On January 31, Mayor Greg Nickels sent an unusually plaintive letter to his massive e-mail list. Nickels urged recipients to call and lobby city council members in on behalf of his nightlife ordinance—a controversial proposal that would turn bar and club employees into auxiliary police, requiring them to report all known or suspected crimes and patrol the area inside and outside clubs for noise, crime, and litter. Without the ordinance, Nickels claimed, Seattle's neighborhoods could be overrun with "noise, litter, and violence." Alarmingly, Nickels said, the city council has not yet considered the legislation. "If you're interested in making sure Seattle has a vibrant—not violent—nightlife industry, with clear safeguards for neighborhood residents and businesses, I urge you to contact the Seattle City Council and encourage council members to take action on this legislation," Nickels wrote.

Well, they did—but not in quite the way Nickels was hoping. Council members reported receiving a flood of e-mails from constituents opposing the mayor's legislation—many of them with the mayor's original e-mail attached. (The mayor is allowed to lobby constituents on council legislation, but it's unusual for him to do so.) Council members report receiving between 350 and 600 e-mails on the nightlife ordinance in the last week alone—the vast majority of them opposed to the legislation. Tim Hatley, the lobbyist for the Seattle Nightlife & Music Association, says the letter "ignited a bit of a firestorm" among nightlife supporters. "They were not pleased with the tone of the letter, so I think it resulted in a few e-mails." To date, only one group—the Belltown Community Council—has formally endorsed the mayor's proposal; BCC president Zander Batchelder says he considers it "a step in the right direction," but adds that it doesn't go far enough to crack down on bars that cause disturbances.

A separate e-mail—this one from James Keblas, director of Nickels's Office of Film & Music—was simultaneously circulating among music and nightlife supporters. In it, Keblas lobbied nightlife supporters to support the mayor's legislation, arguing that the city's nightlife task force—a group representing bars, neighborhood groups, and other businesses—had recommended that the city implement "reasonable 'business standards' that appropriately balance the... benefits of a vibrant entertainment and late-night entertainment industry with the needs of residents and businesses in the vicinity of nightclub venues." However, former task force members say the "standards" are all punitive, imposing extra layers of regulation on bars and clubs.

Council Member Sally Clark, whose Economic Development & Neighborhoods Committee will take up Nickels's legislation on March 1, says that because the mayor's legislation has been so controversial, her committee may "look at setting it aside and starting over.... It seems that people who were knowledgeable about the process and involved felt like they got the shaft."

barnett@thestranger.com

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