Click on a category or scroll down the page to read about this year's winners for Seattle's best city life...
Best public official
Best scandal of last year
Best sports coach
Best city event
Best bus route
Best city park
Best new building
Best public art
Best place to park for free
(Item 14, Best Y2K hideout, can be found in the best of the millennium.)
1. Best public official
OK, this isn't exactly a year for star politicians, what with the legacy of shame our leaders have left us in the form of that grandiose and scandalous new ballpark and all. By the time the dust has cleared from that project, practically every politician in the state will be dirty. Still, our readers' choice, Governor Gary Locke, probably would have finished first even among a bumper crop of pols. He virtually defines the term "public servant," having been a state legislator, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, King County executive, and governor. He is uncommonly smart and uncommonly decent, and never resorts to grandstanding or demagoguery. (Well, OK, except for that one time a few years ago when he raised his fist at F.X. McRory's over the Seahawks. . . .). He is that rare politician who inspires something other than cynicism or disgust, even though he helped the Mariners get their way, come hell or high-minded voters. Not his greatest moment, but—given his long and stellar service—not much of a blot, either. Rounding out the roster in a tie for second place were City Council member Nick Licata and our own mayor, Paul Schell. In what was a terrifyingly diverse race, we would like to acknowledge for the record that our publisher, Mike Crystal, earned himself a vote, but not enough to give Almost Live's Pat Cashman a run for his money. Sorry, Mike!
THINGS THEY LIKE
Ex-Seattle City Council member, mayoral candidate
As you may know, a lot of my public work has been for green spaces, and just last night I was at the University Heights P-Patch, so that's in my mind right now. Another thing is bus drivers: I think everybody must have their special favorite. Mine is the young lady on the No. 56/Alki who was very patient with an old guy like me the first time I ran into the new dollar-bill meters. I hope this doesn't sound negative or too nostalgic, but some of the best things about Seattle we don't have any more. Like Sam Smith, a totally down-to-earth man and politician. Like Frederick & Nelson.
2. Best hellraiser/activist
Looking for trouble? Then your man is Charlie Chong, a former Seattle City Council member who enlivened city government with his uncompromising style and outspoken tongue during his single year as a legislator in 1997. After an unsuccessful mayoral bid that same year, Charlie's back, running for another council seat this year. And Chong's not the only hell-raiser in his camp: His former council aide and current campaign manager, Matthew Fox, was also among the top vote-getters in this category. The crew of the Sea Shepherd, who battled with the Makah tribe over their spring whale hunt, tied with Fox for second place.
3. Best scandal of the year
Many observers were puzzled when team officials seemingly sabotaged the opening of the Mariners' new stadium (we know, it's actually named after some insurance company) with their poorly timed request for another $60 million in tax dollars. Puzzle no more. When contacted by Seattle Weekly, team chairman John Ellis confided that the Mariners were afraid they wouldn't win Best Scandal of Last Year, so they sprang the megabucks money request prematurely. "Our hope was to catch up in the Internet voting," said a tearful Ellis. "We knew we could take the top spot." Readers also gave their attention to Mary Kay LeTourneau (whose scandal actually happened before last year), Bill and Monica (which happened in the other Washington), and the canceling of Pat Cashman's radio show (which might prove a blessing in disguise). Lower on the list were the Makah whale hunt, the Microsoft antitrust case, and the outing of gay Teletubby Tinky Winky. What will the Mariners do for an encore? Ellis says ownership is considering burning down their new stadium and asking taxpayers to build them a new one. Why? "Because we can, young man," said Ellis. "Because we can."
4. Best city event
The 29th year of Bumbershoot (Seattle Center, September 2-6) finds the annual arts celebration reaching amazing peaks of popularity. The four-day hoopla has attracted an average 225,000 city residents and outsiders to the grounds of the Seattle Center in recent years, and the expectations for the forthcoming fest hint at record attendance. Headliners like R.E.M. have already been announced, but the best aspect of Bumbershoot tends to be the diverse acts that cover disciplines beyond the pop-music lineup. Each year, there's an overwhelming selection of film, literary arts, theater, dance, visual arts, comedy, and classical music offerings, spanning the underground to the cutting edge to the mainstream. In the past, Bumbershoot—which, of course, is slang for "umbrella"—has helped launch the careers of such now well-known names as Beck, Jerry Seinfeld, Paula Poundstone, and Sherman Alexie, and served as a platform for already popular artists and personages such as Tina Turner, David Byrne, James Ellroy, and Jane Goodall. Folklife, that other Seattle Center convergence, ran second, while those Blue Angels have usurped Seafair as the third-best reason to gather in Seattle.
