In the month since the Weekly published the cover story "Who Really Runs Seattle?" (11/12) a lot's happened to confirm its key assertions.
Gov. Gary Locke appointed establishment stalwarts Jeff Brotman and Jerry Grinstein to the University of Washington Board of Regents. Brotman, chair and co-founder of Costco, is an investor in the NordstromPacific Place retail complex, a "public-private partnership" made possible by the active participation of Locke's 1996 campaign chair, noted Preston Gates & Ellis partner Jay Reich. Grinstein, former chair/CEO of Burlington Northern Santa Fe, co-chaired a Locke-appointed panel that recommended public tax dollars be used for the new Seahawks football stadium. (Brotman and Grinstein replace two other establishment heavies: developer Jon Runstad and auto-parts magnate Sam Stroum.)
Meanwhile, reporters from neither the Seattle Post-Intelligencer nor The Seattle Times made the obvious connection between the new Westin hotel at Sea-Tac Airport and the NordstromPacific Place complex. Each "public-private partnership" benefited from a below-market-rate, taxpayer-subsidized loan backed by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and funneled through a local government body: King County for the Westin, the city of Seattle for NordstromPacific Place. (See "Four-Star Financing," SW, 11/26.) Perhaps not coincidentally, both P-I publisher J.D. Alexander and Times publisher Frank Blethen are members of the Community Development Round Table, a secret Chamber of Commercesponsored organization that has discussed the NordstromPacific Place deal and other big-ticket, publicly subsidized projects.
And in the background, several members of the Seattle establishment were calling, writing, and e-mailing the Weekly to essentially deny that they are members of the Seattle establishment (See Letters to the Editor, 12/3). Meade Emory—a prominent UW law professor, Democratic Party supporter, Lane Powell Spears Lubersky affiliate, and former IRS official—called the story "elitist," "sophomoric," and "untrue." Discovery Institute spokesperson Rob Crowther called the article's characterization of the right-wing/libertarian think tank, which unites prominent members of Seattle's political and corporate circles, "paranoid" and "a funhouse-mirror distortion of reality."
Citizen-activist Patricia Stambor wrote to tell how she "backed down and yielded to those who . . . are better connected" after a local land-use attorney recommended she hire a "well-connected political consultant . . . who knows and can influence city officials." "I would rather eat porridge and swill outside the castle gates," Stambor wrote, "than grovel at their feet."
Wanna make an effective elected official less effective? Do what the Seattle Timesowned Downtown Source did to Seattle City Council member Nick Licata last month: "A lone voice . . . maverick . . . monkey wrench . . . contentious . . . rabble-rouser . . . " The Source made Licata sound like a wacko that fellow council members avoid like the plague. Not so. Still in his first year in office, Licata has already assembled unanimous opposition to both siting the 2012 Olympics in Seattle and the proposal to change how vendor space is allotted at the Pike Place Market. And he very nearly pulled off the Burma trade ban. Other efforts have come up short (so far), but Licata has proven to voters—even those who didn't support him—that he's as consensus-minded as anyone on the City Council. Whether intended or not, the Source's glib portrayal has the effect of marginalizing this talented leader.
Cracking the CIA
The Central Intelligence Agency is finally admitting what the San Jose Mercury News and many independent political journals have been saying for more than two years: that the CIA, at the very minimum, turned a blind eye to the Nicaraguan Contras' cocaine-for-weapons operation. CIA inspector general Fred Hitz reported last month that the agency, as early as 1981, knew the Contras "had decided to engage in drug trafficking to the United States to raise funds for its activities." The CIA knew, for instance, that the infamous Ilopango Air Force Base in El Salvador was a drugs-for-guns transhipment point. And the agency kept working with at least 14 pilots and three companies widely suspected of drug dealing. Hitz's report goes a long way toward vindicating former Mercury News reporter Gary Webb, whose "Dark Alliance" series blew the scandal wide open in 1996. (For background on other CIA atrocities, see "The Cocaine Importation Agency," SW, 11/19. Also, check out Crack the CIA, Tuesdays at 11am on cable Channel 29.)
The new president of free-thinking National Public Radio is Kevin Klose, former head of the US International Broadcasting Bureau, the free-thinking producers of Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and Radio Liberty. . . . ABC has squashed a TV special by Oliver Stone speculating that TWA Flight 800 was felled by a terrorist missile.