Gov. Christine Gregoire's Life Sciences Discovery Fund tastes more like pork than ever. On Saturday, April 16, the state House passed Gregoire's top economic development proposal, 53-40, largely along party lines. Under the House version, the fund has become more vague about how $350 million from the settlement between states and tobacco companies can be spent. The bill reads: "Life sciences research means advanced and applied research and development intended to improve human health and other areas of scientific research and development vital to the state's economy." The new language was offered by powerful House Appropriations Chair Helen Sommers, D-Seattle. Gregoire says that by strategically investing in life sciences, Washington can gain 20,000 new jobs over 10 years. This dubious claim is rendered absurd by the new language; there is no requirement that the money go to life sciences. Since the House and Senate have passed different versions, the two chambers must reach a compromise on a final bill. By the way, is sausage making a life science? GEORGE HOWLAND JR.
Continuing his election-year proclivity to boast of "remarkable" achievements, Mayor Greg Nickels wants you to know that Safeco, the insurance company that has called Seattle home since 1923, is—ta-dah!—staying in Seattle. Besides not moving to the burbs, Safeco will expand its University District headquarters, the mayor announced at an April 6 press conference. "We are welcoming millions of dollars of investments and 1,600 new jobs in the city today," Nickels said triumphantly. "It is a vote of confidence not only in Seattle but in all the hard work we've put into revitalizing this great neighborhood." Just in time for campaign brochures. What Nickels didn't say is that the expansion will take at least three years, that all those new jobs won't be fully in place until 2015, and that it's not a done deal. Safeco plans to build new office space around its high-rise on Northeast 45th Street and must get City Council approval for a height rezone from the current six stories to 12. Safeco said it doesn't intend to lease or sell Redmond satellite property until "the necessary approvals can be secured." And Safeco CEO and potential GOP Senate candidate Mike McGavick didn't seem especially upbeat. "After reviewing all the people, economic, and operational factors, we found the benefits of consolidating in Redmond or Seattle to be roughly equivalent," McGavick said. "So we chose the location where we believe we can do the greatest good." So far, no indication Safeco got the usual city gift of a parking garage deal, which other corporations (Vulcan, the Gates Foundation, and the Sonics) are getting from taxpayers. But Safeco hopes to expand its present parking garage. RICK ANDERSON
With the giddiness of a bride-to-be, The 5th Avenue Theatre announced last week it will host the pre-Broadway tryout of a musical based on the Adam Sandler movie The Wedding Singer. The same team that brought Hairspray to Seattle before its successful Broadway premiere is producing the show. The Wedding Singer will bring national attention to the 5th Ave. And it could contribute to the theater's nest egg. Hairspray is still paying royalties three years after its Seattle premiere. The Wedding dates? Jan. 31–Feb. 19, 2006. LYNN JACOBSON