Mike McGinn (photo by Martin)
Mike McGinn (photo by Martin)

The McGinn campaign released a statement today after the Seattle city council unanimously approved an agreement with the state to build an SR-99 tunnel.

“I disagree with the decision.  I disagree with the timing,” said McGinn, “but the reality is Mayor Nickels and the Council have entered into an agreement, and the City is now committed to the tunnel plan.”

After months of running on a campaign with a focus on stopping construction on the expensive tunnel that bypasses downtown, McGinn may realize that even if he wins he won’t have the votes to overturn this agreement. McGinn’s statement makes it clear that though he will execute an agreement that the city is bound to, he will be a skeptic of the partnership with the state:

• We don’t know how much it’s actually going to cost.

• If it ends up costing more than the current budget allows, there is serious disagreement between Seattle and the State over who will pay the cost overruns.

• Where will the money come from, and who will bear the burden?  Will we have to cut police, fire, library, or services for the poor?

I will not stop asking the tough questions nor will I ever stop standing up for Seattle’s interests in this process.

So maybe the debate is over, now.

71 Replies to “McGinn Pledges To Execute Tunnel Agreement”

  1. this is funny. KUOW this morning had all these people calling in saying they were voting for him because he was against the tunnel

    1. And think about the inverse. How many undecideds or potential Mallahanites are now considering shifting their votes to McGinn?

      1. Me! Actually I decided a couple of days ago that Mallahan was too lacking in too many departments and that I’d be voting McGinn. Neither candidate was perfect, but McGinn seemed to understand the most important issues.

        Now I can have my cake and eat it too.

      2. Good coverage on this issue; folks that are spinning this announcement as a softening of his position, flip flopping, etc, are disgusting. Barring some legal genius outside of the Executive branch figuring out a productive way to challenge this the decision **may** well have been made.

        Debate and disagreement on an issue leads to the best outcome, after everything has been sorted out it’s time to go forward, that’s the public interest.

        The question on the tunnel is whether the public interest was violated or abused in the creation of the decision – if not on the tunnel process it most certainly has been on other issues.

      3. Our endorsement barely even mentioned the tunnel. We’re excited about the light rail study, bus lanes, bike lanes, dense growth policies, and a general attitude that the city shouldn’t be built around the car.

    2. About. Damn. Time.

      Anyone making this election a “tunnel referendum” is a pretty ignorant voter anyway.

      I’m writing in Greg Nickels, and curling into a fetal position regardless which one of the nominees win.

      1. Yeah, writing in someone who won’t win is dumb. It’s not like the elections workers care about protest votes.

      2. You are correct. It is an invalid vote if the write-in is for a person who lost in the primary.

      3. I agree with your angst, Michael and I am not even a Seattle voter!

        You know, down in Tacoma, they have a second preference voting system for Pierce County Executive. I believe that if such an idea would be adopted here that Greg Nickels would have gotten through on a ‘second preference’ system – at least he would have probably gotten through the primary system.

        I think that McGinn has changed position on the tunnel because he recognizes some of the ground reality of the situation – it is probably not a good idea to take office spoiling immediately for a fight with King County and with Olympia. It also goes to show that Seattle is too big, complex, diverse and important a city for any candidate to run on one issue above, or in place of, any other. It makes more sense to run a candidacy in the round and to have something of an holistic vision of the future.

        I hope that if Mike wins next month that he will concentrate his energies on beautifying the waterfront and preparing the city for the moment when the viaduct does come down. This is really what is at issue and stake for Seattle – how best to fulfill our commitments in this area. He will have plenty of challenges to work on and through and without having to worry about stopping the tunnel, he will have more time to spare on working on a vision for the waterfront.

      4. RCV voting in Tacoma and Pierce County doesn’t have a primary, the biggest drawback, IMO, as you have no focusing of the race. With the top two primary system the fallback isn’t so bad and it is being challenged in a referendum this election.

        Tacoma has a mix of at large and district representatives on its City Council, this is a definite improvement over Seattle’s system, and an option considered several years ago and definitely **not** respectfully discussed.

        One definitely wonders how the Council would differ if neighborhoods were actually able to get 4, 5 or 6 folks that actually represented them into **their** local government.

    3. The way I heard that call-in on KUOW, there were lots of folks saying they were voting for Mallahan on this issue. I started listening about halfway through the program, so I may have not heard all of the discussion.

  2. McGinn is moderating his stance. For those who previously supported him for being anti-tunnel, I have no reason to believe would necessarily change their minds. It’s not like Mallahan is any more in their favor.

  3. So after making this signature issue of his campaign he backs down just like that? I disagreed with him on the tunnel, but how can I know if he won’t just likewise back down when the state or sound transit tells him to fuck off with his plan for a Seattle light rail vote?

    Its embarrassing that these are our choices.

