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What I liked about this election

Ten encouraging developments, plus four little worries. It only seemed like an inconsequential election season, but the omens were quite good for life after Nickels.
Jesse Israel, City Council candidate

Jesse Israel, City Council candidate Jesse Israel campaign

Mayor Nickels bolted together a powerful political and financial coalition.

Mayor Nickels bolted together a powerful political and financial coalition. Josh Trujillo, seattlepi.com

The election season ending Tuesday seemed to me to be especially rich in meaning and positive developments. That's not immediately apparent, I concede. The races seemed unfocused and undramatic, especially with two major open seats (Seattle mayor and King County executive). I can think of two reasons for the seeming lack of drama: the absence of a full-team Post-Intelligencer to give the race dialectic tension, giving us our first one-newspaper-town election; and the dumb all-mail ballot, which means the last week of coverage is no longer a kind of dramatic climax, since so many have already cast their ballots.

Still, the whole election strikes me as a meaningful inflection point in our politics, a passing beyond a political order and agenda that had grown stale. Here are my reasons for optimism:

1. Lifting of the Nickels Cloud. Mayor Greg Nickels had installed a kind of numbing regime, servicing the usual constituent groups (labor, greens, developers, minorities, City Hall unions, human-services agencies, downtown interests, powerful lobbyists and law firms) in a notably crass way: You give me your loyalty and campaign support and I give you what you want. Similarly, Nickels and Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis kept such a close watch over his department heads as to stifle originality or risk taking. It was badly out of sync with Seattle's public-interest political style, but nobody seemed to know how to get out of it. Thanks, voters!

2. Lots of Wake-up Calls. Let me count the ways: Sonics decamp, showing how incapable we are of mounting regional approaches; P-I stops printing, prompting a new crop to spring up; University of Washington learns how the Legislature never will be a trustworthy ally and starts looking for other cures; King County implodes; budget woes get a poster child (closing Seattle libraries); Port of Seattle faces up to its declining prospects; Seattle learns how much Olympia, especially Speaker Frank Chopp, wants to do it in; and Boeing plays local politicians and unions like a virtuoso, showing us what kind of a competitive world we really inhabit.

3. Legislative Shaping-up. The 2007 election was a watershed in this regard, tossing out the folks who were making the School Board, the Port, and the City Council zones of adolescent behavior, and replacing them with experienced moderates who know how to work together. (Nothing like this is happening at the King County Council, I concede.) More seems likely this election, examples being Sally Bagshaw for the City Council (a mediator trained in the Norm Maleng School of Decent Politics), Tom Albro for the Port (both a critic and a grown-up businessman), and Kay Smith-Blum on the School Board. Among the reasons this is a good thing: We're going to have to rely on the City Council to run things for the next year of on-the-job training for the new mayor.

4. New Politics, First Draft. Seattle and the region badly need a new narrative, especially since Nickels was so inward-focused that he never really supplied one, except for a little grandstanding on climate change. Credit Mike McGinn for getting one on the table — the sustainability and urban-walkability vision. Rep. Jay Inslee was saying the other day (with a loud amen chorus from Ron Sims) that climate change and creating the post-carbon economy is the closest thing he's seen to the civil rights revolution of 40 years ago. It's certainly appealing to young people, to global-economy workers, to idealists, to urban singles. Just look at Portland.

True, McGinn was a clumsy advocate, linking all this new stuff to a tired old debate about the Viaduct. And the new agenda lacked an experienced, popular advocate (such as Peter Steinbrueck). But it's clearly on the rise, and even if Mallahan wins, he'll probably steal all the best lines. Whether it has staying power (remember what happened to the bag tax) or can expand to ordinary urban concerns (police, schools, jobs) remains to be seen. But at least we have something more compelling than condo-craze or major-league status.


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Comments:

Posted Mon, Nov 2, 7:41 a.m. Inappropriate

David, I got a good chuckle out of your item 6 on Susan Hutchison. I don't see how she or her campaign can be seen as a pathway out of the wilderness for the Republican Party -- when she spent the entire campaign season steadfastly denying she's a Republican.

Posted Mon, Nov 2, 8:42 a.m. Inappropriate

I expect David Brewster *not* to be in lock-step with other media. He seems to support the tunnel, but has finally understood the depth and vision that Mike McGinn brought to this race--with leadership and fingers on the pulse of this city in many policy areas.

Thus, it puzzles that McGinn's statement that he'll work with Seattle City Council and not against them gets such a 1-dimensional "Seattle Times" propaganda take by him. I have talked with many people since then who became McGinn supporters after this. And this I am *not* spreading pro-McGinn propaganda in writing this.

McGinn has been in most every city council office and the mayor's office multiple times over the past dozen years. He has held appointments to at least four advisory committees, including the USAP on which we served together with the directors of eight city agencies. He knows how to build trust and accountability in this city and does so with a smile. McGinn had to respond to the council's 9-0 vote because of who he is--it was a statement made especially to him--and I do imagine that the media would have skewered him, too, if he hadn't.

I'm seeing that a majority of Seattle *does* see in line with what you describe as a desire for new politics, and that they see McGinn as their chance for that. We will find out soon!

dddlev

Posted Mon, Nov 2, 9:11 a.m. Inappropriate

I see McGinn differently. As an attorney who played the green card for his own benefit, he has dicredited much of the good and legitimate work that true progressives have done for this city. His followers tend to be cult-like people in search of a religion rather than a rational people working for moving this city forward. Mike can move to his beloved Portland and join the ranks of the unemployed, but Seattle needs to get back to be the vibrant, progressive city that it has been for 150 years.

unter

Posted Mon, Nov 2, 10:23 a.m. Inappropriate

I have been campaigning for Jessie Israel this season, and so I am glad to see her featured in your list. She is a very energetic, optimistic woman who I think will try to respond to all of the cities needs and interests.

