What's the best way to get through your six-month job review? Do it yourself, as Mayor Paul Schell did in his July 24 speech to the CityClub. With KUOW's Marcie Sillman asking the questions, Hizzoner outlined the accomplishments of his first half-year in office.
Perhaps fearing an "incomplete" in the housing section of his report card, Schell reported that a package of legislation resulting from his Housing Action Agenda should be before the City Council in a month. Included in the proposals will be a tax-abatement program for developers of new housing in selected neighborhoods. Schell also left little question as to where he stands on rent control: "Rent control is counterproductive—it will discourage new investment. I'm not ready for rent control. I don't think I ever will be."
On homelessness, Schell reported that the council has granted the $500,000 he sought to increase the number of shelter beds for women and children. He intends to honor his pledge that, by Christmas, no woman or child will be forced to sleep on the streets for lack of shelter space.
In response to other Sillman queries, the mayor admitted that he disappointed the arts community by deflecting a request for increased Arts Commission funding. He stated that the city's top priority is catching up on deferred maintenance in key infrastructure areas, including streets, parks, and utilities. "We need to get our house in order," he said. Schell also finessed a question about a future Opera House bond proposal by reminding the audience that the city already has a major bond proposal on the fall ballot—to fund library construction.
Of course, no appearance by Paul the Idea Man would be complete without a trial balloon; during his housing discussion, the mayor allowed that maybe all developments on major arterials should be required to include some housing. He warned that this might put an end "to strip malls and Herfy's" and similar auto-oriented developments (Herfy's?). Someone in the large City Hall contingent must have given Schell the evil eye, as the mayor quickly appended his remark by adding: "That's an idea, folks, not a proposal."
Expect a full house on the citizens' committee exploring the use of neighborhood kiosks to replace utility-pole postering. The number of parties interested in serving on the 10- to- 15-member committee has already reached double figures, say council staffers. The group is expected to be appointed in mid-August and prepare a report on the issue early next year.
Legislators at work
Reports that the King County Council functions more like a real legislative body than its Seattle counterpart were confirmed by this recent exchange at a committee meeting. Following committee chair Rob McKenna at the podium, council member Dwight Pelz began: "I think you make some close-to-interesting points."
"Ouch!" replied McKenna, leading the laughter among the committee members. Pelz then graciously restated his point and continued with his comments. On the Seattle City Council, this would have been grounds for a two-month grudge, easy.
The Seattle City Council started off last week with a report from police officials about disturbances at the previous weekend's Bite of Seattle. The council had mostly praise for the police and their preplanning for the event, but Assistant Chief Harv Ferguson admitted that Saturday night's unruly crowds congregated earlier than police had anticipated. "We simply need to do something different," he said. Ferguson denied media reports that troublemakers were "herded" into Metro buses leaving the area, saying that police worked with Metro supervisors on the scene to limit the number of people on each departing bus. Police say similar problems with crowds of young people have been a regular feature of the Bite in recent years, and have grown with the festival, which this year was attended by 400,000 people. Reimposing admission charges for the currently free weekend food fest is definitely a last resort: When city officials tried that in 1993 and 1994, the rowdies still came, but lots of other folks stayed home, sending attendance plunging.
City Council member Margaret Pageler, explaining that she wouldn't be able to participate in a Habitat for Humanity project because of an Endangered Species Act meeting on the same day: "I'll be saving fish."
A thousand short
Activist Jordan Brower's alternative library plan, a.k.a. Initiative 45, has fallen about 1,000 signatures short of the 18,830 needed to qualify for the fall ballot. Although Brower can by law continue gathering signatures through mid-September, the delay might be enough to keep the proposal off the ballot this year.
Monorail to nowhere?
Reports that no investors have shown interest in funding a monorail system for Seattle have renewed suspicions that city officials would like to bury the proposal. Although they must wait two years after the passage of last fall's monorail initiative to do so, a recent comment by City Council Transportation Committee chair Richard McIver doesn't give one-rail enthusiasts much confidence. Announcing a meeting of the Elevated Transportation Company board, McIver quipped, "You all have probably been wondering if it still existed." Fifteen months and counting....
A parting thought
After all the fun they had with Burma sanctions, word has it that the council is studying the Multilateral Agreement on Investment. Saints preserve us!...