The Year in Review with Venus Velázquez
Weighing in on 2007's Bests and Worsts in Local Politics
To make sense of this past year in news—a special election on the viaduct, the condo boom, a doomed $17 billion transportation initiative, Taser-happy cops, Mayor Greg Nickels's attempt to squash nightlife, a wack city council election, and farewell to the Crocodile Cafe—we decided to invite Stranger-endorsed city council candidate Venus Velázquez to mull over this year's lows and highs with us.
Velázquez, after getting pulled over for a DUI—undoubtedly because of racial profiling and because she didn't notice the center line on NW Market Street—squandered her convincing primary victory and lost the election to attorney and former UW football hero Bruce Harrell.
We remain impressed with her instincts, though—talking on a cell phone for 20 minutes while being booked even after police told her to get off three times exemplifies the sort of moxie we want down at City Hall—and so, we wanted to give Stranger-endorsed Velázquez the last word on 2007.
So, we bought Venus some drinks (only two!) and asked her to comment on our year-end analysis. We're not sure if Venus actually joined us for our session—held at the Stranger X-mas party where each of us had considerably more than two drinks—but some lady was yelling in our ear that we had it all wrong.
Worst Decision of the Year: Roads- and-Transit Combo Platter
The elected politicians made the worst decision of the year. The politicians stupidly tied mass-transit expansion to roads expansion, creating the most expensive ($17.8 billion) ballot measure in the history of the world; the most meaningless (don't 182 miles of new roads defeat the whole purpose of new light rail?); and the most half-assed (no funding for 520?)
Venus Velázquez says: This is a no brainer. The voters made the worst decision of the year when they voted for that gorilla Bruce Harrell.
Power Trip of the Year Award: Gil's Boys
It was a bad year to be young, black, or anywhere near a cop car. Police accountability activists sounded the alarm on Chief Gil Kerlikowske and the SPD after a wheelchair-bound man accused two officers of beating him and planting drugs on him during a January arrest. Kerlikowske's suspect involvement in the SPD's "independent" internal investigation of the incident—conducted by the Office of Professional Accountability—quickly called the city's ability to hold the SPD accountable into question. The whole debacle died down, however, when Mayor Nickels stepped in and bailed the chief out. Since then, Seattle police settled another police-brutality case for $180,000 and people are coming out of the woodwork to report officer misconduct.
Venus Velázquez says: As a minority, I know how unfair it is when the cops pull us over.
Best Decision of the Year: No. And Hell No.
The voters get credit for making the best decision of 2007. When it came to Seattle's waterfront, voters wisely said no to Mayor Nickels's expensive (and unfunded) tunnel option and no to Olympia's retrograde elevated rebuild. Both options were bad news for the environment and downtown. Invaluable bonus: The "No" and "Hell No" votes put the "surface/transit" option in play, which is good for the environment and will be killer for the neighborhood. Double bonus: Surface/transit guru Cary Moon is foxy.
Venus Velázquez says: First of all, I'm way foxier than a hippie like Cary Moon. Second of all, the best decision of the year was mine, when I refused to take that fascist sobriety test. Did anyone check to see if Bruce Harrell was fucking drunk? You know, I know where that guy drinks and I know for a fact he's wasted after two beers.
Who the Fuck Cares of the Year: Are the Sonics Staying or Leaving?
Seattle vs. Phoenix, L 106–99; vs. L.A. Clippers, L 115–101; vs. Sacramento, L 104–98; vs. Memphis, L 105–98; vs. Utah, L 103–101; vs. Detroit, L 108–103; vs. Orlando, L 103–76; vs. Charlotte, L 100–84; vs. Memphis, L 125–108; vs. New Jersey, L 103–98; vs. San Antonio, L 116–101; vs. L.A. Lakers, L 106–99; vs. Orlando, L 110–94; vs. Golden State, L 109–96; vs. New Orleans, L 91–88; vs. Chicago, L 123–96; vs. Utah, L 96–75; vs. New Orleans, L 107–93. The Sonics were 7–19 as we went to press, second to last place in the entire Western Conference.
