Buzz

Monorail

With a round of applause, the Seattle Monorail Project this week approved its 13.7-mile alignment with no surprises—from Crown Hill south to Ballard, through Seattle Center, down Fifth and then Second Avenue (with nine-foot building clearances), and off to SoDo, West Seattle, and, well, maybe. The City Council will tinker with the design and make sure the city doesn't get stuck with funding gaps or overruns for the $1.6 billion line. But it's like nothing has happened until the bids come in from contractors in a month or two. Then officials sit down to see if they have the money for their dream, or whether the two bidding consortiums come up with a dream—or nightmare—of their own. Meantime, tax king Tim Eyman is challenging the monorail's decision that the winning bidder must set aside up to a third of the jobs for women and minorities. Eyman wrote a stinging letter to Attorney General Christine Gregoire, calling the move a "clear violation of Initiative 200," the 1998 voter-approved law that banned race and gender preferences in public-college admissions, contracting, and hiring. Says monorail executive Joel Horn: "We cleared it with our lawyers. It's legal." RICK ANDERSON

Politics

It's rare in Seattle for one Democrat to challenge another, but then, Alice Woldt, 64, has spent a lifetime challenging the usual. This week, Woldt announced she is running in the 36th District against a fellow Democrat, a 32-year veteran of the state Legislature and the powerful chair of the Appropriations Committee, state Rep. Helen Sommers. Woldt is best known for her 17 years in staff positions at the Church Council of Greater Seattle. "I felt called to do this," says Woldt, who claims to be more supportive of unions, environmentalists, and funding for social services than the incumbent. Sommers, a plain-speaking budget hawk, summarizes in her usual succinct fashion: "I'm not liberal enough." GEORGE HOWLAND JR.

Business

Every year, BusinessWeek ranks the S&P 500 index of public companies on total return, sales growth, profit growth, net margin, and return on equity—the things stock investors worry about most. Progressive, the Ohio insurance company, led the list. Here's where local companies landed this year: 25. Starbucks (Seattle); 54. Nordstrom (Seattle); 72. Paccar (Bellevue); 77. Microsoft (Redmond); 140. Washington Mutual (Seattle); 174. Costco (Issaquah); 198. Safeco (Seattle); 232. AT&T Wireless (Redmond); 289. Weyerhaeuser (Federal Way); 330. Plum Creek Timber (Seattle). No longer headquartered here, Boeing of Chicago ranked 407th. AT&T Wireless is being acquired by Atlanta-based Cingular. CHUCK TAYLOR

Quote

"A host, when news is breaking, actually needs to be able to interact live with a reporter on the scene and do live interviews with analysts as a story is unfolding. We owe a lot to Bob Edwards for setting exactly the right tone for the first 25 years. But I think there is probably wide agreement in the public radio system that it is time for an evolutionary change." —Jeff Hansen, program director for KUOW-FM, on the ouster of Morning Edition host Edwards by National Public Radio (The New York Times, Tuesday, March 30)

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