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Seattle Times: Ill-Informed Editorial By Joni Balter

By Josh Feit December 30, 2010

In an editorial by Joni Balter today—in which she references "a few local bloggers" (meaning me and the PI.com's Chris Grygiel)—she says we're wrong that McGinn is winning on the tunnel issue.

For starters, my own blogging colleague, Erica C. Barnett, filed a more persuasive rejoinder to my post than Balter by actually enumerating McGinn's political flops. (Erica and I went on KUOW the next day to debate the issue. It was a cool conversation.)

Erica's point is that McGinn is losing the political fights: For example, the tunnel is going forward. My point is that he's winning the PR war in Seattle. These are not mutually exclusive positions. Seattle has longed for a leader to thumb his or her nose at Olympia. That is McGinn.

Balter says McGinn's tunnel politics are disingenuous. If he was just concerned about overruns and not just trying to kill the tunnel, Balter argues, McGinn would make an honest effort to work with the legislature to repeal the overruns provision.

Totally agree. And we've said the same thing, and, in fact, we've actually talked to legislators to see if McGinn has reached out to them (he hasn't)—calling McGinn on his bluff.

But just because it's a bluff doesn't mean he's not winning. (Just makes it more maddening to Balter.) Cost overruns is the big issue with the tunnel and McGinn—disingenuous or not—will have the last laugh when every Seattle politician but him has been pretending overruns aren't an issue.

McGinn has also, correctly, focused on other flaws with the tunnel project, like the lack of downtown exits. Soon the business community will wake up to that problem. And the state's own numbers show the tunnel will displace 41,000 cars onto surface streets. That sort of gridlock had been the Times' own critique of the  surface transit option, something I pointed out to Balter when she and I squabbled on KUOW last week.)

Balter accuses Grygiel and me of "living in a pretty narrow slice of lefty Seattle." In what world---where McGinn has allied himself with fiscal conservatives---is his cost overruns rhetoric a "lefty" position? (In our "2011 is the new 2010" set of predictions today, we said McGinn is the new Tim Eyman precisely because of McGinn's righty pitchfork, anti-tax populism on the tunnel issue.)

Look, I find McGinn's Hugo Chavez schtick annoying as hell. (Ha, I know Hugo Chavez is a lefty, but populist demogoguing is populist demogoguing from the socialist left or the Eyman right). Balter's fantasy that I'm cheering on some lefty position is off the mark. Again, McGinn's pitchfork populism lines him up with an anti-tax, Lesser Seattle crowd that has obstructed development for years. Whether I like it (or Balter likes it) or not, I'm simply saying McGinn has framed the issue. And the frame is this: McGinn = pro-Seattle. The council = anti-Seattle. Except, of course in the narrow slice of the Seattle Times editorial board which is both anti-taxes and anti-gridlock, yet is pro-tunnel.
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