In a press conference Thursday that seemed to signal a rebranding, Mayor Mike McGinn talked about jobs. At length. He made repeated remarks about how long he was talking, but, of course, he said the subject is important in the current economy.
The political value to the mayor of focusing on jobs, or any other practical aspect of governing the city, would be hard to miss. After his obsessive opposition to the proposed waterfront tunnel from the time he took office to the landslide voter approval of the project this month, he needed to change the subject. And he obviously needs to identify himself in a new way.
Even if the press conference felt like a forced march to media listeners, McGinn pretty much threw himself into it. He sounded his smart, lawyer-politician self in making his points. He had a good cast of mostly small-business and union folks speaking up about various ways the city had supported them. McGinn got surprisingly loud in jousting with Seattlepi.com's Joel Connelly over a recent story pointing out problems in a residential energy efficiency program, but the mayor also managed to sound serious about making sure the program gets in gear. Maybe a bit of near-scripted conflict helps get the mayor into the news, reinforcing the efforts at rebranding.
After a defeat, politicians always engage in creating new versions of themselves. The bigger issue is whether McGinn's rebranding is on the right track, whether the effort will serve larger public needs.
In a way, this focus on jobs is almost the reverse of how Greg Nickels evolved as a mayor. When Nickels started his eight years in office, he was all about jobs and fixing potholes. He gradually took on bigger issues, particularly the environment and global warming. In contrast, McGinn came in after a close win and, as far as anyone could tell, his main thought was to pursue his longstanding beliefs on environmental issues and, perhaps secondarily, work on what seems to be a very real sense of building a stronger community out of diversity. Now, it's all about jobs, with a credible, true-to-himself subtext of green ones and a widening of opportunity.
Not a bad theme for a mayor, or for a city. Lengthy mayoral talks aside, long-term performance will be what counts.