Beyond the punch lines

You just gotta love that Mark Sidran.

That's the latest tack by Mindy Cameron and the Dump Schell gang over at the Seattle Times. Even as Sidran dreams of mounting new attacks on his least favorite people—panhandlers and club owners—Cameron is praising him for being quick with a quip while lamenting the "strident and simplistic" folks who would dare question his nice guy credentials.

True, Sidran can be a pleasant fellow to deal with. He returns calls, he argues his political positions authoritatively, and, yes, he's smart enough to arrive for any speaking engagement with a couple of good jokes tailored to his audience. You can't help but appreciate his style.

The trouble is, once you get beyond personal style, there isn't a whole lot to love about Mark Sidran the officeholder. This is, after all, a guy who has made his political career by beating up on this city's least powerful people. I'm tired of hearing how tough Sidran is for passing slam-dunk laws like the one banning peeing in the street. Is there a powerful "pro-peeing" lobby out there somewhere?

On the heels of easy wins, Sidran has promoted far more troubling legislation. The Parks Exclusion Ordinance, which allows police officers to temporarily ban people from public parks (without appeal rights in some cases), is as complex as the no-peeing law is simple. Sidran's most recent crusade, to confiscate people's cars if they are caught driving with a suspended driver's license, sounds good in theory but has inflicted great economic harm on our poorest citizens.

And what about Sidran's other big issue—closing down troublesome nightclubs? His first draft of the so-called Added Activities Ordinance, intended to license nightclubs that offer live music or dancing, managed to be both scary and laughable. Scary, because Sidran proposed using the chief of police as a one-man review board, imposing whatever security conditions he saw fit on clubs (even those that haven't yet opened for business). Laughable, because this law would have been bounced out of court quicker than you can say "prior restraint." Sidran has shown that his love for rules far exceeds his passion for fairness.

The Times' Cameron should think back four years or so, when getting Paul Schell into City Hall was her personal crusade. At least she had some ammunition: She could talk about Schell's dedication to environmental protection, sustainable design, and regional cooperation. With Sidran, all she could find to praise is his ability to deliver a joke.

If Mark Sidran is elected mayor, and he sure could be, it will say a lot about this city. Our baby boomers, who are still sweating the fact that they have both wrinkles and minivans, have finally made the inevitable transition from liberals to law-and-order conservatives. Congratulations to us all.

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