The Mercer Mess earned its name on Monday, when City Council Member Peter Steinbrueck--a potential mayoral candidate who rarely spares a kind word for would-be rival Nickels--pushed a surprise resolution designating the mayor's controversial Mercer plan the council's "recommended" alternative for fixing traffic congestion in South Lake Union.

Never mind that a study by the council's own staff had sized up the mayor's "fix"--which involves expanding Mercer into a $200 million, two-way "boulevard"--and found it would make congestion "far worse" than doing nothing at all. Also never mind that the council's transportation committee chair, Richard Conlin (a skeptic of the mayor's proposal) was conveniently out of town and unavailable to weigh in last week when Steinbrueck was shopping his contentious proposal. (Asked if he thought his colleague had gone behind his back, Conlin smiled tightly and said, "No comment." Conlin's staff spent Monday night drafting a competing proposal.)

On Tuesday the council's transportation committee approved Steinbrueck's proposal and also Conlin's, which would require full analysis of four different Mercer options. Meanwhile, Nick Licata, all but throwing up his hands in frustration, threw down his own monkey-wrench alternative, which would have spent the Mercer study money fixing two unrelated bridges; that option, unsurprisingly, failed.

Tuesday's meeting will be one of the council's last committee meetings until December, when the council wraps up its budget deliberations. Of $25 million in cuts proposed by the mayor, none has prompted more hysteria than the beloved Bookmobile, which the library, facing a 2005 budget shortfall of more than $2 million, has suggested axing. Bleeding-heart Council Member Tom Rasmussen, seeking a solution to this Solomonic dilemma, has suggested shutting libraries down one Friday a month. But head librarian Deborah Jacobs, in an e-mail that had some city staffers shaking their heads, suggested a by-the-bootstraps solution: providing seniors with walkers, wheelchairs, and "specific information on how to ride the bus."

Seniors in nursing homes may be the most vulnerable group targeted by the mayor's budget cuts, but adult soccer players are almost certainly the loudest. In budget hearings last week, the Seattle Co-Rec Soccer Association complained vociferously about a proposed fee increase (one of dozens in the mayor's budget proposal) to use the city's sand soccer fields. The CRSA's website claims the $15-per-hour increase will "remove money from the economy, destroy community spirit, and reduce the health of the general population." (That's a slight exaggeration: The hike brings the total per-hour fee to $40--which, for two soccer teams, adds up to about $2 a person.) Some at city hall are feeling less than magnanimous toward the vocal soccer faction: The council, they point out, just approved 13 new sports fields at Magnuson Park. As one city hall staffer put it last week, "What do they want? The entire goddamn city budget?"

barnett@thestranger.com

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