by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
'I wouldn't recommend to anyone that they run for mayor, but you do learn a lot,' Mike McGinn chuckles. He is running to succeed Greg Nickels as mayor of Seattle.
Asked what he's learned, he shoots back, 'I feel fortunate to live in a city that's pretty progressive and has diverse communities. The thing I've enjoyed the most has been the opportunity to reach out to communities I haven't had contact with before. I've been engaged in my community for a long time.'
While this is McGinn's first run for office, he is a longtime activist. Talking about his motivation for jumping into the race for mayor, he says, 'I've been working for years on issues important to me. I have two kids. I've been active in the Sierra Club and the Greenwood Community Council&.'
'Seattle is ready for change,' McGinn concludes. 'Clearly the current mayor is not ready.'
While he was confident he would make it through the primary, McGinn expected to be running against incumbent Mayor Greg Nickels in the general election. 'I thought Greg would come in first, and Joe and I were running for second,' he says.
'It became clear that there was a lot of dissatisfaction with the mayor,' McGinn explains, trying to account for the surprise outcome. 'The public had lost confidence in him.'
'You may have to remind me of this if I'm fortunate enough to win,' he adds. 'It's hard to maintain your connection to the voters.'
Turning to the issues of the campaign, McGinn tells SGN, 'We need three things: We need a strong economy, we need to protect the environment, and we need to provide opportunities for Seattle citizens.'
On what is perhaps the most debated issue of the campaign, McGinn explains his opposition to plans to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a bored tunnel.
'We should have choices where we will put our resources,' he says. 'The tunnel is very expensive - $930 million. It's the wrong priority to put that much money into burying a highway.'
The $930 million is the total amount the City of Seattle would be committed to raise for projects associated with viaduct replacement, like repairs to the Elliott Bay seawall, a pedestrian promenade, and transit.
McGinn insists the tunnel is not yet a done deal. As mayor, he would hold up the City's portion of the financing for the project, he says.
'$1.8 billion of the financing has not been secured,' he says. 'Almost $1 billion has to come from Seattle. That hasn't been appropriated. It has to be voted on. The financing is far from complete.'
McGinn's opponent, Joe Mallahan, favors the tunnel, as did outgoing Mayor Greg Nickels and Nickels' supporters in Seattle's labor movement. Many unions, especially the powerful building trades unions, have let it be known that opposition to the tunnel is a 'deal breaker' when it comes to choosing a candidate to replace Nickels.
McGinn seems unconcerned, however. 'The [AFL-CIO] unions are holding an open process right now to evaluate candidates,' he tells SGN. 'SEIU is also holding an open process.'
'In any case, I will not back down on opposition to the tunnel,' McGinn insists.
SGN spoke with McGinn before the Martin Luther King County Labor Council made its endorsement decisions Wednesday night. The group, which represents some 150 union locals, gave its endorsement to Mallahan, largely because of McGinn's position on the tunnel.
'It's OK to disagree as long as you're focused on solving problems,' McGinn says philosophically. 'We have people who argue a lot because they care a lot.'
Turning to other issues, McGinn cites public transit and jobs as critical problems the City must solve.
'The city needs more and better transit. Real transit,' he says. 'Bus ridership is up 20% and the service has been cut 20%. We need to find ways to partner with the county and the state to provide the mass transit we need.'
McGinn wants to create 'sustainable opportunities for everyone,' he says. 'We need a green jobs program where we invest in the local economy. And there's federal stimulus money we could use to develop that.'
'Government isn't a business,' McGinn concludes in a jab at his opponent, T-Mobile Vice President Joe Mallahan. 'Many people have been left out, and we expect government to play a role to close the gaps.'
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