In full retreat

Despite some whiny comments about "wasting time" and political correctness, the City Council managed to approve a resolution providing for the videotaping of portions of its annual retreat.

Curiously enough, this supposedly ultra-controversial piece of legislation passed by a 7-2 margin (the on-the-record dissenters were Margaret Pageler and Richard McIver). Granted, this reasonable compromise for recording the legislative department's annual getaway (videotape the substantial briefings; tape-record those wacky brainstorming sessions) took a long time to craft, but only because various council members were scrambling to keep all retreat footage off the city's cable access channel.

Credit council member Nick Licata and his Gang of Four (Nick, Peter Steinbrueck, Judy Nicastro, and Richard Conlin) for standing up for meaningful public TV access to the retreats until a fifth vote could be found.

Sure, private retreats have become standard operating procedure in the corporate world, but council members are elected officials, not captains of industry. Any gathering of a council quorum (five or more members) is considered a meeting under state law and must be open to the public. And, since all the council's quorum meetings are routinely videotaped and broadcast several times, it's hard to rationalize different treatment for this one, even if it is being held in far-off LaConner. If the department wants a real retreat, they could just leave the council members home, or invite council members to specific sessions—but never more than four members at a time. With about 70 employees in the department, odds are nobody would notice a few missing politicians.

Privacy buffs on council pushed two reasons to keep retreat doings off the tube: 1) These meetings are boring, and 2) Staff members may be camera-shy and therefore unable to "brainstorm" at a high level. Good arguments, but all council proceedings are boring, and the current compromise should allow everyone to speak their minds. Brainstorm away, kids.

Olympian musings

Hey, does anybody remember Ray Moore? If the name does ring a bell, it's probably based on the four-term state senator's ungraceful exit from office in 1994, when he was bounced because he didn't live in the Queen Anne district he supposedly represented.

But, before his premature move to his coffee plantation in Hawaii, Moore participated in a state-sponsored oral history, and his lengthy musings are now available in a book and over the Internet ( Moore has a ton of good stories, one of the best being his 1950 meeting with Richard Nixon. Then a prominent King County Republican leader (he would switch to the Democratic Party in 1964), Moore received candid advice from Tricky Dick. After hearing that local party leaders were pessimistic about their candidates' chances, Nixon advised the local R's to save all their campaign money until the Sunday before the election, then buy huge full-page ads in the daily newspapers accusing Democratic candidates of being Communists, pinkos, and fellow travelers. Moore, to his credit, ignored this sage bit of campaign wisdom.

Moore's interview is followed by a long appendix containing his impressions of many of his fellow legislators, including several pols still in office. A few select highlights (with these former legislators identified by their current titles):

*US Senator Patty Murray: "She is blessed with an unequaled ego, which, if you have one asset, that might as well be it."

*County Council member Larry Phillips: "Larry comes first and anybody else is a distant second. . . . He is certainly a black-belt fence straddler."

*Former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Judith Billings: "After her election, she fulfilled the constitutional requirement that there be a superintendent of public instruction."

*County Council member Dwight Pelz: "A solid liberal, but not destined for greatness."

The downside of the interview is that it was conducted while Moore was being ejected from office, so it's loaded with bitter comments about the "conspiracy" to unseat him, which he saw as being orchestrated by The Seattle Times and the gay community (his accuser in the residency challenge was gay activist Steve Kendall, a fact which the senator felt proved that the gays were out to elect their own candidate in his district). Moore now lives full time in Aloha-land, far away from those nasty ol' queers.

Planting a seed

Sometime political candidate and full-time gardener Rudy McCoy has hit the big time with his latest cause. Annoyed with the amount of time he spends picking up garbage, the Ballard activist decided to organize a citywide trash pick-up. However, lacking a major sponsor or even an organization behind him, his calls to Seattle politicians only succeeded in gaining him the brush-off, he claims. An aide to Mayor Paul Schell even asked him if he had a litter removal plan. "I told the mayor's office that how you pick up litter is you start at one end and work your way to the other," notes the irrepressible McCoy.

So Rudy commenced his own guerrilla campaign to get City Hall's attention. A veteran caller to talk radio stations, he caged his way onto the air to promote his cause. His calls to the media netted him a major supporter: The Seattle Times editorial board. He has also collected an impressive number of sponsors who have offered to donate litter bags, brooms, and food for the troops. The plan is to designate a weekend before Earth Day for the big event (call McCoy at 784-4284 to get involved). A note to our many self-proclaimed council environmentalists: This might be a good time to invest in a broom and dustpan.

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