NEVER UNDERESTIMATE the political power of music.
Seattle's music community worked this year to continue funding city-sponsored all-ages rock shows, defeat a club-closing mayoral candidate, and soften a reactive ordinance intended to respond to Mardi Gras violence.
All-ages shows will continue to be sponsored by the Vera Project, after the City Council dug deep and found another $75,000 to keep the publicly funded music venue in operation for one more year. The Vera Project was established through a music and youth task force which also drafted a new ordinance to allow all-ages shows within city limits—ironic because the ordinance was vetoed by outgoing Mayor Paul Schell, who also tried to cut Vera funding.
But supporters packed budget hearings and got the attention of council members, who remembered what it was like to be young long enough to craft the budget deal. "It was really refreshing to see that," says Vera managing director Shannon Stewart, who was gratified that parents and school administrators joined the effort. "And to have young people giving these articulate and personal pleas was amazing," she adds. Stewart says the Vera Project plans to present shows weekly in its First Avenue space (Local 46) during the next year, while sponsoring different performances at other venues.
Did the experience teach her how to navigate the City Hall maze? "We made attempts to speak with all of [the City Council members], but most of the feedback we got was that it wasn't in that council member's committee and they recommended we talk with somebody else," she recalls. Yep, that sounds like City Hall, all right.
The music industry group JAMPAC helped keep mayoral candidate Mark Sidran out of City Hall by funding a $17,000 mailing to households including some 40,000 young registered voters spotlighting Sidran's anti-music activities as city attorney. Capitalizing on the fact that Halloween fell a week before Election Day, the JAMPAC flyer featured a "Seattle Music Scene" gravestone and threatened that a Sidran victory would represent "The Day the Music Died."
The mailer was a gutsy move on JAMPAC's part—organizers ignored the usual targeting practice by mailing to young people who only vote occasionally. Angel Combs, JAMPAC's executive director, says the intent was both to oppose Sidran and to encourage young people to get out to the polls. "That's including a demographic that doesn't get a lot of political mail, so we were excited about that," she says.
One downside to the political year in music was the council's approval of an ordinance governing special events, in part a reaction to violent incidents at the February Mardi Gras celebration in Pioneer Square. While council member Peter Steinbrueck managed to amend away a significant portion of the bill's ill effects, Combs still considers it a reactive, poorly thought-out piece of legislation.
Combs says her group will be watching carefully how the new law is enforced, especially if police try to apply it to the street crowds resulting from joint cover nights at Pioneer Square clubs, which they feel may have been the law's real target.
City fathers, beware—JAMPAC is watching you.