- Advertisement -
OTHER POPULAR CONTENT
First Look: Chef Jason Stratton's Aragona
This Week in Restaurant News: Big Openings and Big News
Update: Zara Seattle
An Eater’s Guide to the Malls
5 Reasons to Get Excited About Joey Kitchen
Behind the Scenes: Seattle Designer Reina Acab of Le Notre
Morning Fizz: Two Deputy Mayors
Morning Fizz: Future Salaries
Morning Fizz: GOP Christmas Wish List
A Fiendish Conversation with Pickwick's Galen Disston
5 Reasons to Get Excited About Loulay
Murray Announces More Top Hires
Mayor McGinn Needs a Win
More than 100 days into his term, Mayor Mike McGinn has racked up a long dossier of false starts, gaffes, and failed proposals. (The most recent, Tim Burgess' proposal to expand the definition of aggressive panhandling, could actually turn into a win for McGinn if council member Mike O'Brien changes his vote, ending the council's veto-proof majority.)
• Before even taking office, he vowed to summarily cut 200 city strategic advisor and manager jobs, classifications he characterized (incorrectly) as "political appointments." Three weeks later, under fire from city employees, he was forced to back off from that proposal.
After that sheepish announcement, it became clear that McGinn didn't understand how job classifications and city promotions worked (for example, he didn't appear to know that city rules protect workers, like strategic advisors, with more seniority. The proposal also sparked a unionization push among employees at Seattle City Light.
• He continues to support delaying construction of the 520 bridge for six months to a year to study light rail on the bridge. He's pretty much alone in that position: The city council, state legislature, governor, and state department of transportation have all said they want to move forward now. Last week, McGinn continued to stand fast on his position, even as his longtime ally on the council, Mike O'Brien, signed off on a compromise letter expressing support for rail on the bridge as long as it didn't hold up construction. At a press briefing, McGinn acknowledged that the only way the state will move on his plan is if "all [the state's] plans fall apart, which I think is possible, if not likely."
• He asked several well-respected department heads to leave the city, raising questions inside and outside the city about his judgment. They included human-services department head Alan Painter, fleets and facilities director Brenda Bauer, and sustainability and environment office head Mike Mann,
Additionally, a number of high-profile figures left the McGinn administration on their own, including veteran finance director Dwight Dively (who left for King County after McGinn demoted him); transportation director Grace Crunican (who left to start a consulting firm), housing director Adrienne Quinn (who took a job in Maryland); Quinn's interim replacement Bill Rumpf; and personnel director Mark McDermott.
• He badly bungled his first major initiative—a proposal to ask voters to fund a $291 million seawall replacement—prompting the city council to shelve the measure indefinitely.
McGinn blindsided the council by announcing the proposal on a day when all nine council members were at a long-planned retreat, an event council sources say he had known about for at least a month. The council, blindsided by McGinn's surprise announcement, decided that instead of holding the costly special May election McGinn requested, they would sit on the proposal, potentially taking it up again this fall. The proposal would only accelerate seawall construction by about a year.
• He proposed building light rail to Ballard and West Seattle without doing his homework. Subsequent analysis by city council staff earlier this year found that the city lacks sufficient debt capacity to pay for a major transportation project like McGinn's light rail.
• He made many major city decisions—including the 200-cuts debacle— on the advice of consultant (and convicted felon, for fraud) Chris Bushnell. That blew up in his face when Bushnell resigned his $100,000-a-year post at the city, after PubliCola broke the news that he had falsely claimed to have a PhD in economics.
Obviously, any new administration is going to have some bumps. What differentiates McGinn's struggles in his first months in office is that he seems completely resistant to the idea that he has a problem. When I asked him whether he needed a political victory last week, McGinn responded that although the "power brokers and the pundits" have criticized him, "the people are with me."
That may be true (although in the case of proposals like the seawall, that's somewhat dubious), but McGinn isn't running for election. He's governing a major US city, and that takes more than the support of the people. It takes consensus-building, the ability to talk to city council members directly instead of going behind their backs, and, most importantly, an agenda.
McGinn's first few months have seen a barrage of proposals (in addition to the ones listed above, there's citywide broadband, changing the way the city does its annual budget, and replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a surface street instead of a deep-bore tunnel), but not a lot of successes. McGinn needs to slow down, focus, and pick a battle he can actually win.
My advice for McGinn? Focus your attention on proposals that have support among the voters and your fellow government leaders. The Youth and Families Initiative has potential to be just that. Take the results of the endless meetings you're holding and use them as a springboard to focus 2011 Families and Education levy dollars where they're needed, like child welfare, school health centers, and student mental-health resources. Ignore naysayers who want to reduce the size of the levy to eliminate funding for things like school nurses and crossing guards—levy funding is critical for children's success, and voters have consistently supported it.
That's in 2011. What can you do now? How about pushing for fully funding the city's bike and pedestrian master plans, which are currently falling tens of millions short of their annual funding goals? Hook up with a group like Streets for All Seattle and insist that cyclists and pedestrians no longer be second-class commuters in the city. Pushing for full bike and ped funding would send a strong message to voters and the council—whose own policies contradict their carbon neutrality goal—that you're serious about making the city a greener place to live. And if you get buy-in from the council, you make them look good, too. It's a win-win.
- First Look: Chef Jason Stratton's Aragona
- This Week in Restaurant News: Big Openings and Big News
- Update: Zara Seattle
- An Eater’s Guide to the Malls
- 5 Reasons to Get Excited About Joey Kitchen
- Behind the Scenes: Seattle Designer Reina Acab of Le Notre
- Morning Fizz: Two Deputy Mayors
- Morning Fizz: Future Salaries
- Advertisement -
Most popularSlide Shows & Videos
- Advertisement -