Critics' Picks

People, Politics, & Media

Best-Run Political Campaign

Look out, Maria, Mike is coming to get you! In the early months of the political season, former Safeco CEO and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike McGavick has run a stellar campaign against the incumbent, Democrat Maria Cantwell. McGavick is executing a brilliant strategy that allows him to have it both ways: His positions are identical to the Bush administration—keep on with a war of aggression and occupation in Iraq, give more handouts to the wealthy through obscene tax cuts, and despoil our precious Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil—which pleases his Republican base. Meanwhile, his talk and image are all about civility, earnestness, and kissing babies to appeal to the great mushy middle. So far, Cantwell hasn't figured out what to do in response. —George Howland Jr.501 Eighth Ave. N., 206-838-7479, www.mikemcgavick.com.

Best Bean Counter

He may be pursued by a posse of Howie Haters. But, as usual, Howard Schultz is laughing all the way to the bank. When critics say the chairman's Starbucks coffee tastes like 30-weight oil, he answers by opening another store—four a day, on average. When city officials tell him the public no longer supports free playgrounds for sports moguls, he sells his Seattle SuperSonics and Storm basketball teams for a profit of at least $80 million. On paper, he's not quite a billionaire, but he's destined to get there no matter how many offenses it takes. Not that it seems to matter. At a recent press conference announcing the sale of the Sonics to Oklahoma investors, a Seattle Weekly reporter told Schultz that local bloggers had already tagged him "the meanest man in Seattle." His face tightened a little. Then he shrugged. "Well," he said, "that's unfortunate." Next question?—Rick Anderson

Best Pro Athlete

There's an old joke around Seattle's macho male hoops fan set that goes like this: Which would you rather do—go to a Storm game, or find a $5 bill on the sidewalk? The folks who desire the fiver have obviously never seen Betty Lennox play. A sinewy 5-foot 7-inch off-guard with cornrows and tats who doesn't settle for jumpers and refers to herself in the third person, "B-Money" is the WNBA's version of Allen Iverson, cannonballing around the interior trees as she vies for the rim. In short, she plays like a dude, which is what it takes to win over those who consider the women's game to be a pretender to Naismith's throne.—Mike Seelywww.wnba.com/playerfile/betty_lennox.

Best Political Pissing Match

When he's not offering up another memorable quote to keep Jon Stewart's Daily Show stocked with comedy fodder, U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, seems to be supplying material to aid the re-election campaign of U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. The two sparred over whether petroleum executives should be sworn in during a hearing on gas-price rip- offs. Committee Chair Stevens balked at Cantwell's demand, but it turned out the oily execs might indeed have lied. Stevens also holds Cantwell personally responsible for his latest failed attempt to rip open the virginal Alaska North Slope for oil extraction. He vowed to come south and campaign against Cantwell—and later did send an emissary, to little avail. He also tried but failed to undercut refinery restrictions in Washington state. Cantwell is publicly diplomatic to "Mr. Stevens." But she's quietly toasting the self-proclaimed Incredible Hulk at her campaign headquarters. In TV ads, helping save the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from a gas attack is ballyhooed as her top accomplishment.—Rick Anderson

Best Right-Wing Rabbi

This radio talker is the "show rabbi of the Christian right," as The New York Times called him. And his Mercer Island charity, Toward Tradition, was one of the channels through which fallen D.C. superlobbyist Jack Abramoff secretly laundered political funding. But Rabbi Daniel Lapin, the homophobic Bush fund-raiser who is a native of South Africa, says he was unaware the circuitous money flow was illegal. And Lapin says he had no clue that Abramoff, the ex-lobbyist for Seattle's Preston Gates Ellis law firm and now convicted felon who was on Toward Tradition's board, had gone bad. "I can recall no discussions about Jack's business and never heard anything from him that caused me to think he was doing anything unscrupulous," Lapin says. As for that $50,000 washed through his charity account to the wife of an aide to U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas? Done on his part "in all innocence," the rabbi ordains.—Rick Anderson

Best Bureaucrat

Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) Secretary Doug MacDonald is no ordinary bureaucrat. Before coming here in 2001, MacDonald spent 10 years completing a $3.8 billion megaproject on time and on budget in the corrupting political environment of Boston. MacDonald has labored mightily in the Evergreen State to change the public's perception of WSDOT, through transparency, and improve the agency's handling of the state's most vexing problem: metropolitan transportation. During his tenure, there have been great successes, the most striking being the defeat of last year's anti-gas-tax Initiative 912. Now MacDonald has to deliver a series of megaprojects, including the replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, any of which could easily cost more and take longer than promised. If anyone can do it, MacDonald can.—George Howland Jr.360-705-7000, www.wsdot.wa.gov.

