On a Crusade

By Erica C. Barnett August 12, 2009


1. Last night, just after going negative himself , voters received a new robo-call featuring Sharon Nickels, Mayor Greg Nickels' wife, imploring voters to ignore the "unfair" negative attacks by two of his opponents (presumably Mike McGinn and Joe Mallahan) and to look at Nickels' record, particularly on light rail.

The call is one of several recent examples of Nickels focusing on his two leading opponents, both of whom are reportedly surging in the polls in the days leading up to the August 18 primary.

UPDATE: Another voter reports receiving a call that was very similarly worded to Nickels' viral anti-Mallahan ad, which we wrote about yesterday. SEIU 775 spokesman Adam Glickman confirms that the calls were paid for by the Working Families Coalition, a labor-backed coalition. In a slightly different incarnation, the Working Families Coalition  also ran ads (including one on PubliCola) opposing King County Executive candidate Ross Hunter.

2. The city's latest revenue forecast—described by another city hall employee as "awful " earlier this week—will be released on August 18. According to  recent accounts, the shortfall for the rest of 2009 will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 to $15 million. That's on top of a $40 million shortfall for 2009. After the official numbers come out next week, the city's unions will vote on whether to accept furloughs; if they don't, the cuts the city is facing will be even deeper.

3. About those cuts: The city council sent a letter to the mayor yesterday detailing exactly which programs it wants to keep. In most respects, the list is fairly predictable—don't cut cops, maintain domestic violence programs, keep funding for shelter beds—but it does include a few items of political interest.

One is a dedicated fund for pedestrian and bike projects, proposed by council member Tim Burgess as a replacement for the soon-to-be-repealed "head tax." (The tax is a $25-per-employee fee charged to employers whose workers commute by car alone.) The letter asks the mayor to "establish a dedicated fund to implement the Pedestrian Master Plan and Bike Master Plan." What it doesn't do, tellingly, is stipulate how much money will go in that "dedicated fund" or ask the mayor to create a new revenue source to replace the head tax.

The letter also asks the mayor (who, remember, is running for reelection) not to spend every penny of the city's "rainy day fund," which constitutes the main financial cushion for anticipated ongoing hard times in 2010.

476934557_zr78m-sPublic space at the downtown IDX Tower

4. PubliCola wasn't able to join council member Nick Licata on his tour of privately owned spaces that are  supposed to be open to the public yesterday, but we hear that a security guard at the Wells Fargo building downtown (999 Third Ave.) told a reporter from the Daily Journal of Commerce and a crew for the Seattle Channel that they weren't "allowed" to film in the building's public plaza, and tried to make them leave.

Licata is on a crusade to get the Wells Fargo plaza and two dozen other public spaces, which are often hidden on the upper floors of buildings or otherwise hard to find, marked so that the public knows they're allowed to use them.

5. Mayoral candidate and city council member Jan Drago oversaw a packed public forum yesterday on King County Metro's ongoing revenue shortfall, now projected as $704 million over four years, or the cost of an entire year of running Metro buses. Drago's campaign sent out a press release a week ago to promote the meeting, and "thanking" Mayor Nickels for "thinking of joining me in the ongoing conversations I've been having with King County for months about maintaining Metro service in Seattle."

Seattle Ethics and Elections director Wayne Barnett says there's nothing technically wrong with Drago using her campaign to politicize a city-sponsored event, but adds, "it is unusual." Drago is running third, behind Mallahan and McGinn, among Nickels' challengers.

I'll have a full report on yesterday's Metro briefing later today.

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