Citizen, city no longer poles apart

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In Seattle, it doesn't take a town crier to alert the troops. It only takes one concerned activist with e-mail.

Take this latest episode. Pedestrian advocate Chris Leman was bicycling down Eastlake Avenue East on Thursday when he noticed some large round holes punched in the concrete sidewalk between Mercer and Roy streets.

Six wooden utility poles were lying nearby in the street.

Leman says, "I put two and two together and figured City Light was planning to position utility poles in the middle of the sidewalk. This would be one of the most ridiculously eloquent statements that pedestrians and those using wheelchairs don't matter."

One other thing Leman noticed: The sidewalk abuts the Interstate 5 right of way. Along the entire block, just the other side of a chain-link fence, there is ample undeveloped state land on which to install utility poles.

At home, Leman immediately sent messages to public officials, journalists and friends. He wrote: "Please do what you can to avoid this installation. It's always harder and more expensive to get badly located utility poles moved than to get them installed in the right place to start with."

Response to Leman's plea was prompt. SeaTrans, the city's transportation department, weighed in on the side of sidewalks. Then it came to light (so to speak) that City Light lacked the proper permits.

On Friday, City Light Deputy Superintendent Jesse Krail told Leman he was putting the sidewalk-splitting job on hold. Krail wrote, "While we meet the minimum clearances (three feet from the curb is all that's required), I don't believe that is in keeping with the spirit of providing the best access to sidewalks."

As of yesterday, the poles had not been installed. Chalk up a possible victory for the city's foot soldiers.

Fame game: Guess who's about to enter the Hall of Fame? The University of Idaho Alumni Association has named Seattle attorney Judith Runstad one of four distinguished alums for 2001. She'll be inducted into the U of I's Hall of Fame on May 17.

Runstad has been a prominent player on the Seattle scene - as a land-use lawyer with Foster Pepper and Shefelman, an active force in the development of Seattle's downtown and a former Federal Reserve Bank director.

Modest to a fault about her term as a federal "banker," Runstad once joked that she owed her tennis game to the U of I professor who taught Econ 101.

She said, "It was very boring, and I attended none of it, except for the final exam."

Picture this: Retired Seattle Times photographer Josef Scaylea will read from his latest book, titled simply "Josef Scaylea," a collection of classics from his long career, at 7 p.m. tomorrow at the University Book Store in Seattle. What makes the occasion, which is being taped for television, extra special is that it also happens to be Scaylea's birthday. He's celebrating his 88th.

Local color: Staff at the Four Seasons Olympic Hotel say they were charmed by the singer Elton John ("a genuinely nice guy''), who was a guest during recent appearances at the Tacoma Dome.

John occupied a corner suite with one bedroom reserved for his costumes. One revelation: John's eyeglass cases are color-coordinated, making it a snap to match his specs with his onstage finery.

Undress for success: Superchef Kathy Casey, on a business trip to New York City, was having a drink at the trendy M Bar when she spotted this timely sign in the New York Sports Club's window: "Attention Dot Comers / Look good when you lose your shirts."

Jean Godden's column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Contact her at 206-464-8300 or