The Stranger Election Death Squad has a confession to make. We've lied to you, Seattle voters, over and over again, year in, year out, for longer than we'd like to admit. No matter how unimportant, no matter how inconsequential, no matter how dull, we've told you election after election -- whether primary, general, or special -- that this particular election really mattered. Furthermore, we've told you time and again that your vote counted, that you could make things better by voting, and that for your own sake you should go to the polls and do your civic duty.

All lies.

Oh, we did what we could to make elections sexy, and therefore less painful for you, mostly by making up appalling lies about anybody who happened to be running for office. We also tried to make things easier for you by telling you who to vote for. But now our consciences having gotten the better of us, and The Stranger Election Death Squad is coming clean; for as long as there's been a Stranger Election Death Squad, there really hasn't been an election in Seattle that mattered.

Until now, of course.

The election this Tuesday, November 2 is the real deal. All sorts of important shit hangs in the balance: Will the Teen Dance Ordinance be overturned? Will the poster ban be repealed? Will the progressive block on the council pick up a couple of votes, or will the forces of darkness continue to hold sway? Two years ago, voters sick of a downtown über-alles city council dominated by a "diverse" pro-business, anti-everything else Old Girls' Club elected Peter Steinbrueck, Nick Licata, and Richard Conlin to the city council. With three members of the city council's Old Girls' Club stepping down this year -- Tina Podlodowski, Sue Donaldson, and Martha Choe -- voters have an opportunity to create a progressive majority with real power. This means if you get out and vote on Tuesday, we can stop talking about whether to overturn the poster ban, and finally overturn the damn thing.

Finally, there are some county, school board, and port races, as well as some city, county, and state measures. Like those races we lied to you about in the past, none of these races, initiatives, or referendums are very interesting. But since you'll be voting for city council candidates anyway, you might as well keep punching the card.

So, here are our endorsements for the general election. You're free to make up your own mind, of course, and vote for people other than the ones we've recommended, but you would be foolish to do so. Did you spend weeks meeting with every candidate, grilling them on their positions, ideas, opinions, and past votes? Well, we did, so while you could make up your own mind, it's not something we would recommend. We know better than you, the average voter, and we're not afraid to tell you so. Clip and save your General Election Cheat Sheet, head to the polls on Tuesday, and take your city back from the clench-butts.

City Council Position 1
Vote for Judy Nicastro

Judy Nicastro is the best candidate running for city council this year. Smart, funny, and articulate, Nicastro has managed to inject some class consciousness into this year's races for the city council. In a town where pols make their mark by leaving greasy lip prints all over rich folks' rear ends, Nicastro has driven the debate not only in her race but in all the races for city council. Every candidate has had to take positions on renters' rights and rent control -- issues that weren't even on the radar before Nicastro came on the scene.

Want one good reason to vote for her? Nicastro is perceived as such a threat to landlords -- folks used to getting their way on the city council -- that she inspired the formation of not one but two landlord-driven independent expenditure groups working to defeat her. The landlords at R. P. Management Inc., who violated city code with untimely rent increases and then hit tenants with what appeared to be retaliatory rent hikes, are even threatening to sue Nicastro for libel.

While Nicastro has made a renters' bill of rights her central campaign issue, she's not a one-trick pony: She's not afraid of the monorail; she's serious about using the council as a bully pulpit to enforce density; she scoffed at Police Chief Stamper's "reforms"; she calls City Attorney Mark Sidran's parks exclusion law unconstitutional; and she was the only city council candidate who called bullshit on a recent city council vote scaling back low-income housing at Holly Park. Her immediate priorities, however, are guaranteeing a tenant's right to renew a lease; protecting low-income tenants, seniors, and the disabled from unreasonable rent increases; and preventing landlords with serious code violations from raising rents.

Nicastro's opponent, former two-term City Council Member Cheryl Chow, is a mid-'90s style Seattle liberal. In other words, Chow's a corporation-coddling, stadium-building, parking-garage-giving, civil-rights-shredding, cheap-identity-politics exploiting, dim-bulb hack. She was a crap council member, voted for every Sidran law that came her way, and ran a deceitful campaign for mayor in '97 (remember Chow's John Stanford "endorsement"?). Unless you're a slumlord or an idjit, there's no reason to vote for Chow.

