Open Government, The State, City Hall

Open Government

It might say something about the inadequacy of the state's Open Records Act that not even a Supreme Court justice can pry loose the state records he says he needs to argue his case in court. On the other hand, it's libertarian Justice Richard Sanders, who is never one to play legal softball. Sanders told the Associated Press last week that he has been forced to sue the keeper of the records, Attorney General Rob McKenna—who, coincidentally, recently launched a state tour touting the attributes of the newly revised open records law (see "The Cost of Secrecy," Aug. 3). Sanders contends that McKenna and his predecessor, now-Gov. Christine Gregoire, are withholding documents he needs to appeal his slap on the wrist for mingling and chatting with prisoners at McNeil Island in 2003, in violation of the canon of conduct. He was merely admonished by the Commission on Judicial Conduct, but, as he did in an earlier misconduct case, he appealed, seeking an unfettered victory. For his attorney to argue his case (before his own high court), Sanders needs the AG's papers to prove the state "set me up for this violation," he says. The AG's office insists it's still sorting through documents and hasn't formally denied his full request. But Sanders sees a conspiracy afoot and isn't backing down. As he told his supporters in a letter after he was admonished in April, "I'm deeply troubled by the injustice of this assault on my professional reputation for what I think is no good reason." RICK ANDERSON

The State

Last winter, Seattle Weekly broke the story that the Washington State Liquor Control Board had bowed to pressure from wine distributors and retailers and begun to raise prices on their 100 top-selling wines to parity with retail prices on the open market. (See "Consumers Get Corkscrewed," Jan. 5.) The predictable result: Wine sales in state stores fell precipitously, by up to 10 percent in the month of May alone. Private-sector retailers were happy, but the state Department of Revenue, which derives a healthy portion of its income from state liquor-store sales, was not amused and applied a little pressure of its own. This week the Liquor Board threw in the towel and rescinded the price increases instituted in January and April, returning wine prices to 2004 levels. The new, improved prices will take effect Oct. 1, so don't pop any corks yet. ROGER DOWNEY

City Hall

At a City Council forum Monday, Aug. 15, about the future of downtown development, consulting planners from Vancouver, B.C., largely repeated their measured critique of Mayor Greg Nickels' proposal to dramatically increase downtown building heights to accommodate residential and commercial growth in coming years. The planners had already presented their assessment in written form to the council Aug. 8 (see "Time to Grow Up," Aug. 10). There was something new this week, however. City Council member Peter Steinbrueck called on the city and Seattle Public Schools to plan for a new elementary school downtown, in anticipation of what he hopes will be a wave of families moving there and to the Denny Triangle. The council will hold a formal public hearing on Nickels' proposal on Sept. 12. PHILIP DAWDY

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