Plastic Bags, Youth Violence and Snow Plows—Oh, My!

By SoulNerd August 21, 2009

Well, it's official.  Seattle's most polarizing mayor in recent history (or at least since Paul Schell) has been voted out of office by citizens who have had just about all they can stand of the man who would be their green king.

By Thursday evening Nickels trailed Mike McGinn by about 1,200 votes for second place. Joe Mallahan remains in first place, 540 votes ahead of McGinn and 1,710 ahead of Nickels.

As my esteemed editor at PubliCola points out:

"With most of the outstanding votes counted (projected turnout in Seattle: 33 percent), Nickels would have to have an overwhelming bump among the remaining 30,000 or so votes to win."

Nickels confirmed the end of his run as Mayor at today's press conference, where he officially acknowledged his loss to Mallahan and McGinn.

Though the Nickels camp maintained confidence throughout the campaign, signs of trouble showed for some time. Here are just a few:

• Longtime Nickels supporter and City Council member Jan Drago jumped into the race and promptly threw Nickels under the bus, then got on the bus, pushed the driver out of the way and rolled over her former friend as often as she could.

• Joe Mallahan got an "outstanding" rating from the Municipal League of King County, better than incumbent Nickels, who received a rating of "very good".

• Nickels raised cash faster than his major opponents, but he also ran out before any of them.

• Seventy-five percent of Seattle voters said they were voting for someone other than Nickels.

So why were voters so keen on taking their chances with Mike McGinn or Joe Mallahan?

For months, a mantra of "anyone but him" has grown to a fevered pitch. Turns out it wasn't just one or two hot button issues, but a laundry list of concerns from voters across the city.  Some examples (I'm certain you can add to this list):

• There is undeniable frustration with Seattle's Department of Neighborhoods and its Office for Education.  For voters, these are two key city offices that directly touch people where they live: Voters care about neighborhoods almost as much as they care about their children and their children's education.  The DoN is viewed as inconsistent and difficult, its education office as incompetent and out of touch.

• Viaduct replacement—just thinking about it gives me a migraine.

• While Hizzoner was busy touting stats that "prove" violent crime was down across the city, nearly a dozen young Black men were murdered without so much as a comment from his office.  Nickels eventually responded with the Youth Violence Initiative, but not before violence was out of control in certain communities, and families decided he was ignoring their pleas for action (because he was).

Further, rather than protecting the integrity of the Initiative and the that of the people working on the ground, Nickels paraded it as a campaign issue, giving permission for other candidates to critique it to death, while having no real understanding (or concern) with the true work being done.

• Do we have a professional basketball team? ... Well, there you have it.  They may have been a bunch of lazy, whiny babies toward the end, but the Sonics were still Seattle's team.

• Nickels has a reputation for being a bit of a bully behind closed doors. Those who have worked with him have described his communication style as gruff, rude, stubborn, and difficult. This is Seattle. We like people who at least pretend to be nice.

• Seattle's soon-to-be-former mayor had an unimpressive list of pet projects that simply annoyed voters to no end, including the disposable bag fee, the parks gun ban, and removing Dumpsters from alleyways (WTF was that about?!)

• No matter where you stand on how to tackle homelessness in the city, an encampment named in your honor (or shame) never bodes well.

• The great snow of 2008.  He gave the city a "B-" for its response and snow removal.  A fucking B-. I don't know about you, but I thought I was going to die on those roads.  To this day, when I think about how long McClellen was closed, my blood pressure rises. Voters don't like ego, and that B- grade was all ego.  Or being completely out of touch—and voters don't like that either.  For thousands of people, the snow debacle was the final straw and the top issue on their minds when they cast their vote.

Nickels' one responsible act that deserves mention is his staunch protection of funding for human services in the city.  While the budget goes to hell in a handbasket, Nickels has managed to maintain the safety net many of our neighbors depend on to survive.  While that leadership is noteworthy, it certainly wasn't enough to protect him from the angry plastic-bag-toting, basketball-loyal, viaduct-debating, parks-loving voters who all jumped on a snow plow together and ran his ass down last Tuesday.

Cross-posted at The Sable Verity.

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