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Sound Conscience

Things were going swimmingly at the "elected politicians only" 7:30 breakfast at Bell Harbor International Center on Tuesday November 28, until Mayor Paul Schell made the mistake of bringing up Sound Transit.

State Rep. Ed Murray, from the 43rd District's Capitol Hill and Wallingford, felt compelled to give Schell a reality check after the mayor, unbelievably, gave a rosy account of Sound Transit while asking Seattle's Olympia reps to keep lobbying the state for cash.

Murray, a longtime Sound Transit fan, told Schell that pestering his Olympia colleagues for Sound Transit dollars is becoming increasingly difficult to do with a clear conscience. First, Murray says, he feels like the agency has misled him about costs. "I have come in recent weeks to be stunned by issues of cost overruns, after repeated personal assurances from Sound Transit that there wouldn't be any," the outspoken rep says.

More important, Murray believes, thanks to wild new proposals like running a light-rail line over the Montlake cut--the 43rd District Dem wouldn't even have the backing of his own Seattle constituents when begging for cash. "That idea is a neighborhood destroyer," Murray says. "A political atom bomb."

In the past, Murray says, he's felt good about asking stubborn rural legislators to fund Sound Transit because it's what his district wanted. Now, however, he says that Sound Transit's bumbling has jeopardized that support. JOSH FEIT

Dumb Coffee Drinkers

Necta Sweet Inc., an Illinois-based artificial sweetener company and the inventor of "Flavour Creations"--a cheap tablet alternative to fancy syrup coffee-sweeteners--is apparently making life difficult for Starbucks.

According to a federal lawsuit filed by Starbucks late last month, Necta Sweet "uses a logo we believe to be confusingly similar to Starbucks' siren logo."

Despite the fact that Necta Sweet has replaced the sacred siren with a black-and-white coffee mug and added the words "Flavour Creations," the shape and color scheme (green, black, and white) is still misleading Starbucks' consumers, the coffee conglomerate contends.

Starbucks is seeking the seizure of all infringing goods currently in Necta Sweet's possession, plus damages for the harm the company has caused Starbucks' illiterate customers. MEGAN SELING

On-the-Job Training?

Two Sundays ago, a Seattle Times delivery truck heading north on Interstate 405, just south of Main Street in Bellevue, overturned and spilled fuel across three lanes of highway. The driver suffered minor neck and back pain, but was otherwise fine.

The Washington State Patrol would give no other information on the incident. So The Stranger was unable to confirm statements from Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild sources, who gleefully assert that the driver was a pimple-faced, temp-working scab who had no business driving such a big truck in the first place. PHIL CAMPBELL

Contested Election

Al Gore and George W. Bush aren't the only ones scrapping over recounts. Seattle Teamsters Local 174 incumbent Secretary-Treasurer Bob Hasegawa is on pins and needles while his international union inspects contested ballots. Last week, the progressive Hasegawa lost his re-election bid to opponent and pro-Hoffa Teamster Scott Sullivan by a mere five votes (out of 2,853 votes cast).

In fact, all of the candidates on Hasegawa's reform-oriented slate lost. Hasegawa's president lost by 34 votes. His recording secretary lost by 83 votes.

The incumbents would have gone down in defeat by now, but 59 ballots were contested. The ballots may be thrown out, because the union members who voted may not have been eligible to vote.

The local union's election committee plans to announce the official winner in a day or so. PHIL CAMPBELL

Injunction Junction

City Attorney Mark Sidran's office did a good thing! Joining plaintiffs from other Washington cities (like Bainbridge Island, Burien, Richland, and Carnation), attorneys representing Seattle helped convince Thurston County Superior Court Judge Christine Pomeroy to grant a preliminary injunction against Tim Eyman's dumb-ass I-722. The initiative, passed by voters in November, limited annual property tax increases among local municipalities to two percent and repealed a host of local taxes that were passed in the wake of I-695.

Among other things, Pomeroy found that the initiative would create inequitable taxing schemes and eliminate libraries, police, and fire protection in some cities.

