How to Butter Up Local Pols

A guide to ingratiating yourself with people in power

Election season may be over (sometime soon), but when our constitutional crisis comes to an end, that doesn't mean you can stop giving to politicians. If you want to keep that all-important access and make sure your issues are in the forefront of our pols' minds, you can't ignore them during the holiday season. Here's a few suggestions on how to curry favor with our fearless leaders:

*Paul Schell, mayor of Seattle. The main thing on hizzoner's mind over the holidays has to be his reelection (his term is up after 2001). He has promised to hole up with friends and loved ones during the winter solstice and reach a decision about his political future. Admittedly, there are some problems with this scenario: 1.) Spending the holidays with someone as charming and lovely as the mayor's wife, Pam Schell, might make it hard for him to decide to spend as much time apart from her as the mayor's post demands, and 2.) every time Schell sees St. Nick's twinkling eyes, he has to be reminded of the chief challenger for his post, King County Councilman Greg Nickels.

What would cheer the mayor up this season and make him remember you? An independent expenditure campaign. Under current campaign law, you can spend an unlimited amount of money supporting a candidate as long as you don't coordinate the effort with that candidate. Imagine a targeted mailing to Seattleites likely to vote in the 2001 mayoral race touting Schell's success in passing an unprecedented number of ballot measures that have invested in our city's infrastructure. First, his administration persuaded voters to fund libraries (1998's ballot measure worth $196 million), then community centers and the Seattle Center (1999's measure worth $72 million), and, this year, Parks for All (2000's measure worth $198 million). Local political consultant Greg Dewar (2336 44th SW, 932-6686) says the mailing's cost would be around $100,000. And please, whatever you do, don't mention the WTO.

Or: Monopoly, Seattle edition (available at Best of the Northwest, 1401 A First, 405-2854; $24.99).

*Greg Nickels, West Seattle's King County Council member and Seattle mayoral candidate. Like anyone who plans on challenging an incumbent for office, Nickels needs things to go just right. He can't afford any stumbles or pratfalls. If there is one thing Greg has done to brand himself politically, it's tie himself to the train, specifically the 21-mile, $2.4 billion light-rail line that Sound Transit is planning on building from the U District to the airport. If Sound Transit tanks, Nickels doesn't have a prayer of tossing Schell out on his ear.

Light-rail has many problems. Earlier this month, Sound Transit announced it might have to abandon its 4.5-mile tunnel under Capitol Hill because it was too expensive. This throws the whole light-rail project into jeopardy. Now wouldn't it set Greg's mind at ease to know that you would pick up the tunnel's costs. Contact Modern Continental Construction Co. (248-8077). Don't fret—it'll probably run you around $1 billion.

Or: A radio-controlled Tonka bulldozer (available at FAO Schwarz, 1420 Fifth, 442-9500; $35).

*Nick Licata, the Seattle City Council's grassroots guy. Licata is another politician facing reelection in 2001, and he has a lot to worry about. Since entering office, he has consistently voted against the interests of the city's elite. Licata is the only member of the council that truly has a base in both the neighborhoods' populist revolt against downtown (the Charlie Chongs of Seattle) and the progressive activists who push for more sweeping political change (the Greens and the No-to-WTO types). This isn't enough to win, but it's enough to make a lot of people mad at you.

Nobody is madder at Licata than the landlords. (Licata has sponsored more tenant-friendly legislation than they would want.) The Apartment Association of Seattle-King County (AASK) has been a major political force in our fair city for many years. In 1981 when Seattle activists tried to pass rent control, AASK kicked their butts and had so much money left over they went to the state Legislature and had rent control banned statewide. The landlords' recent track record isn't as impressive, however. In the last round of City Council elections, they launched an unsuccessful independent campaign against Judy Nicastro. (She credits part of her success to their opposition.) Recently, they also unsuccessfully opposed the sweeping Parks for All levy. None of these means they will withdraw. In fact, you can bet good money they are slavering for a win.

How can you help Nick neutralize this force? Buy him an apartment building. AASK's Jim Nell says you could probably get Licata a nice little fourplex in the councilman's Capitol Hill neighborhood for around $500,000. Then Nick can join AASK and pal around with AASK's most famous members: ex-Mayor Wes Uhlman and ber-landlord-lawyer Chris Benis. He can convince them he feels their pain and understands their point of view. And hopefully, then they won't spend a bundle trying to bring him down.

Or: The Rugrats Playhouse (available at Toys "R" Us, Northgate Mall, 361-1101; $19.99).

*Deborah Senn, state insurance commissioner, ex-Senate candidate. It's got to be a long holiday season for Deb. Think of all the fun she had over the last eight years giving the insurance companies hell. She risked it all by not running for reelection and instead seeking higher office: the US Senate. Back in September, that effort proved disastrous; she was spanked by that richy-rich, smarty-pants, high-tech PR gal Maria Cantwell. Senn managed to pull only about 13 percent in the race, a terrible showing. It's safe to say her political ambitions are dampened. And, of course, she's out of a job come January 1. So how can Senn redeem herself? How can she restore her former glory and storm back on the political scene? You need to buy her an insurance company and let her run it. Let's say you buy her Aetna, it will run you around $9 billion. When she does a great job, she will have proved she can work in the private sector, and she will have shown industry the right way to run an insurance business: good customer service, reasonable rate increases, and no voice-mail hell. And when she does come back into political life, who do you think she'll have to thank?

Or: A lemonade stand (some assembly required, using wood from Home Depot, 2701 Utah S, 467-9200; prices may vary; lemonade and cups not included).

George Howland Jr. is the news editor at Seattle Weekly.

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