2002 redux; top stories included identity theft and portable potty problems

Some of the stories reflected city-wide and regional trends, others covered big-ticket transportation issues in the neighborhoods, and a number were as specific as events taking place on a single corner.
Here's a rundown of a few of them.

Getting there from here
The issue covered most by the News last year was the monorail. In stories that began in February and continued to December, it was obvious from the beginning that choosing a route for lower Queen Anne would be a complicated chore.
Perhaps the least complex route would have taken the new monorail down Second Avenue, but Belltown residents objected, preferring a route on Fifth Avenue. That meant the existing monorail would have to go, a move that prompted fans of the old system to consider nominating the line for historical designation.
The Fifth Avenue route led to another proposal that would have taken the line across Seattle Center grounds and down Fifth Avenue North, raising objections by Seattle Center officials, citing their master plan.
The monorail folks then came up with the idea of circling the Seattle Center on Mercer Street and then going down Fifth Avenue North. That concept, in turn, led to objections from Paul Allen's people because the Experience Music Project was built specifically to wrap around the old monorail.
A late-breaking opposition group that included a Queen Anne architect also formed, attacking the very feasibility of the project. The opposition didn't deter Seattle voters from approving the project at the polls in November, but the decision on the monorail route through lower Queen Anne still hasn't been made. However, the call will be made early this year, according to the new monorail authority.
Replacing the Magnolia Bridge was another big-ticket transportation issue covered by the News last year. The 1929-era structure was damaged by landslides in 1997 and by the 2001 Nisqually earthquake. It's time to replace it, according to the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). Just a study of the project has a $9 million price tag, while estimates peg replacement costs at close to $70 million.
Like the monorail, choosing a route for the new bridge is an issue. There are currently eight proposals on the table. That's down one from a recent list because SDOT learned from a resident who would have been impacted by a proposed waterfront route that it is prohibited by a legal settlement.

Sex abuse
A three-part series last summer took an in-depth look at the issue of sexual abuse of children by trusted adults. The stories chronicled more than a decade during which Mark Pool was the victim of a man who was a family friend, Little League coach and employer.
Pool was unflinching in his willingness to talk about the abuse and its lingering affects - including suicidal thoughts, a lot of therapy and a court case against his abuser, who pleaded guilty on a plea bargain. The man got off with 90 days of jail time and a five-year parole, which he violated by allegedly abusing the son of his girlfriend. The man subsequently was sentenced to 12 to 25 years in jail.
The series also took a look at the broader picture of sex abuse against children, noting statistics that indicate 28 percent of females and 16 percent of males are sexually abused before they turn 18. Staff from the nonprofit Shepherd's Counseling Services detailed the psychological damage the victims suffer, and they said the majority of abusers are known and trusted by the victims' families.

Church scandal
Fr. Gregory Schmitt, a popular priest at Queen Anne's Sacred Heart Church, was put on administrative leave and never returned after a former parishioner filed a lawsuit charging the priest with abuse during a seven-year affair. The former parishioner is a woman who followed Schmitt to Seattle from Kansas City, Mo., in 1995, according to her lawsuit and other parishioners. The outcome of the lawsuit has not been announced.
Killer still sought
The United States Justice Department offered a $1 million reward last spring for the arrest and conviction of the person who murdered Federal Prosecutor Tom Wales in his Queen Anne home on Oct. 11, 2001.
Speaking at a press conference announcing the reward, an FBI spokesman said the agency had reason to believe that someone has "direct knowledge of this homicide." That person hasn't come forward so far.
And while published reports indicate one man is considered a possible suspect, there have been no arrests.
Family, friends, colleagues and politicos honored Wales last summer by dedicating in his memory the newly completed cobblestone crosswalks and intersection at Queen Anne Avenue and Boston Street. Wales, a longtime community activist, thought up the idea of the cobblestones, a friend said. Wales was also praised at the ceremony for his role as president of Washington CeaseFire, a gun-control advocacy group.

Identity theft
Covering the issue last January and shortly before the rest of the media did, the News looked at the growing problem of ID theft. This crime can demolish credit ratings, a problem that can take years and a fair amount of time and money to fix. The story, which later won an award, also covered the ways identities are stolen over the Internet, through mail theft and by
A source in the story was a Queen Anne resident who's also a spokesman for Bank of America, which has noticed an increase in identity thefts. The story was personal for the bank spokesman, because someone used his name to buy a $5,000 computer system in Bev-erly Hills, Calif.
The spokesman was having a difficult time straightening things out, and the story listed steps people can take to help prevent the crime. The piece also included an FTC hotline number and ways to contact the three major credit-reporting agencies.

Ballfield lights
The city of Seattle Parks and Recreation Department drew heavy flack from neighborhood residents all over the city with its proposal to light ballfields so more playing hours would be available to alleviate a growing demand.
In two stories last February, the News outlined neighborhood objections to ball-field-lighting proposals in both Queen Anne and Magnolia.
Sport teams thought it was a great idea, but many residents from both neighborhoods objected, notably those who live near the Queen Anne Bowl.
The Queen Anne Bowl was on an unfunded Parks' wish list of future lighting projects, while money was earmarked for replacing existing lights at the West Magnolia Playfield.
The proposal called for lighting the fields until 11 p.m., but neighborhood residents complained that having lights on that long would draw noisy crowds and make sleep difficult. In the end, the Queen Anne Bowl was dropped from the lighting wish list, and the Magnolia field was going to stick to its old, more restrictive lighting schedule.

Piers 90 and 91
Port of Seattle operations at Piers 90 and 91 and the upland area north of them have fallen substantially since Nissan pulled its auto import business out of Seattle and the apple export business dried up. Replacing the lost business has resulted in a number of proposals. A concept the News reported last June called for Princess Cruises to moor at the terminals. That idea was dropped in September, however, when the Port of Seattle decided to send the ships to Terminal 30 because of expected delays in obtaining permits for needed work at Piers 90 and 91.
However, the Port did find a tenant for the property when the First Student and Durham school-bus companies signed a lease in June for parking spaces in the lot formerly occupied by new Nissans.
A Village vision
The News covered efforts that began early last year to reach a plan for revitalizing Magnolia Village. Funded primarily by a $10,000 matching grant from the city, the proposals included adding curb bulbs at intersections, switching to angled parking on West McGraw Street, adding a traffic circle at Clise Place and 32nd Avenue West, and improving the streetscape.
The story also noted life in the Village was looking up because of a mixed-use building going in at 33rd Avenue West and West Smith Street, along with plans for another slated for the triangle parking lot at 32nd Avenue West and Clise Place.

Racial tiebreakers
The battle over using race as a tiebreaker for school assignments in Seattle had a Magnolia connection in a News story last spring. The connection was the president of Parents Involved in Community Schools. The group objected to the practice based on Initiative 200, which forbade the use of race in determining school assignments.
A Queen Anne attorney for the parents' group successfully argued its case in front of a three-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Seattle School District slammed the ruling, Ballard High School Principal David Engle resigned in protest and school assignments were delayed that spring.

Potty problems
A temporary portable toilet set up by the city of Seattle Parks and Recreation Department for the use of guests during summer weddings in Parsons Memorial Garden sparked objections from a couple of nearby residents and the Queen Anne Community Council.
The toilet was partially screened with latticework at its location at the end of West Highland Drive, but the residents complained that the toilet was downright ugly. The community council took a different tack, insisting that the portable toilet should be relocated because it was spoiling the view of the historic Wilcox Wall.
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