé, while Rasmussen leaves as Bertha’s Godfather.

The filing deadline for Seattle City Council candidates in the 2015 election is May 15. Which rat will next flee the sinking ship?