Maybe we need a mayor-cam
Katia Roberts was sitting on the toilet at Cal Anderson Park, wondering if one of those city cameras was watching. Then she heard a sound...
Seattle Times staff columnist
Katia Roberts was sitting on the toilet at Cal Anderson Park, wondering if one of those city cameras was watching.
Then she heard a sound from the adjacent stall. Click. Click. Click. A lighter. Someone inhaling deeply.
"Crack," Roberts recalled the other day.
Sure, Roberts said, drug activity in a public park might be one reason to put cameras there.
But the way Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels did it is another thing.
Hizzoner refused to wait for the City Council to act on a separate program to pay for cameras at Cal Anderson and three other parks, and found the money elsewhere. His office sent some statistics to explain:
In 2007, police ejected 140 people from Cal Anderson for "various illegal activities." There were three strong-arm robberies; three aggravated assaults; 40 public-disturbance calls; more than 40 thefts; and 26 calls to 911.
The three cameras there will be monitored only if someone calls 911. Then, a police officer can tune in to help nab someone and save the tape. Otherwise, the tapes are purged every two weeks.
Nickels sees the cameras as a deterrent, keeping the parks safe and sound for all — especially the new condo owners who have little to call green.
I went to Cal Anderson in search of some good ol' Seattle-style Big Brother outrage.
But no. A few thought the cameras were "creepy," but most have accepted that we are being watched all the time: ATMs, elevators, stores.
"There are already cameras everywhere," shrugged Don Wallingford, 40, a chef. "If it solves a crime, I don't really have a problem with it."
What really raised hackles is the end-run Nickels made to put cameras at Cal Anderson.
If anyone needs to be monitored, it's this guy.
Last year, the council held off spending on park surveillance until it had more to go on. Instead, Nickels took some $200,000 out of the parks-department budget and did it.
I understand that timing is of the essence. Summer tourists will soon descend to take in our mountains, music — and drug deals. They'll wait while parties go on in the public toilets. They'll feel threatened.
Doesn't the council, too?
"Many of us are working very hard to have an open and effective relationship with the mayor's office, and this did not help," said Councilman Tim Burgess, head of the public-safety committee.
Nickels has blown off the council before. He went to Olympia to seek funding for KeyArena. He pushed ahead with the clearing of homeless camps and the redevelopment of Northgate — all on his own.
"The reality is, it makes his job harder," said Councilman Tom Rasmussen. "If [Nickels] would include the council in these decisions, we would be able to move things along.
"But when he acts unilaterally, he's going to get push-back and resistance."
Katia Roberts may have heard something underhanded going on in the next stall.
But it's much worse for the council, and for all of us, when it's the next stall at City Hall.
Nicole Brodeur's column appears Tuesday and Friday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or email@example.com.
She'll watch what she's doing.
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When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.
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