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Dear Mayor (whoever you are):

Without taking a position on the mayor's race, a leading Seattle neighborhood activist offers some advice for the winner. For starters, fire the bodyguard and get out there among the people.

I don’t know who our next mayor will be. In a sense I don’t care as much who it is as I care about how he will do the job. The campaigns of neither candidate do much to inspire my confidence. While, like most people, I have opinions on current city issues, the candidate I want elected should be less about issues and more about tending to the business of running the city. I’d like that to be with fairness and efficiency. But even more important to me is that the new mayor might share at least some of the same values as I do. So what might they be?

I value my family, my home as a sanctuary, my security, and my privacy. I find it important to have my city protect open space, trees, and some views of our natural beauty. I value a neighborhood where I can feel secure and find a sense of belonging by knowing the people who live there. I chose to live and invest in Seattle and a neighborhood for what it is, not what an ideological theorist or mayor, intent on social engineering my lifestyle, would have it become.

I believe there are limits to everything on the planet, including growth. If the livability of our city is to be retained then we must not grow larger or faster than our infrastructure or geography can support just so a mayor can brag at national conferences.

Since I believe growth requires infrastructure, that means we need to be able to afford what we choose to do. If the cost of infrastructure for infinite growth leads to a bankrupt or unaffordable city, maybe we should rethink our methodology.

I’d like my mayor to administer a city that lives within its means just as citizens must. Doesn't it make sense to say that if a citizen can’t demand more pay so they can buy a new car, the city should not raise taxes to hire an extra 1,000 city employees?

I admit to being old-fashioned about this, but my values say our first priority should be to manage well what we have before investing in something new. That means maintenance. If the homeowner must save money to keep the roof repaired before taking a luxury vacation then so must the city get to taking care of the nearly $1 billion in deferred maintenance before cosmetic improvements or dream projects.

While ribbon cutting appears to be part of a mayor's job, I’d rather the mayor spend a lot more time out of the office and making sure the business of the city is getting done. The number of city employees and their pay has increased out of proportion to the population of the city. Our City Charter gives the mayor the responsibility of departmental accountability, and from every measure I see the current mayor has spent more time courting growth than making sure his appointed department heads got the work of the city done. Why not do what most employers do: base pay on performance?

I’d like a mayor who doesn’t think he is better than we are. He and other city administrators are the employees of the people. I really believe in the words that are part of the prologue to the state public disclosure law: "The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies that serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may maintain control over the instruments that they have created."

I’d like my mayor to allow city administrators to work directly with City Council members without his permission. Mutual cooperation and respect solves far more problems. And while we’re talking about respect, I’d like my mayor to be respectful of our neighboring cities and not have the attitude that Seattle is the center of the universe, or of all the jobs that drive the economy.


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Comments:

Posted Tue, Oct 6, 9:19 a.m. Inappropriate

You want fries with that?

Posted Tue, Oct 6, 10:29 a.m. Inappropriate

@Eastlake - how 'bout a Blackberry shake from Daly's?, as well as respect for folks that actually do business, not those whose business is, uh, manipulating government for profit.

Posted Tue, Oct 6, 10:32 a.m. Inappropriate

Poor Joe! He's served so many mayors well and unobtrusively. Bodyguard though he be, he been a very personable link across the years from mayor to mayor.

MJH

Posted Tue, Oct 6, 11:22 a.m. Inappropriate

Write in Rudy Giuliani.

animalal

Posted Tue, Oct 6, 11:24 a.m. Inappropriate

Great article.
How can you get the current mayor to read this>
Be sure to get both candidates to read it.
That policeman, that guards the mayor, is probably one of the many city and county employees that make over one hundred thousand per year; with his overtime, which I am sure there has to be plenty of.
The last I read, is that there are over eleven hundred County employees that make over one hundred thousand a year.
Why do County Park employees have to spend so much time cutting the grass in Discovery Park? I recently observed three trucks, Seattle Parks trucks, and six workers blowing leaves and debris off of a sidewalk on Magnolia Blvd., and This was on a Sunday????????

dougd

Posted Tue, Oct 6, 2:22 p.m. Inappropriate

Oh brother.

This is article is insipid. The "little guy who isn't asking for much" tone is childish and nauseating. It uses two pages of words to convey a half-sentence worth of substance.

If this is the job description for Seattle mayor, no qualified (or sane) person will ever apply.

Sean

Posted Tue, Oct 6, 5:25 p.m. Inappropriate

Ease up, Sean. Kent is asking for a mayor with a sense of connection to ordinary people; don't read so much into his specific examples.

Personally, I think he's on to something.

