Ordinary mortals--the kind of folks who rent, rely on credit cards, and use public transit--don't usually get away with failing to pay their electric bills. But when you're real estate magnate Martin Selig, the Second Avenue property owner who's bankrolling the anti- monorail campaign, you operate under a whole different set of rules.

In March, the tenants of Selig's buildings received notice that City Light would shut off their power in three days unless Selig paid his overdue accounts in full. "We are very sorry that Martin Selig Real Estate has allowed its accounts with City Light to fall far in arrears," the letter said.

It wasn't the first time Selig had been delinquent on his payments; back in February 2003, City Light ordered Selig to pay his overdue electric bill--a whopping $630,000--or face immediate disconnection. "It's just the way [Selig] operates," one of his tenants told me.

In a voice mail, Selig called the matter "a big misunderstanding" that "was responded to on an absolutely immediate basis." City Light spokesperson Bob Royer would tell me only that City Light does not "voluntarily provide customers' information... because we want to protect their privacy." (On Monday, I filed a records request for this public information.)

Even as Selig was skipping his payments to City Light (passing the tab for his delinquency onto other City Light customers), he's found plenty of cash to bankroll the Monorail Recall effort, dropping a stunning $139,000 into the campaign's bulging coffers. Much of that, some $77,700, was in non-monetary or "in-kind" contributions. We won't know until August what Selig got for his generous donation--details on in-kind contributions don't have to be reported until the end of the month--but if previous months are any indication, Selig could be footing the bill for everything from free parking for Monorail Recall volunteers to payments to the professional signature gatherers who collected more than 12,000 names for the "grassroots" campaign. Whatever the substance of Selig's contribution, one thing's certain: That $139,000 could have gone a long way toward paying his overdue electric bills.

Another ratepayer that's been in City Light's crosshairs lately, Nucor Steel, didn't get off quite so easily. Since May, City Light has informed Nucor that its electricity would be interrupted no fewer than 15 times, forcing the company to either shut down operations or "buy through" at a higher rate. The "interruptibility" provision, orchestrated in March by energy committee chair Jean Godden, were considered all but worthless at the time. But now, both council observers and Nucor reps credit tougher monitoring measures in the new, Godden-brokered contract for the increase in interruptions.

City council candidate Dwight Pelz, who sent a letter last week to Metro director Harold Taniguchi demanding that Metro examine the Seattle Monorail Project's assumptions about how many of its riders will transfer from buses, says he has "real questions about how accurate [the SMP's] ridership numbers are." The first shot in a council bid against pro-monorail incumbent Jan Drago? On that point, Pelz is--uncharacteristically--silent.

barnett@thestranger.com

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