The 1976 interlocal agreement authorizing the last link of INTERSTATE 90: Once upon a time, Boston motorists could hop in their cars, get on I-90, and drive across this great country all the way to Bellevue. Getting into Seattle, however, proved tougher. "For more than 20 years, the state and federal highway departments have attempted unsuccessfully to complete the highway into Seattle," wrote the Weekly's Dan Seligman in 1978. The second Mercer Island bridge was finally completed in 1989, opening the floodgates for a wave of Eastside development and new traffic. Auto counts along the I-90 corridor jumped by 60 percent in the first month of operation.
The 1976 DECISION OF SEATTLE CITY LIGHT not to participate in WPPSS electric plants #4 and #5: OK, we're obviously scratching for a happy angle to the Washington Public Power Supply Service (WPPSS) debacle, in which about a hundred Northwest utilities and many large companies lost money by the bucketful. When WPPSS had its bond rating downgraded in 1981, many worried that the financial markets would lose their taste for municipal bonds in general. "Neither Seattle nor the state are legally responsible for WPPSS's financial condition," wrote the Weekly's Bruce Brown. "But a number of Wall Street sources have threatened that other bond issues, for purposes such as parks, sewers, and health care facilities, will suffer guilt by association."
The 1977 MAYORAL ELECTION: The crowded primary field yielded a classic final matchup of young comers, pitting television commentator Charley Royer against Paul Schell, director of the Seattle Department of Community Development. The Weekly was squarely in Schell's camp, endorsing him in both primary and final. Wrote Editor David Brewster: "It is difficult to imagine that [Schell] would be anything other than an extraordinarily good mayor." Royer won anyway, serving three terms as mayor and presiding over the high-growth decade of the 1980s; Schell returned to the mayor's race in 1997, and got the job.
The 1977 decision to FIRE SONICS COACH BOB HOPKINS: After the supposedly promising Supes stumbled to a 4-14 start, new coach Hopkins was unceremoniously sacked in favor of Lenny Wilkens. For the record, the Weekly hated the call. "Wilkens is no coach," wrote an angry Roger Sale in a story headlined "Hopkins, Si! Wilkens, No!" Despite such criticism, the Sonics went on to make their first finals appearance under Wilkens in 1977-1978, and won the NBA title the following year—an event that still represents Seattle's peak team sports moment.
The 1979 ARRIVAL OF MICROSOFT: Sure, it was just a little company owned by a couple of local boys (Bill Gates, Jr. and Paul Allen), but the future software giant's decision to relocate from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Bellevue (and then to Redmond) would profoundly influence Seattle and the region. Nobody noticed the arrival of the new kids, but a couple years later the Weekly observed that "Microsoft has been making a name for itself with state-of-the-art system software."
The approval of the 1981 SENIOR HOUSING levy: As federal social service and housing funding ebbed under the Reagan Administration, Seattle joined other cities in working to bolster the social safety net. "It would be a marvelous thing if Seattle, rather than hunkering down under Reaganism's mean-spiritedness, were actually to dare enact a humanitarian program, now that the feds have bowed out ungraciously," wrote Editor David Brewster. The several buildings constructed under this levy have since been joined by dozens of low-income projects subsidized by city taxpayers. The city has also taken a leading role in social service funding.
The 1983 siting of the CONVENTION CENTER: Plopping the new home of trade shows in the middle of downtown (and eliminating several First Hill apartment buildings in the process) was unpopular with many in the city—including the Weekly's editors, who favored a Seattle Center site. David Brewster and Rebecca Boren acknowledged the eventual victory of the downtown forces, saying that "building a great Seattle Center, a crusade of the '60s, has been replaced by the Great Downtown Dream of the 1970s and '80s."
The 1983 SEATTLE TIMES/SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER joint operating agreement: The Weekly was the leading media watchdog as the city's daily newspapers joined business operations. Even after the two papers merged their backshops, advertising sales operations, and Sunday newspapers, writer Eric Scigliano maintained his scrutiny. "Before the ink dried on the first issue, other promises which the Times and P-I have long and loudly made to their employees and customers were, if not broken outright, then badly bent," he wrote, days after the conjoined dailies published their first joint Sunday edition.