City Council Position 3
Vote for Peter Steinbrueck

We're not sure why Peter Steinbrueck is messing with 1-for-1 replacement of low-income housing at Holly Park -- a move that has all but ended his relationship with housing-über-alles advocate John Fox. And we're puzzled over Steinbrueck's decision to shy away from Licata's proposal to amend the parks ban. But Steinbrueck -- a founding member of the local Greens and a lead player on the Cedar River Watershed plan -- is the strongest environmental vote on the council, and as evidenced by his recent work to tame Tina Podlodowski's noise ordinance proposal, he usually gets it on civil liberties issues. Moreover, Steinbrueck, who carries mainstream credibility thanks to his daddy, adds respectability to the left-leaning block on the council, making the progressive agenda that much harder for Pageler et al. to shoot down.

Plus, Peter's got a great ass.

Steinbrueck's challenger, Lenora Jones, is one of those hopeless idiots we're going to be stuck with until we change the way we elect our city council. The difficulty of running a city-wide race combined with the power of incumbency scares off serious challengers to incumbents like Steinbrueck -- Firestone's credible race against Pageler is an exception. Seattle needs district elections or true at-large elections (all candidates running against each other for all nine seats). If we don't change the way we elect the city council, dopes like Jones will continue to survive primaries and pester us in general elections.

Jones is running on an anti-homosexual platform, which would be hilarious if it weren't so pathetic. Lenora, baby, the gays run this town -- got it? Paul Schell? Gay. Bill Gates? Gay. Joni Balter? Dykes don't get much bigger or meaner. Don't be surprised if you wake up November 3 and find a pink horse's head in your bed, Lenora.

City Council Position 5
Vote for Curt Firestone

As if we needed more evidence that Position 5 incumbent Margaret "Enemy of the People" Pageler doesn't "get" democracy: Earlier this month the two-termer capped off her long record of advocating Sidran's civility ordinances (like the parks exclusion law), by adding language to an already draconian noise ordinance banning all amplified sound at political rallies. Add Pageler's resistance to Mayor Schell's Cedar River Watershed preservation plan to her resume, along with her contributors list (a who's who of local wealthy developers), and it's clear that Seattle voters should stop the madness.

Unfortunately, left-wing challenger Curt Firestone doesn't have a chance in hell. Curt's not a bold thinker, but he does have a long history as an activist (vice president of the Washington state Rainbow Coalition, coordinating council member of the Green Party of Seattle), and a good working relationship with Council Member Nick Licata. If Curt's last-minute publicity stunt -- favoring the monorail over light rail! -- isn't enough of a reason to vote for him, remember this: Firestone ain't Pageler.

City Council Position 7
Vote for Charlie Chong

Charlie Chong doesn't do endorsement interviews (not with us at least), so there's no way for us to check if his positions on density (he's opposed) or transportation (he's opposed) have evolved, where he really stands on I-695, or even if he can tell us how many fingers we're holding up right now (three). But Charlie changed this city's politics -- it's safe to say that Nick Licata wouldn't be on the council if it weren't for Charlie Chong -- so the old man probably deserves a victory lap. We're not sure four years on the city council qualifies as a victory lap -- it's more like a job -- but with his Rasputin-like campaign manager Matt Fox at his side, and Licata nudging him in the right direction, Chong will be more effective than he was last time out.

As for Chong's opponent, Heidi Wills, we endorsed her in the primary (with some reservations), and we were about to endorse her in the general when, to be frank, Heidi blew it. We were concerned about Heidi's pandering, the downtown-development money backing her, and how much like Reese Witherspoon -- the high school candidate/nightmare from Election -- she seems. For these reasons, we had Wills come in for a second Stranger Election Death Squad session.

During that second interview, Heidi almost convinced us she had convictions: She promised to vote for controversial accessory dwelling units (ADUs) -- even in the face of the screaming objections of NIMBY morons. She said she "doesn't have issues with the sex industry," wants to decriminalize marijuana (of course she does, she's a stinking pothead -- see below), would vote to repeal the Teen Dance Ordinance and the poster ban, thinks prostitution should be a regula-ted industry, and believes Tina Podlodowski's noise ordinance is "ridiculous."

