By-law freak let loose on Microsoft City

American Times SEATTLE

HE HAS been called the Rudolph Giuliani of the West or, less flatteringly, Little Rudy. So determined does he appear to be to stop anyone in Seattle breaking the tiniest rule - or, for that matter, having any fun - that some of his trendier detractors have compared him to Satan. Although he has been re-elected twice, he is regularly denounced as a racist and a fascist by the city's liberal intelligentsia.

Quite some reputation, for a man who is not even mayor. In all of Seattle's angst about its own rapid gentrification - a process hastened by Microsoft and the Internet revolution - it is Mark Sidran, the City Attorney, who has undoubtedly become the bogeyman for the city's aspirations to self- improvement.

He doesn't like people urinating in the streets, so he passed an ordinance enabling police to arrest and fine people who do it. He doesn't like public drunkenness, so once again he issued orders to make it a prosecutable offence - even if the drunk in question is causing no other disturbance.

He has told landowners to clean up the graffiti on their property or else face the judicial consequences. He has made certain traffic offences, such as driving with a suspended licence, punishable by a jail term and pushed for far higher sentences - months rather than days - for shoplifters and prostitutes.

Mr Sidran subscribes to the same "broken windows" philosophy that has driven Mayor Giuliani in New York - the thinking being that if you make people respect the small stuff then crime as a whole will come down. "Misdemeanours matter" is his mantra, and "civility" his abiding passion.

As with Mayor Giuliani, this has made Mr Sidran a controversial figure, with civil rights groups and public defenders arguing that he is inevitably persecuting minority groups and the poor with his homeless sweeps, his anti-begging ordinances, his injunctions keeping "troublemakers" out of city parks and his indulgence of get-tough police behaviour.

It has also made people wonder whether he isn't trying to be some kind of puritan commissar, forcing a humourless, fun-free straitjacket on this easy-going, culturally vibrant capital of the American North-west.

For two years now he has had his sights set on the Fremont Summer Solstice, an annual gathering of artists and parade marchers in one of Seattle's funkier neighbourhoods that traditionally features naked men on bicycles. Last year the police arrested a handful of these cyclists for indecent exposure but failed to make the charges stick in court. This year, Mr Sidran ordered the artists organising the parade to state explicitly that they did not endorse nude cycling and testify in court against anyone who tried it, or else risk losing their licence next time around.

He does not always get his way. For months he has been campaigning to prevent late-night noise at downtown clubs by curtailing their music and dancing licences. He has made little secret of his desire to close many of these places on the basis that illicit drugs probably get sold and consumed there. But recently a federal judge declared the Prohibition- era laws regulating these licences to be unconstitutional since music, dancing and entertainment were basic rights of free speech - a ruling that in effect cocked a snook at Mr Sidran's zealous efforts and suggested he should unbutton his shirt and enjoy himself for a change.

Speaking for many of the City Attorney's detractors, a local political operative-cum-heavy metal freak called Matthew Fox recently accused Mr Sidran of trying to turn Seattle into a glorified middle-class suburb. "If I wanted to live in Bellevue, I'd live in Bellevue," Mr Fox said, referring to a residential neighbourhood across Lake Washington, "and if I wanted to live in a city run by Rudy Giuliani, I'd move to New York."

Much as Seattle might seek to deny it, though, Mr Sidran is peculiarly representative of the city's transformation from the arty provincial centre of times past to one of the main engine-rooms of the computer age. If grunge defined Seattle in the early 1990s, then Mark Sidran and his yuppyish, Harvard-trained sense of social order defines it for the Microsoft generation.

The new Seattle no longer wants to face its armies of homeless drug addicts (the city has the highest heroin consumption in the United States); it wants to shop at Armani and Pier One and Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn - the very emblems of the long, technology-driven economic boom of the Clinton years.

"There are a lot of good Seattle liberals who say at parties that he is a horrible person, but then vote for him because they agree with what he is doing," observes Timothy Harris of the street newspaper Real Change. "If there wasn't a Mark Sidran, Seattle would have to invent one."

people And here is why...
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
voicesBy the man who has
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson star in The Twilight Saga but will not be starring in the new Facebook mini-movies
tvKristen Stewart and Stephenie Meyer will choose female directrs
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
William Hague
people... when he called Hague the county's greatest
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Twerking girls: Miley Cyrus's video for 'Wrecking Ball'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Are you looking for part time/ ...

SEN (SLD/PMLD) Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a quailed Teacher ...

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Currently looking for teachers ...

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?