The dailies wake up

What's wrong with our beloved downtown business community, stewed one political observer. Didn't they realize that the passage of the All-Ages Dance Ordinance was an indicator that council member Nick Licata and the progressive bloc on City Council are only a vote or two away from passing legislation at will?

Oh, they've noticed. Check out the recent wave of council bashing in the opinion sections of both daily papers. While the downtown business community and the editorial boards of the Times and P-I aren't technically one and the same, you do have to take the Downtown Seattle Association loyalty oath (and get a small DSA logo tattooed somewhere on your body) before you get a seat at the table at either paper.

The first shot was a cartoon by David "Pulitzer" Horsey depicting council members and dance ordinance supporters Heidi Wills and Richard Conlin as negligent parents letting their daughter pull an all-nighter at the dance club. This was followed by Sunday slams in both papers—the Times offered Joni Balter's general contempt for any number of recent council initiatives; the P-I's Solveig Torvik scolded the council for approving one of those feel-good non-binding policy resolutions supporting the removal of four Snake River dams to save salmon. Then, a few days later, P-I local section columnist Susan Paynter scolded council members Nick Licata and Peter Steinbrueck for whining via e-mail about having their parking fees increased.

It was hard to miss that the politicians bearing the brunt of these attacks were members of the five-vote majority on the All-Ages Dance Ordinance (Conlin, Licata, Steinbrueck, Wills, and Judy Nicastro). In case anybody missed the hint, Balter even made sure to personally praise the four ordinance opponents (and Mayor Paul "Veto" Schell).

You have to allow Torvik her point on the dam resolution. Watching the council pontificate on noncity political issues can be excruciating. However, unlike the worldly Torvik, council members aren't worried about losing friends in Eastern Washington; there are plenty of environmentalists in Seattle who want the dams pulled and they vote for council members. Eastern Washington residents don't. That's politics.

Now would also be a good time for Licata and Steinbrueck to shut up about their parking bill. Sure, the vote to force council members to pay for their parking spots was a bogus public display of Seattle-style political correctness (proposed by council President Margaret Pageler of all people), but it serves 'em right, given the council's unending anti-auto rhetoric. That's politics, too.

On the other hand, you have to be a little annoyed with Balter's withering take on a proposed Conlin ordinance asking the US Navy not to bring any Trident nuclear subs along to Seafair next year. Trident subs are nuclear missile launching platforms housing many times the death-dealing power of the bombs that leveled Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Bringing them to a community festival is overkill (pardon the pun). Conlin and colleagues did the right thing to oppose this militaristic idiocy.

But this weeklong testimonial dinner (with the members of the council's progressive bloc as the main course) does deliver a message. The establishment is no longer ignoring City Hall. Look for a lively election season next year.

Heidi hits the road

City Council member Heidi Wills bought a fuel-efficient, clean-running Toyota Prius last week and this columnist got a ride in it that very afternoon.

Of course, it was a better bet that her initial cruise in the Prius would involve running this columnist down, but it's her car—she can do what she wants with it. And what she wanted to do was tout its mix of electric and gasoline power which should save her $1,500 in fuel costs and eliminate some 15 tons of air-polluting emissions over the life of the vehicle.

OK, this ain't Popular Mechanics, but we'll attempt to explain how it works. In the city, the car runs mostly on its batteries. As soon as its speed hits 40 miles per hour, it shifts to gasoline power.

At 66 miles per gallon, Wills gains environmental credibility in comparison to her SUV-driving colleagues. She can even use those extra bucks to pay for her City Hall parking space.

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