Then, toward the end of that second interview, we asked Heidi a toss-off question: Had she ever smoked dope? Wills took us off the record. In an interview with The Stranger, in a race for city council, Wills wouldn't tell The Stranger for the record what Al Gore and Bill Bradley told The New York Times in their race for the White House: They smoked some dope, kids. And so has Heidi. Dan Savage asked six candidates, including Wills, at a City Club forum if they'd ever smoked dope. With Savage giving her the fish-eye, and with most of the other candidates admitting they had, Heidi couldn't very well lie, and finally 'fessed up.

But then, in an interview with Stranger News Editor Josh Feit, Wills tried to pull a fast one. When Heidi's name showed up in independent expenditure ads from the pro-Sidran group "Safe Streets and Parks for All," we called her to get the skinny. Was she really comfortable appearing on a list that endorsed Sidran minions like Pageler and Chow and promoted Sidran's evil ordinances? Wasn't this group misrepresenting Wills' positions? After all, with the exception of the Parks Ordinance, Wills came on to us in our previous endorsement interviews like a passionate civil libertarian. So, we asked, would she call this group and tell them they were misrepresenting her? "I did that," she said. After asking exactly when she did that, however, Wills got tripped up and said she actually hadn't told the group they were misrepresenting her. Huh? We were flabbergasted. Our concerns about Wills' integrity came back to haunt us like a Freddy Krueger nightmare.

So at the last possible moment -- with our pro-Wills endorsement already in layout -- we yanked it. While we didn't endorse Charlie for mayor, we did endorse him in his first two runs for city council, and Charlie has Weasel Wills to thank for this endorsement. Four years of Chong's grandstanding (and his idiotic positions on growth) will be less aggravating than watching Wills duck and weave, lie and pander, and ultimately morph into a Sue Donaldson/Jan Drago/Martha Choe clone. Vote for Chong.

City Council Position 9
Vote for Dawn Mason

Former state representative Dawn Mason is a kook. Her positions on transportation are unintelligible (she wants light rail in Rainier Valley/she doesn't want light rail in Rainier Valley/she wants a tunnel/she doesn't want a tunnel), her commitment to growth management is haphazard (density in Georgetown is not the answer, Dawn), and the woman talks about herself in the third person a little too much: "Dawn Mason. She's an activist. She does the organizing...." Give her 10 years and "Dawn Mason" is going to sound a lot like Charlie Chong.

However, history shows that complaints about Mason's sometimes awkward positions don't translate into problems on the ground. The Washington Conservation Voters, formidable critics of Mason's positions on environmental and transportation issues, gave her a glowing rating on their legislative scorecard. The point? Despite her sometimes bizarre ideas, Mason always seems to vote the right way. So while you may not wanna sit in a meeting with her for hours on end -- Jim Compton, her opponent, deserves some sort of medal for keeping a straight face at all those candidate forums -- you do want Mason to have a vote on the city council.

Mason says she'd throw out all of Sidran's "civility" laws. "How can we say these are 'civility' laws," she asks, "when they violate a person's civil rights to due process in court?" Most candidates tell us they have some problems with Sidran's sucky laws, or they weasel, saying they want "to look at these ordinances," but Mason wants to tear them down. Mason is clear on a few other things, too. She's suspicious of public-private partnerships; in Olympia she voted against the Mariners stadium -- twice. And she wants to strike back by badgering the private sector into ponying up for light rail. She's an advocate for disenfranchised communities like the International District, Rainier Valley, and, especially, the C.D. -- where she helped create Promenade 23, a shopping district in a neighborhood long neglected by retailers. However, the most important aspect of Mason's commitment to disenfranchised communities comes into play as the city wrestles with police accountability. Here, Mason is essential.

Mason's opponent, well-informed, well-spoken, well-liked news guy Jim Compton, is light years ahead of Mason on growth management issues, and he's anxious for Sound Transit to "lay down track." He's also a little too chummy with downtown boosters, and he's wishy-washy on Sidran's civility laws. We'd rather get shit-faced drunk with Jim than with Dawn, but we prefer Dawn for the city council.

