Countdown to Tukwila

Clever political maneuvering or total break with reality? You be the judge as the Seattle Olympics-in-exile bid committee takes its game to the next level in trying to force the 2012 Summer Games on the uninterested masses.

Unfortunately, it's the next level down—the bid committee has appealed to the Puget Sound Regional Council, a multicounty planning authority, to apply its rubber stamp of approval to Seattle's Olympic bid proposal. Bid committee president Kathy Scanlan told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that the PSRC is a "more appropriate legislative body" than the Seattle City Council to endorse the effort. Of course, the PSRC isn't a legislative body, and the City Council only became inappropriate after it said, "No"— but beyond that, this sounds like solid reasoning.

The PSRC, on the other hand, is waiting for direction from the US Olympic Committee, which is still trying to figure out what the hell the PSRC is. Come to think of it, so are we.

More on this process as it collapses.

Lobbyist on the payroll

An employee of the city's Department of Neighborhoods seems to have taken this paper's recent story on the rise of e-mail in the public process to heart. Dave Bockmann distributed an e-mail message to neighborhood leaders claiming the City Council was considering last-minute cuts in the DON budget, and citing several popular programs that he claimed might be trimmed. He urged recipients to contact several council members (even including e-mail addresses for each) and to distribute the message to others. Unfortunately for this enterprising in-house lobbyist, at least one respondent took this advice too literally and included a copy of his original message with the letter of protest to council members. At least it helped the budget cutters identify one city employee who doesn't have enough to do.

Another Sidran suit

While a city task force puzzles over how to best regulate live music and other entertainment in taverns and clubs, attorney David Osgood is looking to make the issue a moot point. In a lawsuit filed November 16 in US District Court, Osgood argues that the state law prohibiting live entertainment in bars without a city license violates constitutional protections of freedom of expression and is unconstitutionally vague.

The plaintiff in the action is Jerseys All-American Sports Bar Inc., a Seattle club already pursuing a federal suit against the city over its lack of a specific permit process for live entertainment. Osgood plans to petition the court for a summary judgment in January.

City thinking gas tax

Mayor Paul Schell hopes the new-look state Legislature will authorize an increase in the local-option gas tax to address Seattle's $20 million annual street maintenance shortfall. Current state law allows counties to impose a 2.3-cent-per-gallon tax with voter approval; Schell wants to see the authorization doubled to 4.6 cents. At the higher rate, Seattle's share of the tax would provide it considerably more revenue than the city's former street maintenance utility, which folded in 1995 when the State Supreme Court ruled that its fees constituted an illegal property tax.

Not a bad scenario, although the lower-rate gas tax has been authorized by the Legislature for the last eight years, yet the King County Council hasn't seriously considered putting it on the ballot. Schell also says he's hopeful that a modified gas tax bill might allow the tax to be imposed by the local legislative authority. That's really wishful thinking, given state legislators' recent trend of putting most every controversial issue on the ballot. The local-option gas tax has lost both times it's been placed before voters, including earlier this month in Snohomish County.

Still, a user-fee mechanism like the gas tax would seem to have appeal for the environmentally oriented voters who turned out in droves last year to elect Schell and a trio of conservation-minded City Council members.

Take our growth, please

King County officials seeking somewhere to transfer their potential rural growth may have found a willing taker in the Denny Triangle neighborhood, a relatively underdeveloped portion of downtown between Denny Way, Sixth Avenue, Pike Street, and Interstate 5.

Citizen planners in the area are the first to show interest in a program proposed by King County Executive Ron Sims, who wants to allow the transfer of development rights from rural parcels to selected urban neighborhoods. As finding a neighborhood that actually wants development is the hard part of the process, Sims was genuinely delighted to appear at Mayor Schell's regular Tuesday-morning press conference to announce the partnership. Sims says he wants to see new housing, but he wants it sited "where it makes sense, where the infrastructure is in place, where we have the amenities to do it."

The TDR program would work through the purchase by developers of development rights to designated rural properties and applying these "credits" to a site in the Denny Triangle. With the credits, up to 60 feet of additional height could be added to a new structure (maximum allowed building heights under the neighborhood's current zoning range from 125 feet to 240 feet).

NBA money missed

The Seattle City Council has already made budget adjustments to account for lost revenue from Sonics games canceled due to the National Basketball Association lockout. Council president Sue Donaldson says she's asked the law department to investigate whether the city can require team ownership to ante up some or all of the lease-mandated payments anyway. "A lockout isn't really an act of God," she says, "regardless of how the NBA owners feel about themselves."

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