Monday, March 26, 2007

To Alter and Adorn (2)

The piece of the I-90 lid between MLK and Lake Washington is Sam Smith Park.

Sam was a life-long, African/American, city council member who was wise, wily, and well liked. Most anyone who was involved in Seattle politics during Sam's tenure has a good story. Here's mine:

I was working for the Seattle Tenants Union trying to get a piece of legislation through city council. The legislation would have provided for mandatory housing inspections for rental units. It was an effort to rid the city of sub-standard rentals. We wanted Sam's vote. We met. I asked him if he'd support 100% mandatory housing inspections, and he agreed to cast a "yes" vote.

A compromise was worked out in committee, and when the legislation came up, Sam voted against it. I was shocked, and though I couldn't get another meeting he was easy enough to get ahold of because he often answered his own phone:

"Mr. Smith, what happened? You said you were a guaranteed "yes."

"I was, and I was more than ready to keep my promise. The legislation called for 80% inspections. I gave you my word I'd vote for 100%, but as it turned out - I couldn't"

I just had to laugh.

Sam taught me a valuable lesson in politics, and though he cast a "nay," we did get the inspections - for awhile anyway.

Sam's park got quite a bit of public art: there's the Philosopher's Promenade, the Urban Peace Circle, and the bicycle tunnel mural.

(Click on any image for a full screen view.)

The Philosopher's Promendade is a collection of pithy quotes from the likes of Plato, Isaiah, Nietzshe, Rita Mae Brown, (Rita Mae Brown? I guess you take your philosophers where you can get them) etc. The quotes are in stone, with various plaques, and a series of column like stones of ascending height. The meaning of the columns is beyone me except as an exercise in perspective.

The Peace Circle...

was erected at the height of the crack epidemic when gangsters were shooting each other and anyone else that got in the way.

Here are the credits:

If you're a bicyclist, jogger, or walker, you've probably passed through the bike tunnel.

The mural was painted by kids, with volunteer adult supervision. Considering it's such an easy target for "taggers," it's remarably free of graffitti.

Lord, love a duck.

I don't think these bombs were a part of the original design, but the image is faithful to US foreign policy.

More later...

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