Meaningful Civic Discourse Reduced to Sound Bites
• Residents of Lake Union's floating houses say new shoreline management rules being drafted by the city could kick all their merry asses off of the water. "This is the nightmarish situation—living in fear that I could lose my home," says Carol Brown, who owns one of 600 water-homes in Seattle. Brown and others say that by tweaking the definition of the word "vessel," floating houses that are currently in a gray area of the law may be explicitly banned. But Bryan Stevens at the city's Department of Planning and Development says that isn't the case. The problem, he says, is that roughly 120 homeowners have been liberally interpreting the term "vessel" for years to include barges with outboard motors slapped on the back of them. Those homes were never supposed to be allowed, he says. The new rules would ban new houseboats; meanwhile, the 120 house barges that aren't permitted by the city would continue to be prohibited.
• On Monday, October 15, the Seattle City Council passed new election-reform rules that prohibit candidates running for city office from rolling over leftover cash from one campaign to the next. Then the council immediately upstaged that good news by calling for publicly financed campaigns. "If we, as a city, want to get to real reform, public financing is key," said council president Sally Clark. The city used to partially fund candidates' campaigns until a state initiative banned the practice in 1992. But in 2008, the state legislature passed a law once again allowing municipally financed campaigns if approved by a public vote. "I'd like to see [public campaign financing] on the ballot by November of next year," agreed Council Member Nick Licata. "I think we can make that happen."
• Also on Monday, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals declared that Yellow Pages are free speech and that a progressive 2010 city law, which created a resident opt-out program for the books and imposed fines for companies that delivered them anyway, is unconstitutional. In layman's terms: Telling phone book companies that you don't want their trash on your property infringes on their right to dump their trash on your property. Neg Norton, president of the Local Search Association, responded by calling the court's ruling "good news for residents." The city hasn't yet decided whether to appeal the decision.
• If you can't get enough of debate season, head on over to Fremont's Doric Masonic Temple on Monday, October 22, for a title bout between house Speaker Frank Chopp and Socialist Alternative challenger Kshama Sawant. Sawant's people are promising "fireworks" (we presume metaphorically). It runs from 8 to 9:30 p.m. at 619 North 36th Street.