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Exit Interview: Mayor McGinn goes out swinging

The outgoing mayor sits down with Crosscut to talk political faux pas, the new political landscape and why the city council is starting to scramble.
Mayor Mike McGinn concedes the election.

Mayor Mike McGinn concedes the election. Bill Lucia

Seattle's outgoing mayor can't or won't name Seattle's political power elite. Asked which five of the city's top power brokers he would like to put in a room together, Mike McGinn demurs. They're more of a force, he says. Protectors of turf. Broadly speaking, they are members of what he calls "the donor class" — people whose money and influence give them unequal access to power.

"When I came in, I didn't know the rings I was supposed to kiss," he says. Four years later, he is an outsider still. And if he didn't know which rings required a pucker, he certainly was adept at stepping on toes.

Early on, he put forward his plan for replacing the seawall without fully briefing the city council. They slapped him down. "The real crime was that a new mayor like myself did not appreciate the territoriality" of the city council, he says. They were letting the new kid in the game know whose home court it was.

In another establishment oops moment, the outgoing mayor tried to re-open a city agreement with the Museum of History and Industry. Budget times were tough (the city was facing a $60 million budget "adjustment") and McGinn, emboldened by a windfall sale of the old Montlake MOHAI property to the state, wanted to see if he could get back some funds dedicated to their South Lake Union move. He was slashing city budgets and asking unions for concessions. Why not ask the museum for some help? 

So the city wrote MOHAI a letter, requesting a new deal. That's just not how it's done, McGinn was told: You pick up the phone. The letter was leaked and suddenly McGinn looked like heritage's Scrooge. "That just shows the power you have when you have a powerful board and a $500-per-hour lawyer," he says. "I got clobbered."

Such are the hard knocks of Mayor's School. 

But McGinn continues to be suspicious of the donor class' notion of consensus. Access to power in Seattle, he says, is not equal. Policy is made by monied interests who finance campaigns and have big stakes in outcomes; politics that push people toward a skewed center and compromises that avoid our biggest problems.

"I was never content as mayor to find out where the middle is," McGinn says. For example, on the environment, he believes tough choices have to be made, sides have to be picked, a new set of priorities identified (note the bikes vs. cars debate). 

He points to Gov. Jay Inslee's climate change workgroup. "Kudos to Inslee for flushing out the differences between Republicans and Democrats" on climate policy, he says. 

Still, he questions the compromise transportation plan the governor is extracting from the Legislature — a House bill "that will be really bad for the environment" and a Senate bill "that will be really, *really* bad." The plans call for too many new roads and highways, he says, and too little transit, road repair and maintenance. Any potential bipartisan compromise has already been compromised by the wrong priorities.

McGinn made his name shooting down a road-heavy transportation plan. If a new one comes to the ballot box, will he lead the charge to defeat it? "Great question," he says with a smile. He lets it hang there.

Noted for his skepticism about the tunnel, he seems tempted to say I-told-you-so about Big Bertha's stalled progress. Thom Neff, his tunnel consultant, warned in advance that soil hazards (boulders, etc.) and the project's relatively unknown underground route make it very high-risk. But McGinn likens Seattle's "powerbrokers" to the Pyramid builders: Merely paving a road, he says, "doesn't get you remembered in the future." 

And being a Cassandra doesn't make you many friends.

But the entrenched donor class is facing a changed landscape. McGinn, who supported the switch to districts, believes they will move city government closer to the people; will make it easier to run grassroots, doorbell campaigns, yes, but also to expand a candidate's donor base. The money — and constituencies — that elect mayors and council members, he says, will not be coming from the same fat wallets anymore.


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Comments:

Posted Thu, Dec 19, 1:17 p.m. Inappropriate

Not sure why the mayor played so coy when asked about the "donor class" members. They self-identify, as in this list of contributors to the "Keep Washington Rolling" PAC that was paying for large independent expenditure ads to try to get the 2007 Sound Transit ballot proposition passed.