Posted Tue, Oct 6, 9:16 p.m. Inappropriate

The writer of this article is a narrow minded buffoon. He probaly has never been in a fight in his life or threatened in any way. If he believes that the Mayor does not need any type of protection, have him give former Mayor Paul Schell a call. This warm and fuzzy, lovey dovey crap is going to get someone hurt. Geez!

oda173

Posted Tue, Oct 6, 11:17 p.m. Inappropriate

-- R on Beacon Hill

If Kent is simply asking for a mayor with charisma, then I couldn't agree more.

But this article just panders to the growing cacauphony of self-proclaimed "ordinary people" and "little guys" who have mistaken their perpetual sense of inferiority, self-righteousness, and victimization for political thought.

Gone are the days when ordinary people saw themselves as citizens of a city rather than isolated property owners, or when they took pride in "vanity" projects like Seattle Center and the Space Needle. The ordinary people of yore have been replaced by cranks who are so paranoid of government that they convinced themselves a public park in the middle of the city built largely on donated land was nothing but a playground for the rich (I'm referring to the Commons, if it isn't obvious). That's insane. No such parks exist in Seattle. Ever been to Volunteer Park? It's surrounded by mansions, and there's nothing exclusive about it or the people who go there.

As long as Seattle is filled people who have no sense of common interest, who see everything as us vs. them, then we've basically set up anyone foolish enough to take the job of mayor to fail.

Steinbrueck should have been our next mayor, but he is no fool.

Sean

Posted Wed, Oct 7, 8:56 a.m. Inappropriate

Sean, in addition to being your usual churlish self, you've gotten a major fact about the proposed Seattle Commons wrong - Paul Allen proposed to donate about $20 million worth of land toward a $400 million project. Guess who got to pick up the rest of the tab? And guess where most of the land Mr. Allen bought in SLU was? Yup, outside of the proposed park boundaries.

You may not see a pattern there, but lots of others did. And, oddly enough, when the entire plan didn't pass, Mr. Allen chose not to donate ANY land for a neighborhood park - including the land they used for temporary park to help sell the project that was later converted to the marketing center for Vulcan.

Posted Wed, Oct 7, 2:18 p.m. Inappropriate

-- bubbleator

The fact that you and so many others reflexively assume the worst motives
in anyone in a position to do something big in Seattle is exactly my point. Corruption and greed seem to be the only type of "pattern" this crowd is able to discern.

Here's another pattern for you to contemplate - myopia, paranoia, stinginess, and envy. Look around, see it anywhere?

P.S. Churlish? Ok, fair enough.

Sean

Posted Wed, Oct 7, 3:51 p.m. Inappropriate

-- bubbleator

Regarding Allen's decision not to support a small park: Most of the tiny parks in Seattle are either underutilized or abused. I don't think Arthur Denny or Victor Steinbrueck would be very pleased if they saw what's become of the parks bearing their name, and you can't blame Allen for not wanting to repeat those mistakes.

For the Commons to be a destination rather than a place to avoid, it needed to big.

Sean

Posted Wed, Oct 7, 4:13 p.m. Inappropriate

-- bubbleator

By the way, the $400 million dollar price tag you mentioned for the Commons would also have fixed Mercer St, which will now cost us about $290 million.

Sean

Posted Thu, Oct 8, 11:55 a.m. Inappropriate

Actually, that was $90 million to put a park lid over the existing Mercer/Valley couplet. Not exactly a "fix" - which Commons skeptics pointed out at the time - and the current $290 million estimate for cosmetic improvements to the corridor doesn't make any more sense.

Posted Sun, Oct 11, 11:11 p.m. Inappropriate

Great ideas. All in a position of power - private or public sector - should walk in the shoes of their constituents or employees to get a flavor.

bricsa

Posted Mon, Oct 12, 10:44 a.m. Inappropriate

"Sean", come back in 10 years or so when you have more age and perspective on city history and politics. Trust me, you'll feel different then.

Thanks for a well-written piece, Kent. The city, especially neighborhoods, has been in a long downard spiral for the last eight years under Nickels. We've witnessed our current Mayor spending too much time posturing for national honors and playing up to special interest groups and too little time and attention devoted to the un-sexy issues of infrastructure and public safety. The wisdom of the voters came through in the August primary. To this day, Nickels probably can't figure out why failure will be his legacy.

I've looked closely at the candidates and there is one clear choice, Joe Mallahan. McGinn is Nickels on a bicycle. McGinn supported the Nickels agenda item for item, with the exception of the tunnel project. The voters have already weighed-in on Nickels so why extend the Nickels legacy with McGinn?

Joe Mallahan is a breath of fresh air. He has the rare experience of running a large and complex corporation. Mallahan speaks the language of business. His family background and personal experience has provided him with a perspective on society's social burden.

Mallahan is a complete candidate and I believe he is best suited to move Seattle forward.

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