We normally pay little attention to Seattle’s crazy politics. The crazy politics on this end of Puget Sound are enough to worry about.
This year is the exception. Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn is up for re-election, running against state Sen. Ed Murray and seven other candidates. The state would be better off if its leading city were administered by Murray instead of McGinn.
If the consequences of McGinn’s greener-than-thou politics could be contained within the 206 area code, Seattle’s neighbors could afford to ignore this race. But McGinn has already demonstrated a reckless indifference to the region’s transportation needs.
Long before the mayoral election of 2009, McGinn was among the Seattle anti-car activists working to thwart efforts to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a high-capacity highway.
The old double-decked viaduct, which carries state Route 99 past much of Seattle’s downtown waterfront, had been weakened by the 2001 Nisqually earthquake and was long overdue for replacement.
The anti-auto crowd wanted a surface road with much less capacity, a bottleneck designed to squeeze people out of their vehicles and get them onto bicycles or something. That was a utopian scenario. The actual result would have been massive traffic jams on the SR 99 corridor and Interstate 5.
SR 99 and especially I-5 are important state corridors, not city streets. Anything that would paralyze them could affect millions of people outside Seattle.
After years of factional infighting, Seattle’s leaders, the Legislature and governor settled on a reasonable option, a deep-bore tunnel to carry SR 99 underneath the waterfront.
McGinn the activist still wanted the low-capacity surface road, but he ran for mayor and was elected only after leading voters to believe that he’d stop trying to sabotage the tunnel.
Once in office, though, he quickly returned to the anti-tunnel crusade and fought the project relentlessly until the voters decisively rejected his approach – and endorsed the tunnel – in 2011.
McGinn hasn’t been up to any regional mischief lately, but he’s already revealed himself as an ideologue willing to screw up critical transportation routes the entire Puget Sound region depends on. If re-elected, he will remain in a position to threaten the crossroads of Western Washington.
Murray had demonstrated a regional perspective and an ability to work constructively with people who disagree with him. He has a record of legislative accomplishment. We hope Seattle voters seize this opportunity to trade up.