Deputy Mayor Maud Daudon ventured into the lion's den last week, facing down the members of the city's Ethics and Elections Commission over Mayor Paul Schell's informal review of the processes they oversee. Let's set the scene: The commission is composed of folks (many of them lawyers) who take their role as ethics arbiters very seriously; the reasons behind the mayor's review have been sketchy at best; and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Steve Goldsmith had revealed that very morning that "task force" chair Putnam Barber had a minor face-off with Ethics and Election staff a few years previously.
So it's not surprising that the discussion quickly turned into an interrogation, as commission members grilled Daudon about the mayor's call for a review of city conflict-of-interest standards. "I'd like to get to the motivation behind the question," said commission chair Daniel Ichinaga. "It's seems you're saying that the ethics code is tripping up the operation of city business." Daudon, however, couldn't cite a single case in which her office had felt unnecessarily constrained by the current city standard of disallowing any behavior that even gives the appearance of a conflict.
Things took an ugly turn when it was noted that Daudon and Schell both came over from the Port of Seattle, which has (to put it euphemistically) different ethics regulations. "And they have a very different reputation," snapped Commissioner Timothy Burgess. "One we don't want."
Commission members charged that Schell's clumsy handling of the issue has already given the public the impression that Barber's review is intended to find ways of relaxing existing city ethical standards. They also questioned whether the failure to disclose Barber's previous conflicts with ethics regulators had negated his effectiveness in leading the review.
In Barber's defense, his March 29, 1995 letter to city ethics regulators doesn't quite meet the "smoking gun" standard. In it, CityClub board member Barber inquires about the review of his organization's "What's Up Downtown" forum. (The ethics office was reviewing whether the forum, held on the eve of the vote to reopen Pine Street, could be considered a campaign event; they decided it wasn't.) Barber's opening letter is certainly a bit snippy, but the files also contain his respectful thank-you note acknowledging the response he received from Carol Van Noy, Ethics and Elections Commission executive director.
The Barber-led task force will meet twice during the next month, and compile a report on its review by mid-November.
Congrats to 2nd District congressional candidates Grethe Cammermeyer and Jack Metcalf for signing that clean campaign agreement. Has anyone else noticed that's the last we've heard about either of them from the media?
Meanwhile, in the 1st District, Jay Inslee is challenging the conventional wisdom that he should stay as far away from President Clinton as possible in his run against incumbent US Rep. Rick White. Inslee's latest TV spot blasts White's party-line vote to continue impeachment proceedings against the president. "Rick White and Newt Gingrich shouldn't be dragging us through this," intones Inslee via voice-over. "It's time to get on with the nation's business." Guess this means Big Bill's popularity ratings are holding steady.
Down in Southwest Washington's 3rd District, Brian Baird is pounding on his rival, state Sen. Don Benton, with a swell bit of opposition research. It seems that right-wing zealot Benton (the prime sponsor of the state's English-only language bill, among other blazes of brilliance) has missed some 400 votes during his undistinguished legislative career. For the curious, Baird's campaign has obligingly created a Web site (www.missedvotes.com), where you can review Benton's greatest misses, including votes on such unessential topics as crime, higher education, and low-income housing. The most endearing revelation here is that Senator Blockhead even skipped votes on a couple of his own bills.
The weakest congressional campaign gimmick is that weird clock graphic that supporters of Democratic sacrificial lamb Heidi Behrens-Benedict are using in her 8th District race against now and future US Rep. Jennifer Dunn (Campaign motto: "We can still get 40 percent."). Maybe it's ticking off the days until Jennifer returns to her gig as a national political figure and Heidi is never heard from again.
When first lady Hillary Clinton visited Seattle in late September, she ordered dinner to go from Ivar's Salmon House on the north shore of Lake Union. "We haven't been this excited since Elvis visited," claims Ivar's president Scott Kingdon. Of course, that was just last week....