Erstwhile city council candidate Dwight Pelz has moved on and, arguably, up since his failed 2005 election bid (the hot-headed former King County Council member is now running—and trashing—the state Democratic Party), but contributions to his campaign are still haunting some of his campaign donors. Seven King County taxi drivers and two administrative assistants maxed out to Pelz's campaign, giving him $650 each. The contributions, combined with $450 from the Kent-based American Taxi Association, added up to an even $5,000, prompting suspicions last year among some in Pelz opponent Richard McIver's camp that the working-class cabbies, not exactly the demographic that usually finances council campaigns, had been reimbursed for their contributions—an ethical no-no. Last week, rumor was that the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission was getting ready to settle the case, although neither SEEC director Wayne Barnett nor Pelz would talk to me about the purported negotiations (Barnett: "Nothing's going on"; Pelz: "I have nothing to say about that.") Tim Hatley, the lobbyist for the taxi association, did not return my calls.
The contentious and often divisive issue of illegal immigration landed in the King County Courthouse last week, when negotiations over a relatively benign resolution adding immigration reform to the county council's federal lobbying agenda ground to a halt over the inclusion of the terms "civil rights," which county council Chairman Larry Phillips said he felt implied "we were talking about voting," a civil right illegal immigrants do not have. The flap, which several county staffers characterized as "weird," deescalated Monday when the Dems agreed on language that would only guarantee existing civil rights to undocumented workers; because the Democrats have a 5-4 majority on the council, all five must agree for any proposal to pass without Republican backing.
Last year, after a contentious rezoning process that increased maximum building heights on Broadway in Capitol Hill, the city council threw Broadway business owners a bone: In exchange for taller building heights, the mayor's Office of Economic Development would spend $500,000 crafting an "action plan" to revitalize Broadway's struggling business district. On Monday, the OED came to council with a much smaller ($125,000) request for 2006—a request the council approved yesterday, but with strict limitations on how and when the money could be spent.
The council's qualms, which almost left Broadway business owners empty-handed, were prompted when the OED failed to spend a single penny of the Broadway money in 2005, causing the cash to go away. OED then made its $125,000 request. McIver initially yanked the money ("my attitude was, [OED] didn't use the money; let's just take it back"), then thought better of it, releasing it with "proviso" dictating that the OED can't have the cash until it comes up with a Broadway action plan. On Monday, council members asked McIver what he would say to Capitol Hill residents who were expecting the full $500,000. "My suggestion would be that they go to the mayor and ask him to put it in the 2007 budget," McIver barked.