Go Climb a Pole

The Seattle City Council's god-awful poster ban has remained in place, thanks in part to claims made by the Electrical Brotherhood of Workers Local 77. The union says posters on utility poles are a safety hazard for workers. However, Free Speech Seattle, the non-profit organization dedicated to reversing the poster ban, recently sent a public disclosure request to Seattle City Light and got their hot little hands on information that debunks this anti-poster theory.

First, over the last six years, the lowest number of injuries was in 1993--the year before the poster ban went into effect. In the years following 1993, the average number of accidents has yo-yoed, suggesting that there is no relationship between poster-free poles and worker safety. Second, statistics show that falls generally occur from an average height of 12.2 feet. Who hangs posters 12.2 feet up a pole?

Free Speech Seattle has done some good work challenging Local 77's claims, but they've still got a big job in front of them. Their campaign to reverse the poster ban needs around 18,000 signatures before the city's August 24 deadline. If Free Speech Seattle gets enough signatures, the issue goes to a City Council vote. The next rally to collect signatures will be held Sat June 12, from 12 noon-9 pm, at Westlake Center.--Jill Wasberg

KOMO Pulls Anti-McDermott Ad

If you've got a gripe with U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, you could find it difficult to get it onto local radio. You may recall from these pages that McDermott is co-sponsoring a bill to protect the profits of pharmaceutical titan Schering-Plough, his number one corporate contributor. The bill would extend the patent on Schering-Plough's popular allergy drug, Claritin, effectively nullifying generic drug competition.

McDermott, who received nearly $8,000 from Schering-Plough, has a reputation as a consumer advocate, and his corporate bidding hot-wired activists. The Campaign for Fair Pharmaceutical Competition is sponsoring a "Buy Jim Back!" campaign. Last week the D.C.-based group started asking McDermott's constituents to send the congressman a dollar and a personal note asking him to withdraw his support of the bill. They hope to match the $7,762 McDermott got from Schering-Plough.

They ran into a hitch last week, however, when Seattle's KOMO-AM talk radio pulled an ad promoting the campaign. On the morning the ad was set to go, says campaign spokesman Larry Richardson, KOMO ad rep Brenda Saty called to say it didn't "fit the station's format."

"A congressman takes money from a huge corporation and pushes a bill on their behalf, and that's not compelling for a talk radio audience?" Richardson says in disbelief. "That's stunning."

Bill Aanenson, KOMO's general sales manager, says, "The [ad] was pure character assassination. And they had nothing to validate their claims." Aanenson says his station doesn't currently run Claritin ads, although they have in the past.

The ad was subsequently picked up by KOMO competitor KIRO-AM. No word on how many dollar bills McDermott has received so far from allergic consumers. --Josh Feit

Help Wanted

While Seattleites may be thrilled about the local economy and anticipated job growth, we might want to pause and look at the kind of work that's going on around here. Take, for example, a Help Wanted announcement placed in the June 6 Seattle Times which seems to indicate the coming of the environmental apocalypse. New Jersey-based Foster Wheeler, an "environmental" company (translation: they made $4.5 billion last year advising paper and petrochemical companies on how to deal with toxic chemicals), has three openings in the Seattle area.

They include--and we quote--"Human Health Risk Assessment Scientist" and "Aquatic Ecological Risk Assessment Scientist." According to the ad, the qualified candidates will help manage "environmental challenges" like "exposure and risk via aquatic pathways, including edible organisms; exposure and risk via the ground water pathway... chemical bioaccumulation and food-chain modeling...." Maria Witkowski, a company spokeswoman at Foster Wheeler's New Jersey headquarters, wouldn't identify the company's corporate clients, but said their public clients include the Army and the Navy.--Josh Feit

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