Music & Youth Task Force Member Dave Meinert Schools Mayor Schell on Dance Ordinance
ON AUGUST 21, after 18 months of heavy lifting, the Music & Youth Task Force did a jig as the Seattle City Council passed its All-Ages Dance Ordinance (AADO) by a convincing 7-1 vote [“Let the Children Boogie,” Allie Holly-Gottlieb, August 24]. The AADO did two great things: It repealed the restrictive Teen Dance Ordinance (TDO)–a misguided law that impeded Seattle’s youth culture for 15 years–and created new rules that both regulated and encouraged youth dance.
Unfortunately, on August 23, Mayor Paul Schell vetoed the council vote [see “Dancing Fool” on preceding page] and proposed his own dance ordinance–one that mimicked the original TDO.
On August 25, local music promoter and task force member Dave Meinert (who co-authored the AADO) interviewed Schell by phone for this exclusive Stranger showdown.
Have you read the All-Ages Dance Ordinance that you vetoed?
Not every detail, but I know its substance.
The issue is, below the age of 15, when you’re talking about a nightclub circumstance, there needs to be a standard, which I think will give comfort to the parents and safety to the kids.
But when we’re talking about all-ages dances, we’re not really talking about nightclubs. State liquor laws already prevent kids from getting into nightclubs and drinking. When you say nightclub, what do you mean by that?
You know, I don’t even know the names, Dave, but I know from listening to the police that there’s the rave club down in Pioneer Square with problems. [Schell could not identify the club.]
Last night on the news, you mentioned police reports relating to all-ages dances. We did some searches in public information, and we only found two. Could you clarify which reports you were referring to?
I don’t have any particular reports, but police tell me they have to respond on a regular basis.
Let’s talk about your specific objections to our ordinance [the AADO]. You don’t like that we scrapped the police security requirement mandated in the original TDO. But the TDO’s policy to require police to work off-duty overtime is against city policy.
I’m saying there should be something other than the security that’s provided only by the promoter and the nightclub owner. There needs to be some sort of civil authority on the premises.
But the issue is, the police don’t have to work it. The police guild [the union] becomes the regulator. If they don’t want to work the event….
And Dave, that’s not acceptable.
So one of the solutions put out by the task force was that the city pay for an officer or two officers to be at the event.
That may be what we have to do in the end.
I think it is more an issue that some hiphop dances haven’t been allowed to happen because the police refuse to work them.
Do you see any differences between the Teen Dance Ordinance that the council repealed and the one you’re proposing now?
Schell aide Dick Lilly: Dave, what the mayor sent along with the veto message is exactly the AADO, rewritten only to change the points on it. Otherwise it’s the text of the AADO.
[The problem is, Schell’s rewrites “change the points” enough to transform the AADO back into the TDO. For example, just like the TDO, Schell would keep anyone younger than 15 at home, and require IDs from teens who aren’t even old enough for a driver’s license. Schell’s proposal also follows the TDO’s lead by exempting dances of less than 150 people, rather than the AADO’s 250. Finally, in the TDO’s severe fashion, Schell would make 14-year-olds subject to a misdemeanor for trying to sneak into dances.–Eds.]
Your new proposal seems to be more abrasive than the original TDO. The TDO’s purpose was to protect youth attending the dances. But your new proposal talks about protecting the general public. That’s the same thing that Mark Sidran was trying to pass in the Added Activities Ordinance. Did these ideas come from Sidran’s law department?
Probably. But in this case–and I don’t agree with Mark on everything–there is a neighborhood impact. There’s a noise impact; there’s what happens outside the premises.
Whether Mark had anything to do with this ordinance, I don’t know. I knew, like everybody else did, that Mark wasn’t particularly happy with this ordinance. I didn’t talk to Mark about the ordinance. I discussed the ordinance with the police department.
There’s concern that, hey, with a brand-new police chief [Gil Kerlikowske] in town, you’ve got a window of opportunity to repair your shaky relationship with the police. Was this purely a political veto, aimed at placating the police?
I absolutely haven’t done that for two and a half years, and I’m not going to start now. Gil Kerlikowske wasn’t displeased [by the veto], but he never lobbied me on this. This was my decision. I’m just saying my concerns were there from the beginning, and not addressed. Maybe [my office] should have made it very clear that if certain things didn’t happen, the mayor was going to veto it, but it isn’t the manner in which I try to do business with the council.
I have a letter from City Council Member Richard Conlin saying he’s frustrated that you didn’t raise your concerns earlier.
We wrote a letter, in black and white, expressing our reservations. That was delivered a week before they voted.
It was actually delivered to them three days before.
But there were direct conversations between [Schell aide] Walt Hubbard and [Conlin aid] Sheila Capestany, and Capestany gave Hubbard the impression that the age issue would be addressed. But I never got any call. [My reservations were] basically getting ignored. So the only option I had was to go along with something I felt was not well considered.
The feeling, though, is that a thorough public process definitely happened. The task force, made up of police, city officials, music-industry folks, and fans, met for 18 months. What we recommended was subject to public comment at every meeting. There were also two public hearings, where the feedback was overwhelming–the public favored this change. And then the AADO was passed by the council, with a seven to one vote. Do you think your veto will have a negative impact on future task forces wanting to work?
I don’t think so. And it shouldn’t. Let’s not let the process get in the way of the substance here. So, I guess I would caution: Don’t put me in a political box where I can’t be helpful. A lot of the work the task force has done I absolutely agree with, and will be preserved if we can get to a calm discussion of how to do this so it reflects the interests of the whole community. We’ve gotta create a safe environment for the kids, and we need to get parents in this discussion as well.
Well, there were parents on the task force.
Amy Jenniges contributed to these TDO reports.