ILLEGAL CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTION?

Free Speech Seattle, the group pushing a city-wide initiative that would repeal the poster ban, filed a complaint last week with the Ethics and Elections Commission, about the conduct--or misconduct--of City Attorney Mark Sidran.

Tim Crowley of Free Speech Seattle says Sidran has violated the Seattle Ethics Code by using his public office to conduct an anti-Initiative 46 campaign. I-46 would legalize the type of telephone-pole guerrilla advertising that blossomed in the late '80s and early '90s in Seattle, which was banned in 1994.

The Free Speech complaint is based on two events: On February 25, the day after Sidran's office okayed I-46 as a ballot measure, Sidran did an interview with Q13 TV that Crowley says was "basically a campaign piece." Then on June 15, Sidran's office sent out a press release about a city lawsuit against Mighty Movers, Inc. The bulk of the press release was a transparent attempt to counter the free speech and pro-music arguments that Crowley's group has been making, Crowley says.

Ironically, Sidran's actions would seem to come under the category of free speech. The difference is that Sidran's speech was on city time. "We welcome opposition to I-46," says Crowley, "but we don't think that taxpayer dollars should be used to pay for that campaign."

I-46 needs around 25,000 signatures by the end of August. They currently have 10,000.--Ben Jacklet


THICK AS A BRICK

While the Mariners are busy asking the rest of us for millions to pay off Safeco Field cost overruns--$60 million last time they came begging--the M's actually told a couple in the Northgate neighborhood to keep their damn money. Mary Bradley and David Hurley paid the Mariners over $80 to have a brick laid in the walkway at Safeco Field. Last year, you'll remember, the Mariners ran a campaign asking Seattleites to pay $75 plus tax to have a personalized brick built into the new stadium's walkway. Unfortunately, the M's weren't happy with the message Bradley and Hurley wanted inscribed on their brick: "We Voted No." The message, a reference to the original public vote on the new Mariners stadium which the Mariners lost, was Bradley's attempt to support local baseball on her own terms. "I voted against the public funding, but I'll give them $75 if they'll put a brick there for me."

"They don't want your brick," a Mariners representative told Bradley over the phone, she says. Bradley's credit card had already been billed, and the Mariners sent her a refund for the money. Bradley argued that the hometown team was impeding her right to free speech, but the Mariners rep told her that private corporations aren't required to honor her first amendment rights. Damn straight. But, as Bradley is quick to point out, there's a major-league irony here. "They're a private corporation when they don't like what I have to say, but it's a whole different story when they're asking for public funding."--Josh Feit


EYEING THE COPS

A new Seattle group has drafted legislation calling for the creation of a citizens' review panel to oversee investigations of city police officers. The group, Citizens for a Balanced Government, submitted a proposal to four city councilmembers several weeks ago, during the escalating controversy surrounding the Seattle Police Department.

In the likely event the council ignores the proposal, the group plans to put the proposal before Seattle voters via a citizens' initiative.

The group's founder, David Olsen, a 31-year-old projectionist, is calling for a five-member panel of citizens, elected every two years, plus a special prosecutor's office. The special prosecutor would handle particularly egregious misdeeds, like the alleged theft of $10,000 from a man shot to death by police.

"We want to give the people power over the cops," says Olsen. "We're the ones who pay them, we should have some power over them. It's just common sense. It should have been done a long time ago."

Olsen says he's been waiting for the right moment to spring his legislation on the council, and with all the controversy around the SPD lately, the time seemed right. He says he couldn't believe it when he heard about Councilmember Richard McIver pretty much calling for Police Chief Norm Stamper's resignation. "When that happens," says Olsen, "God's giving you a green light to go ahead."--Ben Jacklet

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