Life is shopping

About 120 people showed up for an anti-corporate-welfare protest at Westlake Center last Friday, timed to coincide with the Nordstrom grand opening. Or, more correctly, the opening of the "new downtown flagship store," which is moored at Fifth and Pine.

Standing just yards from the street that Nordy money re-trafficked, activist Daniel Norton quoted Forbes magazine, which proclaimed the parade of subsidies for our own flagship store the most outrageous in the nation. "We're proud to know that here in Seattle, we're No. 1," he noted. Those left-leaning senior singers, the Raging Grannies, provided the soundtrack. "We've lived long enough to know that our tax money is being siphoned off by corporations and smart enough to know that it won't trickle down to us," one granny announced to cheers.

Many of the protesters wore signs and costumes on an automobile theme, to signify both Nordstrom's successful campaign to reopen Pine Street and the city's overly generous $73 million purchase of the Pacific Place parking garage. City officials admit they overpaid the developers at least $23 million but insist they got much in return, including "I'd rather be shopping at Nordstrom" license-plate frames for the city fleet and extra shots for all city officials at the outdoor espresso stand. But rumors that that famous doorman guy will replace the automatic door on council chambers simply aren't true.

After several rounds of speechifying, about a third of the protesters marched two blocks to the garage itself and into the building, re-emerging a few minutes later with a police escort. The only untoward incident occurred when the protesters crossed Sixth Avenue after leaving the garage. A few tried to enter the store and were blocked by security guards. The brewing confrontation was cooled by an odd coincidence: An aid unit happened to be responding to a call at the store and once the protesters realized they were blocking paramedics, everyone stepped aside.

All in all, just more harmless political fun, Seattle style. But it was hard not to notice that the protesters were completely outnumbered by shoppers, who emerged from the store with beatific smiles on their shiny faces and Nordstrom shopping bags in their hands. (According to an informant, the biggest crowd of the day was huddled around a table of Nordstrom sweatshirts!) Shopping beats politics any day.

Sorry, wrong number

The public hearing on the Pacific Place garage purchase will be held September 14 at 5:30pm in Council Chambers, not on the date listed in last week's column. In what was presumably a gracious attempt to make 4th and James look less stupid, council member Nick Licata stood up at the Nordstrom protest and announced the public hearing would be held "May 14." What a guy.

Island hopping

House speaker Newt Gingrich's day-long photo opportunity was the highlight of Saturday's Republican Party picnic. Aiming at a world record, the Speaker had a four-hour-plus Kodak moment, posing for photographs with nearly half of the 8,000 folks in attendance (one and two at a time, no less). The afternoon-long bash at businessman Tom Stewart's Vashon Island ranch also featured tons of food and scads of speeches, most at least mentioning our beloved president, Bill "Monicagate" Clinton. Chris Bayley beat Linda Smith soundly in the US Senate "straw poll"— a scientific effort conducted by having passersby drop dollar bills in two unattended barrels (a neat metaphor for our political system).

Aside from Bubba bashing, the program was pretty standard stump stuff, except for state Supreme Court candidate Linda Callahan McCaslin's extended violation of the 11th Commandment ("Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican"). McCaslin, who is challenging incumbent Republican Barbara Durham, delivered a series of scathing rebukes to "my opponent" that made the faithful shift nervously in their seats. (Maybe her diatribe would have gone over better if she hadn't been standing in front of a huge banner that read "Republicans Unite.") Master of ceremonies John Carlson looked like he wanted to slap on a headlock and drag her off the stage. But radio and newspaper commentator Carlson's biggest challenge was corralling his son John Matthew, who took

advantage of his perch in his father's arms by yammering endlessly into the microphone. "He gets that from his mother," noted Carlson.

Very slow dance

Things are moving a bit slowly on the committee weighing proposed city licensing of music and dance clubs. At its most recent meeting, the big development was the tentative agreement to call the document an "entertainment permit." Now that's progress.

The roadblock appears due to a split among committee members over the draft policy proposed by City Attorney Mark Sidran: Half don't like it; the other half think it sucks. Sidran is so fond of enforcement that he's included it at every step of the process: under the Sidran proposal, a club owner can be denied a permit based on the reviewing official's suspicion that problems might occur if the club is opened. Besides requiring that the city hire more folks with clairvoyant powers, this reasoning is unlikely to withstand a court challenge. But of course, enforcing laws is more fun than letting people do things.

Big feet equals big ripoff

Still wondering why the Nordstrom store has huge inflated legs hanging from its roof? Here's a plausible theory provided by one protester: "It's the Nordstrom VPs on the roof counting their money."

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