BEST NEW ACTIVIST ORGANIZATION
It's amazing how effective HATE FREE ZONE has been in the two years since it was founded to advocate for immigrants in the wake of 9/11. Led by the fiercely articulate Pramila Jayapal, Hate Free Zone has quickly become the nerve center of local immigrant activism, uniting disparate ethnic communities with a vision, compassion, and professionalism that have it headed for national prominence. A year ago, it organized an impressive public hearing that drew top local officials to listen to immigrants testify about their sometimes-harrowing experiences in the wake of 9/11. The group then persuaded Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., to help it put on a national forum before congressional officials in Washington, D.C. More recently, Hate Free Zone was vindicated once again in its support for Somalis the government wanted to deport. In a case initiated by the group, an appeals court upheld a lower-court decision that stops the deportation of thousands of Somalis nationwide because of the chaotic situation in their home country.Nina Shapiro 4860 Rainier Ave. S., 206-723-2203, www.hatefreezone.org.
BEST POLITICAL RAINMAKER
Former governors Dan Evans, Mike Lowry, and Booth Gardner all remain active in the political discourse. But they're out to pasture compared to 93-year-old ex-guv ALBERT D. ROSELLINI. He was a two-term governor, from 1957 to 1965, but he's far from retired. The secretary at his South Seattle office, where he goes to work every weekday, answers the phone, "Governor's office." And Big Al prefers you address him as "Gov. Rosellini," especially when he's doling out his clout and connections, as he did this election season. The force behind Strippergate (the Seattle City Council scandal over campaign contributions from the friends and family of ex-con strip-club owner Frank Colacurcio Jr.), wily pol Rosellini knows where the political bodies are buried, having buried some of them himself. Still a member of the bar (he's No. 27 in the Washington State Bar Association, which now counts more than 40,000 members), Rosellini and his own attorney, Gil Levy, made a formidable triple threat with the heavily bankrolled Colacurcio, their old friend and client. They inadvertently gave Seattleites a glimpse into the sausage-making of council legislation, surprising even old-timers that some members of a liberal, politically correct council could seemingly be had for small change. We thank you, governor, for showing us the back entrance to City Hall and stripping politics down to its more revealing dimensions.Rick Anderson
BEST TV HOST
Not many people can confront their boss in the best of circumstances. When your job is on the line, it's even harder. So much more impressive, then, that KCTS-TV (9) host and producer ENRIQUE CERNA was able to grill the chairperson of the public station's board on camera this year, despite looming layoffs as the station's longtime financial mismanagement finally came to a head. "Where was the board?" Cerna asked Chair Doug Beighle on his show, KCTS Connects. Obviously straining to keep his emotions in check, Cerna plowed on: "Wasn't that a red flag?" he said, referring to early deficits at the station. If the struggling station is worth reviving, it's for people like Cernathe talented, dedicated staffers who have been trying to put the "public" back in public TV.N.S. Cerna hosts KCTS Connects on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., KCTS-TV ( 9).
SEATTLE'S SMARTEST COUPLE
Readers of Slate, Microsoft's highbrow Internet magazine, will be familiar with a regular feature called "The Breakfast Table," in which two or more interesting thinkers ponder the events of the day via e-mail. How fascinating it would be to capture the real breakfast chatter of Slate founding editor MICHAEL KINSLEY and wife PATTY STONESIFER, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They're the ultimate brainy power couple. He's the Harvard-bred intellectual who presided over several of the East Coast's most prestigious magazines and sparred on CNN's Crossfire before coming West to create something new. Having stepped down from the editorship of Slate amid health problems, he's resurfaced as a writer full of passionate fury at President Bush and his war. She's the leader of a foundation endowed with awesome money and influence that is changing the face of research on diseases in the Third World. Previously, she distinguished herself as one of Microsoft's few women executives, known not only for being smart but, in a very un-Microsoft way, for being nice.N.S.