Best Sports Columnist

Looking for a good reason to keep the Seattle Post-Intelligencer around? Here's one: Art Thiel. While a lot of general sports columnists seek side gigs on TV and radio, Thiel adheres to the throwback mentality that the pen is mightier than the satellite dish. In a day when his colleagues are resorting to blogorrhea with a two- syllable maximum, Thiel still sharpens readers' vocabularies with pearls like this: "By dint of burdensome contracts, the infield corners are fixed with Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre." Well said, sir.—Mike Seely seattlepi.nwsource.com/thiel/.

Best Mainstream-Media Blog

The Seattle Times'David Postman is showing how daily newspapers can dominate the Web. Postman is a fabulous political reporter who has covered state politics for the Times since 1994. He's now blogging full time. Every weekday, Postman hustles to report political news by working his extensive sources and relying on his encyclopedic knowledge of Washington politics. He takes advantage of the immediacy of the Web that has made blogs so popular but adds the thoroughness, reliability, independence, and fairness that characterize the mainstream media at their best. This combination makes his blog head and shoulders above the gossip and partisan attacks of most of what the blogosphere has to offer. If daily newspapers free up more of their reporters to do exactly this kind of work, the amateur sites of the ax grinders will find themselves with a diminishing audience. Of course, newspaper executives have to figure out how to make enough money to support this kind of quality blogging.—George Howland Jr.blog.seattle times.nwsource.com/davidpostman.

Best Citizen Initiative Idea

Since the announcement that the Seattle SuperSonics would be sold to an Oklahoma City group, Initiative 91, which would prohibit the use of city money to subsidize sports stadiums, has become more important than ever. Both Mayor Greg Nickels and the Seattle City Council have shown admirable restraint in the face of demands from the Sonics' current ownership group. Led by Starbucks chief Howard Schultz, they wanted the public to pick up two-thirds of a $200 million renovation of KeyArena. Before the new owners can just up and move the team to Oklahoma City, they will have to try to see how sweet a deal they can get from Seattle's political leaders. By voting in November in favor of I-91, sponsored by the gadflies at Citizens for More Important Things, Seattleites can deliver a clear message to the Sonics: Don't waste time double-dribbling on your way out of town.—George Howland Jr.Citizens for More Important Things, 206-854-6127, www.citizensformoreimportantthings.com.

Best Civic Nanny

We were thinking of lauding City Attorney Tom Carr for his puritanical crackdown on the Blue Moon Tavern, but when it comes to nannyism, no one can top Mayor Greg Nickels. The mayor wants dancers to remain four feet from patrons at strip clubs, wants the places lit as brightly as a QFC, and wants any new strip club to be built in a "strip club zone" south of downtown. Nickels has also pushed the city's discriminatory ban on beer and wine targeted at poor folks and has called for stricter gun laws in a city with one of the lowest murder rates in the country. Now he wants nightclubs to obey a new "nightlife" initiative, which will do little more than strangle nightlife with tighter noise limits, for example, and requirements that club personnel act as police officers outside the clubs. All in an attempt to keep Seattle clean and proper. For whom? Uptight neighborhood types. We can't wait until the mayor tries to emulate his hometown of Chicago and calls for a ban on certain cooking oils, or turns the police loose on enforcing the statewide smoking ban and the 25-foot rule. Given the way he's going, we wouldn't be surprised a bit.—Philip Dawdy

Best New Law

In November 2005, when Washingtonians overwhelmingly passed Initiative 901, which banned smoking in public places, it seemed like a solid victory for public health, with some overreach, especially in regard to the rule that smokers have to stay 25 feet from doorways. Since then, the new law has become downright visionary—even the 25-foot rule. On June 28, U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona issued a comprehensive review of the scientific evidence about the dangers of secondhand smoke and concluded, "[T]here is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke." Even brief exposure to smoke can cause "immediate harm," and people exposed to secondhand smoke at their home and workplaces face an increased risk of heart disease and lung cancer. The report has obvious parallels to the 1964 Surgeon General report that documented the dangers of smoking and changed forever America's view of the use of tobacco. In the wake of this year's report on secondhand smoke, more states will follow Washington's example and eliminate this clear and present danger.—George Howland Jr.

