Several things are vexing me in this political season:
Our feckless mayoral campaign. Now we know why it would have been best had a well-known, experienced local figure (such as former and present City Council members Peter Steinbrueck or Nick Licata) decided to challenge outgoing Mayor Greg Nickels in the primary election. Michael McGinn and Joe Mallahan are engaged in a discouraging race to the bottom.
McGinn, until now, has run mainly on a "stop the tunnel" platform, generating support among Seattle voters who do not like the notion of a deep-bore tunnel replacement for the Alaskan Way Viaduct. State, county, and local governments previously had agreed on the tunnel option to replace a viaduct which has been an eight-year public safety hazard.
McGinn's success on this issue predictably has aroused and frightened supporters of other big public-works projects, including Sound Transit light rail and the Mercer Project, designed by Mayor Nickels to benefit Vulcan Inc.'s South Lake Union commercial real estate development McGinn's apparent olive branch to this community was his announced support Wednesday for extension of Sound Transit light rail to Ballard, Interbay, Queen Anne, Belltown, downtown, West Seattle, and perhaps Fremont.
Whoa! The present light rail plan, narrowly passed in 2008, calls for $23 billion, and probably more, in tax increases for a three-county light rail system — the largest local-level tax increase in U.S. history. McGinn's proposed extensions would cost many times more than the deep-bore tunnel he now criticizes for its costs. This is a hyper-cynical proposal on behalf of a system which would be far more costly, and carry fewer passengers, than a simple expansion of bus service to the Seattle neighborhoods involved.
Mallahan,for his part, still has a slight lead in polls and has drawn a number of establishment endorsements. But, given his financial advantages over McGinn, Mallahan by now should have a crushing lead in the race. He has performed indifferently at joint forums, proved tone-deaf to questions raised at district Democratic meetings, and still appears less than knowledgeable about salient city issues. His campaign also has become notorious for unreturned phone calls — even those placed from mobile phones (and Mallahan is a T-Mobile executive). Mallahan worked for a time in a congressional office, organized for President Obama, and is a marketing executive. He shows little sign that these experiences have rubbed off on him.
It's perplexing. McGinn appears slippery and calculating, Mallahan out of his environment. Small wonder that "undecideds" are so numerous.
Racism raised as an issue. Some politicos and media figures have raised racism as the motivating factor in the heckling of President Obama during his speech to the Congress last week and, for that matter, in recent criticisms of his health-care proposals. Too many good men and women have shed too much blood and effort, over too many years, to fight real racism to have a phony "racism" issue raised over what clearly was a foolish, emotional outcry of "liar" by Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina in response to Obama's remarks. The congressman has apologized. He has been chastised by his House colleagues. Subsequent charges of "racism" by former President Jimmy Carter, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, and several TV commentators and Democratic elected officials have lacked any substantive foundation.
Moreover, these charges are hurting rather than helping Obama. Upcoming polling is likely to show that most Americans see this as a cynical political tactic more identified with race hustlers such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson than with serious people of any race or ethnicity. It is far worse in degree than former President Bill Clinton's misstep in the 2008 South Carolina Democratic presidential primary, when he attempted to introduce race as an issue. Conservative media and commentators are having a field day milking public reaction to the phony racism charges. Let's get back to the real issues and away from this nasty distraction.
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