    1. Because the chances of a light rail vote happening with McGinn as mayor are far more likely to happen than the AWV tunnel plan being scrapped. There are a lot of things I don’t like about the tunnel, but McGinn is simply being realistic.

    2. As disappointed as I am that the tunnel may well be built now, and as much as I would love for McGinn to staunchly refuse to ever build it . . . I would be even more disappointed if an elected official willingly chose not to uphold the law.

  4. Damned early mail in voting: with this new backpedaling I would have shifted my vote from McGinn to none of the above, but the ballot’s in the mail already. Next time I’m waiting until election day.

    1. Well, both candidates are kind of uninspiring, and this is a pretty big issues that will fundamentally affect Seattle’s infrastructure for the next 100 years or so and possible cost us $1B in cost overruns.

      1. I think I’d rather have the candidate that will try as hard as possible to extract the most transit-friendly concessions from the state, rather than one who is just a willing partner.

      2. It’s not like McGinn was a closet tunnel supporter all along. He didn’t just come out and say, “No, I actually love the tunnel plan!” Just listen to his tone. Look closely enough and it would appear he’s not really even changing his mind. He’s doing what Mallahan did after the council approved the First Hill Streetcar.

      1. Well then, that makes him a man who won the primary on the basis of a promise he ultimately couldn’t keep.

  5. This is totally, utterly shameless. McGinn is betraying his base (and, more importantly, the good of the city!) to try to get a few more votes. What is the lesson to be learned? That McGinn won’t stand by his principles? I think this is going to backfire big time. He’d better hope his supporters have already voted. What a cynical ploy.

    And no, until the shovels hit the ground, the debate is not over. Seattlites have defeated bad freeway plans before. There is no need to assent to something so ridiculous just because the political-business establishment have chosen to ram it down our throats.

    1. You are responding in anger. As a McGinn supporter from day one, I understand. I was angry the first time I read that press release. But I counted to 10 and then read it again. He is merely saying that he will uphold the law as it stands. As distasteful as I find the law he is upholding, I cannot begrudge a politician who respects the rule of law. As far as I can tell, his position on the tunnel has not changed, nor has his desire to do all in his power to make sure it is not built if it is at all legally possible.

      You must understand that anger is not rational, and that it is causing you to mischaracterize what he is saying. And you also must understand that McGinn is about so much more than just that tunnel.

      1. I’m sorry but you are the one mischaracterizing what he is saying. He does not say, as you claim, that he will do all he can to make sure the tunnel is not built if it is legally possible. He says he will uphold and execute the decision. This has nothing to do with upholding the law. This is a democracy. The voters have a right to vote out candidates who oppose their will and vote in those who will carry out their will. Nickels lost the primary in large part because of the tunnel plan, and McGinn had much of his support because of his opposition to the tunnel. A McGinn victory would have been a clear statement from the people of Seattle that the governor should have accepted.

        McGinn is still clearly the better candidate, since Mallahan is just so pathetic. But forgive me if I’m not going to pretend that McGinn is still standing by his principles and that he had no choice but to do this.

    2. NJL, you have to be kidding. I’m a huge McGinn supporter, and it sucks, but we’ve probably lost. We may still kill the tunnel, but it’s no longer going to be his job to approve or deny the thing, and he understands that. Stop spinning it.

  6. Before everyone criticizes this, can you please read the statement?


    “I disagree with the decision. I disagree with the timing. But the reality is Mayor Nickels and the Council have entered into an agreement, and the City is now committed to the tunnel plan. If I’m elected Mayor, although I disagree with this decision, it will be my job to uphold and execute this agreement. It is not the Mayor’s job to withhold the cooperation of city government in executing this agreement.

    McGinn is just saying that, as the city’s chief executive, he will execute all of the city’s laws and policies, even the ones that he really, really doesn’t like.

    Do we really want a mayor who governs by obstruction?

    1. Have you ever read this blog or hugeasscity? That exactly what all the anti-car zealots wanted him to do…

      [Comment edited; ad hominem]

  7. This is a misuse of the word “obstruction.” The city’s ascent to the tunnel plan is necessary, and the mayor is the chief representative of the city. If the voters elect a candidate to mayor in order that he would reverse the city’s agreement on the tunnel, that is not obstruction, that is the political process. That is how it is supposed to work.

    1. They mayor is an executive, not a dictator. His job is to faithfully execute the laws and implement the policies enacted by the city council.

      Where the city council is silent, the mayor has great discretion in execution.

      Where the city council is vague, the mayor has great leeway in interpretation.

      Where the city council speaks clearly and unanimously, the mayor is a servant of the legislative branch.

  8. After running in the primary on the lie that he would “stop the biggest tax increase in the city’s history,” McGinn now says he won’t stop it. This is ridiculous. He looks like a complete jerk, and just might be a big slippery one.

    There’s no way that McGinn has a chance now. That’s obviously why he threw this Hail Mary.

    It will miss. But no one will miss him and the silly self serving demagogue he has become in this campaign.