BEST TECH SCHMOOZEFEST
Though tech gatherings waxed during the dot-com boom years and have waned since, monthly events sponsored by the WSA are where the geeky meet to greet. Dinner events take on big-picture topics such as annual predictions; 10 smaller special interest groups take on everything from boring databases to sexy gaming and wireless issues. The 19-year-old technology trade association has persisted, despite several name and focus changes. (Washington Software Association became Washington Software and Digital Media Alliance, then Washington Software Alliance, and now initials-only-please WSA.) Other once-busy networking events, such as IBDNetwork, First Tuesday, and Seattle Network, have faded. WSA is a combination of learning, networking, anddare it be saida sense of tech-community history that make WSA meetings worthwhile. That, and the fact that actual tech-industry companies frequently outnumber attorneys, accountants, and other service providers.Frank Catalano www.wsa.org.
BEST TECH PUNDIT
He might be tucked away in the home he calls Beach Palace Hotel II in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, but MARK ANDERSON's Strategic News Service is arguably the most influential tech newsletter on the planet. Anderson's weekly e-mail missives began in 1995. SNS grew to count tech luminaries Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, and Michael Dell, politico Maria Cantwell, and venture capitalist John Doerr among its subscribers, and it spawned the annual deep-thinking Future in Review (FIRe) Conference. Not shy, Anderson claims SNS to be "the most accurate predictive letter" of its kind, covering a broad range of topics in computing and telecommunications and occasionally wandering into economics and politics. While we've no shortage of prolific pundits in the area, Anderson wins this one hands down for his strategic thinking, entertaining writing, and global reach. He also gets points for having what many consider the oldest paid-subscription e-mail newsletter around.F.C. Strategic News Service: www.stratnews.com.
BEST NERD HANGOUT
Is your idea of a good time wading through 50,000 items, from circuit boards to consumer electronics, standing in line for hours, and then risking a strip search if your receipt isn't in order? Then FRY'S ELECTRONICS is for you. Fry's is legendary in the Silicon Valley for theme decor (from ancient Egypt to the Wild West), broad selection, and tight security. It finally opened a store in the Seattle area in August. The result: call-the-fire-marshal-size crowds. While the approach is something of a cross between RadioShack with a thyroid problem and a Sears appliance aisle, Fry's focuses on the "technical customer." Those who love it describe it in terms usually reserved for religious experiences.F.C. 800 Garden Ave. N., Renton, 425-525-0200.
BEST SURVIVING DOT-COM
While many of Microsoft's dot-com era ventures tanked, Bellevue-based EXPEDIA was one of the happy, and rare, exceptions. Founded in 1996 and later spun off to stand on its own as a public company, this year Expedia merged with Barry Diller's InterActiveCorp, home of fellow travel sites Hotels.com and Hotwire. Not only is Expedia the largest online travel agency, it's the fourth-largest U.S. travel agency, period. What makes Expedia worth noting is that it's so darned easy to use. Compare and book flights. Sort them by time, price, or airline. And every time you check a trip you've purchased, it automatically updates your itinerary with any changesa godsend for the swamped road warrior. The interactive Seat Pinpointer is especially cool (exit-window aisle, please). Expedia has added hotels, vacations, and cruises over time, but flight is where the Web site shines. And it's profitable. A profitable dot-com. Profitability and usefulness put Expedia on top, annoying TV commercials aside.F.C. www.expedia.com.
BEST POLICE OBSESSION
Homicide detectives are a rather obsessive bunch as a rule. They are, after all, usually chasing a mystery. And then there's the Green River Task Force, whose members redefine obsessionin the best way possible. You already know the basics: Beginning in 1982, at least 49 women, many of them prostitutes, disappeared around King County, the apparent work of a serial murderer who became known as the GREEN RIVER KILLER. While bodies were discovered over the years, the killer or killers remained free. The trail was, if not cold, chilly. But King County Sheriff's Office detectives never gave up, carefully saving every microfiber and paint chip from the various crime scenes in what turned into one of the longest murder investigations in U.S. history. Finally, in 2001, deputies arrested truck painter Gary Ridgway of Auburn and charged him with seven of the 49 slayings. Many law-enforcement agencies around the country would have been satisfied. But the task force didn't stop there. In recent months, its detectives and crime technicians have scoured the hills and vales of eastern King County in search of the remains of even more victims to provide closure to families of the missing, as well as to close out some of the remaining mysteries of the Green River case. Apparently armed with information from Ridgway himself, the task force has turned up and identified several more sets of human bonesand they are still out there, hacking away at the undergrowth, looking for more.Philip Dawdy
BEST POLICE POSSESSION
SPD's motorcycle unit ditched its Japanese-made Kawasaki KZ 1000s this year in favor of the all-American rumble of HARLEY-DAVIDSON FLHPI ROAD KING POLICE MOTORCYCLES. The "pigs on hogs" program, as some cops jokingly refer to it, is the result of Harley finally getting its act together and building reliable bikes and the mainstreaming of what was once thoroughly linked to the Hell's Angels and Easy Rider. The 39 leased motorcycles are used for traffic enforcement, dignitary escorts, and crowd control at protest marches. Whatever their use, the white-and-black bikes and their riders lookwe cannot believe we are saying thiscool. The fortunate 39 who ride the 1450cc bikes also get to take the hogs home but are on duty as soon as they roll out of their driveways each day. Of course, none of this makes getting a speeding ticket any easier, but maybe SPD will address that by turning the Harleys into choppers. P.D.
