MAYOR PAUL SCHELL and his pal Port commissioner Pat Davis are now taking sharply different positions in the World Trade Organization blame game. In an

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Divided they stand

Mayor Schell and Pat Davis play the WTO blame game.

MAYOR PAUL SCHELL and his pal Port commissioner Pat Davis are now taking sharply different positions in the World Trade Organization blame game. In an interview with a City Council committee probing WTO's failures, Davis said the city agreed up front to help pay for last year's riot-torn trade ministerial that left the city and other government entities holding a $12 million tab.

Schell insists he made no such commitment, though he won't bluntly concede that Davis misrepresented the city's position. He says his only agreement with her was to not ask the US for host money, in an effort to sweeten Davis' WTO bid to the State Department. The city's early role was merely as "window dressing" to promote the convention effort, Schell claims.

The council committee, in a report released last week, thinks Davis did in fact mislead Schell by not only making the unauthorized commitment but not revealing she had made it. The report says she made similar misleading and unapproved promises on behalf of the county and the state, and recommends she be censured.

Davis, director of the Washington Council on International Trade, headed the Seattle Host Committee, the private corporate effort to bring WTO to Seattle. She promised to reimburse the city $1.5 million for security, but her host committee recently came forth with only a fifth of that. Schell, her friend and fellow promoter of Seattle as a major port of trade, lobbied US officials for Davis and offered the city's resources. After Seattle won the bid and was faced with a growing threat of violence, Schell bravely invited visitors to come down and shop while the WTO was in session, then imposed a curfew, established a no-protest zone, and outlawed gas masks as downtown was sacked. Ultimately, the events damaged him politically and left the impression that WTO had been City Hall's screwball idea.

But as he maneuvers now to define his culpability—he has accepted some blame and shifted other to his now-resigned police chief, Norm Stamper—Schell has distanced himself from Davis' efforts. In a May 22 Q&A session with a WTO Accountability Review Committee panel, Schell said Davis, directly or indirectly, first asked him to get involved in 1998.

Panel: "Did you have any other direct involvement prior to this?"

Schell: "No. We were window dressing. I shouldn't say we were—we were showing our support for the application by letting our name be used."

Referring to Davis' testimony given earlier to the review committee and to a copy of a December 16, 1998, letter sent by Davis to the US State Department, panel chairman Bob Rohan told the mayor that Davis had promised the city would help pick up all WTO costs, but ducked a question on whether she had the mayor's OK to make that claim.

Rohan: "Pat Davis states that when she wrote this letter that her understanding was that the Seattle Host Committee [consisted of] yourself, the governor, [King County] Executive Sims, and the Boeing Company and possibly Microsoft, and that was the only people on that committee, and that when she made this statement in [the letter]—'The Seattle Host Committee will cover whatever the final costs were'—she was speaking on behalf of Boeing, possibly Microsoft, but definitely the city, the county, and the state. I'm just telling you what she said. And we asked her if she had your or the city's permission to do that, to make this promise on behalf of the city, and she said we'd have to ask you. So did you?"

Schell: "No. I felt the city was supporting the event being held here. But if it was intended to include that we were putting the city on the line for the budget, absolutely not."

Another panelist on the review committee—now in the final month of studying the cause and effect of the November 30- December 3 conference—asked Schell if he thought some action should be taken against Davis' trade council if the committee finds that she misrepresented the city, county, and state positions.

Schell: "No. Misrepresented is a strong word, and this is a nonprofit organization that was promoting trade, which is something they thought was in the best interest of the community, and I don't know what would be gained by it at this stage."

The mayor conceded, however, that he abided by Davis' host committee's request not to directly confront the State Department with a plea for WTO funding. Chief city lobbyist Cliff Traisman earlier told reviewers that State Department official John Diefenderer "laughed and said we'd get nothing" when the subject of funding was broached seriously (see "A wing and a dare," SW, 5/18). That spurred Traisman to send a memo to Schell and others warning, "we don't want to bring [money] up" in future talks with the State Department. Traisman said Diefenderer "went ballistic" after Seattle sought reimbursements for APEC meeting costs six years earlier.

Did the mayor see Traisman's memo?

Schell: "Yup."

Panel: "And do you remember reading it?"

Schell: "Yup."

Panel: "What was your [reaction]?"

Schell: "In case I ever ran into Diefenderer, [I should remember that] it was out of his budget that the city recovered some money from, for the cost of APEC, basically for motorcades and venue security. And other than that, not to rub salt in his wounds. We were in a mode of trying to convince the State Department, which was going to have a say in this, to locate [the WTO meeting] in Seattle."

Schell, and deputy mayor Maud Daudon who also appeared before the committee, conceded the city was keenly aware of escalating costs and security but never confronted US officials about chipping in.

Panel: "Was there ever a time when you thought about going to the federal government and saying, 'Look, this is your baby. Pay for the costs or you're really not welcome in our city?'"

Daudon: "The ultimatum aspect of it never really—we never went that far. We said, 'We asked for this and we've got to make it work.'"

Traisman told the panel if there had been a more candid assessment of risks and costs, "Seattle would not have hosted [WTO] and 39 other [bid] cities wouldn't have either."

Mayor Schell seemed to echo that sentiment. Of those 40 bid cities, he noted, "Thirty-nine of them [are now] saying, 'Thank God I lost it.'"

For more on the WTO, visit our special supplement page.

 
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