Election 2003, Transportation, and Media

ELECTION 2003

Local politicians were in full spin mode after last week's ousting of three incumbent Seattle City Council members. Mayor Greg Nickels and the three victorsDavid Della, Jean Godden, and Tom Rasmussenfavored the "serious business" explanation. According to them, council incumbents got tossed because they paid attention to frivolous side issues like circus animals. The fallacy of this explanation becomes apparent when you consider Margaret Pageler's loss to Rasmussen. If Pageler was any more serious, she'd be considered a grave epidemic. Since Pageler is the epitome of a wonky workhorse and is focused on unglamorous utility issues, clearly the voters had other reasons for dumping her. Meanwhile City Council member Nick Licata claimed the neighborhoods (his political base) were protesting the mayor's high-handedness. "People want council members to pay attention to the basics rather than the glamorous projects that the mayor has been pushing," he said. The big problem with Licata's explanation is that voters defeated the mayor's most visible opponent on the councilJudy Nicastroand replaced her with the Nickels-backed Godden. So what's the real message of the election? I favor council member Jan Drago's simple approach: "Voters were angry. It's a bum economy." GEORGE HOWLAND JR.

TRANSPORTATION

Executive Ron Sims' staff at King County is in more hot water over growth policies. Several years ago, the county was accused by Eastside homeowners of creating low-balled traffic forecasts that gave large new housing developments the green light, despite the state's "concurrency" laws, which require that housing be approved only when there are sufficient roads to handle the extra cars. The county pledged to change its ways. Now five staffers inside the county Department of Transportation, including a supervisor, have filed a whistle-blower complaint with the King County ombudsman, contending that a similar pattern of fudged numbers was used in approving a massive housing development called Redmond Ridge (owned by Quadrant, the real-estate unit of Weyerhaeuser). The employees allege a series of actions they describe as "unethical, unprofessional, or potentially illegal." The case has been sent to an outside consultant for investigation; he expects to submit a draft of his report to the county by the end of this week. MARK D. FEFER

MEDIA

Puget Sound Business Journal's managing editor is saying so long after more than five years at the paper and 17 years in Seattle. Rob Smith, who is No. 2 in the editorial department under Editor Rami Grunbaum, is headed to his hometown to edit another American Business Journals paper, the Portland Business Journal. No replacement yet. It's the second leadership change in the editorial department at PSBJ in a little more than a year. In October 2002, then-Editor Don Nelson departed for the St. Paul, Minn., Pioneer Press and was succeeded by PSBJ veteran Grunbaum. CHUCK TAYLOR

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