Street fight brewing over civility laws

Cheryl Chow is no political innovator, but something she did at a recent campaign forum might have major repercussions in this year's election.

Midway through the second straight election season marked by candidate sniping at the various street behavior laws pushed by City Attorney Mark Sidran, Seattle City Council hopeful Chow stood up for civility. "I feel it's not right for a few people to disrupt an entire society," she told the audience at a Greenwood candidates' forum. Seattle residents should be able to take their children to city parks or walk down the streets without being accosted or harassed, she said.

Now, Chow had a good reason to take this tack— the former council member voted for most of the Sidran civility canon during her two terms in office. But the downtown political forces now seem to be calling for a plebiscite on laws like the downtown sitting ban and the parks exclusion ordinance. A new independent expenditure organization—charmingly dubbed Safe Streets and Parks for All—has announced its intention to promote candidates who support the civility laws. Its registered officers are PR flack Jim Hammond, former US Attorney Mike McKay, and Neil Heiman, a commercial realtor and former president of the University District Chamber of Commerce. The top donor so far is Dick Brass, computer millionaire and cranky park neighbor, who put in $25,000.

The surprise here is Hammond, a onetime staff member for the city's Department of Housing and Human Services and homeless liaison for former Mayor Norm Rice. As a DHHS staffer, Hammond got himself into hot water for writing long memos and e-mails bashing neighborhoods with concerns about special-needs housing—due to public disclosure rules, his "internal memos" often ended up in the hands of the very people he was criticizing. As a mayoral aide, Hammond was often an apologist for the civility laws, says John Fox of the Seattle Displacement Coalition.

Fox is doing his own pre-election piece, which will be inserted in lefty rag Eat the State and homeless community newspaper Real Change. But, given that the Safe Streets groups has announced that it intends to spend $100,000 on its campaign, Fox isn't counting on his piece evening the odds. "It's kind of hard to compete," he says.

Pageler pays up

Kudos to council member Margaret Pageler for graciously writing a check for half the cost of the ill-advised city public service radio campaign starring Margaret herself. Last Thursday, the city's Ethics and Elections Commission allowed the case pertaining to the ad campaign to be dismissed.

The incident is now officially closed, but it does make you wonder just who thought it was a good idea for Pageler to narrate the radio advertisements for Public Power Week (the first week in October—mark those calendars) when she was in the middle of a reelection campaign. Two years ago, the mayor narrated the commercials; last year a professional actor was hired to provide the voice-over. Either would have been a smarter choice.

But Pageler deserves credit for intervening to cut short the radio campaign after complaints were received and for picking up half its cost—just over $2,000.

They said it

* State Senator Valoria Loveland, asked whether there wouldn't be some risk in a state ballot measure allowing some reserve funds to be invested in the stock market: "I think there's risk every day you get up."

* Charlie Chong, retired federal employee, on the inflexibility of government: "I know bureaucracies—when a bureaucrat gets set on something, it takes dynamite to blast them away from it."

* Port Commission candidate Bob Edwards, by way of introduction: "I'm a Renton City Council member—we made Almost Live famous."

* County Council member Greg Nickels, on being nicknamed "Hoss" based on his supposed resemblance to the character from the Bonanza television series: "You grow up thinking you're Mel Gibson, then you wake up in your 40s and find out you're Dan Blocker."

Hard to say no

"It was a real mind-blower," says City Council member Peter Steinbrueck. "I never expected that." Yes, the corridors of City Hall were abuzz last week with talk of Mayor Paul Schell's veto of the controversial noise ordinance.

Actually, in classic Seattle style, even though Schell announced his action at a morning press conference, he hadn't vetoed the legislation yet (see "Shut up, Seattle!" on page 20 for more details). Within a few hours, the word was that the mayor was "threatening" a veto unless a few provisions were fixed to his liking. Schell would like to see commercial establishments get a warning before being fined for noise violations. He also is annoyed at the council's amendments to a blanket exemption for political protests, arguing that new restrictions on protests would hurt the city's credibility as host to the coming World Trade Organization meeting (and the attendant anti-WTO rallies).

Still, it's nice to see our generally low-key mayor assert himself once in a while. "It could be a sign of things to come, with this unruly, misbehaving council," says Steinbrueck. Spoken like a man who knows.

 
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