Homeless, Even More Homeless
The homeless, already faced with the possibility that police may oust them from local parks when the World Trade Organization descends upon Seattle, may lose another sleeping option during the evil conference. One city official is concerned that the homeless may be turned away from local motels and hotels.
Typically, when the city's 2,000 shelter-beds are filled, certain local motels and hotels honor city-backed vouchers that give homeless people rooms for the night. About 126 such vouchers get distributed, on average, every night across Seattle. "A lot of people need a bridge before they can find longer-term housing," says Alan Painter, director of the community services division of the city's Human Services Department. "If they don't have access to another kind of shelter, a hotel or motel will put them up for a night."
At WTO time, however, Painter says the best hotels will get filled up with ambassadors, diplomats, and their attachés. The normally first-class guests are pushed to second-class hotels. This process goes on, ripple-effect, until the entire city is one giant "No Vacancy" sign.
Meanwhile, the market squeeze for rooms will enable hoteliers to raise rates, leaving the homeless -- and their vouchers -- out in the cold. Typically, a hotel owner has to decide, "would I rather take $70 from Joe Smith visiting from California or a $70 voucher from a homeless person in Seattle?" The WTO conference changes the equation, adding the evil ways of capitalism into the mix. After all, will a hotel want to accept a city voucher that can be cashed in for a mere $70, when they can charge some out-of-town reporter $90 a night? -- PHIL CAMPBELL
A businesswoman whose Belltown dance club closed two years ago is now suing the city of Seattle, saying police harassment and the enforcement of unconstitutional laws forced her to shut down. And she says she's got the memo to prove it.
You've heard the story before. A Seattle nightclub plays hiphop and rap music. Black youths show up to check it out. Soon the cops show up, too, and they start writing incident reports on everything from littering to noise complaints. After a while, the police have built a file of complaints on the place, and the club is forced to close. This, according to club owner Valerie Nakamura's lawsuit, is exactly what happened to her club.
The suit, filed by local civil-rights super hero David Osgood, alleges that Neko's Restaurant and Nightclub went out of business because the police targeted the place. After police filed a series of complaints about Neko's, the club was told in September of 1996 that it could not offer live music dancing. The place went under six months later.
Part of Neko's case hinges on a memo that was passed between two sergeants in the Seattle Police Department. The memo implies the police were deliberately trying to build a case against Neko's. "I think we need to move sooner than that [next week]," Sgt. D. Whelan writes Sgt. J. J. Jankauskas. "We need to strike while the iron is hot.... If she does get her [liquor] license she still wants to have dancing and music. For that she will need an added activity permit from the Liquor Control Board. We have a great deal of power in giving and taking those away."
-- PHIL CAMPBELL
Times, P-I Ban Ads for French Film
The Seattle Times and the P-I are apparently refusing to accept advertising for Romance, an unrated French film that is to be released in Seattle this Friday.
The papers' ad reps told TriMark Pictures, which is distributing the film, that the movie is "sexually explicit."
The Stranger news department has yet to see the movie, but Stranger film critic Jamie Hook tells us there are two gems in the movie that might make more prudish film-goers squirm a little. The first is a real cumshot. The second is a gynecological exam in which six medical students are encouraged to examine a female character.
But don't take our word for it. Even Roger Ebert (the fat one who's not dead) reassures us that the film is not pornographic. "There is not a single scene that seems intended to be arousing," he writes in the Chicago Sun-Times, "except perhaps to specialized tastes. The director seems more fascinated by the pathology of the characters than by their libidos."
Donna Tuggle, the director of national advertising for both The Times and the P-I, says four people were involved in the decision, but none of them had seen the film. -- PHIL CAMPBELL
On the Rocks
Last seen running for city council against Cheryl Chow and Judy Nicastro, former King County Democrats chair Daniel Norton showed up in Arlington, Washington last weekend -- bartending at an outdoor wedding. Norton, who teaches public speaking at Seattle Central Community College, says pouring drinks was a one-time gig, helping a friend who runs a catering service. -- NANCY DREW