The City of Seattle is in a pickle over its five, very expensive public toilets. In the spirit of adding to this decade-long debate, I have a suggestion: keyed toilets. The idea comes from Freeway Park, which I am helping other citizens to reactivate and where the Parks Department had to close its public bathrooms due to crime. Our proposal is to station a vendor in front of them, selling coffee, newspapers, ice cream and the like, and to have the vendor control the keys to the public bathrooms. The vendor would deny the keys to obvious problem people, like prostitutes and drug dealers. He or she would keep the bathrooms stocked and clean. And people using them would feel safer, knowing only one person can enter at a time, thanks to those keys. Such an idea also keeps more "eyes on the park," since the vendor would be a constant presence, someone known to the frequent park users, and a kind of informal security monitor. The City is drifting in this direction, proposing to hire restroom attendants for nearby toilet facilities in buildings, with signs directing people to these restrooms. But that will be unpopular in the buildings, most of which keep their public restrooms well disguised. And it doesn't have the extra benefit of providing more public security in outdoor spaces and parks. It turns out to be far from easy to implement this idea for keyed restrooms with vendors. There are many restrictions on allowing vending in parks, and business there can be so slow on many winter days that few vendors can make money at it. Hence our idea of subsidizing these vendors by paying them to supervise the bathrooms. Nor are the politics easy for any solution to this problem. The issue was debated for years under Mayor Paul Schell, with the Council finally overriding his veto of the self-cleaning, European style public toilets that finally were installed. Another problem was the city's long-standing agreement with the Ackerley companies, in hopes of stopping the spread of so many outdoor billboards. Ackerley agreed to fewer boards if the City would agree not to encourage any of its own outdoor advertising. There went the way to finance the hugely expensive high-tech toilets. In other cities, they are fully subsidized by outsized ads on their sides. Seattle ended up with the worst of all worlds. Very expensive toilets to install and operate; and they consume more than triple the water per flush of normal stalls. Very unpopular toilets that attract crime and scare off users. And a $750,000 tab to cancel the contract and remove the toilets. Councilmember Richard McIver, the lone dissenting vote in 2001, is entitled to crow, "I was right."