The effort to bring the 2012 Summer Olympics to Seattle is on life support and seems well on its way to the boneyard of civic proposals. Council member Tina Podlodowski has declared that she will vote against a resolution in support of an Olympic bid, making her the fourth solid vote against (with Margaret Pageler, Richard Conlin, and Nick Licata). Peter Steinbrueck is officially leaning against, and Martha Choe is still undecided, meaning that the proposal could be dead and buried by next Monday's scheduled council vote. The vote had already been delayed a week, due to the absence of Richard McIver, one of three council members who had expressed support for the resolution. All the while, the resolution itself has grown increasingly watered-down, as council members backed away from making any financial pledges to the US Olympic Committee. Podlodowski says it wouldn't surprise her if the resolution simply gets dropped for lack of a sponsor. "I don't know that there's anyone up here really enthusiastic about championing the Olympics," she notes.
Council sources say that public response has been running sharply against the Olympics in recent weeks. A massive September 28 public hearing proved there is plenty of emotion on both sides of the issue (and that many Seattleites have too much time on their hands). There were a few interesting points raised during testimony: Curt Firestone argued that a positive council vote would represent "an emotional commitment" to the concept by city leaders. Bid backers relied less on numbers (as they haven't prepared any) than on gushy concepts like "the Olympic dream," inviting the world to Seattle, and those vague "legacies" we keep hearing about. The only specific legacy cited was by two high-level U S West executives, who mentioned that the Puget Sound region could get a state-of-the-art communications system in the deal. (Hmmm, now which corporation would build that?)
Beyond the admirably practical economics of the phone men, everything else about the Olympic bid process has gotten nuttier. Bid committee members seem to have flunked both Politics 101 and Basic Logic. Discussing possible ways around the state constitution's ban on lending public credit, committee members breezily suggested amending the constitution. What's more, they keep telling people, a statewide Olympic vote is scheduled for November 2000. (Actually it's a King County vote that's scheduled, the sports gang would just prefer a statewide plebiscite. Perhaps they're going to amend the constitution a second time and abolish the Legislature.)
And, no, that's not the worst of it. About a week back, Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce president Bob Watt wrote to council president Sue Donaldson to inform her that the chamber's 1999 "international study mission" (we call them "vacations") will be a swing to Sydney, Australia, to observe the preparation for the 2000 Summer Games. "Until we have completed that visit, we believe that Seattle should stay in the hunt for the games," he wrote. Sure thing, Bob. Enjoy your vacation anyway.
Police Chief Norm Stamper's smooth-talking act didn't play well at the council's recent budget hearings. Actually, Stamper's rap on how the department is addressing its shortage of commissioned officers sounded pretty impressive—it's just that some council members had seen this movie before.
Donaldson said she was asking for reports on recruiting and staffing—again. "How are we going to change the fact that we've wanted this for six years and haven't gotten it?" she asked.
The police are seeking new recruits though television ads and job-fair appearances to get the force up to 1,265 officers two years from now, says the chief. The department is also using "lateral entry" programs, which allow officers from other jurisdictions to hire on and assume patrol duties after an abbreviated training program. But, he added, "to get there from here we must launch the most aggressive recruitment program for police officers that the city has ever seen." Among Stamper's other suggestions are programs to encourage existing officers to identify possible candidates and
a "police corps" program for young people interested in careers in law enforcement.
Council member Tina Podlodowski wasn't impressed. Noting that the city has granted the police budget authority to hire new officers in anticipation of vacancies, she said she expects to see improved staffing levels. "As far as I'm concerned, there's no excuses now," she said.
Efficiency, Metro style
As a money-saving look toward a possible future light rail system, Metro transit officials included rails in the downtown bus tunnel. However, these same officials quietly authorized the installation of a substandard rail system to cut $1.7 million off the project budget—a blunder that will cost three times that to fix.
Curiously, Sound Transit light rail director Paul Bay told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that the substandard tracking may be a "blessing in disguise," as it could allow the track level to be lowered 6 inches—rather than the more expensive process of raising the bus tunnel station platforms 6 inches. (So why weren't the platforms originally built at the correct height for light rail use? He didn't say.)
Trouble is, a document just issued by Sound Transit says Bay's proposal won't work. On page 27 of the September 21 Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel Report, engineers state that tracks can't be lowered at three of the five tunnel stations without compromising the structural integrity of the station complex. We're just happy the transit process is now in the hands of skilled