Mayor McGinn’s first year in office
“I’m quite sure that if I was not asking hard questions about the tunnel, everybody would be telling me how nice I am and how easy I am to get along with.”
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn came into office as a political newcomer exactly one year ago. A lot of people were surprised he was even elected, others have been critical of every move he’s made and kept track of his missteps.
How does the Mayor assess his first year in office?
I talked with him about some of the big issues he faced. Listen to the full podcast – 10 topics with McGinn.
You can’t get around it, the tunnel that will run through Seattle is one of the issues that defined McGinn’s first year in office. This is a project that’s had McGinn fighting with Governor Chris Gregoire and with his own city council at times. Is it worth the fight?
“It matters cause it’s a lot of money, and it matters because it’s a lot of money for something that doesn’t deliver a lot of benefit. And it matters because in a time of scarce resources, which is the time we live in,” says McGinn. “We’re kinda coming to a realization that we have to be much more thoughtful, much more thrifty, much more intentional and purposeful with the dollars we do have. So is it worth fighting over? It’s a hell of a lot of money.”
Another hot issue for you the Mayor’s first year was transportation, specifically related to biking. Parking rates are going up in downtown Seattle for cars. Roads have gotten smaller to make room for bike lanes. Some believe Mayor McGinn has declared a war on cars. Does he hate cars?
“Think about how we talk about bikes, would we ever talk about pedestrian issues the same way? Would somebody say we can’t put in a crosswalk to make it safe for somebody to cross the street because it’s a war on cars? We’d never do that. We’d say, ‘No, it has to be safe for a person to cross the street.’ Would we say, ‘We can’t put in a traffic light to prevent cars from banging into each other. No, we have to make it safe,” McGinn says. “Can a city ever be too bike-friendly? I don’t know. Is it right to make it unsafe for people who use our roads? No, it’s not.”
As these issues come up – whether it’s the tunnel, or biking, or a number of other smaller controversies – does the Mayor care about what his critics say?
“Of course I care what my critics say, but what I’d say about that is, the people I care about the most is the public. That’s my boss,” he says. “We got other critics, and I guess maybe they want the same old politician that they’ve had before. There are people who say I don’t get along with people. The reason we argue is because the future is important, your dollars are important, and I think we’re supposed to have vigorous discussion about those things. I’m quite sure that if I was not asking hard questions about the tunnel, everybody would be telling me how nice I am and how easy I am to get along with. But, I don’t think the public wants their politicians just to get along with everybody. I think they want them to work hard on what’s important.”
He is certainly not a typical, career politician. Will he be a one-term Mayor?
“This job belongs to the public. I’m going to do the best job I can and they’ll make a decision about that,” says McGinn.
It sounds to me like he will run again.
“It’s so far away,” he says. “I’m just focused on delivering. If we’re delivering, if the public thinks we’re doing fine then yeah, we’ll look at that. It’s good work, it’s a great job, it’s a gift.”