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McGinn Releases Public Safety Plan

By Josh Feit September 14, 2009

Mayoral candidate Mike McGinn—known as an urban Green—has been hit since day one for not paying attention to the issue of crime and gang violence. It's a bread and butter issue, and his nearly total failure to raise the issue of public safety on the campaign trail (and his enviro fixation on the tunnel) has helped feed his image as an out-of-touch yuppie.

Today, however, McGinn beat his opponent, Joe Mallahan, to the punch with a three-page public safety white paper. (Mallahan came on strong on the issue of gang violence during the primary by criticizing Mayor Greg Nickels for scaling back the gang unit). McGinn's plan includes bullet points like "increased prosecution of gun crimes," "fully support the community policing plan," and "pre-arrest diversion programs that target the root of the problem."

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"The takeaway?" McGinn tells PubliCola, "this is a holistic approach with a focus on early intervention." And his plan concludes with a shot at heavy handed tough-on-crime tactics like Nickels' and City Attorney Tom Carr's "Operation Sobering Thought"—the much criticized sting operation at clubs, that netted no convictions.

Asked about his lack of attention to this issue earlier in the campaign, McGinn says "I intended to release a plan on this all along, but given the complexity of the issue, I wanted to talk to people in the community first."

McGinn's plan stresses combating gun violence. Specifically, he says he will increase prosecution of gun crimes by bringing in the feds and increase penalties for juveniles possessing guns (something King County prosecutor Dan Satterberg is already working on.)

Indeed, a closer look at McGinn's plan shows that for the most part, it relies on continuing existing programs. To pick just a few: Keeping firearms out of public places like parks (a high-profile Nickels effort launched after a shooting at Folklife last year); continuing Nickels' $8 million youth violence prevention initiative, which focuses on intervention with the 800 kids that have been identified as the most at risk of getting involved in violence; and fully implementing Nickels' neighborhood policing plan, by freeing up officers to be in the community to prevent crimes rather than just being on call to respond.

(While McGinn's laundry list of programs seems more an endorsement of Mayor Nickels' past work and continuing Satterberg's initiatives than any bold new blue print, McGinn's wonkery (bullet point 10 is about the Drug Market Initiative) also demonstrates that McGinn is familiar with a range of public safety programs. And so, his white paper reads like an implicit dig at Mallahan—who's getting a rep for not knowing much about current city policies or programs.)

Ultimately though, with Seattle's well-publicized $72 million budget shortfall, McGinn's plan doesn't say where he'll get the money to fund his proposals, some of which—fully implementing community policing—will carry a hefty price tag.

Asked about the costs, McGinn said it was a matter of "prioritizing our commitment to intervention programs that we know work." He accused the city of "drifting away from them" saying we need to "keep our focus ... instead of new commitments like the tunnel."
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