- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 4, 2000

There is in academia a principle known as Parisian Determinism. It holds that whatever nonsense is fashionable in the cafes of Paris becomes American university orthodoxy a few years later.

The last few months have convinced me that we can now speak of Seattle Determinism. Specifically, whatever comes down in and on my once-provincial and not-so-long-ago insufferably self-satisfied hometown will reach the rest of the country sooner or later.

A few examples of things you can look forward to:

A whole new brand of street politics, for one. Remember last year's World Trade Organization protests, that Week of Rage against the Machine and Whatever Else Turns You On or Off? A fracas already consigned to the recycling bin of history, i.e., nostalgia. Bad mistake. Who can or should forget the topless lesbians marching alongside the steelworkers and teamsters? And I remain mildly haunted by the young woman who came up to me in tears the day of the first big riot.

"I've gotten separated from my affinity group and I'm missing our direct action."

"Which is?"

"We're painting murals."

"I know some walls that could use painting."

"Tell me where! Please!"

I did. She did. And a whole new form of urban renewal was born.

And then the lawsuits. Lawyers setting up street corner class-action recruitment tables. Were you victimized? Did you see victimization? Do you think you were victimized and/or witnessed victimization? Are you mad that nobody victimized you; traumatized that you endured no trauma? Just sign here and we'll make sure the government (or somebody) compensates you.

Indeed, trauma is a word much in use around Seattle. So traumatized was the mayor, Paul Schell, that he kaboshed our New Year's Eve festivities at the Space Needle, making Seattle not merely the only American city to cave to potential terrorism, but also the first locale since World War II to cancel an event for fear of enemy attack.

Of course, our Space Needle, built for the 1962 World's Fair, is precious to us. It was meant to show the world what architecture would be like in the year 2000, and remains today the only structure of its kind, save for Star Fleet Headquarters. Ironically, Kate Mulgrew, who plays the intrepidesque Capt. Janeway of "Star Trek: Voyager" hails from Seattle.

Perhaps she'd like to run for mayor in two years, when both Voyager and Mr. Schell's terms expire.

Still, Mr. Schell's decision may not have been entirely unwise. Y2K held a special significance here. Nobody really worried that much. Seattle being home to Microsoft, we've long grown accustomed to cyber-perfection. However, Seattle, Tacoma, and Olympia (the capital), plus a few other sites along the coastal Interstate 5 corridor, aren't exactly beloved by the conservative rest of the state. Some months ago, a senior official told me that when he spoke to small town and rural gatherings on Y2K preparations, the first question was invariably, "If the I-5 people come here, can we shoot 'em?"

His answers were not always unambiguous.

Tensions surface in other ways. Last November, the state overwhelmingly passed Initiative 695, slashing excise taxes on motor vehicles and requiring popular approval for all new taxes and fees. Gov. Gary Locke, a local boy, fought 695 by going on Television to warn that public libraries would have to get voter approval before raising their fines.

Note to Capt. Janeway: We'll also have an opening for governor around the time Voyager docks.

Other elections have proven more positive. Three years ago, retired Microsoft zillionaire Paul Allen, owner of the Seattle Seahawks, paid for a special referendum on public financing for a new football stadium, to be built on the site of the present Kingdome. Around that time, Microsoft stock split. Had Mr. Allen taken his one day profit, he could have paid for two stadiums.

Mr. Allen, who is also providing us with a guitar-shaped Jimi Hendrix Museum near the Space Needle, won the first privately financed election in America. And now that the Mariners have their own new stadium (the most expensive in history), everybody's looking forward to blowing up the Kingdome and starting the building. Unfortunately, the Kingdome will not be demolished on schedule this month. The Seahawks did better than expected and, by losing their final game, clinched a playoff berth. So the one explosion everybody really wants has to wait.

And you know, irony can be pretty ironic. The last (and first) time Seattle made the NFL playoffs, a few decades ago, anti-growth citizens hung banners urging visitors to enjoy themselves, party hearty, then leave.

Kinda like WTO.

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