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Tuesday, April 24, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Nicole Brodeur / Times staff columnist

What inspires Caleb to run? 'Real people'

Seattle Times columnist

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Caleb Schaber meets me in a $1 thrift-store suit and a watchman's cap. Flames lick the toes of his boots.

As one of the artists behind the fabled Monolith, Schaber, 29, looks the part of a creative soul.

As a candidate, Schaber could be seen as fiscally sound, clear in his views - and ready to burn up the streets to win some votes.

To me, Schaber embodies a spirit that has been leaking out of Seattle since the pins and punctures of the WTO, Mardi Gras and all the shake-ups, real and imagined, in between.

And while he is a long shot, it's great to have him in the race, giving mainstream candidates a run for every dollar in their war chests and suit pockets.

As Schaber sees it, they aren't speaking to "real people."

"They are a minority of people with money and power who are criminalizing human behavior," he said.

Schaber, in contrast, rides the bus, so feels he can talk about the masses - and mass transit:

On public transportation: "We're at the point where anything is better than nothing." He would revive the voter-supported Monorail, run it along Interstate 5 and tax developers to pay for part of it.

On police: "(Mayor Paul) Schell uses the police as a standing army." Schaber wants beat cops who know neighborhood business owners and troublemakers.

On Mardi Gras: Close off the streets, enclose beer gardens and enlist a civilian patrol to mediate between police and revelers.

On homelessness: Install a permanent tent city in one of the city's industrial areas.

What a contrast from those who speak from the city's inner circle of influence - and money - while Schaber dreams of raising $10,000 for his campaign.

"I need to get stamps and stationery and business cards."

There's no talk of a campaign manager or consultant, save for Blue Moon Tavern owner Gus Hellthaler, who Schaber dubs his "campaign philosopher."

Schaber tends bar at the Blue Moon, so he is a listener, someone who hears voices both calm and unreasonable and knows when to tuck someone into a cab.

A Michigan native, he shares a converted Ballard moviehouse with six roommates. He was raised by his grandmother, got his GED and attended community college before moving to Seattle on the train, a mode that allows you to carry more bags.

"I wanted to start fresh and see what I could do on my own."

He hooked up with Some People to create the Monolith. At the Blue Moon, his signature isn't a drink but the men's-room walls, where he painted murals of last year's presidential candidates over the urinals.

"We called them the Presidential Fountains. People could go in and cast their ballot."

He's finished the first 100 pages of "Primary Colors," is giving Miles Davis' "Birth of the Cool" some heavy play and doesn't cook, really, except to heat up a can of Dinty Moore or stir up some eggs.

His biggest weakness is that he likes to sleep: "If I didn't have to sleep eight or 10 hours a night, I'd have a lot more time."

Even if he doesn't get elected, Schaber plans to be "a threat to other candidates to be more honest about things they would rather gloss over."

But don't count him out.

His plan for the city is workable, and despite the $1 suit and the snake tattoo that runs up one arm, across his back and down the other, he is serious.

"That's the question I get asked over and over," he said. "I'm not reinventing the wheel. I'm talking about making our city a more pleasant place."

Nicole Brodeur's column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or nbrodeur@seattletimes.com.

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