Steinbrueck Challenged

While Seattle City Council incumbents Jim Compton, Judy Nicastro, Margaret Pageler, and Heidi Wills all seemed to be drawing opponents en masse, it looked like lefty Council President Peter Steinbrueck was getting a free pass.

No longer. In fact, Steinbrueck may face the toughest challenger of the lot. At the urging of downtown business folks (who didn't like Steinbrueck's flip performance at a recent Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce candidate forum), economist Rudi Bertschi, husband of Democratic bigwig Deborah Senn, jumped in. Last week Bertschi sent a friendly e-mail to Steinbrueck, saying the race was on. JOSH FEIT

Nicastro Letter Stars Kollin Min

Incumbent Council Member Judy Nicastro--who has drawn at least three challengers in this year's council race--is letting the heat get to her. In a recent mailer to donors, Nicastro committed a classic anxious-incumbent mistake: throwing the spotlight on a challenger. While Nicastro didn't mention Kollin Min by name, she made so many thinly veiled and paranoid references to Min's Hollywood fundraising potential (Min married into a Hollywood family) that she squandered any appearance of commanding incumbency.

"Our way of life and our economy are under direct attack by people from outside our state," Nicastro's letter begins. "I have one thing to say to that... We'll win even if all the stars from the Hollywood walk of fame decide they want their own, personal Seattle City Council Member. I don't think multi-millionaires from Hollywood can really know what it's like to struggle in Seattle... If my opponents think Seattleites will be impressed by Hollywood glitz, it shows how out of touch they are." Thou dost protest way too much, Judy. JOSH FEIT

Duct-Taping the Viaduct?

Bad news for Council Member Nick Licata: Estimates on his proposal to retrofit the Alaskan Way Viaduct are in, and the verdict isn't good. Retrofitting the viaduct would be uglier, less safe, and only slightly less expensive than rebuilding the damn thing. Licata, who took issue with the $11 billion tunneling option (which some hoped would include a string of waterfront parks), had insisted the Washington State Department of Transportation include the retrofit option in its environmental impact study.

The report also found that a retrofitted viaduct would sustain massive damage in an earthquake. And that's not all: A rendering of a retrofitted viaduct, released by Licata's office, shows a hideous, boxlike structure with pillars twice as large as the current viaduct's. ERICA C. BARNETT

County Monorail

After a series of meetings with King County exec Ron Sims and King County Council Member Dwight Pelz, countywide monorail initiative leader Cleve Stockmeyer says his group will refile its initiative petition to build a monorail to the Eastside this week ["23 Minutes to Redmond," Josh Feit, Jan 16].

The group originally filed in March, but the county rejected the petition because of technical snafus.

The new petition also attempts to address concerns raised by monorail detractors like Pelz. In response to Pelz's contention that the council can't be compelled to spend money by initiative, the initiative's sponsors have capped the county's spending at $6.4 million (down from nearly $9 million) and directed county officials to seek outside money before spending the county's limited resources. That may not satisfy Pelz, who has sought a legal opinion on the initiative. ERICA C. BARNETT

Parks Levy

To make up for a failed county parks policy, King County Executive Ron Sims is shopping a 4.9-cent, four-year property tax for regional parks. If you're tired of leaders leaving important stuff out of general budgets and then asking voters to clean up, just vote "no" in Sims' special May 20 election. Not even Sims' pal Mayor Nickels is supporting the bailout. (Although that's probably because Nickels plans to go begging himself in November, shopping a pricey firehouse levy.) JOSH FEIT

Quote of the Week

"Once he gives it to us, it's in our hands. He seems to forget that. We make the decision. He's asking for $229 million. We'll do maybe half that." --Jan Drago, city council finance chair, on Mayor Nickels in general and Nickels' firehouse levy proposal in particular. JOSH FEIT