Couplet gets everyone on board

On Wednesday, the City Council voted unanimously to tentatively move forward with turning West Burnside and Northwest Couch streets into a couplet of one-way streets, and a funny thing happened.

The proposal had a streetcar attached to it.

While the idea of a Burnside-Couch streetcar had been broached by Commissioner Sam Adams months ago, he'd stressed repeatedly that the idea would need to be OK'd by a citywide rail plan before moving forward.

In the end, however, politics won out over planning - the streetcar was the only way to bring certain landowners, such as Harsch Investments, on board.

As a consequence, when the city finally gets around to making its rail plan, the Burnside-Couch streetcar, for all intents and purposes, already will have left the station.

Speaking of politics versus planning, the outcome didn't look great for city Planning Director Gil Kelly, who'd opposed the couplet. Now he's faced with planning the Central City's future while using someone else's rule book.

Want to run? Better get on it

If you're thinking about seeking public funds to run for the City Council next year, you might want to make up your mind fast.

After reviewing how the city's public financing program worked in 2006, the Citizens Campaign Commission has recommended moving up the time candidates have to collect the required number of $5 contributions to qualify for public funds.

In the 2006 primary, candidates could collect contributions in a seven-month window, beginning on Sept. 1, 2005, and ending on March 31, 2006. But for next year the commission is recommending the period be moved up to July 1, 2007 - a little more than two months from now.

Not only that, but candidates would have to submit 30 percent of their signed contribution forms Dec. 3, 2007.

Interestingly, Mayor Tom Potter has said he will announce his re-election plans in September, which could open up a seat on the council if Commissioner Sam Adams runs for mayor.

Any candidate who waits for Potter's announcement - as any smart candidate would - will find it far more difficult to qualify for funding due to lost time gathering signatures.

One potential candidate, Amanda Fritz, said she plans to ask Adams and Potter to show their support for public financing by announcing earlier. 'If you're going to support (public funding), then you should be declaring by July 1,' she said.

In council sweepstakes, attention span's a plus

If a City Council seat does open up next year, the competition could be fast and furious.

Not only is neighborhood activist Fritz, who lost to incumbent Dan Saltzman in 2006, considering another run, but streetcar activist Chris Smith also has expressed interest in the council.

In January, Nick Fish, who ran unsuccessfully in 2004, told Sources Say he may consider another run in 2008.

The crowded field, however, could be absent a familiar face. Though businessman Dave Lister has planned on another council bid ever since running last year, he recently had second thoughts while watching a City Council meeting on television. 'I thought, 'God, that has got to be the boringest thing I have ever seen,' ' he said.

-Tribune staff

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