Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Politics in Mayberry, Then and Now

I haven't been looking at The Stranger much since my pal Sandeep left, but they have three items on the under-reported local political scene, two about the present day and one historical.

"The Nickels campaign machine, often regarded as a political juggernaut stomping toward an easy reelection, got tripped up last week by a small group of local Democrats gathered at an elementary school in Ballard. They were all members of the 36th District Democrats, an organization that represents liberal voters in Ballard, Magnolia, Queen Anne, Interbay, and Phinney Ridge—and endorsed Nickels in 2001. That's another way of saying they were people one would expect to be in favor of Nickels, who has gone to the mat for liberal causes such as smart growth and light rail, while gaining national attention for bucking President Bush on the Kyoto Protocol. But the 36th District Dems apparently didn't think much of Nickels's progressive bonafides. When the group's chair moved for endorsements in the mayor's race, a hand in the front row shot up and nominated former University of Washington professor Al Runte, the long-shot candidate for mayor who emerged as Nickels's opponent (from a crowded field of other long-shot challengers) when he scored a surprising 22 percent in the September 30 primary.-from "North Seattle Democrats Reject the Nickels Agenda."

"Only a handful of strippers turned out Monday, October 3, to witness the city council's 5-4 vote to ban lap dances, prohibit direct tipping, and require bright lighting in strip clubs—and they were almost outnumbered by lawyers, who promised a legal challenge once Mayor Greg Nickels signs the legislation. The surprisingly close decision (until recently, only Peter Steinbrueck was willing to defy Seattle's prudish strip-club regulations) was very nearly thwarted by Nick Licata, who proposed amendments that would have dropped the four-foot rule, loosened the lighting requirement, and ditched a ridiculous provision requiring a "continuous railing at least three feet" high. Ultimately, all three amendments failed on 5-4 votes (with Licata, Steinbrueck, Jean Godden, and Tom Rasmussen dissenting), though not without fireworks: At one particularly tense moment, ban sponsor Richard McIver (who, like two of his four cohorts, faces a tough reelection battle) attempted to shout down Steinbrueck, who was arguing that "no one knows" what "a minimum lighting level of 30 lux horizontal," as required by the legislation, means. "We had a presentation, maybe you weren't there. But most of the city council knows what that means," McIver said. "Thanks for interrupting me," Steinbrueck shot back crisply. "You're welcome," McIver snapped."-from "Four-Foot Fools."

"“Fifty-one percent,” said I, the new campaign manager. “We will win this political campaign with 51 percent of the vote.” Being so confident was a wondrous revelation in itself. And just two weeks ago I had been ready to give up on everything, completely. Grant Cogswell—poet, punk-rock fan, grassroots activist, monorail proponent, and insurgent Seattle City Council candidate—laughed, liberated and terrified. We stood on the edge of a Seattle beach in late June and watched the sun go down over Puget Sound. Young lovers and old couples stretched out behind us on beach towels and cotton blankets while high-school kids, failed dot-commers, and college students on break stood around bonfires and got drunk on cheap beer. The pessimistic skies of late spring had given way to the frothy innocence of summer. It was a new season of exuberance and it was laden with import. This was the summer of 2001, and less than two years ago the World Trade Organization protests had stirred the global consciousness. In Seattle even something as modest as a grassroots city council campaign felt momentous, a genuine step toward a new form of political activism, liberation, and enlightenment. Seattle: Here was a place in America where progress was still possible. The city had not yet yielded to social numbness, television-embalmed apathy, or right-wing fundamentalist incoherence. The keen edge of liberalism still thrived here. We climbed into my car, a thrifty little ’95 Geo Prizm, and were off."-from "A True Story of Idealism and Madness in American Politicsl"

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