The Metro Council's vote to construct the downtown BUS TUNNEL: Years of construction followed years of planning for Seattle's big dig under Third Avenue. By the late 1980s, the torn-up streets, struggling storefront businesses, and tangled finances resulting from the project made it the target of many gripes. The Weekly's Rebecca Boren scolded downtown property owners who had pushed for the tunnel as a way to get buses off the street, but then sought to escape their share of a $20 million assessment for construction. "The public question will be whether business, having helped get us into the mess that is downtown today, can renege now that the shovels have hit the streets," she wrote.
The 1989 Citizens Alternative Plan (CAP) election to SLOW DOWNTOWN GROWTH: After a decade of explosive growth in downtown Seattle (and accompanying losses in low-income housing), a group of citizens decided to cap future projects. The system itself was complex, explained the Weekly's Rebecca Boren, but the real issue was whether ordinary citizens could block out-of-control downtown development through the ballot box. "CAP has become less of a zoning plan, than a prize in a power struggle over who runs Seattle," she wrote. The initiative won, putting into place size restrictions for downtown buildings that are still in place today (plus 10-year growth limits, which have since expired).
The 1989 election of Mayor NORM RICE: The city's first African-American mayor swept into office after a long legislative career. Nicknamed "Mayor Nice," the two-termer was a compromiser with a deft touch for assembling City Council majorities behind downtown projects and convincing voters to support expanded social services at the ballot box. The Weekly backed him from the start (even putting him on the cover less than a month before the primary election). According to our primary endorsement: "Of all the candidates, Rice seems most likely to reach d鴥nte with the City Council, an essential first step toward getting things done."
The 1991-1994 Seattle Comprehensive Plan: Introducing "URBAN VILLAGES" to a waiting world, Mayor Rice's blueprint for future growth received three years of discussion (and quite a bit of opposition) before its approval. The Weekly ranked among the early doubters. "Lost in the rush so far is any indication who will be paying for this growth," said Peter Staten and David Brewster in their 1994 cover story, "Seattle on Steroids." Since the plan's approval, some 35 Seattle neighborhoods have produced their own planning documents under its direction, and the city's population has grown steadily.
The 1992 PURCHASE OF THE MARINERS: Notching the biggest save by a Japanese "player" until Kaz Sasaki showed up last year, a 16-member group led by Japan's Nintendo Corporation kept the Mariners from moving to Tampa Bay. The Weekly's Fred Moody almost sounded like he knew Sasaki and new teammate Ichiro might be part of the Nintendo package when he wrote that, "such an owner would be able to supplement Seattle's small, indifferent fan base with the vast, devoted fan base in [Japan]."
The Fall 1993 approval of Seattle's "CIVILITY" laws: City Attorney Mark Sidran got the heat, but the City Council did the deed—banning sitting on sidewalks in shopping areas, among other uncivil street behavior. "What neither [Mayor] Rice nor others at City Hall can afford to ignore, however, is the visceral response Sidran has touched off among countless Seattleites," wrote the Weekly's John Arthur Wilson. With Sidran running for mayor this year, the debate continues.
The City Council's 1995 decision to put city money into the PACIFIC PLACE PARKING GARAGE: While Seattle city officials weren't technically involved in the stadium deals, this garage scheme— concocted to give a public subsidy to Nordstrom for renovating and moving into the former Frederick & Nelson department store building—represents city government's biggest step into the corporate welfare arena. The deal got even more bad publicity through revelations that the city had overpaid the developers for its share in the garage by $23 million. While the council's generosity to private business led to a backlash against public/private partnerships, several progressive council members were later elected— including noted corporate welfare critic Nick Licata. "One Seattle City Council member ducked questions about the F&N/Nordstrom giveaway by noting that she wanted instead to work on solving the city's transportation problems," wrote columnist James Bush. "Wouldn't an extra $23 million come in handy?"
The 1995 FAILURE OF THE MARINERS STADIUM ballot issue: By a paper-thin margin, King County voters turned down the chance to build a new stadium for their playoff-bound Mariners. No matter. The Legislature voted to build one anyway. Said the Weekly's Fred Moody: "It took all of two days for the Legislature's Republican revolutionaries to opt for politics over principle."
