This is the seventh damn article I've written about the Seattle City Council's attempt to give downtown developer Richard C. Hedreen a $6 million handout. My apparent obsession with the deal prompted some self-analysis. I had to ask: Why does this legislation bug me so much? Sure, it's lousy public policy. (The deal would give Hedreen a waiver so he could expand hotel development without building the low-income housing that the city's square footage bonus program requires.) Corporate welfare is gross, of course, but does it really merit seven articles?

As the story further unfolded last week (Hedreen's lobbyists scored a private meeting with two council members and the city attorney), it became clear why I find it so galling. This story is really about privileged access to government, access no ordinary citizen would get in 10 million years.

Consider: Hedreen's lobbyists wrote a customized piece of legislation to benefit the R. C. Hedreen Co., which they passed off to Council Member Richard McIver, who then sponsored it. (The Hedreens donated the maximum $1,200 to McIver last year.) When Mayor Nickels vetoed the ordinance, Hedreen met with the city attorney's office, and then scored a private meeting with City Council Members Jan Drago and Richard Conlin and City Attorney Tom Carr on July 17. At the meeting, Hedreen's lobbyists worked on a revised waiver plan for Hedreen.


What other person in Seattle could get this special treatment? Could you write a law that benefited only you, hand it to a city council member, and then--if the mayor vetoed it--land meetings with elected officials to get your very special law passed all over again?

The city council says it represents all of us, and that contributions and wealth don't impact policy. (Hedreen and his lobbyists--Jamie and Ryan Durkan--have kicked in more than $6,000 to current council members in the last three elections. Meanwhile, Hedreen owns tons of property in Seattle with a total assessed value of $144 million, including two parking lots, the Elliott Grand Hyatt, and a $3.8 million home.)

If money doesn't buy favors from the council, then Hedreen's treatment must signal a new style of city hall customer service: personalized legislation.

That brings me to the point of this week's column: a reader contest! What law do you want passed benefiting you, and only you? (And remember, Hedreen's legislation screwed low-income tenants, so your selfish law should screw someone too.) Send your proposed law to, and I'll deliver the winner to all nine council members. By passing your personalized law, the city council can prove they aren't giving Hedreen special treatment.

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