Assuming a bond issue of about $240 million to fix Seattle's seawall and an interest rate in the 5 percent range, it appears the annual bond payment would be approximately $16 million.
Assuming the salary, benefit and logistics cost for 200 senior city positions would be $80,000 each, 200 such reductions would save the city $16 million per year.
Is this convenient, or what?
This beneficial symmetry between two proposals from new Mayor Mike McGinn is worth considering at a time when the private economy is still shrinking, unemployment is up, housing values are down, and real estate development fees, which have been key to funding infrastructure, are way down. And it deserves consideration as part of a logical, measured, not precipitous, plan to fund the seawall.
Seattle deserves its reputation for being very generous with funding votes. But, the success of those votes has been earned, not announced.
Thinking back to a long series of successful funding votes under Mayors Royer, Rice, Schell, and Nickels, the press conferences announcing ballot measures came after, not before, a) facility planning; b) financial planning (what other sources? what else is on the ballot soon?); c) constituent engagement; and d) political assessment via polling and talks with potential campaign supporters and funders. Senior housing (1981), the zoo (1985) museum/housing (1986), families and education (1990), Sound Transit (1996), fire stations (2003), Bridging the Gap (2006) and more followed that logical sequence.
Announcement first has never worked.
Let'ês applaud McGinn'ês 'êomigosh, look what I learned'ê prioritization of the seawall: it is unsafe, after all. But Mayor Royer first learned of the 'êcritical" seawall problem in the mid 1980s. Twenty-five years later, there is still time to take a breath, think in a logical sequence, and develop a workable solution. This measured approach is especially worth considering for a seawall fully enmeshed in adjacent controversies. Announcement first is a recipe for defeat. Adjacent controversy pours salt on that recipe. We all know that.
Meanwhile, as with presidents, we need the new mayor to be successful. Seattle'ês political animals need to assume McGinn is a guy whose intentions are good, not let one press event be automatically misunderstood. A mistaken media stunt on the 14th day of the McGinn administration did open the door to suspicion, but still leaves 3 years, 11 and a half months in his elected term. Attacking McGinn'ês motivations now is just another form of media stunt. Solid policy grounds allow the good burgesses of the council to say no to a May ballot, then set up steps a, b, c and d. An announcement, step e, can come later.
And, dear burgesses, as you step think through the issues, consider the financial symmetry noted above. Self-disciplined funding of infrastructure repair has its merits.