5. Best city park
Talk about a park that's got it all: a long beach walk, woodsy trails straight out of The Hobbit, open, grassy hilltops, paved roads for bicycling, high eroding bluffs that look out over Puget Sound, an Indian cultural center that doubles as a wedding facility, active military housing, historic buildings, and a sewage treatment plant to boot! Discovery Park (3801 W Government Wy, 386-4236) is a place you can return to again and again, and always have a new experience. The park rangers have an active docent program in their beautiful new visitors center, and most weekends you can take a tour to learn about the different plant and animal life. There are usually bald eagles to be seen and seals to listen for out in the Sound. And the park is so vast, it never feels crowded. Happy are those who get to have Discovery Park in their backyard. For the three-milers among you, you'll be relieved to know that Green Lake received enough votes to take second, followed by Volunteer Park in third.
6. Best public art
They're still making new public art, aren't they? Maybe we just prefer the classics, like Hammering Man, Jonathan Borofsky's sculpture at the Seattle Art Museum (First and University). The black, 13-ton metal sculpture isn't an original (he's one of five hammering brothers Borofsky has created), he fell down when they tried to install him in 1991 (don't worry, man—the same thing happened to Husky Stadium), and people make fun of him by attaching things like a Santa cap or a ball and chain. Yet, he still keeps swinging that hammer twice a minute, stopping only on national holidays and odd-numbered Tuesdays (only kidding). The other top vote-getters were a pair of Fremont landmarks, the Fremont Troll and Waiting for the Interurban, followed by the Space Needle. (We thought that last one was supposed to be a building.)
Best scandal of last year:
"Was there one?"
"Corporate media posing as the voice of the people."
"Gwyneth wins the Oscar."
"Starbucks raising prices."
"Locke vs. Mumia."
"Stranger-Weekly music quibbles."
Best new building:
"Ballard High School."
Best place to park for free:
"Anywhere with a broken card-access system for monthly parkers."
"Yesler Way, after 10am weekdays; Municipal Building lot on weekends."
Best bus route:
"The No. 28 at 7:41am."
"Whatever Kathleen Dunn is driving."
"Number 7, Dr. Seuss and the Man."
Best Public Art:
"Dogs chasing and humping each other at free-run dog parks."
Best City Event:
"End of the world."
"Million marijuana march!"
7. Best Sonic
If Gary Payton hadn't won this one, it'd be time to drop the Best of Seattle contest altogether. But he did win, so we'll do this again next year (had you sweating for a minute, eh?). The best guard in the galaxy got almost four times as many votes as the second-place finisher, forward Detlef Schrempf. Rounding out the top four were Vin Baker, Payton's teammate on the US National Team, and that all-around nice guy, guard Hersey Hawkins. Also receiving votes were ex-Sonic Sam Perkins (who played this year with Indiana) and Sonic the Hedgehog, who is a video-game character. But can he hit the jumper?
8. Best Mariner
OK, here's a quick hint: He's the best player in baseball. Right, everyone's favorite Mariner is still Ken Griffey Jr., he of the lighting arm, the powerful bat, the backwards cap, and the quick grin. Now that he's won the league's Most Valuable Player award and baseball-stats experts have noticed that he's making rapid progress toward Hank Aaron's career home-run record, the ace Mariner center fielder is getting the national attention he deserves. The fans noticed long ago; he recently topped the American League's voting totals for the All-Star Game starting lineup for the fourth consecutive season. Racking up impressive vote totals themselves were designated hitter (and two-time league batting champion) Edgar Martinez and shortstop Alex Rodriguez. Also getting votes were catcher Dan Wilson, right fielder Jay Buhner, and first baseman David Segui. The bullpen staff went unmentioned.