King County Council District 8
Vote for Greg Nickels

The longer Paul Schell is mayor, the better Greg Nickels looks. Voters eliminated Nickels in the mayoral primary in '96, pitting neighborhood nut-job Charlie Chong against downtown dilettante Paul Schell. A couple of years of Schell games, and voters are getting the idea that, oh, maybe some jobs are best left to professional pols. In our meeting, King County Council Member Greg "Hoss" Nickels told us Schell was "amateurish" -- and we agree. West Seattle's Nickels, one of the hardest-working mainstream pols in town, is currently tending to transit issues while padding his resume for a run for mayor in 2001. Other than completely fucking up on the Mariners stadium deal -- a vote he says he regrets -- and being a little too starry-eyed about light rail, Nickels is solid. As chair of the King County Board of Health, where he passed a food safety inspection program and outlawed outdoor tobacco ads, Nickels has his priorities straight. He voted against the second King County jail -- arguing that the $180 million capital and operating costs should have gone to child care -- and he voted against the insane county charter amendments. He also wants to hold the Urban Growth Boundary to enforce density.

In a quiz we administered to King County candidates, Nickels let slip that the last CD he bought was by '60s pop star Petula Clark, and indicated he "really!" likes Maggi Fimia. Nickels' bold proposal to make Vashon Island a penal colony won over many members of The Stranger Election Death Squad, though one person pointed out that inmates could swim to Tacoma.

Dwight Ballestrasse, Nickels' obscure Republican opponent, shamelessly pandered to Stranger publisher and Election Death Squad Member Tim Keck, stating that his last CD purchase was Carole King's Tapestry (Keck was briefly married to Carole King when he published The Seattle Sun). Ballestrasse is a curiously adamant advocate of I-695, thinks taxes are too high, and opposes making Vashon Island into a penal colony.

King County Council District 4
Vote for Larry Phillips

For a King County elected official, Larry Phillips is curiously -- almost preposterously -- tan. We're talking St. Tropez and Coppertone tans combined. Phillips wears a big diamond ring and a clunky watch, both drawing attention to the deep, tawny, lustrousness of Larry's freakishly tan skin. Next to Phillips, his challenger, Libertarian Chris Caputo, looks pasty and sallow. A former Microsoft whiz, Caputo jumped into the race at the last minute, angered that Phillips was running for re-election unopposed. Caputo has some clunky sound bites about the corrupting influence of money in politics, but when pressed couldn't cite a single vote where Phillips, who represents Magnolia to North Beach, acted as a corporate stooge.

Unfortunately, Caputo doesn't have specifics on much of anything. He says he doesn't have an opinion (or even an impression) of County Executive Ron Sims -- he probably couldn't even tell us whether he is black or white. Caputo's run for King County Council, in fact, seems posited on one thing: He wants to be in office when I-695 passes so he can make sure it's implemented. It's a drag that Caputo is such a dullard (the last CD he bought was The Matrix soundtrack!), because we're not thrilled with cookie-cutter Democrat Phillips either.

But Phillips is tan, he's upset about the $130 million I-695 atom bomb, he correctly says Referendum 1 (taking away the veto authority of the County Executive) is a rouse that "blurs accountability" in government, and he -- along with Brian Derdowski -- has been a leading proponent of the Urban Growth Boundary. This last point, in fact, is why we're comfortable endorsing Phillips. Developers have been busy pushing beyond the boundary in eastern King County, and Phillips, who claims the council has "arrested rural growth" by seven percent in the last five years, says he's committed to proposing zoning ordinances to protect rural areas. "Over my dead body," will subdivisions spring up on the eastern side of the UGB, he says.

King County District 12
Vote for Di Irons

Loaded with big development dollars, conservative Republican David Irons Jr. knocked off iconoclast Republican Brian Derdowski in the September 14 primary. Now, Derdowski's pissed-off former aide -- David Irons' younger sister, Di Irons -- is challenging her own brother as a write-in Democrat! Write in Di Irons! We're not sure what kind of family trauma/sibling rivalry brought David and Di to blows, but we have the name of a good family therapist, kids. Don't vote for David Irons Jr. -- his own mother isn't going to! Mom always liked Di best!

King County Assessor
Vote for Scott Noble

As promised in our primary issue, we found out exactly what the King County Assessor does: The County Assessor assesses. Every year he determines the value of your property; then, using that info, he divvies up the tax burden among county property owners. Figuring in the rate of tax increases and voter-approved levies (both of which are out of his control), the assessor presents property owners with a bill for government services. In 1999 that bill came to, um, somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,947,000,000. Math whiz and Democrat Scott Noble seems to do a pretty good job of assessing, and he isn't inordinately tan. Vote for Noble.

