Mike McGinn was handed a shit sandwich when he became mayor four years ago. The city council had spent down the rainy day fund; the recession zapped prospects for revenue; the police department was infected with a violent culture, particularly against people of color; and plans for expanding the light-rail system to Ballard and West Seattle were on the back burner. As for the deep-bore tunnel, a controversial megaproject, state law insisted Seattle—which was struggling with its own bills at the time—would have to pay for any overruns.
McGinn tackled those problems, despite opposition from an obstructionist city council that refused to work with him (they even twice froze money for transit planning that would extend light rail). The Seattle Times opposed his transportation agenda at every turn, claiming McGinn was pushing cars off the road for bike lanes. (The daily paper continually launched smears at the mayor, even praising a school-attendance program while refusing to acknowledge that McGinn created it.)
Some people hate McGinn. The problem is, they struggle to put a finger on what their problem is. Critics say he's divisive and can't collaborate. But the people who say that are council members who unsuccessfully ran for mayor, business lobbies that wanted special favors, and reporters who rely on those aforementioned folks as sources. No wonder people in Seattle look at the mayor's term through a fun-house mirror. But McGinn is the superior candidate on policy, vision, and record.
Look at facts instead of smears. Crime is down, including through most of downtown. That's in part due to good policing and a downtown roundtable that seeks new strategies for making the city be and feel safe (the roundtable is made up of a group of unlikely reformers and business interests). Violent crime dropped by one-third in Belltown since McGinn took office, and serious crimes are down in Pioneer Square and the International District by 27 percent since last year. In the retail core, crime is roughly steady despite thousands of new residents and workers. Crime across Seattle is at a 35-year low.
We acknowledge that McGinn dragged his feet reaching a settlement with the US Department of Justice after prosecutors accused our police of excessive force—but what's come out of it since is unprecedented. McGinn's settlement includes a five-year reform plan that imposes tough new requirements on police using force, he brought along the radically conservative police union (getting it to drop a lawsuit to oppose reform), and he was the architect of a Community Police Commission that, again, brings together unlikely downtown business lobbies and progressive reformers.
In the same collaborative vein, McGinn has led the charge to oppose 18 toxic-coal-dust-spewing trains plowing through Seattle every day by helping to create the Leadership Alliance Against Coal, which includes lawmakers from state, county, and local governments. He's laid out plans to divest the city's holdings from fossil-fuel investments, and now 16 other cities are doing the same thing.
On improving Seattle transportation, McGinn has accelerated planning for light rail to reach Ballard, so that when voters consider another light-rail measure, hopefully in 2016, Seattle will likely have a nearly shovel-ready project. And McGinn has also pledged to fully fund the city's bicycle plan and has begun building protected bicycle lanes along key routes. On the controversial tunnel, McGinn successfully pressed the former governor to go on the record saying the state would cover overruns (which is great, because the project is already behind schedule and short on funding).
The city's economy is also booming. The Downtown Seattle Association reports $2.8 billion in construction investments, a "level not seen since 2008," while the unemployment rate has fallen to 4.7 percent, more than two points below the state average. McGinn also restored the rainy day fund.
Ed Murray, the other candidate in this race, has been short on details and consistently negative. He continually calls McGinn divisive, but Murray knows from his 18 years in Olympia that accomplishments come with controversy. Murray divided the legislature—as he should have—to pass gay marriage.
We're also concerned about honesty problems with the Murray campaign. He claimed recently there was a "public safety crisis" because crime was up across the city when, in fact, crime is down. Murray's campaign claimed the city's economy would atrophy under McGinn when, in fact, it's downright muscular. Murray insisted earlier this year that he opposed new fines for aggressive panhandling—fines that the human rights commission said violated city standards and may be unconstitutional—but now Murray says he might support that law if elected. Murray also said the mayor didn't create the police commission—and that's just untrue.
We're also concerned that Murray is positioning himself as an anti-bicycle-lane candidate. The driving force of a fundraiser this month "Paid for by Ed Murray for Mayor" were people who sought to "oppose Mayor McGinn's cycle track" on Westlake Avenue. "This is a narrowly focused event," said an invitation to Murray supporters by Peter Schrappen of the Northwest Marine Trade Association. "The sole focus should be around articulating the Westlake interests."
We oppose anti-bike, anti-transit lobbies. And even though we like what Murray did for gay marriage, we don't need gay transit or gay traffic.
We need a mayor who understands how to build light rail, reform the police, kindle economic prosperity, reduce crime while respecting the city's human rights standards, and protect us from coal trains. We already have that mayor: Mike McGinn.