EVEN FOR AN ELECTORATE accustomed to having to hold its nose and choose between two unappealing candidates, this one's a stinker. The general election this November features a City Council race that might be the most odious ballot choice in memory.
On the one hand, we have an incumbent who deserves to lose. That would be Jim Compton, the first-term former TV journalist and commentator who's been tainted of late by scandal. Not only was Compton one of the Strippergate Three, but he was caught rubbing elbows with Paul Allen's posse, whisked away by private PaulJet to Portland to attend a game of Allen's NBA Trail Blazers at a time when Allen's Vulcan holding company needs council backing for his ambitious plans to remake South Lake Union (see "South Lake Disunion," p. 22).
Compton's response to that little flap speaks volumes about the arrogance and insincerity that have marked his term. He noisily pledged to abstain from voting on issues related to Vulcan's South Lake Union plans for one year. Only later did we learn that his show of contrition was meaninglesshe only agreed to abstain from votes on rezoning, which won't come up in the next year. Meanwhile, if re-elected, he'll continue to weigh in on the important votes: whether to spend the cash-strapped city's money on infrastructure for Paul.
THAT SORT OF arrogance and contempt for ordinary taxpayers has been the hallmark of Compton's termfour years spent trading votes and stonewalling the public. Remember the note passed to Compton during a council session last year on behalf of Mayor Greg Nickels, regarding money for that fire truck Compton wanted to save at Green Lake? The mayor was holding the fire truck hostage over his own office's budget allocation, and Compton caved. It took a Seattle Times open-records-law request to find out what caused Compton to change his vote. And in the area where Compton has the greatest responsibility, as chair of the council's Police, Fire, Courts, and Technology Committee, Compton has become a reliable roadblock to desperately needed police accountability.
In a year when local voter anger with incumbents seems nearly universal, Compton should be out on his head. So who survived the primary to appear on the ballot against him? John Manning, a man whose entire campaign can be summed up in a sentence: Vote for John Manning, a former police officer who refuses to be accountable for multiple incidents of domestic violence.
Manning resigned in 1996, after a year on the council, when an allegation of domestic violence against himhis thirdbecame public. Seven years later, he dismisses it as no big dealsomething he shouldn't have done, sure, but the whole thing was overblown.
Now there's an alternative for voters appalled by Compton's contempt for Seattle Police Department critics, a way to send a powerful message that nobody's above the law.
This is a race that the "write-in" line on your ballot was meant for. And this is a moment that is as perfect as any imaginable for a concerted, visible, credible write-in campaign.
WRITE-INS TAKE OFF when there's an incumbent tainted by scandal after the filing deadline or a large, unrepresented constituency. We now have both: multiple scandals for Compton, who told the South Seattle Star's editorial board that South Seattle has a fine advocate on the councilin Richard McIver.
Someone like Carl Mack, the fiery new head of the Seattle branch of the NAACP, or Lisa Dugard, a civil-liberties attorney, could put a lot of heat on Compton and bring a lot of attention to their own issues. Mount a campaign, show up at every forum and election event for the next five weeks. Give voters a choice.
But why stop there? South Seattle in general needs better representation on the council. So do Seattle's burgeoning immigrant and nonwhite communities. Say, whatever happened to that Green Party majority on the City Council? Surely, local progressives can do better than Lisa Averill and Angel Bolaños. Among the Greens, Joe Szwaja or Kara Ceriello already have some name recognition. Meanwhile, Republicans might want a genuine conservative running in this campaign somewhere. Not only are all nine council members various shades of Democrat, so are all of the opponents. Why wait for districts?
SPEAKING OF WHICH, running citywide heavily favors incumbents and people with name recognitionlike Compton four years ago, or Jean Godden now. The lack of districts or some other sort of proportional representation accounts for Seattle's homogenous councilnine liberal Dems, eight white people. (Then again, districts invite ward politicsa system made for overlooking minor problems like jet rides from rich people or bouncing your wife off a car hood.)
The district initiative might or might not pass in November. But as it stands, it's certain that one of two badly flawed menCompton or Manningwill sit on the City Council next year.
Unless someone better steps forward and challenges them. Now. Please.