What's Seattle coming to when members of the Democratic Party are granted freedom of speech?
An ugly thought, perhaps, but that's the only conclusion that can be reached after the 43rd Legislative District Democrats last week soundly defeated a resolution blasting City Council member Peter Steinbrueck. Peter's crime was to publicly endorse Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader—a decision that the 43rd Demos' executive board proposed to "condemn." They also threatened to send copies of said condemnation to (gasp!) Paul Schell and Peter's council colleagues. Could be trouble.
Steinbrueck, who showed up to speak in his own defense, didn't appear terribly frightened. And the party regulars didn't appear terribly interested—only 23 members cast ballots on the final motion. After a somewhat dull program of quickie candidate presentations and other Demo trivia, 43rd Chair Javier Valdez delivered the case for the prosecution. "We are the 43rd District Democrats," he intoned solemnly. "We're here to elect Democrats—that's what we do." According to the preamble to the resolution, the Green Party "is a political party aimed at defeating Democratic Party candidates." He added that he is shocked that a "Democratic official" like Steinbrueck would turn his back on the party by not endorsing Vice President Al Gore.
"I never thought for a moment that my personal endorsement would sway the presidential election," replied Steinbrueck. He argued that the Green Party's values are Democratic Party values—social and economic justice, protection for the environment, improved race relations—but argued that Nader's stands on these issues are far less watered-down than Gore's. (A sentiment that has been uttered by far more loyal Democrats than Peter.)
The resolution got a fair share of ridicule for its intolerant tone. Steinbrueck lampooned it as a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy; Curt Firestone noted he didn't sign a loyalty oath when he joined the party organization. Matthew Fox likened the proceedings to "excommunicating heretics." The "Get Peter" resolution was voted down by a tally of 18 to five, with three members abstaining.
Let's end this enlightening discussion with three points:
*The Seattle City Council is a nonpartisan body, so its members are not "Democratic officials."
*Individual Democratic district organizations routinely endorse one declared member of the party over another in council races, at which time they are "working to defeat Democrats."
*If Valdez is such a great Democratic organizer, how come his resolution only got five votes?
Let's dance on
With a little luck (and one more council vote), Seattle appears ready to finally deep-six the controversial Teen Dance Ordinance.
The ordinance was enacted in 1985 after the city filed suit to close the Monastery, a controversial teen club. In truth, the drug-ridden Monastery was a mess. However, the city could have shut it down using the existing public nuisance abatement law. The main effect of the teen dance ordinance, on the other hand, was to stamp out the independent, all-ages rock shows traditionally held in small halls around the city. Despite some initial grumbling, since most of the folks going to these shows were already 21 (or reached drinking age shortly thereafter), the city's soon-to-be-famous alternative music scene simply moved to the bars.
The Music and Youth Task Force, whose members endured 18 months of boring meetings, has proposed replacing the teen dance ordinance (TDO) with a looser system, removing theprohibitive insurance requirements, the 15-20 age limit, and the mandate that clubs use off-duty Seattle police officers rather than private security. It's a good proposal: Only a single Seattle venue has actually obtained a license under the TDO, while the others have simply worked around loopholes in the law.
Take Lori LeFavor, the promoter whose shows at the now-demolished RKCNDY club were the best entertainment deal for the under-21 set for several years. She says she ran her shows under the (altogether accurate) claim that they were concerts, not teen dances. "The only way I was able to do all-ages shows was based on perseverance and good relationships with the establishment," she says. The cops showed up, saw the venue was well-run and the kids were safe, and left her alone. "Basically," LeFavor says, "the way the law is written, there is no such thing as a legal all-ages event."
The drafters of the new all-ages ordinance obligingly wrote in a concert clause big enough to drive an MXPX show through. If the new ordinance is approved, a concert will be defined as "any event at which live music is played or sung, and at which the primary purpose is for patrons to view a musical performance."
The other provisions should give people who want to try opening actual teen clubs a fighting chance—while providing the city plenty of leverage to close problem venues. Good work.
A Licata by any other name
As if poking through the court records of City Council members hasn't gotten this columnist in enough trouble lately, a glance through the King County Superior Court files has exposed a prominent name-dropper.
That would be council member Nick Licata, who in 1981 changed his last name, which was formerly spelled "Licate." Shades of Schlactenhaufen? (Paul Schell's original moniker, which the young lawyer apparently thought wouldn't look good on letterhead.) No, his family's switch (his brother and father also changed their names) was actually a correction, says Nick. Their original family name was indeed "Licata," but was misspelled by a careless clerk at Ellis Island.