Unlike the way any peer finances light rail, ST2 is based on a massive sales tax hike for decades as security for a pile of long-term bonds. That is a financing technique designed to harm the poorest segment of our communities, and it is a reprehensible transit financing scheme in light of how high sales taxes already are stacked in this neck of the woods. The primary beneficiaries of ST2 include rich property developers, multinational companies and Goldman Sachs (along with its local enablers for the financings).

Here are just the largest couple of dozen contributors to that Super PAC:

$250,000.00 WASHINGTON ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS
$200,000.00 MICROSOFT CORPORATION
$175,000.00 THE BOEING COMPANY
$100,000.00 BALLMER STEVEN A.
$100,000.00 GATES III WILLIAM H.
$100,000.00 MICROSOFT CORPORATION
$100,000.00 WA MUTUAL INC
$75,000.00 SEATTLE MARINERS
$50,000.00 CARRIX INC.
$50,000.00 INT'L UNION OF OPERATING ENGINEERS
$50,000.00 IUOE LOCAL 302
$50,000.00 LABORERS' POLITICAL LEAGUE EDUCATION FUND
$50,000.00 MASTER BUILDERS ASSOC. OF KING & SNO. CO.
$50,000.00 PUYALLUP TRIBE
$50,000.00 WA ASSN OF REALTORS
$50,000.00 WEYERHAEUSER
$40,000.00 NAIOP WA PAC
$40,000.00 PORT BLAKELY TREE FARMS LP
$40,000.00 PREMERA BLUE CROSS
$40,000.00 PUGET SOUND ENERGY
$40,000.00 WASHINGTON ASPHALT PAVEMENT ASSOCIATION
$35,000.00 ACEC WASHINGTON
$35,000.00 AECOM TECHNOLOGY CORPORATION
$35,000.00 LABORERS' NORTHWEST COOPERATION FUND
$35,000.00 THE TULALIP TRIBES OF WASHINGTON
$33,000.00 WA ST BUILDING & CONSTRUCTION TRADES COUNCIL
$30,000.00 AGC OF WASHINGTON
$30,000.00 DAVID EVANS & ASSOCIATES INC.
$30,000.00 GORDON THOMAS HONEYWELL LLP
$30,000.00 HDR ENGINEERING INC.
$30,000.00 HNTB CORPORATION
$30,000.00 IUOE LOCAL 612
$30,000.00 PB AMERICAS INC.
$30,000.00 TOTEM OCEAN TRAILER EXPRESS INC.
$30,000.00 WEYERHAEUSER WILLIAM T.
$25,000.00 CADMAN
$25,000.00 CH2M HILL INC.
$25,000.00 CH2M HILL INC.
$25,000.00 CITY INVESTORS LLC
$25,000.00 CLARK CONSTRUCTION GROUP LLC
$25,000.00 GLACIER NORTHWEST
$25,000.00 HATCH MOTT MACDONALD
$25,000.00 INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS
$25,000.00 KIEWIT PACIFIC CO.
$25,000.00 MASTER BUILDERS ASSOC. OF KING & SNO. CO.
$25,000.00 PEMCO
$25,000.00 PEMCO
$25,000.00 RINKER MATERIALS CORPORATION
$25,000.00 SAFECO CORPORATION
$25,000.00 SAFECO CORPORATION
$25,000.00 VULCAN INC.
$25,000.00 WA AGGREGATES & CONCRETE ASSOC. PAC
$25,000.00 WALECET
$25,000.00 WASHINGTON TEAMSTERS LEGISLATIVE LEAGUE
$25,000.00 WILDER CONSTRUCTION COMPANY
$20,000.00 AGC OF WASHINGTON
$20,000.00 BUILD
$20,000.00 CARTER & BURGESS INC.
$20,000.00 PACIFIC NW REG. COUNCIL OF CARPENTERS
$20,000.00 PARAMETRIX INC.
$20,000.00 PERTEET INC.
$20,000.00 PUGET SOUND ENERGY

crossrip

Posted Wed, Dec 25, 9:46 a.m. Inappropriate

I noticed some duplicate names in that list.
You may want to tidy it up and aggregate the $ shown for them.
(Might also be of added help to readers if they were categorized into meaningful groupings, to illuminate their interwoven nature.)

