All serious Seattle candidates say they’ll fight for transit, but Mayor Greg Nickels has an especially sterling record on this score. On the most important issue facing this region — whether or not to build rail — Nickels has been on the right side of the argument, and in the cockpit of many of the key decisions. As Sound Transit enters another decade of crucial and complex projects, we want his voice to maintain the region’s focus on our ultimate goals.
As Mayor, one’s ability to impact transit operations is limited. However, Nickels has a solid record of finding ways to make a difference and to deliver. Through the Bridging the Gap levy, Nickels funded bus lanes, bicycle lanes, and partnered with Metro to get additional bus service outside the 20/40/40 framework. Nickels also put his political capital on the line for the Streetcar network — one that we support, and one that continues to be controversial.
We’re also pleased with the Mayor’s general willingness to overcome “neighborhood activists” to provide the livable density that is both an environmental imperative and critical to a livable, vibrant city. In liberal Seattle, associating oneself with the interests of Paul Allen can be risky, but we’re very excited about the path that South Lake Union has taken under the Mayor’s leadership.
Most important, however, is the Mayor’s instrumental leadership of Sound Transit. As Chair of the Sound Transit Board, Nickels was the critical player in getting Sound Transit 2 on the ballot in 2008, a move that looks even better in hindsight than it did then. It is his legacy.
That’s not to say that we have no disagreements with Nickels. In particular, we think he gave in too easily to other interests on both the Waterfront Streetcar and the deep-bore tunnel. We are especially concerned that enormous expenditure on the tunnel could crowd out the city’s other transportation priorities. But these concerns are balanced against a long record of leadership and results on our regional priorities.
We should also say a few good words about Mike McGinn. Mr. McGinn’s passion to build light rail at all costs is not quite that of Nickels, but his stance on the issues matches ours nearly perfectly. Indeed, if there were no incumbent in this race, McGinn would be a strong contender for our endorsement. However, given an incumbent with a strong record on the issues and a history of cutting through Seattle process to achieve results, substantial agreement is not enough to win our endorsement.
Our editorial board is Martin H. Duke, Ben Schiendelman, and John Jensen, with valued input from the rest of the staff. Read our Seattle City Council endorsements and our King County Executive endorsements. This concludes STB’s series of endorsements.