I hate gratuitous political mission statements, like the kind Greg Nickels attaches to public works signs. With election nigh, I attended a dinner of political junkies and in going through the ballot stumbled upon Seattle Charter Amendment No. 17. What does this momentous amendment do? It adds a "preamble" to the city charter. In effect, a corporate mission statement. The ballot says: The amendment would add a preamble to the charter stating its purpose. That purpose is to protect and improve the health, safety, environment and general welfare of the people; enable city government to provide services and meet the people's needs efficiently; allow equal and fair participation of all persons in city government; provide for an open, accountable, and ethical government and civil service; foster financial responsibility; promote prosperity; and meet the needs of a healthy growing city. Having always assumed the purpose of a great city was to create chaos, misery, despair and spread the pox, I was rather shocked to see these other radical notions codified into law. What's next? Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Despite the preamble's banality there is room for political mischief if adopted. Must we really codify the need for growth in Seattle? Won't a commitment to "prosperity" encourage gentrification? If we had another recession like the one in the early 1970s when the city lost population, would Seattle be in violation of its charter? You may wonder how we have survived so long (since 1946) without such a road map. One party attendee asked what would happen if we went forward into the future without a preamble. "Without a preamble," someone replied, "we would merely amble." Well, they say walking is good for you.