Posted Thu, Dec 19, 9:24 p.m. Inappropriate

"… wanted to see if he could get back some funds dedicated to their South Lake Union move."

MOHAI went and got a better sale price from the state, and McGinn wanted a piece of somebody else's deal, somebody else's effort.
It was a weasel move.

Mr Baker

Posted Thu, Dec 19, 9:47 p.m. Inappropriate

I'm glad Seattle had McGinn. There were 2 things about the "consensus" nice-nice culture before him:

1. It didn't get very much done - It wrung its hands about how expensive infrastructure was while watching it crumble. It threw money at pet projects that made it through not on comparative merit, but by the fact that no one wanted to say "sure, but is that really our top priority?" in a room full of head nodders.

2. It was really just a thin veil for monied or large institutional interests. The few actual, real residents it empowered were of the NIMBY type, because in an environment of nice-nice consensus, it only takes one objection to derail an idea, regardless of its comparative merit.

I think electing a mayor that goes and gets things done, even if they aren't always what we like is something a grown up city with world-wise voters just does. Otherwise, city government is ineffectual. I'd rather give someone the job that will get stuff done that I agree with 65% of the time than give someone the job who will fiddle around the edges and get nothing done. We have a lot that needs doing. Seawall, paving, curbs and gutters, safety, updated infrastructure, economic development, working with the port, rezones, code changes. None of it sexy, all of it essential. I wish we got another McGinn-like person who came in like a bulldog on those boring issues. Be the best 4 years we've had out of a mayor in a long time.

nullbull

Posted Fri, Dec 20, 1:34 a.m. Inappropriate

What a disingenuous, corrupt, double-talking, double-dealing, hypocritical, lying horse's ass, not to put too fine a point on it. McGinn, the white knight who doesn't like money in politics? The same McGinn who was financed in '09 by the tavern owners and then tried to reward them by keeping the bars open all night? McGinn who pushed a basketball arena for a (now greatly diminished) hedge fund operator, complete with lies about the tax impact?

This was a mayor who couldn't even tell the truth about the small check-ables. A census report says the percentage of city residents without cars has remained constant at 16% over the past 10 years. What did McGinn do? Lies about how the car-less population has expanded by nearly 20%. Guns are bought back and then discarded, and what does McGinn say? They were melted down to make a plaque.

This is a mayor who constantly shilled for every developer at every turn, and fought a pitched battle against the 84% of residents who drive automobiles. He lied his way into office with respect to the tunnel. He took the side of his friends, the downtown addicts and gang bangers, against the law abiding citizenry. He made his hatred for the neighborhoods and single family homeowners crystal clear. In the end, we returned the favor and booted his arrogant rear end out of his chair.

Run again, you pestilence. We'll crush you.

NotFan

Posted Fri, Dec 20, 1:57 p.m. Inappropriate

Right... because there aren't thousands and thousands of city residents interested in bars being open later, bringing a basketball team back to town, or having more non-car optinos for getting around town. Those were totally crazy, eccentric ideas which McGinn came up with all on his own with the help of just a couple of rich friends.

Mickymse

Posted Fri, Dec 20, 2:34 p.m. Inappropriate

Hyperbole galore. You realize that every time you apply your frothy-mouthed, overwrought rhetoric, the less it means. You're training an entire generation of people coming after you that "disingenuous... lying, hypocritical horse's ass" is just something you call someone you disagree with. And every time you fly off the handle, the less impact your flying off the handle has. You're freaking out again? Whatever... heard it before.

What are you going to call the dictator that tries to come into power someday? You just blew all your hyperbole on a mildly controversial mayor in the 23rd largest city in the US.

nullbull

Posted Sat, Dec 21, 2:58 p.m. Inappropriate

NotFan. You should change your name to NotHappy or NotSane of something more descriptive. Your rants aren't worth commenting on anymore.

Posted Sat, Dec 21, 11:30 p.m. Inappropriate

Yet there you go, commenting.

NotFan

Posted Fri, Dec 20, 4:36 p.m. Inappropriate

"Can you provide some documentation regarding why the tunnel project is unsafe?"

