A major pay hike requested by Mayor Greg Nickels for four city department heads and Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis was booted back into legislative purgatory (aka the council's finance committee) Monday, March 26, after council members raised questions about the proposal. The legislation would have boosted Ceis's and the department heads' salaries as high as $214,000, more than twice as much as city council members make (a fact that can't have escaped their attention). The legislation, which the mayor's office had hoped to keep lower-profile, could be stuck in committee indefinitely if McIver can't get five votes to approve it; currently, just three council members (McIver, Jan Drago, and Jean Godden) are known to support the hike. On Monday, McIver said he was postponing the raises because "Peter [Steinbrueck] and others raised some good questions," a claim that prompted Steinbrueck to scoff, "He doesn't normally send something back to committee just because I have questions."
Steinbrueck's legislation funding a $500,000 study of the surface/transit option for replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct is moving forward, but with only the tentative support of one of the plan's earliest proponents. Richard Conlin, the first council member to suggest that the city consider non-freeway options for replacing the elevated highway, now says he wants to come up with a solution everyone, including the governor (who has stood by her viaduct) can get behind. "We want to solve this problem in a way that is tactful and that the state is open to. If it turns out to be surface/transit, great. In my heart, I would love to support it. In my head, I'm not sure we have the data." Conlin's turnaround is particularly surprising given that even elevated holdouts like Nick Licata are now expressing some openness toward surface/transit. "It's really about moving people in and through downtown in a way that doesn't pollute the world and create more traffic," Licata says.
Fire Station 20 on Queen Anne, whose renovation would require the city to demolish two single-family homes, has been controversial for more than a year, most recently late last summer, when a 5–4 vote doomed the station improvements. (In October, Nickels told the community that the crumbling, seismically unsound station would remain that way.) On Saturday, Licata says, he was standing in the checkout line at Home Depot when he turned around and saw Garriel Keeble and Chris Grekoff, the owners of one of the Queen Anne homes. "They were doing a bunch of home improvements," says Licata, who supported the demolition. If the homes are demolished, the city will have to compensate the homeowners; the more improvements, the more valuable the homes will be. In the latest development, Conlin proposed hiring a consultant to study the situation. "We'll probably get Station 20 resolved around the time we get the viaduct resolved," Licata says.