First of all, apologies to the Bruce Harrell campaign. As we noted in Fizz, he's still in the mix as a wild card, and we do hear he's surging.
However, riffing off the two most likely scenarios according to the most recent polling—a general election between incumbent Mayor Mike McGinn and state Sen. Ed Murray or an election between McGinn and former city council member Peter Steinbrueck, I'd prefer the McGinn vs. Murray option.
(Yes, despite McGinn's consultant's foreboding quote in this past Saturday's Seattle Times ...“The numbers don’t point to us automatically getting through the primary,” he said ... I do think McGinn gets through).
So, second of all, apologies to Peter Steinbrueck. Steinbrueck was a solid city council member for 10 years, and despite the current rap that he's a NIMBY, he's actually, as we've tried to point out a number of times now, a progressive with urbanist leanings.
Unfortunately, using a soundbite that's reminiscent of Ronald Reagan's reactionary populism ("government is not the solution..., government is the problem"), Peter "neighborhoods aren't the problem, they're the solution" Steinbrueck is running on a platform that caters to a core bloc of voters that reflexively cringes at development and density.
The question on the floor for voters now is not should we or shouldn't we embrace urbanism. The question is: what kind of urbanism?
Like anti-gay marriage voters, it's a constituency that's sunsetting. With height increases, bike lanes, parking maximums, car sharing, and transit-oriented development all on the agenda, the slow-growthers have already lost. A McGinn vs. Steinbrueck debate would be a replay of arguments that roiled Seattle in the 1990s and 2000s, and would be a waste of our civic time. It'd be like, for some stubborn sense of hometown pride, letting Microsoft make another pitch for the Zune.
A McGinn vs. Murray debate, however, would help Seattle hone its agenda. The question on the floor for voters now is not should we or shouldn't we embrace urbanism. The question is: what kind of urbanism?
McGinn is a Seattle partisan. Murray is regionalist. (I've written about this before.)And their disagreement over transit distills the conflict perfectly. In a debate that blew up early in the election over a wonky concept known as subarea equity—the Sound Transit rule that says money raised in one subarea can only fund projects in that subarea—Murray said the rule should be scrapped. McGinn said the rule should be preserved.
The crux of McGinn's reasoning? In an op/ed for Slog titled "What Does Ed Murray Have Against Building Light Rail in Seattle?", he wrote: "We need to ensure revenue raised in Seattle stays in Seattle to support our projects—which is why Seattle needs to defend sub-area equity, not attack it." His point: We don't want Seattle money funding light rail in Edmonds.
In some ways, of course, McGinn's argument promotes regionalism: Edmonds gets to keep their money too, which helps invest the whole region in the ST deal. As he wrote in the same piece "[Sub-area equity] generated political support and votes for building more rail in Seattle as well as around the region."
Murray's reasoning: As he first told us in the PubliCola "One Question" that sparked the whole debate: "Subarea equity works against putting transit where it’s most useful." His point: Collectively, the money should go wherever the regional need is, without geographical restrictions.
In some ways, of course, Murray's argument promotes Seattle: the need for transit is typically in the city where more people live and work. Concluding his line above about where transit is "most useful," he added: "In urban areas."
Both Murray and McGinn are trying to promote Seattle in different ways—McGinn by making Seattle a shining city on a hill, Murray by placing it in a regional ecosystem.
It's a subtle debate, but the implications for how we do everything from budgeting to zoning to transit planning (to deciding where a basketball team goes) depends on which framework you choose.