4th and James

Who's got the money?

That's the question of the hour—every hour—during City Hall budgeting season.

Some people think the budget is deadly dull (generally those folks who aren't getting their funding cut), but the Seattle City Council deliberations had it all. Including:

*Humor. After being on the winning end of one 5-4 vote, Jan Drago misspoke and declared the motion had failed. "It didn't fail—it passed," noted Judy Nicastro, who voted on the losing side. "I like that analysis, though."

*Drama. After Heidi Wills scolded a staffer for daring to raise the issue of cable franchise fees without proposing an increase, Peter Steinbrueck bravely stood up for old folks on fixed incomes who need their MTV. However, his charges that his colleagues were insensitive for wanting to raise cable fees "willy-nilly" didn't sit well with colleague Nicastro. "I do have sensitivity, and I'm not being willy-nilly," she shot back. Glad we cleared that up.

*Controversy. After the council voted to cut $427,506 out of his staff budget, Mayor-elect Greg Nickels was spoiling for a fight, issuing a silly e-mail appeal for support (cutting his budget is apparently "not the Seattle Way"). He scorned the concept of a behind-the-scenes compromise, then brought in organized labor to lobby for him. Ooooh! Unfortunately, in order to make a power play, one must first have power. Score this one 9-0 for the council.

*Compromise. After energetically seeking $1 million for the sidewalk budget, Wills got $500,000. Guess they're only building them on one side of the street.

*Justice. Money was "found" to continue subsidizing operation of the Vera Project, a local venue for all-ages rock shows. Given that Mayor Paul Schell vetoed an ordinance which would have encouraged privately produced all-ages performances, the city owed the kids on this one.

*Leadership. After Schell refused to make significant cuts, effectively sitting out the entire budget deliberations (he wanted to finish his term the way he started it), Mayor Lame Duck at least seems to have shelved plans to veto the finished project.


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