Megalomaniac mayor shooting from the hip
Last updated June 11, 2008 11:28 p.m. PT
By ROBERT L. JAMIESON JR.
WHEN IT comes to a city plan to keep concealed weapons from public places, Felix Arena, proud gun owner, has a few thoughts.
First, he says, state law gives him the right to carry concealed firearms with a permit. So what gives Seattle the gumption to trump that?
Second, he says, the plan would be hard to enforce unless the city wants airportlike security in parks and other properties. Wands and metal detectors cost money and are a hassle for crowds.
Third: "It's just bulls - - -," Arena summed up during a break from his checker job at a store near Seattle Center, which would be affected by the ban. "Why's the mayor doing this?"
Here's an explanation: Hizzoner has gone nuts, power-crazy nuts.
The gun plan Mayor Greg Nickels announced this week is just the latest sign.
But for those keeping score at home, the mayor and his minions are on a roll.
Take Friday, for example. Word had spread that Seattle Parks and Recreation was thinking about ending a popular Seattle ritual -- beach bonfires. After a public outcry, the department had to bend so far over backward it almost snapped in two.
Memo to parks honchos: Next time you want to save the North Pole from a meltdown or protect equatorial pygmies from sunburns by reducing Seattle carbon emissions, don't douse hometown tradition.
In other government goof-ups, Nickels has been eager to lean on police to clean up city nightclubs through stings.
But, as the Seattle P-I recently reported, after eight months and 26 arrests at clubs, there have been how many slam-dunk convictions? Zilch.
Such futility won't curtail Nickels' heavy hand. He recently put out a "Help Wanted" sign for a city nightclub czar. Presumably, this czar -- or czarina? -- will lord over more dubious club arrests.
But to make sure his critics and the pundits see his softer, saner side, the mayor just hired a man to pour on the Shinola.
Robert Mak, a well-regarded Seattle political reporter, is receiving a kingly sum to burnish the mayor's vision -- a whopping $160,000, about 10 grand more than Nickels sees.
Mak will translate "Nickels-ese" so we all swallow it.
"Homeless encampment sweeps" will become "civic exfoliation and enhancements."
"Strip clubs" will be framed as "Strip-poled Houses of Sodom" to justify police purges of dens of sin.
"Potholes" will remain "potholes."
That's because the mayor is racking up points with his Pothole Rangers and doesn't want to muff that up.
Fixing potholes isn't as challenging as making sure working-class folks can afford to live in the city after their apartments become condos.
Feel-good headlines about potholes distract from major issues the mayor promised to fix -- such as improving transit. But it dawned on Nickels that picking on dirty dancers and noisy nightclubs and the homeless and plastic bags is easier -- and much sexier, a sure bet to get his name in bright lights as Seattle's crusading cynosure.
Mak's big challenge? Masking the mayor's inability to play well with others.
Nickels recently steamrolled City Council members such as Nick Licata, who tried to put the brakes on the mayor's Big Brother push for surveillance cameras in parks.
"I felt that there is little if any information available to us that surveillance cameras actually reduce crime," Licata said in vain.
The mayor's handlers are now on red alert for his windbag emissions, like this recent one: Nickels stood before regional movers and shakers and said Seattle ought to secede from the state.
It was a joke, his spin doctors tried to explain. The rest of Washington forgot to laugh.
But now that the mayor has put concealed weapons in his sights, there are gun-loving lawmakers east of the Cascades who'd love to lop Seattle off -- no joke.
"So what's the deal?" Arena asked again, trying to divine the mayor's mind.
Nickels' gun plan came after a man with a history of mental illness shot and injured two at Seattle Center during the Folklife Festival.
So Arena, a 30-year-old married father of two, wondered: Why target responsible gun owners, but not mentally ill people who get access to guns? Bingo!
Equally puzzling is Nickels' showy assault on guns just as overall violent crime in Seattle dipped.
"It's politics," Arena said.
Yes, politics -- along with blatant, knee-jerk pandering to the public's whims and fears.
P-I columnist Robert L. Jamieson Jr. can be reached at 206-448-8125 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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