Drug policy experts and reformers from around the U.S. and Canada will be in Seattle this week to talk about alternatives to the War on Drugs—part of a long-term plan to "change the culture" in Washington State when it comes to drug control, says Roger Goodman, director of the King County Bar Association's Drug Policy Project. He admits the state is a long way away from rejecting criminalization as its primary means of drug control. A thick report on the history of failed drug-control efforts in this country, prepared by the Bar Association earlier this year, led to calls from the Bar Association and others for the state legislature to consider new approaches, but the legislature declined the request. "It was just the first discussion," Goodman said, sounding mellow but determined. "You can't accomplish something like this in a short period of time." The conference runs Thursday and Friday at the downtown Red Lion, and will feature an appearance by former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper. ELI SANDERS
In preparation for her second legislativesession, Governor Christine Gregoire is shaking up her staff. Gregoire announced this month that communications director Kerry Coughlin, who joined the governor's office earlier this year after several years as spokeswoman for the Seattle Times, is leaving. Coughlin is the second senior staffer to leave Gregoire's office. Kurt Fritts, Gregoire's political director, left last spring to take a job with Washington Conservation Voters, immediately after the governor's first legislative session. Gregoire's speechwriter, Ben Vaught, is also on the way out.
In other Democratic Party gossip: Last week, the state party hired Team Nickels scion Viet Shelton as its new communications director. The 24-year-old ran Nickels's reelection effort this year. JOSH FEIT
Mayor "Gridlock Greg" Nickels a national environmental hero? Yes, as far as Rolling Stone (which lauded him as one of 25 "Warriors and Heroes" in November) and National Public Radio (which gave him credit for jump-starting civic efforts to abide by the Kyoto Protocols, rejected by the Bush Administration) are concerned. On Monday, NPR ran a national segment in which Nickels heralded the benefits of light rail and transit-oriented development for building "compact, walkable communities."
One recent accomplishment Nickels didn't mention was his role in killing the monorail—a project that would have created exactly the kind of dense, walkable urban environments Nickels extolled. Which made his most aggressive statement especially ironic: "We know that as the federal government refuses to take leadership that we at the local level are going to have to take that leadership." THOMAS FRANCIS
Nickels Blown Away
In early September, Mayor Greg Nickels announced a plan to replace every tree removed from city property with two new trees, offering $170,000 in his 2006 budget for urban tree plantings. Unfortunately, Nickels's plan would have replaced trees only in Occidental and Freeway Parks, not citywide. In the city budget approved this past Monday, council member Jean Godden one-upped the mayor's proposal, adding another $183,000 to expand the tree replacement program and hire another arborist to supplement the city's current two-person team, which all but shuts down any time one member of the team is on vacation. ERICA C. BARNETT