Nick Licata, the Seattle City Council member who seemed least likely to support Referendum 51, has thrown his weight behind the $7.7 billion gas tax measure. Meanwhile, Licata's been soliciting contributions from his political supporters for Rise Above It All, the monorail campaign. Is this the man Seattle elected?

Licata has spent weeks now excoriating his colleagues for refusing to even discuss whether the city can afford to pay for its "preferred" $11 billion plan to put the viaduct underground; $450 million, the amount included in R-51 for the viaduct, won't even be a down payment on the least expensive replacement plan. And only 7 percent of R-51's King County funding will pay for transit; the rest will go to build more roads, mostly on the Eastside. So why bother throwing good money after bad? Licata says he "reluctantly" decided to support the measure because (all together now) at least it's better than nothing. "We're not going to do any better the next go-round" at the Legislature, Licata says. Greg Nickels, Heidi Wills, and the once-ambivalent council president, Peter Steinbrueck, have also thrown their support behind the measure. . . .

The same week the City Council was rallying behind the gas tax, Licata's supporters got a letter in the mail seeking campaign dollars for another pricey proposal: the $1.7 billion monorail plan. In the letter, Licata asked his supporters to "become active in the people's monorail campaign" by donating to Rise Above It All. RAIA head Peter Sherwin insists the fund-raising query is kosher, noting that Seattle officials have a long history of lobbying for ballot measures. . . .

Tim Eyman's attempt to hijack the name "Transportation Choices" to sell his latest anti-transit proposal ran into a wall this week when the Transportation Choices Coalition sued the anti-tax crusader in federal court for violating their trademark on the term. Transportation Choices is steamed that Eyman co-opted their pro-transit name for his "Transportation Choices Initiative," which would divert money from education and social services to roads, repeal parts of R-51, and open car-pool lanes to single- occupant vehicles. Coalitions director Peter Hurley says Eyman in "try[ing] to take advantage of the fact that we have a well-known name." In a statement, Eyman (who also calls his opponents pathetic) says, "Yippee! I have completely underestimated the political ignorance of our opponents over the years, but they continue to outdo themselves." Is this anti-tax cowboy getting too cocky for his chaps? Stay tuned. . . .

The city's eight-year-old poster ban, which prohibited posters on public poles, lampposts, and trees, was ruled partially unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court on Monday. The unpopular ban limited postering to a few designated posting "kiosks." In the ruling, the court said that if a pole is on or adjacent to an accessible public street or sidewalk, and if it has "traditionally been used for posting," it qualifies as a "traditional public forum." Essentially, the ruling determined that the reasons the city cited for passing the ordinance—safety, aesthetics, and the existence of other communication channels—weren't sufficient and that the ordinance was an overbroad limitation on constitutionally protected speech.

Erica C. Barnett

Contributing this week: George Howland Jr.

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