As connoisseurs of political rhetoric may have noticed, Seattle has been lately been plagued by a string of scary hypotheticals.
Take council member Margaret Pageler's arguments for including limitations on noisy protesters in the city's new noise control ordinance. When it seemed her colleagues might wimp out on supporting her amendment, Pageler invoked the possibility of antiabortion protesters placing a doctor's home under siege after midnight. Then, she conjured up the image of skinheads marching on Capitol Hill after dark.
Yikes! Frightening stuff, indeed. Her colleagues were impressed enough by these made-up scenarios to pass Pageler's amendment; Mayor Paul Schell was so distracted by the thought of skinheads roaming the streets of his fair city, he forgot to check the "veto" box when he tried to nix the noise ordinance.
If all this wasn't bad enough, Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorial page writer Sam Sperry borrowed Pageler's approach in his recent attack on candidates who would dare reconsider the city's so-called civility ordinances. Sperry spun a scary tale of renegade skateboarders who knocked a small child to the ground and threatened its mother. Without the parks exclusion ordinance, he argued, imaginary criminals like this will pack our public open spaces.
Even election advertisers couldn't resist getting in the act. Safe Streets and Parks for All, a political committee formed by homeless-hating rich folks, put an ad in the daily papers insinuating that candidates who dare criticize the lack of due process provisions in the parks exclusion law are (hypothetically) bent on getting rid of all civility laws. Which, in turn, led to the exciting scene of candidate Judy Nicastro insisting to reporters, "I don't support urinating in public." Perhaps the new council should consider legislation banning inflammatory hypothetical examples—they're at least as annoying as loud parties.
Turning back time
Council member Richard Conlin displayed his awesome powers as a public official recently when his committee meeting started more than 10 minutes late. "It's officially two o'clock on October the 26th," he told the impatient masses. "And we're going to set back the clocks to reflect that."
'Silent man' talks
Cheers to council member Richard McIver for his spirited criticisms of the noise ordinance.
Although his comments during final debate were largely ignored by his fellow council members and the Seattle media, McIver correctly blasted his colleagues for approving noise limitations on commercial establishments (and penalties for violating them) while deferring action on the creation of "entertainment zones"—areas where nightclubs could be noisier. "My concern is whether or not the clubs can stay in business long enough for us to come up with these provisions," snapped McIver. Audience members laughed and applauded; his colleagues voted for the ordinance anyway.
McIver also sounded the alarm during a discussion of abating nuisance properties for noise violations. "I frankly find this really ridiculous," he said. "We're talking about taking away somebody's property for a misdemeanor, and I don't understand it."
He then scored a rare trifecta by publicly criticizing the council's habit of approving open-ended laws then depending on the police to enforce selectively as they see fit. "I don't think I trust the interpretations that have been used by the SPD," he added, citing the case of restaurateur Oscar McCoy, whose Central area business was targeted by undercover cops in an effort to get its liquor license suspended. "We put the man out of business and found we didn't have a case," says McIver.
These comments indicate that McIver's reputation as the council's leading advocate for small businesses is warranted; however, his reputation as the council's "silent man" may not last long, given this spate of truth-telling.
Get a real job, Deb
How annoyed are the state's Republicans with Insurance Commissioner Deborah Senn? The Washington Institute Foundation, a right-wing think tank, has issued a new study calling for an appointed insurance commissioner. Citing recent turmoil in the insurance industry over the unavailability of individual health policies, the WIF notes that "some argue that, in its current form, the office is no more than a political stepping stone to higher elective office." Coincidentally, Senn has already announced plans to challenge US Senator Slade Gorton, a longtime Republican incumbent.
Tomorrow never comes
The Citizens Working for a Better Tomorrow, an independent expenditure group backed by the landlord lobby, had better pay closer attention to the calendar in the future. The organization was fined $230 for filing late reports on their efforts to promote pro-landlord candidates Cheryl Chow and Jim Compton. It seems city elections regulators were
Silly civil discourse
The election season's most inspired prank was provided by the nonexistent pressure group SEAVILITY, which e-mailed a phony questionnaire to council candidates a week before the election.
An obvious lampoon of the antihomeless group Safe Streets and Parks for All, SEAVILITY's survey cut to the heart of the matter. "Drinking and urinating in our public parks is unacceptable behavior. In fact, SEAVILITY has seen studies showing that one often leads to the other," reads the introduction. Then the tough question: "Do you support giving the police the authority to stop people from urinating?"
The capper was a final query designed to separate legitimately civil folks from the rabble: "In a formal dinner place setting, where is the proper placement of the dessert spoon?"