The McGinn Metaphor

By Josh Feit March 3, 2011

I've written several editorials over the last year pointing out that Mayor Mike McGinn's strange bedfellows anti-tunnel coalition—a combo of greens who are against the tunnel for environmental reasons (it caters to car culture without any transit component) and Lesser Seattle, anti-tax folks who don't like downtown mega-projects—puts McGinn's agenda at risk.

Felix and Oscar, the Odd Couple

By aligning himself with old-school Seattle, McGinn, a former Sierra Club leader who revisioned Seattle's neighborhood movement for the 21st century—prioritizing urbanism over NIMBYism—is now relying on, and empowering, a faction that will stand in the way of McGinn's broader to-do list: The surface/transit option; light rail in Seattle's neighborhoods; density; and nightlife.

Now, here's the metaphor that makes it all clear. In a press release that went out earlier this week titled "New Coalition comes together to bring tunnel agreements to a vote," the Sierra-Club-backed Move Seattle Smarter and a Lesser Seattle pro-rebuild group called Seattle Citizens Against the Tunnel announced they're joining forces (both groups had been shopping separate citizens initiatives to stop the tunnel, but the green group dropped theirs) to file a referendum to overturn the city council's recent ordinance committing the city to the tunnel project.

The new group is called the Protect Seattle Now coalition. I call them the McGinn Metaphor coalition.

McGinn staffer Ainsley Close is on leave from her job as a McGinn advisor to head the new group.

I have to admit: McGinn has come out on top before after aligning himself with the opposite camp. In 2007, his Sierra Club faction teamed up with the Kemper Freeman anti-light rail faction to stop the roads and transit initiative dead in its tracks. A year later, a light-rail-only package passed at the polls, just as McGinn said it would. (However, he was notably absent from that "Yes" campaign.)

However, McGinn's 2007 alliance was one of temporary convenience for a campaign.  His new alliance actually provides the horsepower for his administration, which is in the business of setting the city's agenda.

Footnote: While it seems telling—in a bad way—that the green Move Seattle Smarter folks have given up their own initiative (we were at the kick-off rally back in January), the progressive folks do appear to still be running the show at the new campaign: The leadership team, which includes Sierra Club guy Scot Brannon, social justic activist Yusuf Cabdi, Real Change leader Tim Harris, and green activist Kevin Fullerton—comes from the left side of the partnership.
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