Parks, King County, Open Government

Parks

Walk around Seward Park on any sunny weekend day and you'll see one of the best things the city does. The beautifully maintained park, on a wooded finger of land that juts into Lake Washington and offers postcard views of Mount Rainier, is an idyllic playground for kids and adults of South Seattle's multiethnic community. Whites, blacks, Vietnamese, Somalians, Mexicans—they're all barbecuing and bicycling, swinging and sliding, feeding the ducks and strolling along the park's broad, lakeside path. Whatever else they can't afford in life, this, at least, is free. Which is why Mayor Greg Nickels' proposal to charge for parking at Seward, Green Lake, Lincoln, and McCurdy parks is such a horrible idea, one that strikes at the democratic foundation upon which such parks were built. And that's just the start, as outlined in his 2005–2006 budget. Nickels wants to roll out paid parking at 12 additional parks after that. Further, he wants to charge a whopping $5 admission at the Volunteer Park Conservatory, the lush and exotic greenhouse that now costs nothing to visit. This is not only wrong but foolish, because the conservatory, while a lovely half-hour stop in the park, doesn't stand up as a pricey destination point. What's next? Fees for swings? NINA SHAPIRO

King County

Lobbyist Martin "Jamie" Durkan wants to move the seat of King County government out of Seattle. "It's time to move the county seat out of that liberal bastion of left-wing wackos," he says. Durkan wants to pass a ballot initiative that would move the county seat from its current location downtown, in the King County Courthouse, to Bellevue. Durkan believes the resentment of Seattle is so strong in the rest of the county that such a measure would be very popular. "Most of the county is pretty fed up," says Durkan, noting that most of King County's 1.7 million people do not reside in Seattle, population 572,600. Durkan cites a recent debate at the King County Council, over the civil rights of transgendered people and transvestites, saying it epitomized a loss of touch with the reality of most citizens. Finally, he just laughs with delight imagining that the liberal members of the County Council who represent Seattle would have to commute every day to the suburbs. GEORGE HOWLAND JR.

Open Government

On its face, last week's state Supreme Court milestone ruling on an Open Records Act challenge is not a bad deal for Armen Yousoufian. The hotelier-turned-documents-diver had already been awarded $25,440 in penalties and almost $90,000 in legal costs from King County after County Executive Ron Sims and other top officials failed to properly turn over public documents detailing the wheeling and dealing behind the $1 billion football stadium deal for billionaire Paul Allen (see "After Further Review," Feb. 12, 2003). The Supreme Court allowed the penalty limit to rise to as high as $825,000, basing the fine on the number of days the county delayed releasing documents. A county court will now decide the final amount. Thing is, if Yousoufian had prevailed on the issue most crucial to him—that the fine be based on the number of documents, as well as the delay—he could have gotten up to $30 million from the county. Dissenting from the rest of the court, Justice Richard Sanders thought that would be the "necessary medicine" to make government sit up and pay attention to the regularly ignored disclosure law. "I improved my position, but the decision was otherwise disappointing," says Yousoufian. "We know there is still more withholding going on." In fact, he's still awaiting a document he suspects will show that the county ordered a $250,000 rigged study, paid for mostly by Allen, that gave birth to the stadium deal. Seven years and still counting. RICK ANDERSON

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