National Politics, City Hall, State Politics, Transportation, Seattle School Board

National Politics

Add a name and another Seattle connection to the Republican lobbying scandal involving Jack Abramoff. A pal of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas and Mercer Island mediamonger Rabbi Daniel Lapin, Abramoff is the former D.C. influence peddler who once did the bidding of the Seattle-based law and lobbying firm Preston Gates Ellis. He went on to more lucrative and potentially felonious pursuits and has been in the crosshairs of federal investigators for months as the central figure in a multimillion-dollar matrix of Indian-tribe lobbying. Now the feds have arrested another former Preston Gates Ellis D.C. lawyer, David Safavian, a senior White House budget official, for allegedly lying to and obstructing investigators on the Abramoff case. While with Preston Gates, Safavian "shared at least one client with Mr. Abramoff, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, and also represented Microsoft, the Port of Seattle, and the Dredging Contractors of America," The New York Times reported on Tuesday, Sept. 20. CHUCK TAYLOR

City Hall

It mostly escaped attention, but last week, Seattle City Council member Peter Steinbrueck asked the council staff to explore the implications of building heights in the central business district that are even higher than the 700 feet proposed by Mayor Greg Nickels. Steinbrueck says his idea would limit superhigh commercial office towers to the downtown core, away from areas—around the Denny Triangle, for example—where the goal is residential-friendly communities. PHILIP DAWDY

State Politics

The race to challenge U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, in 2006 is already heating up. On Sept. 14, Darcy Burner, a former Microsoft program manager, kicked off her campaign to win the Democratic nomination to oppose Reichert. (Trial attorney Randy Gordon is the other declared Democratic candidate.) Burner, 34, has slick campaign materials that highlight her personal story: blue-collar military brat becomes soccer-mom geek. She is painting Reichert as a lackey of the congressional leadership and hits the usual points—abortion rights, stem-cell research, and environmental legislation—but also says the former sheriff is failing at his supposed strong suit, homeland security, by voting against measures recommended by the 9/11 Commission. Too bad for Burner that her kickoff came the week the Alaska Coalition, an environmental group, praised Reichert for opposing oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The rookie congressman just keeps improving his re-election prospects by taking surprising stands. GEORGE HOWLAND JR.

Transportation

Former supporter Mayor Greg Nickels put the brakes on the Seattle Monorail Project last week (see Mossback and "Nickels Turns on a Dime"), but he wasn't the only elected official issuing an ultimatum. Also last week, Gov. Christine Gregoire,tired of Seattle holding out for money for a waterfront tunnel to replace the ancient Alaskan Way Viaduct, said she would issue her own cutoff date, after which the viaduct would be replaced above ground if tunnel financing was still up in the air. The mayor now might face killing another pet project, but he should remember that he once questioned the wisdom of a waterfront tunnel. Back in 2001, when he was running for mayor, Nickels told Seattle Weekly that Sound Transit's Capitol Hill tunnel woes had turned him off. "I've had enough tunnels for one lifetime," he told us. Right the first time, Mr. Mayor. KNUTE BERGER

Seattle School Board

At press time, the Seattle School Board was considering restricting speech at meetings. The reasons are evident but ironic. Some on the board won their seat on a wave of public anger during the time of former Superintendent Joseph Olchefske, which spilled over into circuslike board meetings. There were cheers, there were jeers, there were mocking songs. And some of the most vocal critics at those meetings worked on the campaigns of present-day board members Brita Butler-Wall, Darlene Flynn, Sally Soriano, and Irene Stewart, all of whom joined in the spirit of bashing the district for, among other things, not being open enough to public input. Now those supposed reformers are discovering that it's hard to be on the receiving end. On Wednesday, Sept. 21, the board was to vote on a proposal to limit public comment to specific action items. Others would get to speak at new monthly "community conversations" with the board, but critics are not pleased. "This is censorship," says parent activist Melissa Westbrook. NINA SHAPIRO

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