The tunnel amendment that will not die

Why Mayor McGinn, whose whole purpose in life appears to be getting rid of the cost-overrun amendment, secretly loves the dastardly measure.

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The proposed waterfront tunnel

Why Mayor McGinn, whose whole purpose in life appears to be getting rid of the cost-overrun amendment, secretly loves the dastardly measure.

Publicola has a cute little story about how Mayor Mike McGinn is missing in action on his pledge to lobby the legislature over the infamous cost-overruns amendment on the SR-99 tunnel. Why am I not surprised at the mayor's inaction?

When I was interviewing McGinn a few weeks ago and he was complaining that Gov. Gregoire didn't want to push for removal of the provision, I asked if he was going to do so. "I'm not in the Legislature," was his first, coy answer. Yes, but you're putting together a legislative request package and you actually have city lobbyists, I volleyed. Okay, he finally said; he would sorta push for it.

But of course I knew he wouldn't, really. That measure is McGinn's meal ticket in Seattle politics, and he dines off it all the time. He scores points by saying that others who brush off the amendment as meaningless mischief are failing to defend the Seattle taxpayer. He uses its continued presence as a sign that Gov. Gregoire has it in for Seattle. And it keeps alive his many objections to the tunnel.

In short, it's a good wedge issue, putting other pols on the spot. Why would anyone want to get rid of that? Further, the mayor must realize that the tunnel supporters aren't about to try to surgically remove the amendment because getting the whole issue back on the floor of the House would give Speaker Frank Chopp, who dislikes the tunnel as much as McGinn does, a grand opportunity to torpedo the whole Viaduct solution. In no small part because of McGinn's sly sabotage of the tunnel, Seattle is even more unpopular than usual in Olympia, so the chances for sinking the tunnel are better than ever, should it come to another vote.

Finally, removing the measure would be meaningless in the long run. If the tunnel turns into Big Dig West and there are huge overruns, the matter will clearly end up in some future legislature, where a deal would have to be cut involving state funds, Seattle funds, Patty Murray funds, and scale-backs of the project. No amendment, or former amendment would mean a fig then.

Still, you have to admire McGinn for riding this horse as long as he has. And you have to imagine all the chuckles that wily Frank Chopp is having, since it was he who cooked up the idea of the cost-overrun amendment. Chopp, true to his wizardly ways, denies this and even has the chutzpah to say it was Gregoire's idea for the amendment. I, of course, know who really did it. (Dick Cheney, seeking a way to drive liberal Seattle mad for a decade.)


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