Is $70,000 too much to pay a first-time city council staffer? That's what David Della paid his recently departed legislative aide Teresita Batayola, whose unusually high salary, including benefits, reportedly blew a big hole in Della's $194,000 office budget. (Her far-less-lavishly compensated coworker, Loan Nguyen, quit about a week after Batayola announced her departure.) The two women's salaries, including benefits, left only about $40,000 in Della's office budget for incidentals like hiring a third assistant; three aides is the norm for most council offices. Council staff reportedly warned Della that he was spreading his office budget dangerously thin (not to mention creating a serious salary imbalance between his two employees) but Della reportedly wouldn't budge. That, at least, is how one chatty council source explained it; Della himself didn't return a call for comment.

The scene outside council chambers on Monday looked a bit like a West Seattle garden party, if you ignored the clusters of maroon Monorail Recall signs and the "Re-Vote Now" stickers affixed improbably to the backs of well-heeled ladies wearing sensible leather sandals on their feet and tiny gold studs in their ears. Could these be the same people who just minutes earlier had hissed at monorail supporter Grant Cogswell for making the bold assertion that the monorail "has been on the ballot three times," or who had booed monorail initiative author Peter Sherwin just one week earlier?

Well, it has been a rough week for monorail opponents, so you could cut them some slack for acting a little testy. Three days after a judge deemed their monorail-killing initiative illegal, opponents lost a legal challenge against the monorail's environmental impact statement; the challenge had sought to overturn almost every monorail-related decision made by both the agency and the city council. "It was a quick and decisive ruling," a jubilant Seattle Monorail Project legal director Ross McFarlane told me Monday.

Less fortunate last week were the transportation renegades at the People's Waterfront Coalition (PWC), whose marquee guest, state transportation secretary Doug MacDonald, backed out of his scheduled appearance at this week's PWC-sponsored viaduct debate. MacDonald's side will be represented by Port Commissioner Paige Miller and Manufacturing Industrial Council leader Dave Gering, who'll lay out their reasons for opposing the PWC's cool (and controversial) plan to replace the viaduct with fixes to surface streets downtown. MacDonald professes ignorance about the whole affair. "I never agreed to do it; I never agreed to get out of it," MacDonald says. WSDOT viaduct project manager Maureen Sullivan, in council chambers Monday, was less circumspect. "No one from WSDOT" is going anywhere near the debate, she said. "Nor should they." If you're reading this on Wednesday, August 18, it's not too late to witness the debate for yourself: It's at Town Hall tonight at 7:30 p.m.

barnett@thestranger.com

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