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Seattle mayoral candidate pitches high-speed gondolas to fix traffic

High-speed gondolas are used in cities around the country and have been pitched as an option in Seattle before. (AP)
LISTEN: Harley Lever gives pitch for being Seattle mayor

One of Seattle’s underdog mayoral candidates has an out-of-the-box idea for easing the traffic issues in Seattle: high-speed gondolas.

Harley Lever, a former research scientist and founder of Safe Seattle, spoke with KTTH’s Todd Herman about joining the ever-growing list of candidates to replace Mayor Ed Murray. The mayor announced that he would not seek re-election due to the sexual abuse allegations against him that recently surfaced.

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Lever said that he “can’t not” throw his hat into the mayoral ring because for the last year and a half he’s been researching the issues plaguing the city, and that the solutions have been “just wrong.”

“We need to give the city back to the citizens of Seattle,” he said. “Right now it has been taken over by special interest and paid advocates, and that has to end.”

Besides the way in which city leaders are approaching the homeless and drug issues, Lever also discussed the importance of looking beyond light rail for solutions to traffic congestion. That includes commuting through the air.

“You have to go around the world to look at what ideas are they using to solve these traffic problems,” Lever said. “We could have a distributed workforce, where people don’t come in. We could ask Amazon to replicate the Microsoft Connect program, where they help bus in their own employees. There is a, believe it or not, high-speed gondola system that a lot of cities are using to bypass a lot of the traffic on the ground. If you look at it, we have seven hills here. We could use a high-speed gondola system that is one-twentieth the price of street cars, gets people out of traffic, (and) inspires to get them on the ground. That’s a more out-of-the-box thought.”

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The gondola thought is not entirely new to the region, as a Kirkland city councilmember pitched the ski-slope type transportation for traveling from downtown to the Cross Kirkland Corridor in February of 2014. The concept was also proposed by the developers behind the Seattle Great Wheel.

What about building roads?

“Right now we are a water-locked place,” Lever said. “So, yeah, we could try to build more capacity in that, but geographically, we’re in a really tight spot. How do you fit more cars, more streetcars, and more buses into the same exact space?”

Here is Lever’s take on some of Seattle’s other issues:

Managing homeless solutions: “We need widespread distribution of naloxone, but first and foremost we have to eliminate the lines to detox and rehab. The things that they’re not telling you is there are long waits to get into detox and rehab. They sell safe injection sites as a way to get people into these programs. When you have to wait six months to get in, that’s a lifetime for addicts.”

Arresting drug dealers: “We need to make a distinction between the addicts and the drug dealers. The drug dealers need to be in jail, especially the high-level ones. The addicts need help. They need to be in detox. Right now, the city doesn’t want to make any distinction and the King County prosecutors don’t want to make any distinction. It’s deadly and it has to end.”

Dealing with drug addicts who don’t want help: “You say, ‘I’m sorry, but you can’t be here. I love you, it’s way too dangerous and you’re gonna die if this keeps on happening.’ It’s done out of compassion. My brother’s a heroin addict. I had these conversations with him. He overdosed five times last year. We will likely lose my brother, so it’s a matter of life and death. And true love and true compassion says, I love you so much, I’m not gonna let you hurt yourself.”

Dealing with Councilmember Kshama Sawant: “You take the moral high ground. Anyone who is telling people to go out into the highways and shut them down really needs to see where their morality is at. The truth is we have to come together, whether you’re in favor for police, in favor for communities of color; we’re not going to get anywhere by identity politics and undercutting one another. We have to come together as a city to solve these problems. Kshama Sawant is dividing the city and that has no place in a city who loves each other. We’re in Seattle. We’re a very compassionate city. Identity politics has to end.”

Do people have a right to live Seattle? “No, we don’t have a right. We have to earn things … There are opportunities here, you just have to lift yourself up and grab it.”

His pitch for the job: “I will hand the citizens of Seattle their city back. I will make decisions based on data, I will look at budgets and look at ways to cut costs so that we can bring our regressive tax system down for everybody. I will bring the city together. There is gonna be no more panels of just one group of people passing judgment on another group of people. What we need is all hands on deck, we need a smart and innovative government, and I’m the guy to do it.

“You don’t need any more lawyers, you don’t need anymore chosen people from the DNC. You need people that have real solutions and I want you to ask me tough questions. I don’t want candy-coated softball questions. Ask me the really tough questions. I’ll find you the answers and together we’ll come up with a better strategy.”

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