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Originally published October 8, 2009 at 2:56 PM | Page modified October 8, 2009 at 6:01 PM

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Vote for Pete Holmes for Seattle city attorney

The Seattle Times supports Peter Holmes for Seattle city attorney, to replace the incumbent, Tom Carr.

FOR Seattle city attorney, The Seattle Times endorses Peter Holmes, who is challenging the two-term incumbent, Tom Carr.

Carr has been a strong administrator. He is smart, aggressive, plain-spoken, and a bulldog in defense of the city. But he thinks of the city as its government. "Our client is the municipal corporation," he declares. But the city attorney is elected by the people.

"The people of Seattle are the clients," says Holmes. In law, this is perhaps not so; as an attitude, we like it.

This difference shows itself in the fight over public disclosure. In the Hangartner case, Carr asserted a broad right of government officials to deny documents to citizens by citing attorney-client privilege. Carr took this case all the way to Washington Supreme Court and won a ruling that has curtailed the people's rights all across the state.

Carr acted differently when a Seattle City Light employee demanded the e-mail list of an employee gay-interests club. Carr's office said City Light had to give it up because the group had met on City Light property.

Holmes disagrees with both these decisions, as does this newspaper.

This is an election in which The Times has an interest. We are for disclosure of public documents, so we can inform our readers, and for the protection of private documents such as our reporters' notes, so that sources will trust us. We have fought with Carr over both of these things, and we know his attitude about them.

The public should care about this, and not only because they rely on newspapers. Most requests for public documents come from the public. Their access is crucial in holding government officials accountable — and their access has been limited by Carr.

Now, after endorsing Holmes in the primary election, we heard from people in law and government, some of them highly placed, about Holmes's time from 2003 to 2008 as chairman of Seattle's new police review board. They say he was divisive, that he jumped to conclusions, that he dug in his heels and made high drama from small things.

Running a new police review board with serious intent is bound to rub some people the wrong way.

Holmes does bring the risks of the unknown. But Seattle voters have decided to embrace the risk of an untested mayor. They will also have a new police chief. It's an opportune time to hire themselves a new city attorney — one who promises to work for them.

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