The route to Dwight Pelz' campaign kickoff, held on an auspiciously sunny Sunday afternoon at Pritchard Beach in South Seattle, was littered with colossal concrete pipes and unsightly steel scaffolding and every variety of dirt-moving contraption--the detritus, in other words, of light-rail construction, which has supplanted wedding-dress tailors and storefront pho vendors as the Rainier Valley's defining visual characteristic. The route was far from accidental. As chair of King County's transportation committee, Pelz has never wavered in his defense of Sound Transit's light-rail system, and his campaign will likely be inseparable from it.

But a bigger question than campaign theme--would Pelz jump ship to challenge another incumbent, perhaps still-unopposed City Council Prez Jan Drago?--seemed all but answered Monday, when Drago consultant Christian Sinderman (who also works for Pelz) revealed that Drago's March fundraising total would likely top $50,000--reportedly the highest one-month total for any Seattle City Council candidate, ever.

As the council president's campaign picked up steam, another election-year effort--the search for a candidate to take on incumbent Mayor Greg Nickels--sputtered. Even hardcore Capitol Hill activist Ann Donovan--she of the twice-weekly neighborhood newsletters--has reportedly pulled back from an earlier commitment to challenge Nickels, leaving activists' anti-Nickels efforts, in the words of disappointed Seattle Displacement Coalition leader John Fox, "more or less officially defunct."

That's a shame. Although activists' criticisms of the mayor can be a bit histrionic (the Displacement Coalition's newsletter predicts that if Nickels wins, "it may be too late for any future elected official--or any of us--to restore justice and fairness to the governance of our community") the lack of a viable anti-Nickels candidate means legitimate issues may go unexamined.

For example: Is Nickels' plan to raise building heights and add 30,000 jobs downtown really a panacea for the city's growing pains? If you believe City Council Member Peter Steinbrueck, it's more like a Band-Aid. "It's unclear [in the mayor's plan] how we're going to get housing in the numbers we need to support this job growth downtown," Steinbrueck says. This week, the council unanimously adopted legislation that would put the brakes on Nickels' downtown zoning changes and set standards (among them: more housing, particularly middle-income housing, in neighborhoods near downtown) for any downtown development overhaul.

Another land-use regulation--this one governing what goes on inside Seattle's handful of remaining strip clubs--is reportedly in the works at City Attorney Tom Carr's office, though no one there would comment on the proposal. According to rumor, the new regs could include a reprise of Margaret Pageler's embarrassing "four-foot rule," which would have required strippers to stay at least four feet from their customers. "It's almost like it doesn't matter if you have strip clubs everywhere," Council Member Nick Licata says. "If you have the four-foot rule, no one's going to want to open one."

barnett@thestranger.com

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