Insignificant Others

"I thought it was bullshit," a Seattle City Council member told me last Wednesday night, May 28, sipping vodka at Linda's on Pine Street. I had asked the council member's opinion about the advice I'd given in a recent installment of this column.

In that column [May 22], I had observed--just like everyone else in town--that Mayor Greg Nickels has taken over city hall's agenda. As a remedy for the reeling council, I had suggested that rather than scrapping with the mayor about process (as the council seemed to be doing) or complaining about the mayor's agenda (as the council seemed to be doing), the legislative branch should just get an agenda of its own. In other words, I accused council members of lacking an agenda, and reasoned that this lack of vision allowed Nickels to step right in and set the agenda himself.

"I thought it was bullshit," the council member explained, "because you aren't paying attention to the legislation we're passing. We do a lot of stuff. It's just not sexy."

My smart-ass response--I was drinking vodka too--was this: "The mayor's agenda--lifting the lease lid, repairing fire stations, and filling potholes--is hardly sexy!"

My other smart-ass response was, "I'm one of about 10 people in town who pay attention to you guys. If I'm not getting your agenda, you've got a serious problem." (For the record, I keep a blue binder, organized by month, tracking council meeting minutes.)

Anyway, I like this particular council member (how many council members are at ease drinking at Linda's?), so I checked out something called the "Significant Vote Log"--a file the council hypes to show off important legislation.

Survey says: The significant vote log is a bust. Sure, Heidi Wills deserves props for pushing a couple of her own items (denying a street giveaway to a rich guy in Magnolia and reaffirming guidelines over police intelligence gathering), and Judy Nicastro deserves props for pushing tenants' emergency-assistance legislation, but for the first six months of 2003, the council's "significant" vote log is anything but.

The 55-item list includes a resolution (resolutions don't have legal weight like ordinances) stating the council's opinion that media consolidation is bad; a resolution acknowledging the importance of Earth Day (thank Wills for that one, too); and a resolution supporting the troops in Iraq (by the time the resolution was bickered over and passed, the troops were already headed home--earning our council a place in the nationally syndicated News of the Weird column).

Certainly, some council members have made names for themselves as civil rights advocates (Nick Licata) and homeless advocates (Peter Steinbrueck), but if you look at the council's to-do list right now (lifting the lease lid, considering a fire levy, and battling over South Lake Union), it's clear the council's significant vote log is destined to be dominated by the mayor's agenda.