I'm not entirely sure how to respond to your concerns about social justice issues falling off the radar. I share that concern, and I worried during the Nickels-era development mania that Seattle was becoming more inhospitable to low-income citizens. Those worries persist.

At the same, the one candidate who ran on a genuine social justice platform, David Bloom, has some deficencies elsewhere. I fear that his hardline approach against the tunnel and the "downtown interests" would damage the economy. Bloom also doesn't seem interested in environmental issues.

Regarding McGinn and his environmental agenda, I consider myself an environmentalist, but could not bring myself to vote for McGinn or O'Brien. I find that their approach is too ideological and based too much on "litmus tests"; for example, a real environmentalist must be against the tunnel. I also worry about environmentalism getting too wrapped up in lifestyle choices, such as density and biking, because this will lave limited appeal outside of Seattle.

Posted Mon, Nov 2, 11:36 a.m. Inappropriate

What is possibly most pathetic is that Dow Constantine has spent the entire campaign trying to define his opposition as a Republican, while declaring himself a far left partisan progressive Democrat...in a non-partisan race. The current partisan format has helped to drive King County into the mess it is today and Dow is a big part of that problem. If he wins it will only get worse.

Cameron

Posted Mon, Nov 2, 12:32 p.m. Inappropriate

unter & pepper2000:

Your comments about McGinn reek of Malleahanistic catch-phrase corporate spin.

The Mikes have *never* told me what I should do, or relied upon any ideology other than democracy when I've been at the table with them (over the past eight years). They've worked their tails off to make this a better city, and they have had the majority of the voters with them each time they've tried.

McGinn and O'Brien *are* the real progressives in their races. Try to tell me that the interests that took over the Malleahan campaign in September did so because Mike McGinn wasn't progressive enough for them.

Laughable. Laughable, I say.

dddlev

Posted Mon, Nov 2, 2:35 p.m. Inappropriate

dddlev:

I have high respect for the work that Mike McGinn and Mike O'Brien have done. I have no question whatsoever of their integrity or their commitment to realizing their vision for a better city and region. But I do question whether their policies and approaches are the best, particularly with regard to the environment. I would also echo Mr. Brewster's comments: how does Mr. McGinn's environmental vision relate to the needs of the local economy, public safety, etc.?

Posted Mon, Nov 2, 3:10 p.m. Inappropriate

pepper2000:

The environmental vision is one in which each of us understands that we have leadership and responsibilities. Upgrading to Gigabit internet speeds, for example, will reduce the need for cross-region commutes while also increasing the attractiveness of Seattle as a place to establish small businesses. Small business generates 70% or more of new jobs.

Public safety is predicated upon our turning around public apathy and increasing the public's participation in establishing better norms among the citizenry. I say that we need to view police officers as a scare valuable resource. If we think of them as the top portion of a pyramid, there are many less expensive or zero-budget items beneath them to support their efforts.

Both jobs and public safety are most effectively approached from a systems-thinking perspective. These are definitely *not* issues that fit into a "citizen as customer" model. Certainly there are people with environmental sustainability perspectives who fit the "ideologue" brand, but I find them to be a bit of a bore. Instead, I associate myself with systems thinkers who are smart enough to understand the complexity, but who constantly search for elegant solutions -- I count McGinn & O'Brien among this crowd.

-dddlev

dddlev

Posted Mon, Nov 2, 3:15 p.m. Inappropriate

I think it would be helpful for everyone to note that Mr. McGinn has public safety and economic points of view, as dddlev implies, and that they are blended into his overall platform.

Posted Mon, Nov 2, 6:43 p.m. Inappropriate

Good effort at a broad take on the election. Lots of good stuff. Hate to nitpick it.

Missed the mark on King County though. Its budget woes are shared by most local governments everywhere, and the County is in better shape than many.
The difference is that the stakes are higher. Not a big deal if a suburban city has to take big cuts, but the County has big grown-up responsibilities for courts, public health, buses, defending farms and forests, sewage treatment....to say nothing about being the local government for about 400K people.

Beyond our borders King County is considered to be an innovative and professional government. Parochial criticisms risk herding the public in the wrong direction, such as a vote for Hutchison.

Posted Mon, Nov 2, 7:36 p.m. Inappropriate

McGinn and others risk turning people off to the idea of doing anything real to reduce greenhouse gases because of their ill founded assumptions about what it will take to make a difference.

At a minimum, doing anything real will require a meaningful federal policy. The news today is that there's no chance of that anytime soon. The reason: the real cures are viewed by most people as worse than the disease.

Al Gore made a nice movie. But that was a long time ago. Radicalism on this subject will set action back, and in the meantime elect conservatives in greater numbers that will delay progress on other progressive goals.

Jan

Posted Mon, Nov 2, 10:40 p.m. Inappropriate

Looks who's back, the "Derd", possibly the worst elected ever in King County.

Cameron

Posted Mon, Nov 2, 11:13 p.m. Inappropriate

"defending farms and forests..."

I believe paving over farms and forests is more accurate.

Posted Thu, Nov 5, 1:55 p.m. Inappropriate

Brewster: I liked some of what you said, goodbye to Nickel's cloud [but sooo disappointed to hear that Constatine has brought Ceis on board his KC train). Please no more Jessie Israel, she ran a negative campaign and all but distroyed KC Park system.

Posted Sat, Nov 7, 1:52 p.m. Inappropriate

I thinkg Manahan showed his true colors at the end, playing the victim by negatively blaming McGinn for his negative blaming, rather than all taking responsibility for the way they run a campaign.

rjarmick

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