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Seattle council members clash in heated words over climate change

Councilmembers Mike O'Brien and Abel Pacheco. (Seattle Channel)

Things got heated between a pair of Seattle City Council members Tuesday, after Mike O’Brien and Abel Pacheco clashed over their respective records on climate change.

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The conflict was sparked over a resolution introduced in the council’s Planning, Land Use, and Zoning Committee, proposing the construction of a second bridge over the Montlake cut.

Pacheco — representing District 4 in an interim capacity — resided firmly on the “pro” side of the measure, advocating for it as a means to get cars off the roads, and encourage cycling and transit.

O’Brien didn’t see eye-to-eye with that assessment in Tuesday’s committee meeting.

“I think it’s in direct opposition to our climate action plan,” he stated.

Pacheco countered by addressing O’Brien’s own record on climate change.

“I’m disappointed, because I have greatly admired and respected your positions on a number of issues, and we are turning our backs on these young people,” Pacheco fired back. “In my district, there are approximately 45,000 students who ask us repeatedly to do more, to do what we can to get more people out of cars, to relieve the congestion on our streets.”

O’Brien has been a staunch advocate for action against climate change during his tenure on the dais, having pushed for bike lanes, transit, and more.

Suffice it to say, it didn’t sit well when his commitment to the issue was challenged.

“I’m actually offended that you question my commitment to climate. I think that if this was an attempt to address climate change, I would appreciate you bringing forward some actual analysis, that shows that expanding our roadways is a solution — I don’t think it is,” O’Brien said to a smattering of applause from those in attendance.

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That’s backed up by a theory known as “induced demand.” Essentially, data indicates that if you widen freeways, roads, and bridges, it encourages more people to drive, leading to more congestion.

Pacheco disagreed with that assessment in the case of a second Montlake bridge, claiming it would encourage more buses, scooters, pedestrians, and cyclists, rather than cars.

Things closed out with Pacheco attempting to put the resolution to a vote. O’Brien successfully blocked that by refusing to “second” the motion, effectively killing it in committee.

“I think expanding roadway capacity is not a solution to climate change,” O’Brien said in closing.

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