The Elliott Bay waterfront is buzzing about the impending demise of the George Benson Waterfront Streetcar Line, officially known as King County Metro Transit Route 99, which runs from Myrtle Edwards Park to the Chinatown/International District. The source of the rumor is an informal campaign by streetcar drivers who have been passing out leaflets at area businesses and talking with passengers, telling people that the streetcar's operation will cease next year. But no decision has been made, according to Metro's general manager, Kevin Desmond. Metro is in negotiations with the Seattle Art Museum about the removal of the streetcar's maintenance barn, at the Myrtle Edwards parking lot, to make way for the Olympic Sculpture Garden. The maintenance barn sits on city-owned land that SAM wants as part of the 8.5-acre sculpture garden. The preferred option of both City Hall and King County is to tear down the current streetcar barn, let SAM have the site, and find a new location for the maintenance facility, which would enable service to continue without interruption. Finding a new location is, of course, a challenge. SAM would like the streetcar barn removed by June 2005, according to King County. If the streetcar barn can't be relocated, presumably Metro would have to shut down the service. But that will likely happen anyway, at least temporarily, if the Alaskan Way Viaduct is rebuilt or replaced. The streetcar line is named for former City Council member George Benson, who pushed for establishment of the trolley, which began service with restored Australian cars in 1982. GEORGE HOWLAND JR.
Why Deborah Senn? That was the question when the source of funding for attack ads against the state attorney general candidate turned out to be the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which dumped a jaw-dropping $1.5 million into the effort. Apparently remaining elliptical, the chamber's legal officer, Stan Anderson, told the Associated Press that local businesses complained to the organization about Senn's "anti-business agenda." A visit to the Web site of the Institute for Legal Reform, the political arm of the chamber that made the anti-Senn donation, reveals further that the group's preoccupation is tort reform—the business-led effort to curb costly negligence and malpractice lawsuits by such measures as caps on jury awards. Campaign finance watchdogs, like Deborah Goldberg of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's law school, confirm that tort reform has been driving a recent initiative by the chamber to get involved in local judicial and attorney general races around the country. The move to take on Senn makes perfect sense. "Deborah, of course, is the only candidate in the race that does not support tort reform," Senn spokesperson Karen Besserman said on the eve of the Tuesday, Sept. 14, primary. And Senn's populist record when she was state insurance commissioner infuriated insurance companies, which make payouts in negligence cases. What's more, Forbes magazine has reported that one of the country's biggest insurance companies—the American International Group—is funneling money into the chamber's state-based politicking. NINA SHAPIRO
On Sunday, Sept. 12, The Seattle Times closed the book on the plagiarism and other journalistic improprieties of Stephen Dunphy, a longtime business columnist and associate editor who resigned last month. As Executive Editor Mike Fancher pointed out in an article, Dunphy's crimes were extensive, including 13 cases of plagiarism. There was, however, a puzzling lack of detail about which articles Dunphy had plagiarized and how far into the past his misdeeds extended. Fancher offered two examples but did not get into the when and where of the remaining 11, all of which date from the past seven years. Isn't it possible, even likely, there was prior history? Fancher says the Times limited its review to the post-1996 period because there was a "sense of diminishing returns" in digging deeper. It would be tough to examine all of Dunphy's thousands of articles, of course, but without a review of all the material, the integrity of every one is seriously in doubt. As to the tainted articles the paper found, he says that since they are not up to the Times' standards, the paper is considering removing them from its Web site, as opposed to leaving them in place and flagging each one with a correction. PHILIP DAWDY