All year, we publish stories in these pages that provide news and our, uh, perspective about the events of the day. Elected officials, neighborhood activists, and respectable people with respectable ideas—we disagree with lots of 'em. But, miraculously, they keep taking our calls. (Well, most of them, anyway.) They don't scream at us, shake their fists, take out hits, or otherwise try to deliver the eternal suffering they think we deserve. (Well, most of them, anyway.) So for the last issue of the year, we're turning over our news page to the subjects of our most pointed criticism, to let them say what they regret most about our coverage. Hint: They're not super-thrilled.
Seattle City Council member Tom Rasmussen regrets that he's been called a "debate-ducking coward," "Tom 'Profile in Courage' Rasmussen," and "an awfully slow reader" in The Stranger this year. Says Rasmussen:
"I regret how mean The Stranger has been to me this year with the name-calling, taunting, etc. My question for Dominic and Dan: Will it get better?"
Erin Shannon, spokeswoman for the conservative Building Industry Association of Washington, regrets taking a call from Eli Sanders on September 30 after a judge ruled that her organization had mishandled funds. At the time, The Stranger reported that Shannon described the BIAW's money mismanagement as "some technical paperwork and accounting procedural violations." Shannon wrote an e-mail to Sanders:
"Hey, Eli. I'm glad I took the time out of my busy schedule today talking to real reporters to e-mail you information explaining the judge's ruling so that you could ignore everything I sent. There is a reason why I don't waste my time taking calls from The Stranger and your article reminded me of that. Don't bother calling me for comments again."
Failed 34th District state house candidate Mike Heavey regrets that the Stranger Election Control Board (SECB) didn't endorse him in the run-up to the November elections. Says Heavey:
"After reading in your endorsement issue that my 'only qualification was being shot out of a state senator's balls,' I, Mike Heavey, regret that the SECB did not factor in my second greatest qualification: my boyish good looks. I also regret not blowing more members of the SECB. I thought one would be enough (thanks, Dominic, you never called, BTW). It's kinda sad we no longer live in a world where you can fellate your way to the top."
Attorney General Rob McKenna regrets that The Stranger turned him into a health-care-reform-hating monster (which he is) with our April 1 cover, which featured a picture of a young girl who could be hurt by McKenna's anti-health-care-reform lawsuit, along with cover text that read: "She's adorable! Why is Rob McKenna attacking her family?" Says McKenna:
"I regret your April cover story turning the serious need for health care reform into a partisan, personal attack on me—one with too many errors to count. The Stranger's editorial position may conflict with mine, but c'mon, at least get your facts straight. First, a teaser should get people to pick up the paper, but accusing me of 'attacking her family'—really? A headline should draw readers in, but 'Why Do You Hate Them, Rob?' is a tad excessive, perhaps? The opening line, accusing me of trying to 'overturn the newly passed health-insurance reforms'—a charge repeated throughout—establishes the low bar for accuracy. If reporters had listened to any interview with me, or interviewed me directly, they would know that my legal argument challenged the constitutionality of the individual mandate, not the entire law. A federal judge recently agreed with that argument, while the Justice Department agreed that the rest of the law would stand without the individual mandate. Perhaps The Stranger should regret crediting three different reporters on this article. Rewriting Democratic Party press releases shouldn't take that many—right?"
Initiative kingpin Tim Eyman regrets the "repeated negative coverage" he got this year—and every year before this one—in the pages of The Stranger, but says he'll keep right on pissing us off in the future. Says Eyman:
"Whatever. That's always been my reaction to The Stranger's 'news stories' about our initiatives. Your hysterical stories—hysterical as in deranged and hysterical as in funny—about our Initiative 1053 are a good example. Despite your best efforts, voters overwhelmingly approved (64 percent) the reinstatement of the two-thirds vote requirement for the legislature to raise taxes.
"What's most entertaining is your constant complaints about the initiative process itself, because I firmly believe that your position would be different if voters were voting for 'your' initiatives. The state income tax initiative received nonstop cheerleading by The Stranger, but it flamed out with voters. But instead of accepting the voters' decision like an adult, we instead hear that the whole system is corrupt and that if only voters were smart like you, it would have passed. Sure, go ahead, keep telling yourself that—ya, it was just a 'communication problem.' Whatever."
