Four years ago, I fell for the hype and voted for Paul Schell for mayor [see "Schell Shock," 2/15]. I hereby apologize to my fellow Seattle citizens for making that mistake.
The "accomplishments" that Schell brags about? A competent politician could do the same things without even having to stay sober. Some of them, such as synchronizing traffic lights, are items already done by 90 percent of American cities. And as far as the "competence issue" goes—is there anyone out there with a brain who thinks, after the WTO and the New Year's surrender to terrorism, that Schell can handle a snowstorm or an earthquake? Or will he just curl up into a corner and suck his thumb?
But it's more than that. In Paul Schell's Seattle, "world-class" is all-important and "livable" is evil. In Paul Schell's Seattle, protecting circus animals is more important than protecting citizens from parking meters that rip them off. In Paul Schell's Seattle, it's more important to blow $9 million on a glitzy international event than to pave the streets. In Paul Schell's Seattle, Planet Hollywood counts for everything and the Honey Bear Bakery counts for nothing. In short, in Paul Schell's Seattle, you don't count unless you have a suitcase full of cash or a suitcase full of dynamite.
Maybe Schell has us figured out. Maybe he's figured Seattleites are entirely comfortable with the idea of the Emerald City becoming a red-light district for every quick-buck artist from Hong Kong to Los Angeles. But, still, I'm glad that Schell is running again. He's humiliated Seattle—he owes the voters a chance to humiliate him in return. And if Seattleites are stupid enough to re-elect him, then it's a clear sign that Seattle isn't worth saving.
TIMOTHY C. MAHONEY
Downhill with Paul
As I read the article that Mayor Schell wanted to run for re-election ["Schell Shock," 2/15], I was pretty pissed off. Mayor Schell is a hypocritical man. If he gets back into office, our city will go downhill even more than it already has. If he gets back into office, it is like letting a kid loose in a candy store.
This is a classic case of the public wanting to have its cake and eat it too ["Party poopers," 2/15]. If we insist on partisan (two-party) politics in our state, we should be willing to stick to a process that allows the parties to select their respective candidates. In the schizophrenic politics of this state, we want to be partisan without really being partisan. It won't work, because it allows political organizations to tamper with the primaries of their opponents.
Example: Two well-known Democrats face off in a local primary election in a traditional Democratic District. This situation automatically sets up a split in the Democratic vote. An opportunist Republican decides to file as a Democrat in the primary to take advantage of that split between the two real Democrats. The local Republican Party assists by contacting their organization to see that no more Republicans run in the election, so there will be no primary on the Republican side. Are you still with me?
The Republicans then campaign hard for their "stealth candidate" posing as a Democrat, asking all known Republicans to cross over in the primary—remember, they have nothing to lose. They win the primary with slightly more than a third—or less, depending on how many candidates were finally on that ballot—and the contest is over IN THE PRIMARY! The winner lets the election cool down for a while, then announces to the press that he is too conservative for the Democrats and has decided to switch parties, back to his original party of course. There is nothing anyone can do about it, and it is over before people know what happened. Sound like a fantasy? It happened to not one but two Democratic County Commissioner candidates in 1992. Both narrowly lost.
So let's try something new. If we must have political parties, then we have to grow up and accept the rules of political parties—that only the party can chose its own candidates. If we don't need political parties, then we can have open primaries with all candidates on the blanket primary ballot that allows every voter, regardless of their persuasion, to vote. The top two vote-getters progress to the general election and the most popular wins. But we can't continue to have it both ways.
We the people
Hold on a minute, Roger Downey ["Party poopers," 2/15]. It's not the people versus the parties. We the people are the parties! My party "bosses" are my servants, for I have elected them. Inside a political party, anyone who organizes a neighborhood has more clout than a $1,000 contributor. A strong political party is the best means of holding elected officials accountable to a broad constituency. Parties are like unions; associations that balance the influence of the wealthy. You remember the wealthy? Some of them own newspapers that like to tell us how to vote.
Geov's report card
Only someone as nitpicky as me could find fault with Geov Parrish's piece "Loving the kids" [2/15]. Here's his report card:
1) A: Pointing out the Seattle School Board's "edu-babble" and cocooned existence (even teachers can't penetrate it).
2) B: Noting that over 100 protesters representing CURE had to mobilize merely to seek a meeting with the school board. Omissions: That's a real slap in the face after CURE endorsed the school levy! And don't forget to mention the survey the district conducted—apparently to sell the levy—which largely snubbed minority parents.
3) B: Noting Olchefske's world-class salary and $1.4 million life insurance policy [and the lack of] critical examination of his tenure. Omissions: Take a closer look at Olchefske's directorships, and note that his wife is a member of Paul Schell"s administration.
4) F: Crediting Olchefske with an "influx of cash" and a "drive to weed out problem principals." Actually, Olchefske sat on his overpaid butt with other school officials while kids campaigned for the school levy. There were no public forums, but I did see the kids on TV. Olchefske did demote four derelict principals when I was running for state superintendent of public instruction and making derelict principals an issue. Olchefske's regime protects derelicts still in the ranks, offers good principals little support, and snubs systemic reform.
5) A+: Reminding taxpayers of the SPICE embezzlement scandal and including the words "independent performance audit," almost an obscenity among Seattle's media.
6) C: Noting "creeping commercialism." Problem: Commercialism isn't creeping into our schools; corporations effectively OWN our schools.
7) C: Comments about "the glow of Stanford" and the "largesse of donors like the Gates Foundation" are somewhat lame. John Stanford was an unqualified disaster, and Gates is obviously investing in public relations, not really working to improve education.
8) A: Discussing the test from Hell, the dreaded WASL.
9) A: Writing "The public apparently doesn't care" (about any of the above).
10) C: "This [the passing of the school levy] suggests that the public is largely pleased with the job Olchefske and his staff are doing." I disagree; like Parrish said, the public simply doesn't care.
My favorite statement: "While politicians and administrators invoke the gods of standards and accountability—of students and of teachers and principals—who is holding the administration itself to any accountable standard?"
Personal and political
It's pretty rare when you see a columnist effectively make the leap between the personal and the political in the US, but leave it up to Geov Parrish to pull another one out of his hat ["My Father's Death," Impolitics, 2/8]. Parrish is becoming the reason a lot of people I know still read the Weekly.
The problem of being unable to find the redeeming qualities in people we can't stand, family members or not, is as old as the hills. But we rarely ask the questions that Parrish launches in his potent layout of his eulogy for a self-obsessed father: What does that mean for things that seem remote to most apolitical Americans but which of course ultimately bite us in the ass, i.e., how does it affect what's going on around us like our kids' education, politics, economy, nationwide violence? How do we find other ways of living different from the classic 20th-century American militaristic or materialistic ways of rootlessness? How do we find ways of relating to people who we think to be our political enemy? (What if the Greens and the Democrats could work together?) And how should people respond to social isolation? Why is it often hard to be happy or fulfilled in American life?
One approach, of course, is to admit that there is a unique American history and landscape of narcissism that we all have to navigate. As Parrish points out, context is everything: Things like debt-driven families and our perceived right to rule the world naturally follow. What also follows is the apparent contradiction of being the richest country in history and the most rootless and with the highest incarceration rate.
Maybe we shouldn't be surprised at our social isolation, nor perhaps at our government's history of covert military operations. What is really scary, though, is Parrish's suggestion that this American approach to life other people is becoming a global standard. That very well might be a trend, but so is our current age of pro- test where Seattle's N30 set the standard for the coordinated global organizing that followed.
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