Whoops!

Thirty years ago in Seattle Weekly.

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This is one of a series looking back at Seattle Weekly's first year.

30th Anniversary

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Issue no. 11 of Seattle Weekly (June 9, 1976) saw the fledgling tabloid for the first time in full muckraking mode, taking sides in a sizzling hot-potato fight between the City Council and the crusty, street-fighting ex-fire-chief director of City Light, Gordon Vickery. Under intense council pressure, Vickery had grudgingly commissioned an independent study to determine whether Seattle should commit to buy a significant annual piece of the output of two new nuclear generating plants to be built by the Washington Public Power Supply System, or WPPSS (pronounced "Whoops!"). As it became clear that the study would recommend against Seattle's participation, Vickery lined up with the old-line engineers in the department who wanted the new capacity, and began putting pressure on City Light's house economist Doug Woodfill to fiddle with the power-demand projections to show that WPPSS would be a good deal for the city. Rather than do so, Woodfill took the opportunity of being called to testify before the council to resign his job and blow the whistle on Vickery's attempts to fudge the demand estimates. His methodical description of the whole behind-the-scenes struggle was spread across two pages of the Weekly. If the deal wasn't already dead, his public declaration of war against Vickery drove the nail through WPPSS's coffin. City taxpayers ended up paying $50 million instead of the possible billion-dollar cost of the system should it have been pushed to completion.

Elsewhere in a chock-full issue, Managing Editor Dick Lilly covered Bill Niemi's brave challenge to John Kilroy's Kialoa, then touted as "the world's fastest yacht" in the annual Swiftsure race of Vancouver Island. And publisher David Brewster paid tribute to the serious six-sevenths of fish merchant Ivar Haglund that was rarely seen and often forgotten behind the bad-pun-driven fried-cod empire the former fiery radical built in his later years.

rdowney@seattleweekly.com

 
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