Listening To Heidi

This is the side of City Council Member Heidi Wills we like! Though she's certainly shown flashes of her excellent proletariat leanings before (like the time she wanted to make Seattle's more voracious electricity consumers--the affluent "hot tub crowd"--pay a proportionally bigger share of the recent Seattle City Light rate hike), Wills' knack for mixing her wonky fine-tuning talents with her Robin Hood ideals came into its own last week.

Persevering on an idea she proposed in June [Five to Four, June 28], Wills' kickass resolution is a delayed fix to the council's earlier overhaul of a long-standing city program. (The 1985 program allows downtown developers to gain square footage in exchange for providing public benefits like parks, theaters, and low-income housing.) This year's overhaul, sponsored by Council Member Richard Conlin and pushed by Mayor Paul Schell, emphasizes public benefits like housing rather than things like cinemas and performing-arts theaters.

However, advocates for the poor thought the reforms were lacking, because the definition of low-income didn't actually serve a needy population. Indeed, before Wills got involved, "low-income housing" was defined as housing that is affordable to people making up to 80 percent of the median income. That's $36,000 for one person!!

Wills retooled the equation so that 67 percent of the dollars generated by this program will go toward housing for people making below 50 percent of the median income ($22,500 for one person)--with a quarter of that slice slated explicitly for people making below 30 percent of the median income ($13,500 for one person). This more sensible scheme, which won high accolades from local lefties like the Tenants Union, and passed council unanimously on August 20, transformed a questionable ordinance into some of the better work crafted by the city so far this year.

Listening to Grant

Go figure. Stranger scribe-turned-city-council-candidate Grant Cogswell took our advice: This past June, Five to Four blasted Seattle's strange election rule that prevents candidates from writing about opponents in the voters' guide; we suggested challenging the city code in court. Through his current U.S. District Court battle, Cogswell may force a change in the voters' guide in time for the general election.

Meanwhile, here's part of the statement that Cogswell (co-author of the original Monorail Initiative) had to leave out of the primary-election voters' guide while the matter is being settled: "Since taking office, McIver has served as a key board member of Sound Transit and lobbied against grants for Monorail from that agency, voted for the legislation that repealed the first Monorail Initiative, [and] hesitated to stand against the forces on regional committees who want more lanes on SR 520...."