No, we can’t talk

This election season has brought an upsurge in what used to be a rare phenomenon: candidates and campaigners who refuse to appear at the same forums as their opponents. The sport fishing promoters of I-676, the “No Nets” initiative, won’t share a table with their commercial fishing and environmentalist opposites; they insist instead on meeting separately with the Weekly editorial board, saying they “don’t want to get into a shouting match.” I’m not sure who they feared would start shouting; the opponents were calm to a fault as they argued that banning nets would be just a dangerous distraction from the real task of saving fish habitat.

Tim Eyman, the lead proponent of anti-tax Initiative 695, declined to visit with the Weekly panel at all, but not because he’s ducking his opponents; after batting “a perfect 1,000—they’re all against us” with editorial boards, he says he doesn’t want to waste his time. Eyman complains that, though he had one “really fun” debate with Mike Lowry, the “heavy hitters” opposing 695 (and there are many) aren’t showing up: He wants to tilt with Governor Locke and “they send the campaign treasurer.” Maybe they don’t want to elevate the upstart Eyman by sending luminaries against him. But he’s still doing well enough positioning himself as the little guy up against all the Big villains: Big Labor, Big Business, Big Government, Big Media.

Skipping unsympathetic edit boards may be a savvy strategy; it works for Slade. But the no-shows and non-debaters might also take a lesson from soon-to-be-ex-King County Council member Brian Derdowski. The Derd refused to appear with challenger Dave Irons—and lost the primary.

The (even) darker side of 695

Eyman doesn’t agree, but I think he owes a debt to the reporters who portray his I-695 time bomb as (in The Seattle Times’ words) the “$30 car tax” initiative. You often have to wait to the 13th paragraph on the page 6 jump of a story to read about I-695’s more significant provision: a requirement that all new taxes and fee and license increases (state and local) pass a popular vote. So much for taxation with representation, a foundation of republican government. If you like the way our schools operate, always scraping and conniving to pass levies, you’ll love government under this scheme. It will be a nuisance for voters (who will start to feel like school board members, always voting on petty financial issues) and a nightmare for legislators and council members, who will be too busy trying to pass the next playfield-fees referendum to undertake the useful business of government. Those who think government has no useful business to do (and Eyman seems very nearly one of them) will revel in this outcome. It’s the old Reaganite tautology: Government is bad, so let’s show how badly it can be run. But the well-greased corporate interests will still get their stadiums and other sweetheart taxes through the Legislature as exempt “emergency” measures.

Eyman insists this provision is even more popular than 695’s better-known half (which would end progressive taxation of motor vehicles and collect the same $30 on everything from your $300 Datsun to my $100,000 motor home). “The opponents tried the Trojan horse argument for a while, and it didn’t work,” he says. Maybe, but they made a mistake. The way to defeat 695 is to make its meaning clear.

They’re in with the inn crowd

OK, so the City of Seattle is putting out a bit—$6 million for cops and firefighters—to help make this WTO shindig come off. But the trade establishment that’s hosting the WTO also does its bit for City Hall—or at least for some folks down at City Hall. The Web site of the Port of Seattle’s Bell Harbor International Conference Center ( lists just three “Northwest Inns” in its directory of essential services for visitors: The Inn at Langley, Friday Harbor House, and the Heron Inn in Port Ludlow. Stranger yet, these are the only hotels the Bell Harbor site includes among “Local Seattle Links”—even though none of them is in Seattle.

What’s so special about these three inns? Well, for starters, they were all built by Paul Schell, who still owns the Inn at Langley and a piece of the Friday Harbor House (he sold his share of the Heron Inn). As a port commissioner, before he became mayor of Seattle, Schell was the prime mover behind the Bell Harbor Center. But Bell Harbor marketing director Shelly Carter explains that’s not why the three inns get exclusive promotion on its Web site. It’s because they, like the conference center, are managed by Columbia Resources Group, which also manages the World Trade Center and Aljoya Conference Center and promotes them on the site.

Okay, so isn’t it curious that the Web site for this publicly owned facility (we pay property taxes to the Port) is used to exclusively promote this private business’ other operations? Doesn’t anyone even care enough to keep up the appearance of a separation between public entities and private interests?

Loving you to death

For a good time, call 1-800-578-7453—if you missed the hoopla a couple weeks ago over Big Tobacco’s celebrated pomo promo voicemail message. Even reading the voicemail message you’ll hear there won’t spoil the effect of the warm and gravelly recitation over swelling piano chords:

“You’ve reached the Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corporation. If you’re not 21 or older or not a smoker, please hang up now. . . . Now that it’s just us, there’s something that we, Brown and Williamson Tobacco, would like to tell you. We, the Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corporation, are in love—with you! Yup, you heard us, Brown and Williamson Tobacco is in love. We’re a giant corporation, and you make us feel like a little kitten. Thank you, lover!

“By the way, the other tobacco companies hate you and think you’re ugly. They told us so.”

Now if that’s not directed to a high school sensibility, what is?