Peter's Pure Nonsense

Mayor Greg Nickels has asked the Seattle City Council to repeal the Teen Dance Ordinance (TDO). Sounds easy enough. The five council members who voted to scrap the TDO back in 2000 are still on the council. (That five-vote majority couldn't repeal the TDO because the mayor at the time, Paul Schell, vetoed the idea.) So Greg Nickels, who pledged to undo Schell's veto if elected, sent the original TDO repeal back to council late last month.

The problem: Current Council President Peter Steinbrueck, one of the original repeal votes, has cold feet. Two weeks ago, Steinbrueck pulled the legislation from the council's agenda.

Steinbrueck says he wants to wait until U.S. District Court Judge Robert Lasnik rules on the TDO. (The TDO is in Lasnik's courtroom because after Schell vetoed the repeal in 2000, music-industry activists from JAMPAC sued the city, saying the TDO was unconstitutional.)

However, Steinbrueck's claim that he's waiting to hear from the judge is perfectly odd. At the March 27 court hearing, Lasnik described the new political reality (i.e., a new mayor who doesn't like the TDO) and asked the city to take legislative action. The council should heed that advice. Council members were elected to legislate, not forfeit their power to judges.

Waiting for Lasnik is also risky. Who knows what Lasnik will decide? Any ruling, short of tossing out the TDO, will confuse the political landscape and possibly derail a TDO repeal. Steinbrueck should bring the repeal to a vote right now, forcing Lasnik to declare the case moot.

Two council members, Richard Conlin and Heidi Wills, told me the real reason Steinbrueck won't kill the TDO now: Steinbrueck doesn't want to settle with JAMPAC and have to pay attorneys' fees. Earth to Steinbrueck! You can pass the repeal without settling; just pass it as regular council legislation. Plus, if you pass it now--forcing Lasnik to declare the case moot--you won't have to pay in court either.

Steinbrueck might know all this if he consulted his own legislative aide, Stephanie Pure. When it comes to the politics of the TDO, Pure is one of the most knowledgeable people in Seattle. In fact, she's semi-famous in town for helping orchestrate the 18-month public process that led to the original repeal--a repeal Steinbrueck voted for twice. Pure's delicate political work on the issue circa 1999-2000 converted warring counterproposals into popular legislation. Steinbrueck should be mining Pure's knowledge.

Unfortunately, people like JAMPAC's Dave Meinert say Pure seems to have taken the Fifth on the issue; and she certainly won't talk to me about the TDO.

If anyone at city hall should be crafting a TDO solution, it's Pure. It would be troubling (and would highlight serious political shortcomings) if Steinbrueck didn't tap his own aide's expertise.