The 1995 and 1996 DEFEATS OF THE SEATTLE COMMONS proposal: A big park, an underground freeway, a shiny new urban neighborhood—it seemed like the Seattle Commons proposal had something for everyone, but it still couldn't get the backing of a majority of city voters in two tries. Having run several critical articles of the proposal, Weekly editorial writers tried their best to be enthusiastic. It didn't work. After describing the "juggernaut" approach of well-connected Commons backers, the paper's editorial announced: "It's time to get on board, hoping to steer the juggernaut a bit better." The fall of the Commons was a surprising defeat for Old Guard Seattle interests, and led to the election of council member Charlie Chong in 1996—the first of a series of new elected officials from outside the city's traditional power structure.
The 1996 approval of the three-county SOUND TRANSIT system: OK, we still haven't installed any of those light rails people talked about, but, after losing once with a larger system, regional transit supporters were thrilled with their 57 percent to 43 percent margin. However, due to system delays and massive cost overruns, voters are still debating whether light rail is the best solution for the region's traffic problems. Wrote the Weekly's Mark D. Fefer: "After a decade of study and four years past the election that created Sound Transit, the agency is still being forced to rethink where to put the light rail we've agreed to build."
The Federal Aviation Administration's 1997 approval of the THIRD RUNWAY at Sea-Tac Airport: There were other decisions involved with the third runway project (many of them in court, as opponents worked to stop the airport's controversial expansion). And there are still more to come, as the third runway has yet to win the approval of the state Department of Ecology. Wrote the Weekly's Roger Downey: "Although better planning might have helped the Port avoid some regulatory roadblocks, no amount of prep work could have affected the biggest difficulty: the problem of fitting the third runway onto a site too small by nature to contain it." The third runway continues to languish in the environmental review process—stalling the massive expansion, which is still opposed by many nearby neighborhoods.
The 1997 election of Seattle MAYOR PAUL SCHELL: Faced with the pro-development, "world city" rhetoric of Port Commissioner Schell and the neighborhood NIMBY image of activist Charlie Chong, Seattle voters chose Schell. In the last four years, we've gotten the development—although the World Trade Organization protests represented far more international notoriety than voters had expected (or wanted). Wrote James Bush of the onetime developer: "Paul Schell is applying for the job of chief executive officer of Seattle. If you buy into the 'run government like a business' argument, he has the best credentials."
The 1998 decision to bring the WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION conference to Seattle: The city found itself the subject of international news coverage as thousands of protesters poured into the city in late 1999 to protest the ill effects of world trade agreements. The Weekly was the first local media outlet to predict that the free traders might be overshadowed by their critics. Wrote Geov Parrish: "Opposition to [WTO] will almost certainly be the largest anti-free trade protests ever held on U.S. soil." He was right; "another Seattle" is now civic shorthand for an out-of-control situation, and Northwest radicalism (ࠬa Eugene's anarchist community) is higher profile than at any point since the Wobblies and the Seattle General Strike. The $9 million bill for policing the WTO has also given city officials a new attitude about welcoming such events without strict cost sharing.
The decision by police to not confront rioters at the 2001 MARDI GRAS: The tragic death of Kris Kime, a 20-year-old attacked for coming to the aid of another assault victim, was the low point of several days of disturbances in the Pioneer Square area. The outnumbered police force drew harsh criticism for hanging back as violence swept through the Mardi Gras crowds. Catching much of the blame was Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske, wrote the Weekly's Nina Shapiro. "The new chief's handling of Mardi Gras raises serious questions about his leadership, asked perhaps most loudly by his own rank and file."
The 2000-2001 decisions by stock purchasers that DOT-COM STOCKS WERE OVERVALUED: When the Nasdaq exchange plunged in April 2000, many Seattle start-up businesses found themselves passing out pink slips and dismantling computer systems. In a mini-industry that had made many millionaires during the first several years of good times, the shake-out was a shock. "The inherent advantages of e-commerce seemed so certain that dot-com business plans invariably promised not just to carve out a profitable niche but to dominate their market segment," wrote the Weekly's Gianni Truzzi. "Dot-coms ruled the Nasdaq because they were expected to rule the world."