News Clips— Mardi law

LOOKS LIKE they won’t be dancing in the streets after all.

On Monday, the much-revised special-events ordinance squeaked through the Seattle City Council, meaning that anyone with plans for a future Mardi Gras will have to run them up the city permitting flagpole before they can fly down in Pioneer Square.

The new ordinance, supported by erstwhile civil-rights stalwarts Peter Steinbrueck and Richard McIver, has been through some fairly major tweaking since being shelved five weeks ago [see “Clubbing Trouble,” Oct. 11]. The biggest change: The new version will only apply to private events that produce crowds of more than 500, not 50—a change Steinbrueck fought for during the long negotiations. “This ordinance strengthens the protections for those who want to organize gatherings and creates real accountability for people who would trash the city of Seattle,” said sponsor Jim Compton.

Compton’s interpretation was not universally shared. Margaret Pageler, a staunch supporter of the original bill, protested that the threshold of 500 was “far too high” and should be reduced to a more reasonable level, like 100. Angel Combs of the Joint Artists and Musicians Promotions Action Committee argued just as passionately that the new threshold was “way too low,” because any club that let out more than 500 patrons would, in theory, violate the ordinance. Meanwhile, Steinbrueck, who answered his phone by joking, “Did you hear I was joining the Republican Party?” thought the threshold was just right. “I felt [500] would be a threshold that would eliminate most ordinary events from this special review,” he said.

Changes to the ordinance weren’t enough, however, to convince council member Nick Licata to support the final product. The most significant changes were definitions of which events would have a “substantial impact” on public services; a section clarifying that events can’t be targeted because of their message or content; and a change allowing appeal rights to unsuccessful permit applicants.

Steinbrueck allows that the law is flawed. But that, he argues, is better than no law at all. “I think that there is no ideal solution here,” Steinbrueck said. “Sometimes, you have to settle for less.”

Erica C. Barnett