Slash and burn

MAYORAL CANDIDATE Mark Sidran isn't the only Seattle politician seeking to draw parallels between himself and New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Outgoing Mayor Paul Schell invoked the example of Giuliani's performance under pressure during the events of Sept. 11 in opposing proposed legislation that would bolster the City Council's power to rescind a mayor's declaration of emergency. "Recent events in New York have demonstrated the critical importance of having a mayor with the power and authority to act quickly and decisively when the best interests of citizens require quick, decisive actions," wrote Schell in an Oct. 2 letter to council members.

But council member Peter Steinbrueck, sponsor of the legislation, says his aim is merely to increase the legislative role in monitoring a mayor's declaration. The new law would set standards for the information the mayor provides to the council and require that the council review the declaration of emergency within 48 hours of the mayor's proclamation. "The misinformation is that this weakens the mayor's authority," says Steinbrueck. "It doesn't, but it does make the mayor more accountable." He says his law would give the Seattle City Council similar powers to those retained by legislators in other major cities.

Of particular concern to Schell is a provision that would allow the council to lift the state of emergency without the mayor's consent. Steinbrueck upped the requirement from a simple majority of council members to a two-thirds supermajority at the request of other council members, but Schell says that isn't enough. "Frankly, this effort appears to be an attempt to usurp executive authority during times when a strong executive is essential to ensure public safety and public confidence in our city government," says Schell.

Despite the mayor's protests, Steinbrueck's legislation was approved at the committee level by a 4-0 tally; a full council vote is expected later this month.

James Bush

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