Georgia on his mind

Looks like we're finally rid of those pesky 2012 Summer Olympics. The Seattle/Tacoma/Everett/Woodinville bid committee has closed up shop and Bob "I Made Seattle" Walsh has vowed to wash his hands of this no-vision burg. Serves us right.

At least Walsh's public kiss-off was unintentionally amusing: he told Seattle Times columnist Blaine Newnham that he now hopes to draw big sports events to the (formerly Soviet) Republic of Georgia. This should really test Bob's theory that his skills—and not Seattle's charms—led to his success here. (Here's a free promotional slogan to help in his new job: "Soviet Georgia: Most of our roads are paved!")

The complaint that the bid was dropped without a public vote is just plain silly. No private organization (like the bid committee) has the right to a spot on the ballot. Given the games' lack of demonstrated public support or public benefit, the Seattle City Council properly functioned in its gatekeeper role, sending the concept straight to the civic scrap heap.

The US Olympic Committee's tough new policy—that host cities must absorb all cost overruns and pick up legal liability for claims arising from the games—also helped kill the bid. Coming on the heels of two expensive (and unnecessary) stadium projects, local officials weren't feeling especially generous. Olympic backers also tripped themselves up by not talking about the joys of competition, instead spouting vague promises of federal funding for transportation and housing. People reasonably calculated that regional planning and light-rail transit could be accomplished with or without the Olympics.

But the bid's biggest handicaps were political. Council member Nick Licata used his e-mail list and the bully pulpit of government to portray the bid as another big sports money pit. Public opposition was sharp enough that Licata's council colleagues knew that the Olympics would dominate the political debate for at least the next year (a year which, by the way, includes a city council election) if they allowed the bid to continue.

Oh yeah, the library

It has been pointed out that the recent cover story on Mayor Paul Schell (Where's Paul?, SW 12/10) gave short shrift to hizzoner's efforts to promote the city's library construction and renovation bond issue, which passed by a 70-percent-plus margin. This is true—an early version of the story opened with an election night vignette about the library bond victory and a quote that the bond's big margin was the biggest victory of the mayor's first year in office. However, when the lead was (properly) judged boring and nixed by the editors, the quote was not reinserted elsewhere in the story.

Give Mayor Schell his due—the library bond win was an impressive public endorsement of the city's library plan.

Mending, not ending?

The passage of state Initiative 200 has already engaged the finest minds in City Hall, although perhaps not in the way its drafters intended. Although I-200 bans the direct use of racial preferences in government programs, including contractor set-asides, city officials are investigating other means of contracting with small firms, which are often owned by women and minorities. In a recent briefing, Rod Brandon of the city's executive services department told council members that among the methods under consideration are preferences for small companies, federally designated "disadvantaged" businesses, locally based firms, and companies headquartered within the boundaries of the proposed "empowerment zone" (again, a federal designation).

Jack Johnson of the city's law department says that the city can continue to ban discrimination by its contractors and monitor whether they utilize minority- or female-owned businesses as subcontractors (even on non-city jobs).

Hmmm, an interesting tactical move. Maybe I-200 promoter John Carlson will interrupt his ongoing racial unity crusade to look into this.

Landmark schools ordinance passes

The problems inherent in imposing the city's historic landmark designation on school buildings may be eased by legislation approved earlier this month. Under the revised code provisions, the Seattle School District can now address the issue of whether a building meets current educational specifications in contesting a landmark designation. The five-year waiting period between an unsuccessful landmark nomination and a new nomination for the same building has been doubled to ten years for school buildings.

Another provision in the modified code adds more wiggle room (to avoid designation) for owners of historic buildings that have been heavily remodeled or modified over the years.

School board member Don Nielsen, appearing at a meeting of the council's Government, Education, and Labor Committee, said it's only fair that landmark regulators should look at the financial and educational consequences of designating a school building. "There is a real need for the city to be involved not only in assessing what is a landmark, but with the implications of [the decision]," he noted.

Over lightly

The Los Angeles City Council has unanimously passed a purchasing ordinance sanctioning companies with holdings in Burma, making Seattle (which rejected sanctions in May by a 5-4 council vote) the only holdout among the 24 American cities to consider similar legislation. Well, at least we're not just following the crowd. . . . The King County Council is still trying to appoint a naturopathic doctor to the Harborview Medical Center Board of Trustees, over the objections of local M.D.'s. If the appointment sticks, trauma victims will be given a cup of herbal tea upon admission to the emergency room. . . .

 
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