Schell-shocked

What issue could possibly get police associations, right-wing talk radio ranters, and left-wing polemists like our own Geov Parrish all singing the same song? Mayor Paul Schell's job status. Give Geov credit: He was first to demand Schell's resignation, in a December 16 column. What a loud, strange chorus it's since become—especially after Schell canceled the millennial New Year's bash at Seattle Center and got slammed as a terrorist-spooked weenie. It must feel strange for a professional host—who built spiffy little hotels in Seattle, Langley, Friday Harbor, and Port Ludlow—to get pilloried first for helping host a party that turned ugly, then for cancelling a party that threatened to turn even uglier.

Maybe the WTO planning and security were so cocked-up, so lax and reactive by turns, that Schell should follow Stamper out the door. If so, how 'bout Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Attorney General Janet Reno, who demanded that local authorities crack down harder, which provoked more aggressive rioting? (Whether Reno and Albright should have been sacked already for their respective roles in the Waco and Rwanda bloodbaths is another story.) And how 'bout all the law-enforcement chiefs whose officers ran wild during the protests? The cop videotaped having a Rodney King moment on Capitol Hill was from Tukwila. King County corrections officers allegedly strapped down, pepper-sprayed, and otherwise bullied jailed protesters. A county sheriff's deputy pepper-sprayed two women sitting in a car. And yet Sheriff Dave Reichert was the first and fiercest critic of Schell's WTO performance.

Mayor Reichert's advance team

And now, adding weird to weird, Sheriff Reichert comes out of the whole mess looking like—a mayoral candidate. On top of his mediagenic performance during the riots, we now have a nominating speech, delivered in the course of a Seattle Times op-ed (1/4) calling on Schell to resign by Mike Patrick, executive director of the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs, and Washington State Troopers Association president Bill Hanson. "In contrast to the mayor's actions," Patrick and Hanson write, "one individual—King County Sheriff Dave Reichert—demonstrated leadership during this difficult time."

Patrick and Hanson avow that they're "not advocating Sheriff Reichert take over City Hall." Not by a coup, anyway; they'll wait till the election. Boosters always demure like that when they start promoting a candidate—just as people always say "It's not the money" when it is.

One third of a police state

You get another hint of the two police reps' outlook when they refer (in their Seattle Times op-ed) to the "three most-important constituencies—citizens, business and law enforcement" to whom Schell must be accountable. So—"law enforcement" is one of the three essential components of the polity, on a plane with "citizens"? The police aren't part of the citizenry? This is startling, even scary, solipsism. Substitute "military" for "law enforcement," and you have the political formulation of an old-fashioned banana republic. As I recall, the US Constitution does not begin, "We the people, police, and businesses of the United States. . . ."

Patrick and Hanson also sound another curious note: "Unless and until Schell resigns, Seattle residents, downtown business owners and law enforcement will continue to debate the reasons behind and results from the WTO debacle." Does that mean that if he resigns the debate will stop? Fat chance. And why should it? If this was, as it seemed, a defining civic event, we ought to figure out what it defined.

The new federalism

President Clinton salutes the WTO protesters. His administration pushes the city to crack down too hard on them. Then it sticks Seattle—which embarked on this venture expecting $5 million in federal help—with the police bill ($9 million and climbing). Meanwhile, the Seattle Host Organization, the offshoot of the Washington Council on International Trade that sought and brought the WTO meeting, announces that, sorry folks, its own fundraising fell short and it can only come up with $100,000 of the $1.5 million it offered to reimburse the city.

Host Organization director Ray Waldmann says the feds played a part in that shortfall as well: Some businesses were put off from donating by the Clinton administration's "cavalier attitude" toward its trading partners, its touting of labor and environmental standards, and its "insistence on using the ministerial meeting as a way to achieve some trade measures it hadn't been able to achieve after trying for years."

Waldmann adds that the prospect of "substantial protests" also made donors wary. But he doesn't mention another possible turn-off that Bill Stafford, who directs the Trade Development Alliance, notes: the stink that critics (including Europe's trade chief) raised over the Host Committee's "selling access" to trade officials.

Sympathy for the mayor

You can blame Schell for many more fumbles than the WTO plans and for more ill-timed, ill-tempered outbursts than his famous tarmac tangle with Reichert. This paper—the only citywide rag that didn't endorse him for mayor—is always glad to. But don't lynch him for Grinching New Year's Eve. With millennium and WTO hype combining to make Seattle a natural target, with one suspect allegedly driving a trunkful of high explosives to a nearby motel and at least one more still at large, it was a prudent decision. I'll bet bigmouth Giuliani would have done the same. And the fireworks looked just fine from the hill.

 
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