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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

McGinn Dismisses Burgess Transportation Proposal as a Great Plan "for 1975"

Posted by on Wed, Mar 13, 2013 at 2:00 PM

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn isn't exactly thrilled with City Council member and mayoral challenger Tim Burgess's new transportation plan. "Really, it's a great transportation plan," insists McGinn, "for 1975."


"There's no rail transit in it," McGinn complains about a "Plan for the Future" that apparently sees no future in rail. The topic of rail did come up at yesterday's press conference—specifically the question of extending rapid transit to Ballard—but Burgess claimed to be mode-agnostic. Burgess said he'd support whatever the studies recommend, "rubber or rail."

But that's not the mayor's only critique. McGinn characterizes Burgess's call for more transportation funding as hypocritical in the face of Burgess's successful 2009 effort to repeal the Head Tax and the $4.5 million a year in transportation spending it once produced. And he describes Burgess's focus on pothole repair as both sudden and unworkable.

"The first time Tim Burgess showed any interest in potholes was when he found one outside his campaign office," quips McGinn.

Burgess has proposed abandoning the city's current complaint-based pothole repair system for a grid-based system modeled on Seattle City Light's program of fixing street lamps a neighborhood at a time. But McGinn worries that this could leave the worst potholes unfilled while crews are busing patching less severely damaged streets. "We want to provide customer service," says McGinn.

Burgess also points to the City of Olympia's "Least-Cost Strategy to Pavement Management" as a model program, but McGinn counters that these strategies are already in place in practice, if not in name. It was on McGinn's watch that the city reinstituted "crack seal" and "chip seal" programs in an effort to prevent potholes before they appear. "We've invested $28 million over the past two years in spot repairs," says McGinn.

McGinn also disputes Burgess's assertion that the city has left transportation funding on the table by failing to burn through its available bonding capacity. McGinn explains that SDOT had been borrowing more than it needed because projects were coming in under budget. The city could have borrowed more money, says McGinn, but then it would have to find additional revenue to pay the bonds off. "It's a function of getting your cash flow right," explains McGinn.

And finally, McGinn dismisses the only transit proposal in Burgess's plan: A call to negotiate with Metro to assure that savings from city-financed transit improvements flow back to Seattle residents in the form of better service. "His plan is to ask for $6 million more from Metro at a time they're headed over a fiscal cliff," scoffs McGinn, suggesting that Burgess's efforts would be better spent fighting for the permanent taxing authority necessary for Metro to stave off massive service cuts.

But despite the dismissive tone of the mayor's rebuttal, he and Burgess don't disagree on everything. Burgess is calling for a substantial increase in the "Bridging the Gap" levy when it comes up for renewal. "Absolutely," says McGinn when asked if he could spend the extra money. "I was one of the original backers of Bridging the Gap," claims McGinn.

The truth is, there's not a whole lot of substance in Burgess's plan, nor was it much of an attack on McGinn's administration. The bulk of Burgess's plan merely highlights that we're not spending enough money maintaining Seattle's roads, bridges, and sidewalks. No controversy there.

What I find most interesting in this exchange is McGinn's eagerness to parry. It's an aggressive response that could make for an interesting (and possibly even informative) mayoral campaign.


Comments (12) RSS

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keshmeshi 1
But McGinn worries that this could leave the worst potholes unfilled while crews are busing patching less severely damaged streets

Then what's McGinn's explanation for the mess in the ID and SODO? The complaint-based system means that minor potholes on the most high traffic roads get fixed first, and the three-foot sinkhole on a side street gets ignored for months.
Posted by keshmeshi on March 13, 2013 at 2:10 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 2
You know, if Seattle was a State and not a city in a county, this would not be a problem.
Posted by Will in Seattle on March 13, 2013 at 2:15 PM · Report this
Potholes are the opium of the masses.
Posted by Timothy on March 13, 2013 at 2:23 PM · Report this
Dougsf 4
You'll have to travel a lot further into the past than 1975 to find a time where buses are the solution to our transportation woes. By '75, Seattle had—sadly—already voted "no" on Forward Thrust. Twice.
Posted by Dougsf on March 13, 2013 at 2:28 PM · Report this
Elvis 5
Burgess, get your hands off my trains, ya damn municipal neo-con.
Posted by Elvis on March 13, 2013 at 2:30 PM · Report this
sikandro 6
I will probably vote for whichever candidate seems most likely to implement a real public transit system.
Posted by sikandro on March 13, 2013 at 2:38 PM · Report this
south downtown 7
It's pretty clear we don't have adequate resources for potholes or trains
Posted by south downtown on March 13, 2013 at 2:41 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 8
Meanwhile, guess which giant tunnel project is still almost totally unfunded?

Come on, guess!
Posted by Will in Seattle on March 13, 2013 at 2:47 PM · Report this
This is awfully fun to watch.
Posted by hmmmmm on March 13, 2013 at 2:57 PM · Report this
recnetly city workers came to the neighborhood planting little white flags. they inform me these are where they will plant trees. a few feet away, there are potholes and crumbling roads; thorny blackberry arms growing 5, 10 or 20 feet long in the largish neutral ground the city fails to maintain and that neighbors clip; and the old crappy basketball goal lying int he street for years is still there -- it's as if SDOT is oblivious to all these things. and yes, the pedestrian crossing at an arterial two blocks away got the wonderful benefit of little green begging flags so pedestrians can try to make the cars stop. sometimes, they do.

they said the trees were funded by the briding the gap thing we approved. btw, we got lots of trees around here already and the city doesn't maintain them either.
Posted by a corner in seattle on March 13, 2013 at 3:31 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 11
Maybe people who don't complain about their potholes like their potholes. Or they're in college. Either way, don't fix them.

Fix the ones on my block. I vote. I donate. I show up. Don't be fixing shit for those people who can't be arsed. They're fine. Just fine. As far as we know.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on March 13, 2013 at 4:24 PM · Report this
Straw man, much? Burgess did not propose asking Metro for $6M more in service.

What he said is that the city's investments would create $6m in savings for Metro by speeding up bus service on city streets. Savings will allow bus service to get better somewhere. Does seem fair that if Seattle is creating the savings in the first place that Seattle should see some benefits.

I'm not sure what else in Burgess' transit plans, but this one sure seems like a no brainer. If City investment speeds up transit then not much of a stretch to say that Metro should use the savings to beef up service in Seattle. Is McGinn such a regional player that he thinks Enumclaw ought to benefit from Seattle's investment?
Posted by ummmmm on March 16, 2013 at 2:36 PM · Report this

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