Seattle School Board Districts 1, 2 , 3, and 6
Vote for Barbara Schlag Peterson, Susan Kline, Nancy Waldman, and Barbara Schaad-Lamphere

The school board election is important. We repeat, THE SCHOOL BOARD ELECTION IS IMPORTANT. Convinced? We're not either, but since you're gonna be voting anyway, you might as well keep on punchin' that ballot. Ever since Jesus called John Stanford home -- apparently Jesus needed some P.R. help -- it's been hard to give much of a shit about school board races. Yeah, yeah, yeah: Kids Are Important. Charter schools have turned neighborhoods into a battle ground between public and private interests; parents aren't satisfied with the education their children are getting; and teachers are overworked. The new Washington Assessment of Student Learning standards (WASL) threaten to turn our children into test-taking clones, and let's face it, we're all nervously awaiting the next Columbine.

But so what? What Seattle schools really need is the P.R. boost that only a desperately ill board member or high-ranking administrator can bring to the table. Things have gotten so bad -- and so boring -- on the Seattle school beat that The Seattle Times ran yet another front-page story about St. John Stanford ONLY LAST WEEK! Terminal illnesses don't just sell papers and allow Seattle's blond anchorwomen to cluck and look concerned, they're also good for kids, too -- and aren't the kids what really matter? Nothing brings out the best in kids like being ordered to make construction-paper get-well cards. In the hope that the Seattle schools are blessed with another dying administrator sooner rather than later, The Stranger suggests that all future school board retreats be held under high-tension wires; smoking be permitted in all administrative offices (oh, heck, why not classrooms too?); and that only BLTs, funnel cakes, and Tab be served in administrative lunchrooms.

Not only is District 1 (North) candidate Martin D. Ringhofer in better health than his opponent (reason enough to vote against him), but he's not as fluent on the big issues -- North-South education equity, the controversial Student Assignment Plan, and WASL -- as his opponent, Barbara Schlag Peterson. Vote for Peterson.

Neither candidate in District 2 (North Central) seems qualified. You gotta wonder about Steve Brown, though. A former attorney who left his practice in 1995 to teach kids about the law, Brown is spending buckets of money, and running hard -- too hard. There's no money in being a school board member, little prestige, and it's not a stepping stone to higher office. Why does this guy want the job so bad? It's creepy. His opponent, Susan Kline, is a nurse, and an obvious lefty (she's worked with the homeless and in Nicaragua). Despite Kline's tendency for daydreaming (schools can be used to create mixed-use communities?), we like her persistent sensibility that envisions schools as a tool for social change. She gets our half-hearted nod for District 2.

Position 3 (Northeast) has two strong candidates: Nancy Waldman, a current board member, longtime education activist, and school volunteer, vs. Mary Jean Ryan, a smart, over-qualified technocrat who currently heads up Seattle's Department of Economic Development. Waldman's hands-on history -- setting up two alternative schools and sitting on the Eckstein Middle School site council -- gives her the edge.

Finally, in District 6, we see no reason to unseat four-year incumbent Barbara Schaad-Lamphere, who, having worked in the trenches during the St. Stanford revolution, has a vested interest in making all that WASL gobbledy gook work.

Port of Seattle
Vote for Bob Edwards (Position 2) and Steve Pool (Position 5)

With Betty Jane Narver knocked off in the primary, the port pickings are slim. However, we recommend voting for Bob Edwards (Position 2), whose wonky experience on the Puget Sound Regional Council and the Association of Washington Cities makes us much more comfortable with him than we are with the evil Laurie McDonald Jonsson. Jonsson once owned a cruise ship company (Sundance Cruises) -- sort of a vestigial conflict of interest (one of her stated goals is to make the port safe for cruise ships). Moreover, as the moneybags president of International Stellar Travel, Jonsson is a little too chummy with downtown development interests. Finally, her massive contributions to the Democrats (she made Mother Jones magazine's list of the country's top 400 political contributors) were linked to Clinton's '96 fundraising scandal. Vote for Edwards.