9. Best Seahawk
Note to Joey Galloway: The star wide receiver always gets the media attention. (Ask Steve Largent: Even though he's now a congressman from Oklahoma, he still got more votes than most current Hawks.) But this is Galloway's year; the Ohio State speedster was easily the Seahawks' most popular player among respondents. Following on Galloway's heels were quarterback Jon Kitna and defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy. But despite a new round of enthusiasm with the hiring of former Green Bay coach Mike Holmgren, the franchise isn't out of the woods yet—the no. 3 vote-getter was some guy named "None." We couldn't find him on the roster.
10. Best sports coach
With new coaches at both the city's marquee football programs and a playoff-less year for the formerly dominant Sonics, you might say Lou Piniella gets the nod this year by de-fault. But the Mariners' skipper deserves props for reaching midseason in second place in his division, despite a shaky bullpen and inconsistent starting pitching. The other selections get more interesting. Mike Holmgren, the new Seahawks coach, took second without having coached a game here. George Karl, the former Sonics coach, took third despite working in Milwaukee this last year. Bob Bender, University of Washington men's basketball coach, was fourth, despite having a better year than the three guys who topped him. Karl's replacement, new Sonics coach Paul Westphal, didn't get one vote.
11. Best bus route
When you hop aboard at the north end of Broadway and glide downtown to Third Avenue, as some of us do on a regular basis, then you know all about Seventh Heaven. The No. 7 is one of the most populated bus routes in town, with its U District-Rainier Valley runs that touch everywhere in between. We like the 7 because it has, or at least had, "Captain Metro" (he of the knock-knock jokes and upbeat evening commuter trips); a motley crew of loonies and Seattle Central club kids and starched shirts with to-go lattes; and, most of all, the chance to see just about everything happening on Broadway, since the stops are positioned about 12 yards apart from Pine to Aloha. As much of a drag as that may be, we find our usual throne seats before the accordion folds and hang on for dear life. Skidding into second place is the Earnest Neighborhood Special, the No. 5, which caters to the North End crowd (those hipsters who live in Greenwood, Phinney Ridge, and Fremont). And in a spectacular tie for third place, the Madrona-Queen Anne joyride that we all know as the No. 2 grinds to a halt beside the Broadway-bound No. 43.
12. Best new building
Weekly readers have declared Benaroya Hall (Third and University, 215-4747) the best new building in Seattle. It's enough to renew one's faith in one's species. It was touch and go during the design stage, but thanks to lots of public input, political pressure, and Patricia Bullitt Collins, the hall ended up a people-place, inside and out, without compromising its other functions as downtown development anchor, civic-pride magnet, and temple of art. Its exterior is a marvelous paradox, both grand and understated (the way Seattle still likes to think of itself); inside it's a congeries of grand public spaces that make everyone in them feel welcome: the four-story lobby with its glittering nightscape; the cigar-box simplicity and elegance of the main hall; and the block-long concourse along Third Avenue with its shops and snacketerias, where even two gigantic Chihulys seem properly scaled and tasteful. The architecture press has damned the Benaroya with faint praise, which is only evidence of where they've got their heads emplaced. Never mind the Symphony's attempt to buy respect with a ludicrous vanity-press paean of self-praise. They'll get over it. We the people have spoken. The rest of you must be content that in second and third were Safeco Field and Pacific Place, respectively.
13. Best place to park for free
The Highway 99 viaduct was nearly the death of downtown: It bisected the natural east-west flow of traffic, destroyed many gorgeous views of the Sound, and put the waterfront into a downward spiral of ghettoization and decay from which it'll be recovering for years. It's a scar on the face of the city and the epitome of what Frank Lloyd Wright meant when he said that "doctors can bury their mistakes, but architects can only advise their clients to plant vines." That said, it makes for a great place to park. The area beneath Highway 99's roaring concrete ribbons is one of the few parts of downtown not under the iron fist of Diamond Parking and its accursed orange boxes, and parking there ranges from cheap (on the meter) to free. At night the atmosphere's a little dicey, but it's not much worse than any other lot nearby. Tuck your valuables out of sight, lock the doors, and stroll away knowing that you found an honest-to-god bargain; Diamond will have to abscond with your triple-folded singles some other day. The rest of you wusses say "home" or "I'm not telling you." Well, fine.
14. Best Y2K hideout
See best of the millennium.
Check out more ballot winners! Read Seattlites' picks for best arts & entertainment, food & restaurants, and stores & services. Or, go to the 1999 Best of Seattle main page.