Primary colors

It’s always nice to report a smart move by government, although it’s too soon to tell if the state Legislature will approve a bill moving Washington’s mid-September primary election into the summer months.

The narrow, six-week campaign season between Washington’s primary and final elections is becoming more of a nuisance with the still-growing popularity of absentee voting. In 1997, Seattle mayoral candidates Greg Nickels and Charlie Chong had to wait almost a week to find out which of them would advance to the final election. An early June primary seems to be the most popular possibility, although any change would be an improvement.

As long as they’re working on primary issues, can we please abolish the ridiculous presidential primary? Traditionally one of the last states to take a presidential vote, Washington has moved its primary to February 29 this year, but the results will have only a tiny impact on delegate selection for the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. The Democratic Party will still choose all its delegates through its usual caucus system, while the Republicans will allocate only a third of their national delegates (12 of 37) through the ballot box. What’s more, the R’s will only recognize the votes of those citizens who choose a Republican ballot—most voters in this traditionally independent state opt for the “unaligned” ballot, thus avoiding a public declaration of their party affiliation.

The Washington presidential primary serves no valid public purpose. Let’s make the parties choose their candidates at their own caucuses—and at their own expense.

Too Pro Parks?

City officials have touted their Pro Parks 2000 Committee as a remarkably inclusive public body working for additional park funding—but activist Chris Leman says the city/citizen group’s lobbying efforts violate state law.

The 28-member Pro Parks 2000 Committee was formed to review proposals before the state Legislature which would allow Seattle to raise new taxes for the zoo, aquarium, and open space purchase.

By using public money to organize the testimony of committee members and orchestrate personal calls to various legislators, Leman charges that the city has run afoul of state lobbying restrictions. He has also assembled an impressive file of committee meeting notes, e-mails, and other correspondence to support his charges. Although no local government has ever been cited for violations of this law (state government has), a similar charge is pending against King County for attempting to organize transit riders to lobby the legislature over Initiative 695-related cuts in bus service.

“It does nobody any good to spend money that should be spent on buses or parks for illegal grassroots lobbying,” says Leman, who adds that the growing popularity of e-mail aided him in substantiating his charges. Discussions formerly conducted by phone are now handled online, leaving a record for activists to access, he notes.

Electeds to talk

After battling behind the scenes to chair the City Council Finance Committee, council member Jan Drago isn’t wasting any time taking action. This April 21, she plans to convene the first-ever joint mayor/council budget retreat, where the city’s 10 elected officials will discuss budget priorities. Better yet, the retreat will be held in First Hill’s Town Hall, so Chris Leman can ride his bicycle there.

Seeing the light

It was hard to miss that the Space Needle’s controversial beam into the sky, originally cleared for New Year’s weekend use only, was shining bright throughout the Martin Luther King Day weekend.

Does this mean we can expect to see the spaceship beacon in action for every national holiday? According to the Landmarks Preservation Board staffers (the Needle is a designated city landmark), the Space Needle Corporation is preparing a proposed holiday schedule for the big spotlight. However, the Needle’s owners have told other city sources that other special events (Bumbershoot?) might be included. Sounds like this is getting suspiciously close to the original proposal to use the Needle’s beam about 60 nights a year.

Your coffee, madam

Now that council members Judy Nicastro and Heidi Wills, two forceful young female politicos, have taken office, it’s up to them to reverse the legislative department’s longest-running display of blatant sexism. Council members like their coffee, and over the past few years, observers at the Monday morning briefings meeting have seen female aides bringing coffee to both male and female council members, and even male aides delivering a cup of java to their male bosses. But we still haven’t seen a male aide of a female boss get caffeine delivery duty.

Hey Heidi and Judy: It’s your chance to break down the walls. From all appearances, aide-guys Tony Gepner (Wills) and Charlie McAteer (Nicastro) have all the abilities needed to haul the coffee.

(P.S. A tray with various sweeteners on it would make a great visual aid.)

Books, books, and more books

A plethora of librarians are steamed about last week’s 4th and James column, and for good reason. It seems the article about Rem Koolhaas this column paraphrased was inaccurate. According to Seattle Public Library spokesperson Andra Addison, the new downtown library will have plenty of space for books—in fact, enough for a 2020 collection of 1.4 million volumes, as compared to today’s 800,000. “People will be greeted by books everywhere,” says Addison. “The book lovers don’t need to worry.”

OK, but your building’s still ugly.