Venus Velázquez says: I can't fucking believe I bought season fucking tickets.
Obituary of the Year: Affordable Housing
If you've lived in Seattle for more than five minutes, you or someone you know has had their apartment swallowed up in the condo-conversion boom. Old ladies and stoned college students alike came home to find surly construction workers in their buildings and eviction notices on their apartment doors. Since 2004, Seattle has lost more than 6,000 apartments to conversions. The legislature—which failed to pass a condo-conversion cap—has yet to step in, so tenants are only guaranteed 90-days notice and a $500 pittance for their troubles.
Venus Velázquez says: Bruce Harrell's house is worth $1,000,000. What? Does he think he's better than me?
Shocker of the Year: Local Politics Aren't Boring
A consultant, an ex-cop, a former college football star, and a mustachioed city council member walk into a bar: Sounds like the beginnings of a bad joke, right? Right. And the punch line was this year's ugly municipal election. The mustachioed incumbent, David Della, got caught apparently bullying the police and fire unions to get their endorsements—and followed that up by calling local enviro groups racist for not endorsing him. Unfortunately, his opponent, former cop Tim Burgess, turned out to have been a consultant to an extremist right-wing hate group. And the football player, Bruce Harrell, was accused of abandoning his child. And while Council Member Richard McIver wasn't up for reelection, he made headlines when he went all Ike Turner on his wife in October. And, sigh, we must include the "strong minty smell" (according to the DUI arrest report) on Venus's breath after she got caught "swerving over the center line" on Northwest Market Street.
Venus Velázquez says: Thank God for Richard McIver.
Tantrum of the Year: Mayor Nickels Huffs and Puffs About Night Clubs
Mayor Nickels spent the year trying to make Seattle look like the little town from Footloose. He pushed for a dumb, redundant, draconian nightlife license—which would have made clubs responsible for problems that happened blocks away and given Nickels the power to shut down clubs at his discretion. But the city council wouldn't play ball. Never one to not get his way, Nickels called in his own personal leg breakers—the good folks at the Seattle Police Department—who performed a series of dubiously legal stings on several Seattle nightclubs. Because of the intense pressure, Tommy's Nightclub and Grill in the University District went under and Belltown's Tabella was sold to Mars Hill Church. Most recently, the city council passed a crazy noise ordinance, which allows the city to fine club owners thousands of dollars if their music bothers rich Belltown condo owners.
Venus Velázquez says: You know what should get shut down? Bruce Harrell's favorite bar. It's Earl's on the Ave. Grow up, Bruce. And by the way, cosmos are for girls.
Disappointment of the Year: Supermajority Democrats
When a supermajority of Democrats (62–36 in the state house and 32–17 in the state senate) can't put the kibosh on usury rates for payday loans, stop one company (Glacier Northwest) from strip mining, close the gun-show loophole, prevent employers from blatant union busting, cap CO2 emissions, cap condo conversions, and protect homebuyers from shady developers, all because they're scared of losing their supermajority, you have to wonder why they want a supermajority in the first place.
And as if the Democrat-controlled session wasn't disappointing enough, they had to go and call a special session. What did they do with that? They enacted Tim Eyman's tax cap. If they hadn't done it, they say, they would have lost their supermajority.
Venus Velázquez says: Well, obviously my biggest disappointment was losing the election to a football player. But thinking about larger issues, I'd say there's an overlooked issue in this city about our police force. Their priorities are skewed.
Scandal of the Year: Payout at the Port
Mountains of coke, sex in the bathroom, stethoscopes, handcuffs, and rubber gloves. These are all things we wish had been part of the "shocking" Port of Seattle scandal. But no. We got board members giving a generous severance package to the outgoing CEO. The fallout? The board was exonerated and the voters kicked the wrong guy, Alec Fisken, out of office. Oh, Seattle.
Venus Velázquez says: Is there an open Port seat?