Mike McGinn is the best mayor Seattle has ever had
by Ken Robinson, Managing Editor
You have to have a sense of humor when you are following the race for Mayor of Seattle. When you peel back the rhetoric, there are really few differences between the two fighting Irishmen, Mike McGinn and Ed Murray. That view must be an outcome of strategizing from the respective camps. In reality, there are strong differences. While looks like he has never been outside the capitol building in Olympia, McGinn looks rosy-cheeked and healthy, probably from riding a bike to the office from his home in Greenwood.
Now, Murray has some ads running on YouTube. He has gotten endorsements from some major groups in the community, from the cops to the teachers. Apparently these people don't like Mike. We suspect the reason for this is a combination of a crybaby response to not getting something they wanted or that they lined up behind the Seattle Times editorial staff as they were emptying their guns on McGinn after he beat their hand-picked candidate in the last race for mayor.
The big problem with both stances is that it overlooks facts and does not allow any credit for hard, smart work by McGinn.
No mayor before has followed a work schedule like McGinn has. No mayor before has reached out to every corner of the community and listened to their concerns. No mayor before has stayed out of the citadel and made his presence felt in the larger affair of the community that Mike McGinn.
In the grubby world of state and city politics, Mayor McGinn has had to step into the ring with many who would like to knock him out. He has held his own. If you watch him, you will see he always has a great command of the facts, has an earnest and open style and is palpably passionate about our city. He is, in short, the best mayor Seattle has ever had.
Murray is a bright, accomplished legislator with 18 years in the state senate. He has had to wrestle a lot of bears, for sure, but this is not his time to quit his post in Olympia where he has been so effective.
Top Three Accomplishments
Mayor McGinn said that he is proudest of the Family and Education levy because,"It will have a lasting impact on a lot of our youth. We've expanded the Youth Violence Prevention Initiative as part of that. It's doing more for our youth and not holding it at arm's length but having the Mayor take a leadership role, in partnership with the school district.
Second he said, "I think the DOJ settlement in particular the community police commission that came out of that was really significant because these issues had been kind of pushed under the radar. People don't really want to talk about the concerns for communities of color and being dealt with properly by the police. This is something I got into that agreement and isn't something the DOJ initially wanted. I had to fight for it, which is to bring our leaders from communities of color and make them part of the reform process by being on the commission with the police force. Now they are really talking about it. The police are there too. The union is grudgingly at the table but they are there. We have a lot of work to do but we've got the issues out in the open and we're talking together. That could be really lasting I hope in changing the culture."
Third he listed, "Broadband and fiber optic to the home. We were looking at a municipal broadband utility. Fiber optic is the next big thing. I met with the mayor of Kansas City and Google built them broadband and they've got kids moving in there to have gigabit upload and download speeds and inexpensively in Kansas City. This is Seattle man and we should be the place to do the great new things. The way it works right now is we are trying to run the internet over copper wire and things that were built for TV or telephones. What we need is a big fat pipe in which TV, phones and everything would be apps on that pipeline. We've looked at a municipal utility and before we went there, which would be very expensive, we said is there anyone in the private sector who would like to lease our excess dark fiber. We own a fiber optic network that connects all our city buildings. We have a lot of unused capacity. Gigabit Squared said they can start rolling out next year in fourteen neighborhoods fiber optic to the home or business for $80 a month, gigabit upload and download speeds. That would be transformative."
He also pointed to balancing the budget in spite of the recession and not touching the city's "rainy day fund."
I think that the police, despite all the turmoil around them are doing a great job and making a difference. They are justifiably concerned about being caught in the spotlight of public scrutiny."
McGinn said the main thing he was unable to accomplish in his term as Mayor was, "the funding around transit and street improvements. We did put a vehicle license fee measure on the ballot and it met a lot of resistance. Other cities have tried to pass a license fee and they've all failed. I think that the flat tax, so to speak on vehicles, people think it's unfair. I don't want to go back to the vehicle license idea because of the resistance. What we've seen is that a sales tax did well. I don't know if it would do well in Seattle but Snohomish did a sales tax and North Bend did a sales tax and they sold it as 'make the visitors to our city pay for the improvements' but we're more sensitive to that kind of tax. "
"We're doing our planning as fast as we can to qualify for federal dollars under Sound Transit 3. On the planning side we've managed to fund it but have to obtain more. I think a main priority for a second term has be about funding for transit."
McGinn has been pressed on concerns voiced by many in our community online, and in public forums about the number of apartments now under construction and the capacity of the transit system to serve them.
"There is no way we are going to continue to grow jobs as a city without really expanding transit. That's why I push this issue and built a statewide coalition around money for local. I've been for transit for a long and made it a priority for this administration. It's not even ideology like cars vs. bikes vs. transit. It's like geometry. We're not going to build that many more roadways so we have to figure out how to use our roadways more efficiently."
Bridging the Gap is up for renewal in two years in 2015. The question will be at what point do we ask the voters of Seattle to support transit and not let the County voters or State legislature dictate how much transit we can have? That's probably one I'll be pushing on as we get to that renewal point. Should we start thinking about having a dedicated levy in Seattle for transit expansion so we are not held hostage by the state anymore?