Primary elections are generally boring (and often hideous), but this most recent one was special on both counts.
It isn't just that this year's most interesting races—the five state ballot issues—won't go before voters until November. It took the efforts of a group of incompetent pollsters to make a race out of the Linda Smith/Chris Bayley Republican US Senate matchup. The state's most closely contested US House race is the 1st District dustup of Jay Inslee vs. Rick White—a battle of look-alike, baby-faced, dark-haired, smooth-talking white guys, each arguing that only they can save the Social Security system. In the 2nd Congressional, Grethe Cammermeyer and incumbent Jack Metcalf are signing a clean campaigning agreement, pledging to talk only about "issues," not that he's a muddle-headed old coot and she's a political neophyte running on her status as a celebrity lesbian.
And let's not even talk about the state Legislature. For the vast majority of the Weekly readership, these races are over anyway. Check out the numbers: the Seattle legislative districts (the 11th, 34th, 36th, 37th, 43rd, and 46th) run about 75 percent Democratic; the Eastside's 5th, 45th, and 47th and south King County's 33rd are about 60 percent Republican. The migration is pretty much complete—young, politically active folks interested in someday running for office have figured out that Democrats live on the west side of Lake Washington and Republicans on the east, and they have made their home-buying decisions accordingly. In fact, Bayley—throwback that he is—should be the last serious Seattle Republican contender for high political office. Demo City hasn't had a Republican state legislator since the mid-1980s, or a Republican city official since 1991. And Queen Anne fossil Slade Gorton split town.
Even the state Supreme Court races, which received serious, thorough media coverage for the first time in recent memory, weren't totally satisfying. Sure, Justice Richard Sanders whupped the vastly inferior Greg Canova, and voters nixed the single unqualified candidate (two-year lawyer and political wife Linda Callahan McCaslin) from another race. But voters still elevated non-campaigning dope James Patrick "Jim" Foley to the final election on the basis of his neat, Irish-sounding name, pushing aside a host of qualified challengers. Foley will get stomped in the final, but only because King County Superior Court Judge Faith Ireland has an even cooler name (she had the solid political sense to drop her own last name—Enyeart—in favor of her mother's maiden name a few years back). And what's more Irish than Ireland?
Schell giveth and taketh
Mayor Paul Schell presented his 19992000 biennial budget to a Council Chambers audience of grinning city employees on September 14. The news that the city should have more money to spend was—predictably—a hit with the assembled bureaucrats. Especially popular was the addition of $24 million over two years to implement recommendations from the 37 neighborhood plans. (Later comments by Schell staffers indicated the money is reserved for neighborhoods who agree to take more population density.)
The mayor also called for a three-part ballot measure to be presented to voters in 1999. The first section would create a user-based funding source to finance needed repairs to roads and bridges. (Yes, car owners, "user-based" means you pay.) The second would create a Metropolitan Park District to fund city parks, the Woodland Park Zoo, and the Seattle Aquarium. The final piece would be a reauthorization of the current Seattle Center/community center levy. (Prediction: Look for the resurrection of arts facility improvements from the county portion of that levy that failed at the polls.) All in all, a reasonable flourish for a mayor whose administration hasn't produced much in the way of legislation and a public priority list that squares quite well with the wishes of Seattle residents.
After-the-fact comment period
Kudos to the six council members who showed up and took their lumps publicly at a public hearing on the Pacific Place Garage deal, a complex arrangement under which the city buys a parking garage it doesn't want or need and pays $23 million too much for it. Along the way, the council members were treated to two-minute treatises on corporate greed, displacement of small businesses, and auto-oriented development. Former colleague Charlie Chong urged them to nix the garage deal and apologize to the public. Stan Emert listed other things the city could buy for the full purchase price of the garage ($73 million). Matthew Fox suggested the council be more careful about negotiating with business sharpies: "This time, ask to see the receipts before you give 'em the bonds," he added helpfully.
Not that there wasn't balance to the hearing. Several happy shoppers testified that this wonderful parking garage had them shopping downtown again. The night's funniest speaker was a nice lady who says she used to park in another garage on the Pacific Place site, but stopped coming downtown during construction of the new garage "because I didn't know where to park anymore." We can only hope her life is now back to normal.
Parking lots uber alles
SHARE, the organization that has set up several resident-managed temporary shelters for homeless men, is in trouble for a violation of parking lot protocol. The group's Denny Regrade shelter was displaced by the redevelopment of the building that housed it, so the shelter began the nightly occupation of four parking spaces in a lot owned by the Pike Place Market under the Alaskan Way viaduct off-ramp. Market management, in an impressive show of political symbolism, threatened to make arrests if the nightly occupation didn't stop by September 15—Election Day.