Best Social Experiment

It was predictable that someone would go off his collective nut when the 1811 Eastlake project opened last December. The project provides permanent housing to chronic street drunks and allows them to keep drinking. And that sort of thinking sounds insane to uptight media types like KOMO-TV's Ken Schram, who denounced the place as enabling drunks. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Robert Jamieson has been nitpicking 1811 as well, since well before it opened, in fact, and the paper continues to refer to it as a "wet house." But here's the deal: Chronic street drunks cost taxpayers about $50,000 a year as they move through the current streets-jail-emergency- room-repeat program. The new approach, spearheaded by the Downtown Emergency Service Center, gives these guys a roof over their heads, lets them hooch it up, and saves the taxpayers money because the former street denizens will no longer be cycling through jail and ERs. Estimated savings: about $35,000 per person. Sounds counterintuitive, sure, but so far the reports are that the drunks are drinking less.—Philip Dawdy www.desc.org/1811.html

Best Disappointment

If you're going to have your heart broken, you might as well have it broken by a Super Bowl loss. The 2005–06 Seattle Seahawks probably should have won Super Bowl XL in Detroit last February— by the way, do you remember the names of the refs?—but the Pittsburgh Steelers did. It was a lot of fun just the same. I'll always remember the Metro bus driver who made every boarding passenger touch his white Seahawks rally towel on his last day before flying off to watch the game. (Epidemiologists, take note.) Coach Mike Holmgren was vindicated. Owner Paul Allen was vindicated. Was this near-total success worth $300 million in taxpayer money for Qwest Field? Depends on how they do this year.—Chuck Taylorwww.seahawks.com.

Best Philanthropist

The Great Plains taketh (Oklahoma grabs the SuperSonics) and they giveth ($31 billion coming to Seattle from Nebraska). Bill Gates must have let Warren Buffett win a lot of bridge games. The Oracle of Omaha, who heads the legendary Berkshire Hathaway investment company and is a pal of the Microsoft co-founder, will be donating that huge sum over time to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, effectively doubling the endowment of an organization dedicated foremost to solving basic world health problems. We jest about the bridge playing, of course. Buffett is someone whose track record of careful investing is unmatched.—Chuck Taylorwww.berkshirehathaway.com

Best-Kept Secret

In 1970, Congress passed the Newspaper Preservation Act to allow a city's two competing newspapers to consolidate and streamline business functions, effectively creating an advertising monopoly to ensure survival of two editorial voices. The result was supposed to benefit the public. Such a joint operating agreement has been in place since 1983 in Seattle, where the locally controlled Seattle Times handles the business end of things for the smaller, Hearst-owned Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Now the two companies are in court, with the Times wanting to end the arrangement and Hearst resisting. At least they were in court. The two parties decided this year to enter into confidential binding arbitration to settle things. Inasmuch as this is a federally sanctioned monopoly created in the public interest, you'd think we'd get to watch how it gets terminated. But we don't. Shame on the owners of both papers for shutting us out.—Chuck Taylor15 U.S. Code, Chapter 43.

Best 'Best' City Magazine

Let's see, we have Seattle magazine, with "18 Romantic Getaways," "341 Best Physicians," "127 Top Dentists," 124 "Best Restaurants," "44 Best Outdoor Adventures," and "115 Best Shops." Then there's upstart Seattle Metropolitan magazine, with "65 Best Ways to Love Our City," "15 Hottest Neighborhoods," "227 People Who Shaped Seattle," "93 Summer Escapes," and "Seattle's Best Doctors" (there were 315). I'm sure I left some out. In any event, I'd call it a tie.—Chuck Taylorwww.seattlemag.com, www.seattlemet.com.

 
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