The winners of a recent housing design competition got their award certificates, but now want building permits to go with them.
Most of those testifying at last week's Seattle City Council hearing on a demonstration housing project ordinance were participants in a September competition held by the Seattle chapter of the American Institute of Architects. All were dismayed to learn that, despite being given a "Should Be Built" designation by a panel that included representatives from the council and mayor's office, their projects still must navigate the normal building-permit process. Although council members generally don't speak during public hearings, Peter Steinbrueck, Sue Donaldson, and Jan Drago spent much of the hearing calming worried project proponents. "This whole [AIA] program . . . is now being swept under the carpet," grumbled architect Vince Ferrese of Mithun Partners, the designer of one of 11 award-winning projects.
"I'm feeling like I've let those people down," echoed architect Carolyn Geise, a competition organizer.
Peter Steinbrueck, an architect and AIA member himself, replied that the city had made no guarantees to design contestants, but stressed that most panel-selected projects have an excellent chance of competing for the limited slots in the city program. The 20 projects permitted by the city will include detached mother-in-law apartments and small-lot detached houses (including cottage housing), both of which are now prohibited in single-
family zones. Other demonstration projects will allow multifamily buildings to exceed height limits in exchange for quality design.
Unions behind ethics effort?
Mayor Paul Schell now remembers why he ordered that review of the city's conflict-of-interest regulations. Hizzoner fessed up to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Steve Goldsmith the other day that gripes from city employee unions spurred efforts to re-evaluate the ethics code. One union official hinted at a virtual reign of terror by ethics regulators against workers who are just trying to do their jobs.
Actually, the major gripes stem from employees who want to do more than their jobs—and accept outside work in their field of city employment. According to Ethics and Elections Commission records, 17 of last year's 35 ethics investigations involved outside employment or private businesses owned by employees. Seattle City Light engineer Robert Dickson, the union's poster boy for looser ethics regulations, was scolded by regulators for attempting to aid a customer of his private electrical business in obtaining a city service exemption. In the effort to help his customer, the enterprising engineer contacted other City Light employees, including a city inspector Dickson drove in a utility-owned vehicle during work hours to meet. At least one of his co-workers (and fellow union members) was unimpressed enough with Dickson's actions to file a confidential complaint.
Seattle ethics regulations strictly prohibit employees from using their city positions to aid anyone—friends or customers. And even though union officials are only too glad to help members pad their city salaries, the current system seems to serve the public well.
Perhaps Dickson should have taken the advice the Ethics and Elections Commission tendered to another City Light employee seeking to get into the electric business. When Francis Tong asked for an advisory opinion about an electrical contracting company he planned to form, he was given the green light—provided he did his work outside city limits for nonCity Light customers. Sounds like solid advice.
Library bond cash flows
The opponents of the upcoming Seattle Library bond issue have effectively captured the underdog role in the November 3 election. As of October 19, the No on Proposition 1 campaign had raised a grand total of $1,525. The pro-bond Neighbors for Libraries campaign had brought in $396,949, including $5,750 in donations from Seattle homemaker Eulalie Scandiuzzi (which means nothing—it's just fun to type the name "Eulalie Scandiuzzi").
The two big donors to the pro-bond campaign are the Seattle Libraries Foundation ($200,000) and the Friends of the Seattle Public Library ($25,000). Despite a change in the city's definition of a political action committee (spurred by the money channeling of the Committee for the Seattle Commons in the two Commons park elections), neither group has been required to register as a PAC. Both groups have been working with city ethics regulators since the start of the campaign to avoid actions that would bring them under the city's PAC definitions.
Republicans visit Seattle
Campaign sign stealing is nothing new, but opponents of Jeanne Edwards, Democratic candidate in Bothell's 1st Legislative District, at least took the long-distance approach. Last week, a stack of Edwards signs mysteriously appeared on a parking strip in the 2000 block of Eastlake Avenue East.
Olympics effort still dead
In an effort to get through to the leaders of the Seattle bid committee for the 2012 Olympic Games, eight City Council members last week wrote to thank them for their efforts, while gently pointing out that a pro-bid resolution isn't going to happen. In response, bid committee officials told an interviewer at KVI ("Your Olympic Radio Station") that they intended to go over the heads of city officials and appeal to the state for support.
Now this is a new concept: an Olympic Games held against the wishes of the host city. An innovative idea, admittedly, but one that presents several logistical problems that bid committee officials may not have considered. Here's a few:
*Sneaking all those athletes into town in the dead of night.
*Potential casualties from Olympic marathon on traffic-clogged streets.
*Less-than-glamorous official host city. (Let's face it—neither "The Bellevue Olympics" nor "Olympiad Bremerton" looks good on a T-shirt.)
*Public-pool swimming races disrupted by "adult lap swim."
*Where to hide that 15,000-bed Olympic Village. (Suggestion: West Seattle.)