Thanks to a $72 million deficit facing city government, Mayor Greg Nickels has proposed eliminating 310 positions, draining most of the city's rainy day fund, and cutting back on library hours. But that's not stopping the city from sending eight people to the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce's leadership conference at the Suncadia Resort near Roslyn next week for the bargain price of at least $1,075 a head (admission varies depending on when reservations were made). Ironically, most of those attendees might not be able to use anything they learn on behalf of the city, since some, if not all, of them will be out of City Hall at the end of this year.
Need to feel better about the terrible city budget? Pound a pint with Corbett.
The theme of this year's conference is green energy and industry, and features Congressman Jay Inslee as a keynote speaker. When they're not engaged in panel discussions on sustainable biofuels and wind energy, participants will be shuttled by the Chamber to Roslyn's historic Brick Tavern, made famous in the television hit Northern Exposure.
Mayoral spokesperson Alex Fryer says that mayoral advisor Viet Shelton is attending on behalf of Nickels' office to help out whoever takes over City Hall on Jan. 1. "[Shelton will] be able to discuss what [the mayor's office] has been doing [regarding] clean tech and what issues may arrive for the new mayor," says Fryer.
But Shelton might not be at City Hall next year. Like seven of the eight city employees attending the conference, he serves at the pleasure of the mayor, and can be removed or replaced at will. Embattled Department of Transportation Director Grace Crunican is another one of those seven, and back in July mayoral candidate Joe Mallahan called for her head. Campaign spokesperson Charla Neuman says Mallahan still plans to replace Crunican if he wins in November. Mallahan's opponent, Mike McGinn, has been less strident, but told The Seattle Times he didn't see keeping Crunican either.
SDOT spokesperson Rick Sheridan says Crunican's attendance will still be valuable in that it will give her a chance to gain the perspective of people like Chamber Chair (and Mallahan campaign advisor) Tayloe Washburn on topics like the deep-bore tunnel. "It is an important venue for Grace to interact with key Seattle leaders and at the same time learn about key changes in energy advancement and technology," Sheridan says.
The eighth attendee, Jan Drago, is guaranteed to depart City Hall in short order. The longtime councilmember is retiring at the end of this year, but she's still attending the conference on the city's thinly-stretched dime. (Drago did not respond to a pair of messages left over the last two days.) Of course, she was routed in the August mayoral primary, so if anyone's earned the chance to drink in the same bar where John Corbett's lovely butt once sat, it's Drago.