I-722's implementation now awaits a February 23 hearing regarding its constitutionality. Meanwhile, Seattle can go ahead with a budget that includes such wildly frivolous items as sidewalks, street paving, and transitional housing for the homeless. JOSH FEIT

Sex Lies

"Live sex 24 hours a day!" So boasts Actually, much to the potential dismay of Clublove's pickier customers, the porn site has no live sex. That's because the Capitol Hill studio where sex workers used to perform live was closed about a month ago, according to employees, some of whom are still posting streaming nudie videos and billing clients. Internet Entertainment Group (IEG), which owns the site, isn't just jerking porn fans around, though. As the company has done before, IEG is also ripping off its employees ["Sex Workers Screwed," Allie Holly-Gottlieb, Sept 21]. Several IEG workers, including performers and customer service reps, told The Stranger that their paychecks are bouncing again, and the bank account from which checks are drawn was closed last week.

"Rent's due today," says one anonymous source, who's received three IEG rubber checks. While IEG's jilted employees scramble to scrounge up rent, their boss Seth Warshavsky has reportedly fled to Thailand or England. Approximately six employees are planning to file a class-action suit against Warshavsky and IEG to win their wages. ALLIE HOLLY-GOTTLIEB


Paul Allen, determined to make Seattle his own playground, bought up another chunk of Lake Union this week. The Microsoft co-founder, through his real estate company Vulcan Northwest, paid $7.86 million for Ducky's Office Furniture off of Mercer by the I-5 entrance. So far, Allen has spent over $100 million and owns 35 Lake Union acres and counting. PAT KEARNEY

Cuff Co-Owner's Sudden Death

It's standard practice for newspapers to include the cause of death in an obituary, so it was odd that both of Seattle's gay newspapers ran obituaries last week for Scott Rodriguez--the 35-year-old co-owner of Capitol Hill's the Cuff--that didn't include a cause of death. Rodriguez was a local leather activist, businessman, and softball player whose bar grew to be the largest and most popular gay bar in the city. Absent any reliable information about the cause of Rodriguez' death, the gay rumor mill is churning with stories of drug overdoses, strokes, heart attacks--and, of course, AIDS. When a gay man in his mid-30s dies, AIDS remains the most likely culprit. But gay newspapers aren't shy about mentioning that cause of death, as it plays into their AIDS-is-still-a-crisis agendas.

Rodriguez' death recalls that of a New York City bar owner last fall. Harry Bartel was the 35-year-old co-owner of Splash, New York City's largest and most popular gay bar, when he died suddenly last September. In a paid notice that ran in The New York Times on September 9, 1999, Bartel's family neglected to mention a cause of death, saying only that Bartel "died at his home in Manhattan." Later it emerged that Bartel died after mixing drugs and alcohol, and that his death was most likely an accidental overdose.

So what killed Scott Rodriguez? The people most likely to know--his employees at the Cuff--claimed they had no idea, and referred me to the Cuff's manager, Tim Franulovich. Franulovich, who authored the obituary that ran in both gay newspapers last Friday, didn't return The Stranger's phone calls. Rodriguez' death certificate has yet to be filed with King County.

"I assume it was AIDS-related," said Mike Bradbury, editor of The Gay Standard, "but I don't know for sure, and no one has said anything one way or the other to me." Bradbury intends to look into Rodriguez' death, "after his friends have had time to grieve. We will write a follow-up story."

The public is invited to a celebration of Scott Rodriguez' life this Sunday, December 10, from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Cuff, 1533 13th Avenue, on Capitol Hill. DAN SAVAGE

Mayoral Rumors

Despite being too shy to face the 2000 Seattleites who gathered at Westlake Center for N30 last week ("I'm the bad guy," Paul Schell told this reporter), the mayor is apparently comfortable enough to throw his hat in the ring for a second term. His office says he hasn't made up his mind yet, but the rumor mill has it that the downtown development crowd talked Schell into a second run by saying they'd raise $1 million on his behalf.

This astronomical number probably won't be enough to scare off freshman City Council Member Jim Compton, who, for reasons that are clear to no one, is also said to be fixated on joining the race. JOSH FEIT

Some Employees Are More Equal Than Others

While most Amazon employees are bumming that the company's stock price has crashed to $25 3/8 (a near 80 percent skydive from its 52-week high), a couple of top brass at the company are thoroughly psyched.

In an article titled "More Employees Of Dot-Coms Prefer Cash to Options--Decline in Stock Prices Makes Risk Takers Think Twice," the November 29 Wall Street Journal Europe reported that Amazon's Chief Financial Officer Warren Jenson and Amazon's V.P. of Operations Jeff Wilke were recently paid bonuses--$1 million cash each. According to a recent Security and Exchange Commission filing, CEO Jeff Bezos says the cash payments are on top of compensation packages that include stock options. It might be more accurate to say the whopping bonuses are making up for the stock options. NANCY DREW


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