When state Sen. Ed Murray (D-43) publicly rejected the possibility of running a write-in campaign for mayor two weeks ago, he dismissed both candidates out of hand. Mike McGinn, wrote the state senator, is campaigning "to reopen a fight with the state" while Joe Mallahan "has failed to engage in civic activities" including, in several elections, "voting, something Americans in the South have died for in our lifetime."
Then he threw down the gauntlet.
"I considered running because I believe Seattle is greater than the selfish conversation in the Mayor's race. Missing are issues and leadership on social justice. Issues of poverty and civil rights.... Issues such as our schools, neighborhoods and diversity are missing from this debate."
We're not sad to see Nickels denied his bid for a third term -- and in the August primary, no less. But we agree. The debate has been selfish and nearsighted. Here's how we suggest it be expanded.
Seattle's next mayor needs to face up to the stark realities on homelessness: immediate solutions are needed more than ever. The ongoing sweeps -- incursions onto public land where urban campers have camouflaged their tents and stowed their few belongings -- need to be replaced with a system of real help.
The next mayor will have to heed the legal right of all Seattleites to be secure in their possessions, even if they have no place to put them.
With little record on public safety issues, the next mayor can try to get Seattle to live up to its reputation for innovative policing. He can do that by championing real alternatives to cops and cuffs: pre-arrest diversion into treatment and services. As a UW researcher reported last week [see page 3], three pilot projects designed to break the cycle of low-level offenders from the streets to jail and back again deserve to be continued.
Beyond Nickels' national-level grandstanding on the environment, beyond the gimmickry of a bag tax and a hybrid-vehicle taxicab fleet, the next mayor can offer some practical ways for us to make Seattle a beautiful, healthy place for everyone. Let's start with Public Health - Seattle and King County, which, like every health agency in the state, is desperately in need of money. Seeking places to cut, last year Public Health hobbled its abilities to guard against disease, reduce infant mortality, and offer translation services for those who speak English poorly or not at all. The next mayor can treat the city-county agency like the essential service it is -- and demand a stable source of long-term revenue.
The next mayor needs to reach past Seattle's highly technical affordable housing developers -- people responsible for thousands of below-market units rented to the poor -- and reconsider some fine old ideas. Like the law. A great supply of subsidized housing does not automatically eliminate the misery on the streets. Without a wholesale change in the entry requirements for such housing, the 10-year plan, now at five years old, might as well fold. Residential development in this city needs to be rethought. Instead of carrots to help for-profit developers build what they wanted to anyway, how about a firm, common-sense guideline: new units must be affordable at the income levels of the people who live on the block right now. How's that for safeguarding our neighborhoods?
The closure and demolition of suitable apartment buildings -- as happened so egregiously in a South Lake Union building under Nickels' watch -- hastens gentrification. It's greed in action. All the government subsidized units in the world won't keep up with it.
With no prior governing experience, Mallahan and McGinn offer plenty of positions but little evidence as to how they would behave once in office. Whether or not a tunnel is dug to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct, McGinn will still have to be Mayor. Doubts about his governing experience bolster the prospects of Mallahan -- which is ironic, since he too has none. Despite establishment institutions (the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, the Police Guild) lining up behind Mallahan, it's worth noting that leadership at a telecommunications company doesn't translate into effectiveness at Fourth and Cherry.
Good luck, fellas. May the best man win.