BEST CRIME-DOES-PAY MOMENT
University of Washington brain surgeon DR. H. RICHARD WINN, investigated for submitting hundreds of thousands of dollars in questionable Medicare and Medicaid insurance billings, plea-bargained a lesser charge and was sentenced to five years of probation, 1,000 hours of community service, and a $4,000 criminal fine (along with reimbursing the federal government $500,000 that prosecutors say he wrongly appropriated from taxpayers). He also received a $970,000 UW golden parachute, had his $500,000 tab for legal fees picked up by the university, and was given a guarantee of up to $3.7 million in UW unemployment compensation. There. Now don't let it happen again, Richard!R.A.
No contest. It's 'Gar. Long before the double heard round the world in 1995, EDGAR MARTINEZ was the clutch guy, a great gamer who got every ounce of performance out of the talent with which he was born. If the Baseball Hall of Fame has space for Bill Mazeroski and other dubious achievers, there ought to be a wing reserved for Edgar, twice an American League batting champ (right-handed, yet) and the best designated hitter ever. The Mariners should have brought him up from the minors three years sooner. They also ought to slot a roster spot for him next season.Mike Henderson
BEST SPORTS SUPERSTAR
It was Ichiro's to lose, and sure enough he did, to LAUREN JACKSON. The Storm trouper was a terror this year on both sides of the courtso much so that the WNBA gave her the MVP award, even though her team failed yet again to make the playoffs. The Awesome Aussie also had to share the limelight with this year's "it chick," Sue "Spanky" Bird. Note to Sonics: If the women's league folds, take a good, hard look at the Big Blonde.M.H.
BEST NON-STARTING ATHLETE
How could it not be TRENT DILFER? The former Super Bowl MVP has had his share of tough luck and personal tragedy (including the loss of a child), but he's there to take command when the interchangeable Matt Hasselbeck can't play for the Seattle Seahawks. The tandem isn't quite Joe Montana and Steve Young yet, but a lot of the Seahawks' playoff posturing has to do with knowing they don't lack leadership at QB.M.H.
BEST SEAHAWKS COMEBACK
Amazed at signs of life at Seahawks Stadium? That's nothing compared to the recent reappearance of real Seattle seahawksalso known as OSPREYS. Naturalists and bird watchers say that populations of big birds like bald eagles and falcons have been slowly on the rise in Seattle proper, recovering decades after being hurt by development and DDT. Eagle nests now are found throughout the city's parks, from Seward to Green Lake, and nesting peregrines can be found on downtown buildings and the West Seattle Bridge. But only very recently have the white-crested, sharp-taloned, fish-catching predators returned to the city. One nest is near the Interbay Golf Center on 15th Avenue West, conveniently located, it should be noted, near Fishermen's Terminal and the Ballard Locks. Smart play. Go, seahawks.Knute Berger
MOST GENEROUS EMPLOYEES
Boeing workers locally lost more than 8,000 from their ranks over the past year, but that didn't stop them from raising nearly the same amount of money for charity this year as last. The Puget Sound chapter of BOEING'S EMPLOYEES COMMUNITY FUND collected nearly $20 million last May, representing an average 15 percent increase in giving per member. No doubt, relentless waves of layoffs at Boeing have given its workers a heightened sense of the needs out there, with many former colleagues holding mortgages they can't pay. Less-generous employees, knowing their own jobs might be next to go, would hoard extra money, not donate it. Everybody celebrates philanthropy among the rich, but how much more impressive is the generosity of folks who have little to spare.N.S.