What have all those energy bigwigs been doing at City Hall? Two weeks ago, all three members of the state Utilities and Transportation Commission were in council chambers lambasting the feds' latest proposal to ruin our cheap electricity with an insane deregulation scheme. This week, Washington Attorney General Christine Gregoire dropped by to talk about the effort to get $278 million in refunds from the corporate crooks that swindled us during the energy crisis of 2000-2001.
Is it just a coincidence that Seattle City Light superintendent Gary Zarker was at the table during both events? The superintendent, widely praised for his grasp of federal issues, could use a little image burnishing after being roiled by the press and the Municipal League in recent months. Mayor Greg Nickels is expected to submit Zarker for reconfirmation by the City Council later this week.
The Northwest office of Friends of the Earth, a group that played a role in many key Northwest environmental victories over the past 30 years, is expected to shut its doors in a mere 10 days, according to Shawn Cantrell, the group's regional director. David E. Ortman, a former director and 22-year veteran of the office, notes that even as the field of environmental groups has "gotten a lot more crowded . . . the number of donors hasn't grown. Some consolidation may be in order."
The chapter's demise leaves one of its hardest-fought projects, the removal of two dams from the Elwha River, unfinished; according to Cantrell, the protracted effort has run into "indifference and apathy" from the Bush administration. Nonetheless, Cantrell says, FOE's biggest accomplishment might be that the group "took a fringe issue"—removing dams to save endangered fish—"and made it mainstream. That's the real legacy this office will leave behind."
The monorail cleanup crew is heading for Olympia. The first time pro-monorail forces converged on the state's Capitol, they won legislation allowing a Seattle-wide car tax to fund their $1.7 billion line from West Seattle to Ballard. But their bill left out a thing or two. It didn't say whether monorail bondholders would still be paid if voters decided to scotch the project, and it included a loophole allowing people to register their cars outside the city, avoiding the tax entirely. Republican Sen. Bill Finkbeiner and Democratic Rep. Joe McDermott are sponsoring a bill to fix both oversights.
Bad landlords, beware: The Seattle City Council wants to make you pay. Seattle City Council member Judy Nicastro says she'll sponsor a bill creating a much-needed fund to pay low-income tenants forced by the city to leave substandard housing. In theory, tenant relocation—$2,000, paid when tenants' living conditions are so deplorable the city can't allow them to stay in a building—is supposed to be paid by the very landlords who created the lousy living conditions in the first place. In practice, that often doesn't happen. The new fund would solve the problem, allowing tenants to be paid when they need the money, rather than when a landlord decides to pay.
Erica C. Barnett, with staff reports