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McGinn now has three years of experience under his belt, so is slimmer in weight and heftier in accomplishments than he was in '09. Early in McGinn's term, former mayor Norm Rice told Crosscut writers that it takes all mayors time to learn the job. Royer, he joked, finally figured it out--two years into his third term. McGinn's outsider persona--an activist at heart--and competitive attitude--established him early on as someone who was willing to throw elbows. McGinn has toned it down some--his pr machine has him doing press conferences and cutting ribbons. He looks more mayoral, sounds more mayoral, and has moved his issues through tough budget times. He can be stubborn still, but seems less angry.
He also has issues to run on: The seawall project passed muster with the voters and is moving ahead, the Families and Eduction levy passed, and his push for more rail in the city is going forward too. McGinn is poised to make progress getting the city closer to broadband by activating the "dark" fiber optic lines underground. He was key to solving the tangle over the Chihuly project at Seattle Center, setting the stage for finding ways to effect more public-private projects. The SoDo basketball/hockey arena is another win in seizing a public-private opportunity.
On the downside, there is still the impression that McGinn flip-flopped on the downtown tunnel (he was against it; then said he wouldn't oppose it, which helped him pick up votes in 2009; then after the election he threw up tunnel roadblocks). Right or wrong, there was a lot of lawyerly shading there and it cemented the impression of the mayor as an obstructionist right out of the gate. Plus, the public sided with the tunnel. He's been pegged as anti-car, proposing fees and parking rates that were too high for public consumption. He was again seen as having to be dragged into an agreement with the Department of Justice over oversight of the Seattle Police Department, a stance that baffled even allies. Early on, his relationship with the city council was rocky, emblematic of a kind of inherent difficulty in getting along.
It's an example of strength as weakness. As an outside environmental activist, McGinn was well-served by being a stubborn, tough advocate and negotiator who ruffled feathers. It's been tougher governing that way. That will be a challenge in the upcoming campaign. His opponents will be coming after his leadership style. McGinn is a tough campaigner, as opponent Ed Murray allowed in speaking to Publicola: "I, for one, think that Mike McGinn is a far stronger contender than some of the chattering classes think he is. I don’t take him lightly. He did defeat an incumbent mayor. That was more than just luck. He has a significant core group of very strong supporters." McGinn's competitiveness is an asset, but only to a point: Can he be tough yet still display the warmer, fuzzier mayor made over in the almost daily press releases? Incumbents are frequently caught in that dilemma, and outsider-as-insider McGinn even more so.
So, while issues like public safety and schools and transportation will be argued, a constant thread will be leadership. Tim Burgess will be able to emphasize his collaborative style and his intellectual approach as a kind of urban sociologist with a policeman's background on public safety and reform — real reform — of the department. Ed Murray will ride the wave of the triumph of getting same-sex marriage passed in the Legislature and at the ballot box with R-74, the most important piece of civil rights legislation in decades, plus his reputation as a force in Olympia. If Ron Sims dives in, he'll bring his strong, passionate and inspiring persona and his resume from running King County. Peter Steinbrueck would be able to point to his tenure on the city council, his advocacy of planned growth, and a leadership style that enfranchises the neighborhoods. Charlie Staadecker, the bow-tied Rotarian, seems to be using the playbook of the mayoral candidate Roger Morgan in Jim Lynch's recent novel, Truth Like the Sun, running on a theme of traditional civic values with the whiff of the Rainier Club about him, passing out buttons that say, "I Believe in Seattle."
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