Mike McGinn has said a lot about the things he'd change if elected mayor of Seattle, starting, of course, with not digging a deep-bore tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct -- a position that's struck a deep chord with the majority of Seattleites who voted down the tunnel.
But, in an attempt to hit as many chords as he can, McGinn, an attorney turned community activist, is talking up a good deal more than he may be able to deliver: putting affordable housing on top of new city construction, creating a permanent place for Seattle's tent cities and killing a proposed new city jail. And replacing the viaduct with a surface street and transit? McGinn gave that up this week after the City Council voted to move forward with a tunnel.
His opponent Joe Mallahan, on the other hand, isn't saying as much about what exactly he'd do as mayor and, as the campaign has worn on, so has his call for business-like "efficiency" as the answer to all problems.
After the primary, Mallahan, an executive at T-Mobile, began stressing that he's a "social justice Democrat" who was taught community organizing by the same group -- Chicago's Industrial Areas Foundation -- that trained President Obama. In his work with the IAF years ago, he says, he helped convert a church into a home for battered women over the objection of affluent neighbors.
Since then, however, one of the best examples that he can cite of his dedication to "taking care of people who can't take care of themselves" is that he made wireless service affordable to eight million low-income T-Mobile customers. "We're the leader in the industry and that's from my leadership and focus on people," Mallahan said at a recent forum. Though he says he would run the mayor's office with openness and accountability, he also dodged a question asked at a CityClub forum about why he hadn't voted in 13 of the last 25 elections.
Three years ago, McGinn founded a nonprofit called the Great City Initiative to advocate for more dense, transit-oriented neighborhoods -- a stance that has put the Parks Levy supporter and environmentalist on the side of giving tax breaks or extra height to developers who include a few low-cost units in their projects. Those are two ways Seattle already encourages affordable housing in the market and, to subsidize very low income units, both candidates support renewing the $145 million Seattle Housing Levy (Proposition 1) on this year's ballot.
To these efforts, McGinn says he would add backyard cottages and, if possible, change city code to help bring back rooming houses and single-room occupancy hotels, try to emulate the Delridge Library by incorporating affordable housing into city projects, and do more for the homeless -- in specifics that Joe Mallahan has yet to articulate. That means providing more shelter and a place for tent cities like Nickelsville.
"The need is increasing and I think one of the things we need to do is have a shift in recognizing that," McGinn said at an Oct. 15 candidate forum put on by the Seattle-King County Coalition for the Homeless. "While I support the Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness and the need to provide stable housing over the long term, I think we do have to take a look at current situations and do more in providing temporary shelter, as well as providing more opportunities for a more permanent or stable place for things like homeless encampments."