Exit, stage left

Hey, anybody want to know the real reason Tina Podlodowski is leaving the Seattle City Council?

Now, we're not doubting that she really wants to spend more time with her children. When you're independently wealthy, yet working a 60-hours-a-week-and-then-some job, it's only sensible to seek a reasonable middle ground.

But the truth is Tina got bored out of office.

Don't forget, this woman charged through the ranks at Microsoft as a twentysomething—earning her millions and retiring at 31. Then she set her sights on public office. Tina is intelligent, well-spoken, and has dozens of friends for whom writing a check for $400 is akin to a normal person dropping a quarter in a parking meter. Naturally, she swept into office.

She'll deny it, but Tina was a little stunned once she got there. No, it wasn't just having to talk about neighborhood planning (and having to listen to other people talk about neighborhood planning). A product of the Microsoft meritocracy, she simply couldn't believe that she couldn't fire her fellow council members. Or the department heads. Or, for the most part, any city employees of note. Despite all the talk this year about the business community plotting to field a slate of council candidates, nobody with a lick of business experience wants the job.

You see, no matter how much voters eat up that concept of "running government like a business," it's a load of bull. It's government's job to be inclusive, to debate everylittle decision exhaustively, to strive for perfect fairness (or at least strive to accomplish the illusion of perfect fairness). If Microsoft is a Ferrari, government is the No. 7 bus. That's why so many lawyers become politicians: They know all about drowning in details, filling out forms, coping with caveats, dealing with delays, tackling trivia, rasslin' rigamarole. (It's Alliteration Week. Tell the kids.)

The role of the City Council is a reactive one. The mayor—and even most department heads—has tons of staff members to work on new initiatives. Council members and their small staffs struggle to keep up. And unforeseen events can dominate the debate without warning. Take this year's TCI mess. When the city's cable contractor fell out of contract compliance, Tina, who prides herself on being the council's high-tech expert, was suddenly forced to spend two months immersing herself and her staff in the issues. So much for her 1999 work program. Only to be informed at the end that tough actions were not an option, as TCI has no shortage of either lawyers or money.

But, here's a word of warning for Ms. Private Citizen Podlodowski. After six months, those nightmare memories of King County Health Board meetings and Saturday-morning ribbon-cutting ceremonies start to fade away, leaving behind only fond memories of the power and prestige of being an office holder.

Stamper under fire

Visiting council chambers is seldom a happy event for a police chief. Either you're begging for money at budget time or called on the carpet. Chief Norm Stamper's May 3 briefing on a veteran Seattle detective who allegedly stole $10,000 in cash from a crime scene seemed to fit squarely in the latter category.

The chief served up the story of Detective Sonny Davis with special vitriol. He referred at every turn to the former officer's "drinking problem" and "erratic behavior" and made only occasional use of the word "alleged" during his description of the events leading up to the filing of felony theft charges against Davis. But Stamper's ire didn't extend to several officers who knew about the incident but didn't take action—their only punishment was a verbal reprimand. "I'm prepared to be second-guessed and criticized for that," he said.

He didn't have to wait long. "I'm sure a verbal reprimand from you is a terrible thing," said council member Richard Mc-Iver. "But did anybody lose any money?"

Another exchange further illustrated the frosty relationship between the council and the chief. When council president Sue Donaldson asked Stamper how much time he would need to prepare a future "lessons learned" briefing, he asked for two months.

"That's too long," snapped council member Tina Podlodowski. Donaldson agreed, telling Stamper they'd see him in a month. No doubt he'll be counting the minutes.

The legacy thing

It's a good thing that Mayor Paul Schell is insisting that natural lawn care techniques such as leaving grass clippings on the lawn and discouraging pesticide use become standard operating procedure for city maintenance crews. It's a hard concept to make exciting, however, although his press department gave it a shot with this news release headline: "Mayor Schell writes a new chapter in city lawn care to help save our salmon." Love that bully pulpit.

Percentage points

This isn't a scientific poll, but it's still interesting how various council members filled in the blank when expressing confidence in the majority of police officers after theft charges were filed against a former detective. Nick Licata said he was sure "99 percent" of our cops are honest. Having done the math, Richard McIver upped that to "99.99 percent."

Richard Conlin didn't seem as confident, only vouching for the honesty of "the overwhelming majority" of police officers. That's at least 60 percent, right?

 
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