At Odds with the Ethics Commission

City council member Richard McIver is again at odds with the city's Ethics and Elections Commission (EEC).

In May, the EEC slapped McIver with two $500 fines for awarding a $37,000 no-bid contract to a friend, attorney Joann Francis, who also represented McIver during his domestic-violence case earlier this year.

The EEC stipulated that McIver should pay the fine out of his own pocket, but the EEC instead received a check for $1,000 from the city's law department.

McIver—who has been out of City Hall for some time while recovering from surgery—sent out a brief statement on August 26 citing a city law that indemnifies council members against any fines related to their work.

"The actions in question had occurred within my responsibilities as a member of the city council," McIver wrote. JONAH SPANGENTHAL-LEE

New Rules for Reefer

On August 25, a crowd overflowed from a hearing room and onto a lawn at the state Department of Health offices in Tumwater, where about 150 people had come to comment on proposed new rules about the quantity of pot a medical-marijuana patient can possess and grow.

Testimony responded to a draft version of the rules released earlier this year (as required by a bill passed in 2007 by the legislature), which would allow each authorized patient to possess up to 24 ounces of dried marijuana, 18 immature plants, and six mature plants. But patients rebuked those limits, saying that the sickest among them would need more marijuana to treat their conditions.

"Patients don't grow very well and they wouldn't be able to get enough marijuana off of six plants," says Ric Smith, a cancer and AIDS patient who testified. Smith and others also contended that defining "mature" plants as 12 inches or taller was too short, and patients would accidentally run afoul of the law, since tallness isn't an accurate measure of a plant's maturity.

Under the existing state law, passed by voters in 1998, patients with a physician's written recommendation can have an ambiguous "60-day supply" of marijuana, which allows law enforcement to arrest patients for any quantity. Those patients then have to raise their defense in court.

The Department of Health is expected to release its final rules for medical marijuana patients in mid-December. The rules would go into effect one month later. DOMINIC HOLDEN

An Unmitigated Disaster

The city's first car-free Sunday turned out to be an unmitigated disaster. On August 24, the city shut down 14th Avenue East between Republican Street and Volunteer Park—cars weren't allowed on the streets to make it more pedestrian friendly—and sent out a fleet of meter maids and tow trucks to deal with cars left on the street. All told, the city wrote 21 citations and towed 13 cars. The event also ended a few hours early due to a massive downpour.

Mayor Greg Nickels's spokesman Alex Fryer says the city will now be sending warning letters to the people who received citations, rather than fining them, and will reimburse drivers who had to pay to get their car out of hock.

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"I think this was supposed to be a positive thing, and citations and towing cars wasn't how we wanted to [raise awareness of] this event," Fryer says.

The next car-free Sunday will be from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. on August 31 on Rainier Avenue between Orcas and Alaska streets. The city will also close Alki Avenue in West Seattle on September 7. Remember to move your car. JONAH SPANGENTHAL-LEE

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