Councilmen, spare those trees

After the first round of public meetings on the future of the Cedar River Watershed, advocates of a no-cut timber policy for the city's forest reserve have picked up a lot of momentum.

At the last of four well-attended briefings on the policy, more than 250 tree huggers packed an auditorium at the University of Washington's Kane Hall, applauding enthusiastically for pro-environmental speakers. (Actually, they applauded for everyone who said a word, until the moderator told them to hold it down.) Still, even with a total of five timber options in the city's Habitat Conservation Plan for its 90,546-acre watershed reserve, the debate now seems confined to two choices:

*The "preferred alternative," which would set aside almost two-thirds of the watershed (including all 13,889 acres of old-growth timber) as a no-cut zone, but allow limited cutting on the remaining land (about 162 acres per year) to pay for habitat restoration programs.

*A no-cut alternative, which would allow some thinning, but only for environmental reasons.

There are still two intermediate alternatives, but nobody talks about them anymore (not even the Sierra Club, which suggested one of them, but is now backing the no-cut plan). "We're known as the Emerald City, and I think we can and should be the greenest town on the planet," proclaimed Charlie Raines, director of the Sierra Club's Cascade Checkerboard Project. He's not standing alone—Mayor Paul Schell has backed the no-cut option, as have both Seattle daily newspapers, and a host of environmental organizations. The three newest council members—Richard Conlin, Nick Licata, and Peter Steinbrueck—all received significant environmental support in their campaigns and are considered members of the no-cut camp.

The only credible argument for any cutting in the watershed is financial: The city's preferred plan would net $119 million over the next 50 years. The two intermediate options are almost a break-even proposition (netting just $12 million to $14 million over the same period). The public hearing on the habitat conservation plan is set for Wednesday, January 20, at the Woodland Park Zoo Education Center (testimony starts at 7pm).

Forum spotlights daystall controversy

Despite its bland title and vague focus, last Saturday's Allied Arts discussion on the future of the Pike Place Market quickly tapped into the recent tensions over the daystall balance between farmers and craftspeople. The Market Public Development Authority council voted last June to modify longtime daystall table allocation policies to favor farmers (after significant public opposition, the City Council refused to approve the change and returned the issue to the PDA council for further debate).

Equally controversial is market management's six-year freeze on the number of craftspeople with permanent daystall status (about 150). New vendors are instead assigned to what market regulars call "The B-List." These temporary daystallers can only sell during winter months and for 30 days during the remainder of the year. Other daystallers object to the shabby treatment of the B-listers, noting that table space often sits unused during summer off-days and that the policy prevents many artisans from making a living off their work.

"It's virtually impossible to do a successful business in that way," said panel member Tracy Lang, a former B-lister who now sells her paintings through a gallery. "I think eventually [market management] would like us all to be permanent temporaries, so they can do with us as they will."

A majority of the PDA council supports management's daystall policies, noted president Christine Vaughn. She said that the PDA council has taken into account opposing opinions in its deliberations. "We've heard and understood—we just don't agree."

Lang expressed skepticism at the current aim of market management to stress produce sales and position the market as a fresh food supermarket for nearby condo dwellers. Many of her sales as a daystaller were to business travelers, she said. "If you want to call them 'tourists,' fine. They're an integral part of the market."

The market is the state's top tourist attraction, with 9 million visitors annually.

Visitors beware

The tacky 1960s-era Municipal Building (a superb example of the "Holiday Inn" architectural style) drew the ire of council member Jan Drago during a recent meeting. The former council president says she hopes plans for a new City Hall could include a protocol room and large reception area, "having been continually embarrassed by receiving worldwide guests here."

Don't forget to write

Nobody likes a smart-ass, except us news reporters. Which is why we enjoyed this recent exchange during a council discussion on answering constituent mail.

Tina Podlodowski: "The mayor has folks that just answer mail . . . how many?"

Peter Steinbrueck: "About 65."

Over lightly

In a surprise move, after signing his controversial Bible Week proclamation, Mayor Schell parted the waters of Puget Sound and walked to Bremerton. . . . The National Security Agency has joined the critics of those sound-repeating Furby toys: The spymasters are afraid the dolls might spill state secrets; everyone else just thinks they're really, really annoying. . . . Kudos to The Seattle Times' David Postman for inventing a new political term in describing Gov. Gary Locke's first-year accomplishments: "bite-sized reform." This popular new phrase won out over such alternatives as "mini-reforms," "itty-bitty legislation," and "nothing of any consequence.". . . News directors at Seattle's network affiliates were shocked when local TV newscasts got lousy grades in a recent national survey; local viewers were shocked to learn Seattle stations have news directors.

 
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