For Position 5, oh, what a dilemma. You can do the dull thing and vote for nowhere-and-nothing incumbent Clare Nordquist, appointed to Paul Schell's seat after he was elected mayor, or you can do the insane thing and vote for perennial Socialist Workers Party candidate/world-class loser Chris Rayson. The Stranger Election Death Squad recommends writing in KOMO weatherman and Stranger Election Death Squad favorite, Steve Pool.

PROPOSITIONS AND INITIATIVES
JUST SAY NO!

WASHINGTON STATE INITIATIVE 695
VOTE NO

I-695 would reduce the annual license tab tax to $30 per vehicle (regardless of the car's value) and require a statewide vote on all (state, county, or city) proposed new taxes.

Vote no. Private car use is massively subsidized; the tab tax is just about the only way mass transit gets money. While a tax that hits car use instead of simple car ownership -- like, oh, a gas tax -- might be a fairer way to raise money (and it would encourage people to drive less), the iniquity of charging the same $30 to the owners of SUVs and Lexuses as to, say, someone who drives a 1987 Honda Civic, is practically obscene. Meanwhile, the mandatory vote on every proposed tax -- the second part of 695 -- threatens to turn our state into something like post-Prop 13 California: a shithole.

While one member of The Stranger Election Death Squad is going to vote for 695 -- the one who owns the newest car, naturally enough -- the rest of us want to encourage you to vote no. At this writing, it looks like 695 will pass, though a massive anti-695 campaign is now in full swing. It's just as likely that 695 will be declared unconstitutional should it pass (for containing changes to more than one law at the same time), but don't bet on it. Vote no.

WASHINGTON STATE INITIATIVE 696
VOTE NO

This initiative would ban commercial fishing nets on all non-Native American boats in state waters.

This initiative was put forth -- to the near-unanimous opposition of environmental groups -- by a bunch of conservative recreational anglers and aluminum industry dam-huggers who can't see the forest for the disappearing trees. While Initiative 696 would ban the use of certain kinds of nets, the fish "saved" by the initiative would be taken by anglers and native fishermen, whose salmon "harvesting" would not be restricted by 696. The real threats to salmon are logging, dams, sprawl, and pollution, not boats that provide some of the last decent-wage jobs in Pacific and Grays Harbor counties. Rural people are sometimes better informed about resource management than us city folk, and this is an instance where uninformed, knee-jerk environmentalism could sabotage real ecological recovery by giving developers and timber companies breathing room this side of the Endangered Species Act (see story, page 11). It's the habitat, stupid! Vote no.

KING COUNTY PROPOSITION 1
VOTE NO

County Prop. 1 would allow a seven-vote majority of the 13-member King County Council to send legislation to a vote of the people, bypassing a potential veto of the county executive. Currently, overriding a veto requires the more difficult hurdle of nine votes.

Not only would this King County Republican brainstorm allow the council to circumvent a county executive's veto by putting just about anything to a vote of the people, it would undermine democracy by making our checks and balances form of government irrelevant. Meanwhile, with no contribution limit for referenda, big money would win these contests every time. Voters shouldn't be micromanaging county business, and rich kids in the suburbs don't need any more power than they already have.

SEATTLE PROPOSITION 1
VOTE NO

Prop. 1 would raise $72 million through property taxes to improve the Opera House, replace the Flag Pavilion, and replace, build, or expand nine community centers.

A classic bait and switch -- while programs at the city's community centers face a shortage of funds, the city is proposing more community centers. Sure, we need 'em, and funds for new community centers account for half of this proposed property tax hike. But the other half is $36 million for the refurbishment of the Seattle Center Opera House, a safety and aesthetic hazard which has deteriorated since its last upgrade for the World's Fair. Seattle has more millionaires per square foot than just about anyplace on earth -- can't some wealthy donors be found among the patrons of the opera to underwrite opera house renovations?

This proposition is just as insulting to Seattle voters as Commons II. We're being teased with a worthy expenditure (community centers) to manipulate us into ponying up for a questionable one (tarting up the opera house). City Council Member Nick Licata wanted us to vote on these issues separately, and we agree. Don't let the city council play you for a sucker: Vote this proposition down, and invite the city council to put both plans on a future ballot as two separate propositions. Vote no.

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