"At Risk, Earthquakes & Tsunamis on the West Coast"
JohnClague, Yorath,Franklin,Turner - 2006
FULL RIP 9.0 The Next Big Earthquake in the PacificNW. Sandi Doughton - 2013

Wsdot Documentation depicts underground water channels at varied depths under high pressure and volume quantity. Bore tunnel NOT typically recommended in these settings. Settling and the development of cavernous collapsable voids is probable.
The "fence-seawall" drill-fill type can form undetectable leaks toward the bore perimeter, adding to the danger of developing a "MUD BED" -- which can cause oscilation, uncontrollable forces, destabilizing more compact soils further east.
Worst-case scenario is building loss as far east as 3rd Ave. Osscilation/vibrations transferred at the north portal. All vulnerable building foundations nearby threatened.
"The Solution" I see is the BOX Cut-cover/Seawall -- because it compacts soil beneath, solidifies soils further east, offers optimal arrangement for controlling underground water flows under pressure, TRAFFIC MINIMIZATION! AND affects Waterfront design, AS/IS will NOT work! Portlanders say the street arrangement sucks.
Congratulations!
You still SUCK, SEATTLE!
BERTHA IS NOT YOUR FRIEND
BERTHA IS GOING TO KILL YOU

Wells

Posted Sat, Dec 21, 9:34 a.m. Inappropriate

Talk to me "Wells" . . ..

The boring machine is stuck and water is pouring in behind the cutting head. Maybe it'll get cutting again in February.

Do you think Paula Hammond bears responsibility? She was the head of WSDOT when the engineers were hired and when that state agency green-lighted the project.

crossrip

Posted Sat, Dec 21, 1:27 p.m. Inappropriate

WashDOT Department Heads are most to blame. Their expertice on basic engineering elements makes it their responsibility to adequately explain to management. Still, Hammond, MacDonald, Crunican at Sdot, trained their own (and affected other agency staff and professional fields) to ask and answer the wrong questions: Will it cost too much to build? Will the traffic tolls not work right? Do opponent and supporter fights dissuade others from further interest,
deny them ALL their Right to knowledge about the public works projects that provide the paychecks?

Wells

Posted Fri, Dec 20, 4:54 p.m. Inappropriate

Redirect the bore to meet the BOX CUT/COVER/SEAWALL.
Finish like that to PIKE and mostly cover the gradient.
Or, duh, BUILD YOUR WIDE FAST Boulevardinismo, YEA!WHat?
I'll say it again: "A Covered Gradient" NO STREET!
Do you speak english, american, notstupid?
The BOX/C/C/SEAWALL in the FEIS was favored
but not discussed much in March 2007 Seattle.
Hmmm. Makes you think...
A solution?
uuh, uuh,
uuUuuhH!?
Wha?

Wells

Posted Sat, Dec 21, 10:26 p.m. Inappropriate

Thankfully for WSDOT, they don't have to worry about construction cost overruns. Those will be covered by City of Seattle taxpayers and ratepayers.

Posted Sun, Dec 22, 8:49 a.m. Inappropriate

Are you sure? There were stories when the contractors were hired that said a design/build contract would be used, and that the contractors would be required to get insurance and performance bonds to ensure the public wouldn't be on the hook for more than the contract price:

http://www.seattlemet.com/news-and-profiles/publicola/articles/report-tunnel-bidder-has-history-of-overruns-lawsuits

WSDOT put the contractors on the hook for the additional costs of things like this, right?

crossrip

Posted Sun, Dec 22, 2:35 p.m. Inappropriate

Wells brings up Sandi Doughton's wake up call, which I am in the midst of reading thanks to the SPL. Pre Sandi, we all had the luxury of keeping our heads in the sand (pun mostly unintended). That is no longer the case with respect to the tunnel, highrises and all the rest of our hegemonists' save-the-planet "containment" policies. Here's to Sandi!

As Sandi points out, Peter Yanev raised the first call way back in the spring of 2010 with his "Shake, Rattle, Seattle" op-ed here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/28/opinion/28yanev.html?_r=0
Anyone see it? Why not?

afreeman

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