More on the McGinn Shakeup

By Erica C. Barnett December 11, 2009

As we mentioned in Morning Fizz, Mayor-Elect Mike McGinn just announced several members of his new administration. In addition to the names announced last night, we've heard that McGinn will bring on Ethan Raup, former chief of staff for ex-county executive Ron Sims, and Chris Bushnell, former chief economist for King County. McGinn hasn't announced either hire or confirmed what either Raup or Bushnell would do, but I've heard Raup would be a special assistant for external affairs and Bushnell would serve as some sort of financial adviser.

Although McGinn wouldn't comment beyond last night's press release on his specific choices, here are my thoughts on the transition (aided by, and in some cases cribbed from, city hall insiders):

Current finance director Dwight Dively's new position looks like a demotion to me. Although McGinn announced that Dively would be "continuing as director of finance," what's actually happening is that McGinn is consolidating the Department of Executive Administration (currently headed by Fred Podesta, who will take an unnamed "customer service" position in McGinn's cabinet) and the Department of Fleets and Facilities (currently headed by Brenda Bauer, who came under fire for her handling of the Fire Station 20 controversy) under Dively. Dively will no longer be at City Hall, where he has long enjoyed easy access to the mayor. Instead, he'll be across the street in the Seattle Municipal Tower. And he'll no longer oversee the city's annual budget process, something he's done for eight years under Nickels.

McGinn's real budget guru? Beth Goldberg. Goldberg, a longtime economist at King County and a former monorail board member, will head up the actual budget process. City hall staffers say they expect Goldberg to shake up the city's usual budget-writing process (in which the mayor and council start with the previous year's budget and cut or add as needed) and potentially propose consolidating some departments.

Of all the folks McGinn could have fired, Alan Painter, the current director of the human services department, seems like an odd choice. Sure, he wasn't the type of department head interested in shaking up the status quo, but he was a solid bureaucrat with strong support from the human services community. In fact, Candace Inagi, one of McGinn's "ambassadors," explicitly mentioned Painter as a "very good" human services director in response to the question "How do we build the strongest possible team?"; when he was appointed HSD director in January 2009, Painter received 47 letters of support and none in opposition. McGinn's announcing more department heads next week, so I assume he's had someone in mind to replace Painter for some time.

The biggest missing pieces in this week's announcement: Who will head up the departments of housing, City Light, and Transportation? McGinn seems pretty unlikely to try to replace City Light director Jorge Carrasco. First of all, it would be tough to find an equally qualified candidate to replace him (and to get that person confirmed by the City Council). Second, McGinn's already in the middle of reviewing candidates for another critical, hard-to-fill position, police chief. It wouldn't make much sense to pile a City Light search onto that workload.

As for housing, currently headed by Adrienne Quinn, there's been some speculation that McGinn will keep Quinn on but consolidate housing into another department.

Finally, speculation is heavy that McGinn will keep controversial (but eminently capable) transportation director Grace Crunican, at least until the council moves forward on the proposed Mercer fix. (The complicated $290 million project involves turning Mercer into a two-way street, reconnecting some of the street grid near South Lake Union, and preparing area for tunnel construction). In January, the federal government will announce whether Mercer will receive federal money; Crunican's reconfirmation, meanwhile, is scheduled for April.

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