In an unscheduled news conference this afternoon, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels will announce an emergency zoning measure to cover the entire area between Pioneer Square and the Pike Place Market. Seattle Weekly has been briefed extensively in advance of the rezoning plan by Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis, who, over many, many cocktails at the Turf (courtesy of Managing Editor Mike Seely), gave us an advance copy of the mayor's prepared speech. In it, Nickels will lay out a program to close a record budget gap by returning the district previously rebranded as West Edge--with little public awareness--back to its old roots.
In brief, Skid Row is back. Nickels will explain today that,
"The city's tax base has crashed, owing to both the broader national recession and local economic setbacks like the collapse of Washington Mutual. At the same time, our need for infrastructure investment--to repair Mercer Street and replace the Viaduct, for instance--has never been greater. And, frankly, we don't have the money. For this reason, we are rezoning and redesignating the West Edge neighborhood to become an area where strip clubs, prostitution, gambling, 24-hour liquor sales, and misdemeanor-grade drug sales are legal but taxed at a higher rate."
Nickels will further state that,
"We hope in this way to generate a tax windfall from local sin-seekers, but will also be promoting Seattle's New Skid Row with national advertising to bring back tourists and conventioneers. Look out, Las Vegas! You've got some competition! No more driving out of town to find hookers. No more shady drug deals to score a little blow. You can have both right here on Skid Row, along with every other form of fun, wickedness, and indulgence you can possibly imagine.
"And the best part? Your sin dollars will also allow us to expand the streetcar system, avoid school closures and reduce class sizes, house all the city's homeless, convert all city vehicles to electric or hybrid power, make trash and recycling collection free, and raise all municipal salaries by 30 percent. In five years, our projected surplus will exceed the GNP of Belgium!"
The Seattle City Council appears to support the plan. "Desperate times call for desperate measures," says council member Richard Conlin. "Perhaps we've gotten too bogged down in enforcing quality-of-life measures, like jaywalking and littering and noise ordinances. By letting people misbehave in big way, there will be big payoffs. I know it's a little unorthodox, to not only condone but encourage First Avenue brothels to display prostitutes of every description in store windows, just like in Amsterdam's red-light district.
"But," he adds with a chuckle, "I guess we're going from Nanny State to Tranny State."
How will the plan work?
Like the fabled Casbah, explains Ceis, the police will not be allowed into New Skid Row unless fires, rioting, or gunfire breaks out. (Weapons will be prohibited, as in the rest of the city.) "Basically, you check your morals at Second Avenue," says Ceis. "All brothels, streetwalkers, petty drug dealers, and gambling dens will be licensed and taxed by the city. Debit cards will be accepted for all transactions. And there will be ATMs on every corner for patrons who don't want their wives to read their Visa statements."
"But please," Ceis asks, "dispose of your used condoms and marijuana cigarette butts in a responsible manner. Littering is still a crime."
From Yesler to Pike, and Second to the waterfront, this over-21 zone will be transformed into a profitable carnival that already has developers and entrepreneurs pitching new ventures to the city.
"We've already heard from Bally's, Harrah's, and all the other major casino operators," says Ceis. "They're willing to pay top dollar for old parking lots. The city's B&O tax will receive a huge boost from their planned hotel-casinos. They're talking about topless floor shows, and premium entertainers like Tom Jones and Wayne Newton. Also Siegfried and Roy and Jeffersons on Ice."
Additionally, those green city-owned pay stations (used for parking) will be retrofitted to also dispense pornography.
Downtown property owners have been particularly hard-hit by the Washington Mutual implosion and layoffs at many other businesses. The Nickels plan will change all that, putting empty buildings to profitable use.
Above the Seattle Art Museum, for instance, the 240,000 square feet vacated by WaMu have already been leased by the Lusty Lady, which will be dramatically expanding its operations in the skin trade.
Broken-tooth retail storefronts along Western Avenue are expected to fill up rapidly with small, friendly opium dens, boutique coffee and cannabis vendors (all with Wi-Fi), massage parlors, and hemp-ware gift shops.
Existing Starbucks locations are expected to receive a huge surge in sales, now that baristas will be performing in what Howard Schultz has described, in a press release, as the new "Strip for Tips" program. Also, hard liquor will now be served along with coffee and pastries.
Long a favorite of visiting families, the horse-drawn carriage rides in this now adults-only zone will be driven by naked, buxom Playboy bunnies. Or, for sex tourists who swing the other way, chiseled hunks will pedal the tricycle cabs that also ply the waterfront. Tipping you can leave to your imagination.
With the waterfront viaduct speedily replaced by an entirely city-funded deep-bore tunnel, a revitalized Alaskan Way will cater to pleasure-seekers arriving by cruise ship. The elegant, wide, pedestrian-friendly boulevard will be perfect for perusing the classiest of streetwalkers. If patrons wish to bring an escort back to their ship's cabin, says Ceis, "It's legal, along with gambling, so long as the vessel is tied up to a city pier. Out in the harbor, all normal rules apply. That way the sin taxes stay with us."
Seattle Art Museum has already announced related plans to acquire and display an extensive collection of erotica, with coin-operated peep shows for selected exhibits.
Meanwhile, quick to seize the opportunity to branch into licensed gambling, Microsoft's Steve Ballmer is expected to soon unveil a line of Vista-compatible slot machines and roulette tables to be installed in the New Skid Row. "We're still working out a few bugs," said the CEO, speaking by phone. "But we think this can be a major new area of business for us."
How will the New Skid Row affect the Muckleshoots' White River Casino and other Indian gambling operations? "Well," said Ceis as he downed his tenth White Russian, "they'll still have the fireworks."