Remember the last monorail election? Deep-pocketed landlords and a high-profile consulting firm threw nearly a million dollars down the antimonorail money pit and still only managed to buy up 35 percent of the vote. What a difference a year makes. This time around, with the fate of the monorail hanging in the balance, the opposition campaign has only $16,000 in the bank—and it looks like they're going to win anyway.
The death of the monorail, sadly, is starting to look like a foregone conclusion: In a poll released by KING 5 last week, only 39 percent of likely voters said they would support the monorail measure, which would shorten the monorail's "initial segment" to 10.6 miles. Break the numbers down further, and the news for the monorail gets even grimmer: Compared to the last two local elections, KING 5's poll is skewed toward younger voters, a trend that favors the monorail because young people are pretty much the only folks who still support the project. Unfortunately, older people, who made up a tiny fraction of the polling sample, are far more likely to vote—and they opposed the monorail by a 77 percent margin.
Interestingly, the antimonorail campaign's contributor list, which includes developer Matt Griffin, neighborhood activist Faye Garneau, and biotech bigwig Peter Hoover, overlaps almost exactly with the membership of OnTrack, the recently disbanded (and allegedly impartial) monorail "watchdog" group.
Ron Sims's adviser Tim Hatley says there is no conflict of interest in his job as a lobbyist for Southwest Airlines, despite the fact that his most recent position was as Sims's campaign manager—a job his wife and business partner, Rachel Bianchi, recently took over. Sims, of course, is well known as the only county official who was willing to entertain Southwest's plan to move to Boeing Field, which most of the county council opposed. (On Tuesday, Sims killed Southwest's proposal.)
Hatley's explanation for Sims's support? It's a total coincidence, of course. "Southwest sent a proposal over to the executive, and they're taking a look at it," Hatley says. "I don't think there's been any quote-unquote lobbying." What's Hatley's job, then? "I just kind of monitor the issue. There are a lot of folks who advise Ron. I'm just one person." One person with a clear personal interest in Sims's political future.
Globetrotting Port Commissioner and council candidate Paige Miller skipped out on a South Seattle candidate forum last week, citing "a personal matter," according to Rainier Valley Chamber of Commerce president Darryl Smith. As it turns out, Miller's "personal" business consisted of a junket to Vancouver, BC, where she attended the Seattle Chamber of Commerce's annual "leadership conference," at the gilded, posh Fairmont Hotel, at Port expense. "I was kind of dismayed," Smith told me bluntly. As the only council candidate who didn't bother to attend the South Seattle forum, Miller's "absence was conspicuous."
In the absence of painful cuts, the debate over this year's city budget is shaping up around recent reductions to library hours, which the mayor's budget fails to restore even as it adds millions for firefighters, cops, and sidewalks. But bringing back the hours cut in the mayor's previous budgets, council staffers predict, could cost millions. That issue will be debated at hearings on the budget starting today, Wednesday, in council chambers at 5:30 p.m.