500 Gs for Striptease

Also: the alcohol ban, the estate tax, and Maria Cantwell's distressing poll numbers

The City

Just how much is close-up nude table dancing worth to the Seattle strip-club industry? As of last week, club owners have gambled more than $500,000 on a campaign to head off a city-legislated ban on some types of table dancing and other new strip-club rules. That's a record amount for a local referendum. But the owners presumably figure they'll lose that and a lot more if the City Council succeeds with a ban on lap dancing and direct tipping, as well as a requirement for brighter club lighting. Referendum 1, if placed on the fall ballot and passed by voters, would counter the city ban. The measure is backed by Seattle Citizens for Free Speech, which has just two contributors, Seattle Amusement, headed by Roger Forbes, and Lake City LLC, operated by Frank Colacurcio Jr. and Sr., strip-club impresarios all. As of June 30, they have contributed $535,000 to the nudie-dance cause—just $2,000 less than Mayor Greg Nickels spent on his re-election last year—and have used up $291,000, mostly on collecting referendum signatures. That leaves about $244,000 in the bank, certainly enough to finish out the campaign and throw one hell of a victory party. RICK ANDERSON

The Washington State Liquor Control Board sponsored a public hearing at City Hall last week on the city of Seattle's alcohol impact areas (AIA), where the sale of high-powered liquor, the kind designed to get you efficiently drunk, is limited. Jordan Royer of the mayor's office asked the board to give its blessing to the city's plans to make mandatory AIAs covering the U District and the city's entire central core. To the city's credit, it didn't cook any stats, admitting that both the currently mandated Pioneer Square AIA and the voluntary AIAs had essentially been failures. But it cited these failures—compounded by widespread refusal of booze vendors to sign Community Good Neighbor Agreements (CGNA)—as justification for making the AIAs mandatory and eventually expanding their reach. Royer said that CGNA participation rates in the voluntary AIAs stood at around 30 percent and summarized vendor opposition thusly: "Why should I comply when the guy down the street can not comply and get all my business?" In reference to Pioneer Square, he blamed that AIA's failure on the area being too small, saying that chronic public inebriates could simply walk up the road a few blocks to score their forbidden hooch, which the city would like to expand to 34 banned brands—mainly cheap beer, malt liquor, and fortified wine. MIKE SEELY

State Politics

The Association of Washington Business (AWB), the state's largest business lobby, has joined a former organizer and current member of the extremist, right-wing John Birch Society to try to overturn a wonderful, progressive Washington estate tax that funds education by backing Initiative 920. Gov. Christine Gregoire, the speaker of the state House, Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, and the Legislature showed real leadership last year by passing the tax, which will only affect around 210 Washington families a year but will raise $100 million a year in revenues. The world's wealthiest man, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, believes the tax is a good idea—he donated $10,000 to the Committee to Protect Our Children's Legacy that is opposing I-920. Unfortunately, I-920 has a few wealthy and powerful allies of its own. Seattle developer Martin Selig gave the initiative campaign $432,000, according to I-920's opponents. The AWB and Bircher Dennis Falk turned in 300,000 signatures—more than enough to qualify the initiative for November's ballot.

Another week, another set of bad poll numbers for U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell. The Republican firm Strategic Vision has been polling every month in Washington for over a year, and the latest results show the race between Cantwell and GOP challenger and former Safeco CEO Mike McGavick as a virtual dead heat, with the incumbent receiving 47 percent support while the challenger has 43 percent. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percent. Since Cantwell is clearly not going to change course on her support for the criminal invasion of Iraq, what will she do to try to turn her numbers around? Clearly she hoped that the energy issues she has devoted so much time to—opposing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, pushing alternative fuels, and helping with the Snohomish County Public Utility District's battle against Enron—would be significant to Washington's voters. So far, no good. GEORGE HOWLAND JR.

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