Having failed to find a private entity willing to overpay sufficiently for the city's Key Tower, Mayor Paul Schell would like to sell half the building to the city's public utilities. The deal could reduce the city's councilmanic (non-voter-approved) bond debt, freeing up money for that new city hall he wants to build.
Actually, this plan isn't quite as bizarre as it sounds. City offices in city-owned buildings pay rent to their "landlord," the city's Department of Administrative Services. And the utilities got a great deal when they moved into Key Tower, which the city purchased in a depressed real estate market a few years back for $125 million.
The trouble is, Schell would like to see the city make a windfall profit on a transaction with itself. He calculates the current market value of half of the tower at $100 million to $110 million and says the utilities should pay that amount. Nonsense, says Council Utilities Committee chair Margaret Pageler. In a recent memo, she notes that although City Light and Seattle Public Utilities are kept isolated financially for budget purposes, they are "equal members of the city family," not independent enterprises. "Their fair share of the purchase price of Key Tower is a share of $125 million," says Pageler. "They are entitled to the benefit of the city's bargain [in purchasing the building]."
Seeing as any internal overpayment for Key Tower will be funded by taxpayers through future rate increases, Schell has a long way to go in selling the council on his schizophrenic approach.
Return to sender
Council member Peter Steinbrueck says he won't hold a hearing before his Housing Committee on Schell's appointment of Sybil Bailey to the Seattle Housing Authority board. "In my best judgment, this appointment doesn't meet our expectations, which is why I'm sending it back," says Steinbrueck. He expects the mayor to submit a new candidate.
Bailey, president of the Denny Terrace Residents Council, would have filled a new board seat created through state legislation pushed by housing-advocacy groups and residents of the city's senior-housing program. Bailey was a controversial choice because she had testified against provisions of the bill at an Olympia hearing. Schell's second appointment to the SHA board, Marie Cook, cleared Steinbrueck's committee last week.
Deputy Mayor Tom Byers replies that Bailey didn't oppose the bill to expand the SHA board, just specific provisions of an early draft, which were later modified. "We are talking with Sybil about what to do, but at this point the mayor stands behind the nomination," he says.
Steinbrueck says he isn't looking for a fight with the Schell administration, but merely indicating that Bailey is not an appropriate choice. "I've done my work in examining this appointment and I've made my decision about it," he says. "That's what we do here."
The world-class event that wouldn't die
Looks like we still aren't bringing those Olympics to Seattle. The Puget Sound Regional Council, a four-county planning agency, says it's finally gotten the message that city officials don't support a bid for the 2012 summer games.
No telling what tipped them off. It obviously wasn't the ignominious death of the Seattle City Council's own pro-bid resolution a couple of months back. It also
wasn't the personal contact factor—Snohomish county executive and PSRC head Bob Drewel told The Seattle Times that eight of the nine City Council members had privately told him a pro-bid resolution was OK with them. Council member Nick Licata responded with a new resolution formally asking the PSRC to butt out.
Despite whatever promises Drewel thought had been made, Licata's resolution was co-sponsored by a safe majority of six council members.
After all this, it figures that the council couldn't even manage a vote on Licata's resolution on December 7. Richard McIver, the only member even marginally supportive of continuing the Olympic madness, exercised a traditional legislative perk allowing any council member to ask for a one-week delay on any vote. McIver complained that the Licata resolution seemed to be giving orders to the PSRC. "I don't think this is the kind of regional partner that we want to be," he said.
Licata responded that he had the votes to pass the resolution and further cited a November 19 memo from PSRC officials asking the council to provide direction on the Olympic bid. "They're the ones that asked us to respond," he said. But Licata found himself the lone dissenter against McIver's hold request because, as Steinbrueck admitted with disarming honesty, most council members figure they might want to hold legislation themselves at some point.
Despite voting to preserve the perk, Tina Podlodowski said she is getting tired of the Seattle bid committee's refusal to accept its defeat. "As the parent of toddlers, I kind of feel like [this is] Mom said no, so let's ask Dad.
"Or in the case of my family," joked Podlodowski, an out lesbian with two children, "ask the other Mom."
Restoring his good name
Misspelling someone's name is a venial sin of journalism: Fortunately, we avoided that problem by assigning the University of Washington's David Harrison a completely different last name in a recent column. Harrison, moderator for the city's public/ private partnership task force, informs us that he likes his original name just fine.