Mallahan Also Changed Tune on SLU Streetcar

By Josh Feit September 22, 2009

Jim Brunner at the Seattle Times has a story today about mayoral candidate Joe Mallahan's position on Mercer.

Before the primary, Mallahan loudly criticized the $191 million Mercer project as a giveaway by the Nickels administration to Vulcan, billionaire Paul Allen's company and South Lake Union's largest landowner.

Mallahan vowed to halt the project and redirect up to $70 million in city money it was "stealing" from other neighborhoods until Vulcan and other property owners agreed to pay more of the costs.

But with Nickels out of the way, Mallahan's tone has softened. He now emphasizes that he'd like to see the Mercer project move forward.

"I think the Mercer Street project is a very good neighborhood development project and it will do great things for South Lake Union," Mallahan said. "If it were properly financed, I would be in favor of it."

Mallahan said he'd explore creating a local-improvement district (LID), a taxing authority that would charge landowners higher taxes based on the projected increase in property values because of the project.

But he has been vague on details, such as how much money an LID should raise.

Some Mercer supporters question whether Mallahan, a newcomer to local politics, simply was looking for a populist issue to latch onto when he started bashing Mercer.

I'm not too surprised at the apparent flip-flop. Looking for similar populist points, Mallahan also changed his mind about another high-profile project, the South Lake Union streetcar. When I interviewed him in May, he included the trolley on a list of Nickels projects he supported.

But when Erica and I interviewed him in late July, he cited the trolley ("the $50 million toy streetcar," he called it) as a waste of money.

Mallahan spokeswoman Charla Neuman says Mallahan's position "has evolved since he first talked to you in May and learned about the resources. [The trolley] diverts resources. There's a trade off and you lose bus service."

Neuman says Mallahan believes you get "a bigger bang for your buck" if we would have spent the money on buses.

(And re: Mercer, Mallahan basically told us the same thing he originally told the Seattle Times. He said it was "stealing" money from the Bridging the Gap levy that was supposed to go to basics like neighborhood sidewalks.)
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