Emergency political services

"Never again!" was the cry last year, as county voters rode to the rescue of the Medic One program. Several key Republicans on the King County Council promised that—as a basic governmental service—emergency medical response would never again be subject to the vagaries of the election process. King County would stop this foolishness of funding Medic One through voter-approved levies; hereafter it would be funded out of the King County budget.

Well, it sounded good at the time, but the task force assembled to study the issue hasn't yet found that extra $38 million annually for Medic One in King County's $400 million general fund budget. To date, the process has identified only one major source of replacement funding—an increase in the county's local-option sales tax increase. The state Legislature would have to sign off on such an increase, however. Failing that, expect another Medic One levy next year. "It's seems we're back to square one," sighs one observer.

Why the trouble? For starters, even at a time when the average citizen can talk off-handedly about billions of dollars, $38 million is still a lot of money. For instance, the entire county's Parks Department budget is only $20 million. Also, the original Republican funding theory envisioned that the county's lame-ass crybaby suburban cities would step forward to pay their fair share. Yeah, right.

The task force does have plenty of good ideas for measuring performance and efficiency in the emergency service program. Now if it could only find some money to spend wisely.

Twenty-three and counting

Proving that a death sentence shouldn't spoil a good party, the Kingdome celebrated its 23rd birthday on March 27. That day, the Dome housed the US Off-Road Championship Series, which sounds like a good way to spend your 23rd birthday.

And nothing brightens up a birthday like statistics. Big and small events: The Billy Graham Crusade drew 434,100 people over four days in 1976; 386 motorcycle enthusiasts attended the 1987 amateur Supercross competition. The Kingdome also has 87 drinking fountains, 443 tons of structural steel, and a measly 46 luxury boxes. (It's this last stat that will cause the Dome's premature demolition.)

Improving on perfection

Not satisfied with simply employing the Michelle Malkin/Casey Corr tag team (holders of the World Wrestling Federation/Society for Professional Journalists Hardcore title), the Seattle Times editorial page wants to get even better.

With the help of the pollsters at Elway Research, the soon-to-be morning newspaper is surveying several hundred community leaders to see if they like the Times edit pages. (Note to readers: If you didn't receive a survey, you are not now, nor have ever been, a "community leader." Ha!)

Actually, a few interesting questions did make it into the survey. For instance, after dumping its last two editorial cartoonists and leaving the post vacant, the Times wants to know if the lack of a local cartoonist is holding it back. The paper also wonders if its Sunday editorials should appear in a stand-alone section (a service it already provides for its rival, the Post-Intelligencer). In quizzing readers about individual staff columnists, the survey even wisely requests you choose a favorite, not blast the one you like least.

Times editorial page editor Mindy Cameron says this is the first time her section has commissioned a formal reader poll. "The whole point is to test how well our readers judge us against [our] mission statement," she notes, a document that includes the goal of being "the most respected editorial voice in the Northwest."

Sounds good so far. Try finishing this statement: "I would read The Seattle Times editorial pages more if . . . "

Budget? What budget?

His colleagues seem to be getting a bit testy about council member Nick Licata's newfound interest in seeing our new City Hall built for a reasonable price.

So what controversial stand did Licata take? He drafted a resolution saying the city should identify a final budget figure for the new City Hall and stick to it. Colleagues Peter Steinbrueck and Tina Podlodowski voted to shelve this wild, reckless proposal. (Licata's resolution won the right to be studied further 3-2; four council members were absent.)

Not that Tina and Peter are coming out against fiscal prudence. Licata's colleagues take issue with his attempts to reopen the discussion over which departments will be housed in the new City Hall, saying these programming decisions have been hashed and rehashed enough. Licata, seemingly unconcerned with forcing bureaucrats to walk across the street from Key Tower, says space allocations cannot be separated from budget ramifications.

More regulations for renters?

Licata may have a new wrinkle in his legislative program to aid Seattle renters. Licata is investigating a proposal to make credit reports portable for apartment hunters. That means, instead of several landlords each charging $25-plus for your credit check, you could get the report yourself for a one-time charge (in the $35 range) and all landlords would be obliged to accept it. A similar proposal stalled in the Washington Legislature in 1993. Guess Nick's mad because former-mayor-turned-ber-capitalist Wes Uhlman hasn't called him a commie recently.

 
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