Kirk Groenig, an organizer for the Tea Party movement in Yakima, regrets ending up in our paper and on our website, where liberal commenters attacked him over his strong opposition to Senator Patty Murray and her health-care-reform push. Says Groenig:
"I believe that people have to work for a living, and should work for a living, and shouldn't get handouts. I didn't get handouts. I was a farm worker. I worked in the orchards and the asparagus fields and picked up hay. And then I pruned apple trees, pear trees, peach trees. And over time, I changed my circumstance through hard work. And that's all I ask of most other people. We have to stop the handouts that don't help. We need to do more like Jesus said, which was teach people how to fish instead of keep giving them fish. That's my whole thing. We need people to be more self-sufficient.
"I ended up in The Stranger because we had a Tea Party event of regular Americans against the ideals of the Obama administration in Yakima. And for that we got called derogatory names and dragged through the mud, just because we have a difference of opinion. All kinds of names. But since you're in the Tea Party movement, they always use that same, low-life derogatory name that I'm not going to repeat because I think it's offensive. [Eds: He's talking about the term 'teabagger.']
"It wasn't an accurate description. I got people threatening to follow me home. All kinds of filthy words. It was pretty bad. But, you know, it goes with the territory. I just know when I take a stand, and people don't like it, people on the left, they don't have nothing to stand on so all they seem to do is bad-mouth people and call them derogatory names or threats."
Karen McGough, a North Seattle anti-bike-lane activist, regrets how hard the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has humped bikes this last year—the department proposes reducing four lanes of traffic to two on Northeast 125th Street, while putting in bike lanes in either direction. McGough also regrets that The Stranger has been humping bikes just as hard as SDOT. Furthermore, she regrets that her BFF relationship with city council member Jean Godden—who wrote a letter to SDOT on her behalf protesting the bike-lane plan—has failed to stop bike lanes from coming to her neighborhood. Says McGough:
"I regret how much flak Jean's received over that letter she sent. She says there's been a lot of fuss and it probably hasn't done any good, anyway. I think SDOT is going to go ahead and put single lanes of traffic there, which is a shame because it will make traffic very heavy. It will keep people from coming into Lake City and Seattle. That is entirely regrettable."
Seattle City Council member Tim Burgess regrets Seattle's shortage of "real" journalists but generally applauds The Stranger's staff of fake journalists.
"I don't think I should be critiquing journalists or those who pretend to be journalists," says Burgess, adding, "I understand that The Stranger has an important role to play entertainment-wise, and you guys play that role well." Burgess denies regretting that Stranger news editor Dominic Holden helped kill his aggressive-solicitation bill earlier this year—a bill that was widely seen as a first step toward a 2014 mayoral bid by Burgess. He also denies regretting that he can't skin Holden like a cat in a Chinese prison. "I like Dominic," Burgess says.
Elizabeth Campbell, the viaduct-rebuild advocate behind Seattle Citizens Against the Tunnel (SCAT), which is running Initiative 101 to stop the deep-bore tunnel, regrets that The Stranger didn't research this tunnel business thoroughly enough. Says Campbell:
"The Stranger could've done more in-depth critical research and come up a winner, maybe even been a Pulitzer Prize contender. I also regret that SCAT didn't get to be on the Stranger panel regarding the anti-tunnel review," Campbell says, adding that the tunnel was brainstormed by "corrupt government officials and their special-interest friends."
Bill Bradburd, a Central District activist who challenged new rules for town-house development, says The Stranger is in the pockets of corporate fat cats and government bureaucrats. Says Bradburd:
"What is offensive, as an alternative newsweekly, is that you should be taking an antiestablishment perspective. You tend to go for the corporate angle rather than the grassroots angle. You are a great defender of the powers that be and you don't advocate enough for the little guy. When it came to our challenge [of town-house regulation], you seemed to belittle our efforts and instead side with the city council. We were pushing hard on issues of affordable housing—we were not against density but for quality construction—and we were insisting on small projects being built green."
Bradburd adds that The Stranger didn't capture the essence of his point when he opposed a bill to allow illuminated signs on downtown skyscrapers. "Jesus, I regret that The Stranger couldn't get the inflection in my voice when you asked about what impacts those signs would have and I said, 'I don't know, what happens if we tattoo a Nike swoosh on our foreheads?' I was saying, 'C'mon, we are sacrificing our soul for a brand name.'"
An anonymous source at the Seattle Police Department regrets Dominic Holden's coverage of SPD's October 25 armed marijuana raid on Will Laudanski, a legal medical marijuana patient with only two small plants in his home. Says the source:
"In his article, Dominic claimed that our anti-crime team stormed in with MP5s—machine guns. We didn't storm in with machine guns; the officers were carrying standard-issue glocks. Everyone at the department has one; only SWAT has MP5s and they weren't present at this raid." Meanwhile, The Stranger regrets that SPD told the Seattle Times it had fixed Laudanski's broken door when in fact it had not.