Outside City Hall: The Mayor’s Race and Why McGinn Must Go
- John V. Fox (Note I’m writing this as an individual knowing some of our friends and Coalition supporters back the other guy)
Some of my good friends in the housing and homeless advocacy community have asked me why I’m backing Ed Murray. Afterall, isn’t McGinn the guy who vetoed the Burgess anti-panhandling law and supports continued funding for social and human services? Put simply this isn’t any where near adequate justification for giving McGinn another four years in office.
Mayor McGinn is the most shamelessly pro-developer, pro-density, pro-growth Mayor we’ve had at least since I’ve been involved in city politics (and that’s a long time). He could care less how runaway growth continues to ravage our existing stock of low income and affordable housing not to mention how it has seriously eroded the physical character of our neighborhoods, hurt small businesses, and the pressure it continues to place on our urban streams, greenbelts, parks, tree canopy and open space.
It drips with irony, to hear his supporters call him McGinn our “green mayor”. During his tenure, we’ve poured more carbon emitting, energy consuming concrete, wiped out more historic carbon sequestering old growth housing (and urban trees) and displaced many more now car-dependent low wage workers to the suburbs than at any time in our city’s history.
In four years, McGinn has allowed our neighborhoods to go without bridge, road, and street repairs – a backlog estimated now at nearly 2 billion dollars. He blames that on Murray – says we don’t have the dollars – but that hasn’t stopped McGinn from dedicating huge chunks each year of the city budget – hundreds of millions into his favorite neighborhood – South Lake Union – for Mercer Corridor, the Streetcar, and a host other capital “improvements” there and in downtown. If he’s re-elected, it is very clear neighborhood needs (especially real transportation needs like restoring and expanding bus service) will continue to be ignored – in favor of a useless, and wasteful $850 million dollar street car expansion plan – now his signature effort – that and a sports stadium.
There are permits now pending for construction of an astounding number of residential units – over 17000 – in a city that for decades averaged between 1000-3000 per year. Counting these, Seattle in eight and a half years has reached 117 percent of its 20 year regionally assigned growth target. City planners also say we have capacity under existing zoning for another 188,000 units- over three times the capacity we need to carry us beyond the year 2035.
But such unprecedented levels of growth aren’t nearly enough for the McGinn crowd. He’s committed to more dramatic upzones in our neighborhoods including an insane plan calling for 300’ towers in the U-District that would displace literally hundreds of existing lower density low income and affordable homes.
New housing construction (and displacement) hit record levels but it’s still not enough for the McGinn crowd
According to city documents, those 17000 new units now going thru permitting also will require demolition of over 1700 existing residential units. Counting these pending losses, since 2005, over 6500 low cost units have been demolished for new development in Seattle . This is the single most important reason we have such high levels of homelessness and growing levels of poverty and inequality in our city. As growth has accelerated, it’s caused the loss of thousands of low cost units due to demolition, speculative sale, conversion, and increased rents.
I hold Mayor McGinn personally responsible for these housing losses and the hardships it’s caused for thousands in our community booted from their homes. Our Council bares responsibility too, but McGinn’s in charge. And more than simply presiding over these trends, he’s actively opposed any measures that control or manage growth, that require developers to replace housing they remove, or that require they pay impact fees (as all other cities do in the region).
McGinn, his planners, and a cadre of corporate funded elitist organizations backing him masquerade – wrap their policies in a fake patina of environmentalism. Cramming density into Seattle regardless of its cost and impacts (including ironically on our local environment – our greenbelts, open space, tree canopy, etc) – it literally is a religion to McGinn and his cabal.
The McGinn crowd, also are trying to redefine “progressivism” and equate that with their prodeveloper progrowth biases. In any past era, the notion would be laughed out of the room, but it’s gained traction due to the clout of developer funded and euphemistically named groups like “ Great Cities ”, “Futurewise”, and “Transportation Choices” and a handful of niche political blogs.
Just this week, the Stranger in its infinite wisdom, tells us that Nick Licata no longer is a progressive because he hasn’t jumped on the give-developers-everything-
they-want, pro-streetcar bandwagon. Blasphemy, Licata actually says developers should include low cost housing in their projects and preferences buses over streetcars.
Unlike McGinn, Ed Murray is not a member let alone leader of the pro- density cult
This is not to say that he too doesn’t have a lot of developers backing him as his list of contributors clearly indicates. But Murray is old school, more of a throwback to past Mayoral administrations where it was “just business”. And past Mayors have taken a far more cautious approach to upzoning and on occasions even been willing to support measures that mitigate the impacts of growth on low income housing and our neighborhoods.
Try and find a true neighborhood or housing activist sitting on the Planning or Design Commission, on SHA’s board, or any other influential advisory body McGinn controls. By contrast Murray has made commitments to neighborhoods (to convene a big neighborhood forum early in his tenure), and to us (as housing advocates) to change that. What that ultimately means – who knows – but he’ll at least give us access (we have none now) and hear us out, and won’t act precipitously on critical growth questions .
Murray also has referred to the Berschi School ’s removal of low income housing right next door to his home, and wondered why there weren’t tools to steer or control growth so as to prevent these kinds of losses. While not taking the leadership role, he’s always supported the low income housing measures we’ve pushed in Olympia . Publicly he has also raised concerns about runaway growth and rightly accused McGinn of having a rail “fetish” (meaning at the expense of other modes such as buses which McGinn and his cabal openly abjure – don’t believe it? Read what the Stranger thinks of buses in it’s current rant on Licata).
The return of the old guard is better than McGinn
The last Mayor to impose a moratorium on growth in this city (on demolitions in downtown and the loss of mobile home parks) was Charles Royer. Murray has said this is a Mayor he has high regard for and ran things fairly well. The Displacement Coalition was perhaps Royer’s most outspoken and oft-quoted critic. But after McGinn and Nickels … well I kind of long for “the good ole days”.
I fully expect that once Murray is elected (as the polls suggest) we’ll see a lot of people from the Royer era and other past administrations joining his staff – back to the future so to speak. (I’m hoping he’ll find a place for Peter Steinbrueck). I’d rather be dealing with these folks than the McGinn crowd pushing literally unlimited densities in a city already drowning in development (displacement and gentrification and the inequality that grows out of that) and who arrogantly act like they’re on a mission from god. The defeat of McGinn is important for the future of this city in order to send this crowd packing.