To outsiders, the battle over the future of Magnusson Park--a vast expanse of largely undeveloped land in an out-of-the-way corner of northeast Seattle--seems as distant and inaccessible as the park itself. For more than a decade, residents and sports-field users have been battling over how many fields will be built in a redeveloped park, and how many will be lit. Residents, unhappy with the compromise the council reached (11 new sports fields, 7 of them lighted), challenged the environmental study used to justify the plan. That case made it all the way to state appeals court, which is where the council--in particular, Peter Steinbrueck, no fan of the regional sports complex--got involved. Again.

On Monday, the council voted to "phase in" the construction of lighted fields, putting off three of the fields until two years after the first four are built. The move prompted glares and indignation from sports-field users, who called the vote a betrayal of the lengthy process that led to the compromise in the first place. In the end, Parks Department head Ken Bounds--who reportedly spent the latter part of last week lobbying council members to oppose Steinbrueck's proposal--was no match for the litigious Friends of Magnusson Park, who agreed to drop their legal challenge if the council adopted the compromise.

On Monday afternoon, as council members and aides deconstructed the Magnuson vote in the hallway between council offices, utility committee chair Jim Compton flagged me down to talk about City Light's financial future.

At issue: Two competing proposals for managing the utility's debt--one by energy committee chair Jean Godden, the other by Mayor Greg Nickels and the City Light Advisory Board. Fiscally, both proposals are incredibly conservative: Godden's has a smaller emergency reserve and less financial certainty, but would open the door to lower rates. Nickels', which former energy chair Compton supports, would maintain rates "until the utility's health is in order," Compton said.

Last week, someone convinced several supporters of Godden's proposal to switch sides. Those onetime sponsors include David Della, who reportedly changed his mind after opponents of the plan (read: deputy mayor Tim Ceis) trapped him in an apparent contradiction: In a newsletter published this month, Della avowed, "I agree with the [CIty Light Advisory Board's] recommendations, especially with respect to improving and strengthening [City Light's] financial policies." Whoops. In the end, only Richard Conlin, whom I ran into at Nick Licata's campaign kickoff, seemed firmly in Godden's camp.

Licata's party, which took place in the dark, red-lit basement of the Capitol Hill Arts Center on an incongruously beautiful Sunday afternoon, was crowded and noisy and filled with the kind of people for whom a $50 contribution represents a sizeable portion of their monthly incomes. It was, in other words, a total lefty love-fest--complete with cameos from King County Council Member Larry Gossett, Steinbrueck, Conlin, and Della, plus the usual complement of local peace-and-justice crusaders. Despite lacking any viable opposition, Licata took in a healthy $7,500.

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