    1. That’s what I’m loving here- he created the false fears he now has to deal with. $1 Billion in cost-overruns!

      But this is just the warm-up. Don’t miss Act II, where he has to deal with the costs of the surface option. I’m guessing he’ll be “on another line” for this one and try to let the City Council take the blame.

      Or, who knows, maybe Joe ‘Sock-puppet’ Mallahan will decide to keep his opinions to himself and let the city rock’n’roll.

  9. “He is merely saying that he will uphold the law as it stands.”

    Selective, McGinn is.

    The robocall that triggered the collapse of the McGinn campaign that is the REAL reason behind McGinn’s flopping on this issue is all about how McGinn is willing to fight state law on Seattle banning guns in parks and public places.

    So he will uphold the law on the tunnel and not uphold the law on the guns? The only way that is consistent is if McGinn is committed to only doing what is polling well.

    Across the blogosphere McGinn supporters have championed his leadership qualities of standing up for what is right. He folded today, so what’s that mean about his leadership skills?

  10. This is Seattle: Committal is not familiar to these parts.

    This move is politics, not policy.

  11. I think we all know and McGinn knows that this tunnel plan still has more holes than swiss cheese. What I’m hearing is that he doesn’t want to appear as someone who will lie in front of the bulldozers (courtesy: Seattle Times commenter), but he probably won’t do much to keep this tunnel from driving ITSELF off a cliff. I think it’s an incredibly smart move.

  12. The tunnel is not a good thing, but it’s not the end of the world. Electing somebody who is pro-transit is more important, no matter whether he’s doing it out of personal conviction or to appease the majority of voters.

    I didn’t support McGinn when he seemed like a one-issue candidate. Later when he broadened his platform I began to support him. This about-face does not diminish my support. In fact, it strengthens it, because we need to counteract those who are switching to Mallahan because of this. Mallahan would be worse overall as mayor, and this is more important than whether the friggin’ tunnel gets built or not.

  13. What an embarassment for Seattle that these are our choices.

    I was going to vote for Mallahan, simply because I couldn’t vote the Seattle process into office (McGinn wanting to continue the past decade’s debats). But frankly Mallahan isn’t so great either.

    I have no choice but to vote for Greg Nickels in protest.

    1. You could vote for about a billion choices in protest, or just leave the mayor part blank. I mean, you are throwing your vote away completely on that one.

  14. It kills me how many people are willing to throw away their votes and vote for Greg Nickels or another write-in. Seriously, you think McGinn and Mallahan are equivalent?

    1. Actually yes. I can’t stand either of them. Both will be bad for Seattle. I wrote in ‘mop with a bucket on it’s head’. I thought about nickels but the demoted him to a write in for a city council race where I didn’t care who won.

      1. Not really. Both are against things I support and neither has what I consider a good temperament for the job. I will not vote for McGinn partly because of the tunnel and also because I am still pissed at him over Roads and Transit. His dishonest campaign cost us some needed projects that would have improved mobility. Yeah we got the light rail, which is awesome, but the roads projects were important to. Mallahan is, well, a hack.

        Of course one will win, but I can’t say I care which one at this point. I would rather express my displeasure and hopefully others will do the same and who ever does win, wins with a rather low number of votes relative to other offices.

        Its weird, I am not really one who demands perfection in my candidates, or goes all third party, but this time I just don’t care which of these losers becomes mayor.

      2. Do you seriously just not get what we’re going to have to go through if we get Mallahan?

      3. What is he going to do? Seriously. I mean he might be devoid of ideas, but I haven’t heard him propose anything horrible.

      4. The world isn’t going to end if Mallahan becomes mayor. We have ST2 on the books already, and my general impression is that Mallahan will be easier to work with than McGinn. I think Mallahan gets better marks for “plays well with others,” and that at least offers a bit of hope.

        The KC Exec race however is a completely different story. With Susan Hutchison picking 10 out of 18 ST board positions we could see some real damage to ST going forward. We all know who the local anti-LR hacks are, but could you imagine what would happen to ST if Hutchison decided to put them all on the board?

        It’s the KC Exec race that I fear most from this election.

      5. Susan is going to be somewhat limited in who she can pick for the ST board though. 4 have to be members of the county council. The others have to be elected city officals. All 3 sub areas have to be equally represented as well. She has to find rail oppnents in that mix which will be difficult considering the ST2 vote in King County.

      6. Ya, that is true and will help, but I still expect her to do her darndest to derail ST. There are still plenty of critics out there, and some hold elected office. It could get really messy.

      7. In fairness, I actually believe Hutchison that she “likes” light rail in a general sense and isn’t coming in with an agenda to destroy it. However, all the transit people are in Dow’s camp and she’s getting terrible advice and information from the usual suspects.

        Hopefully, if Hutchison wins, Jim Ellis can right the ship:

      8. Yes, I too believe she does like it in the abstract but as you say, she would be getting terrible advice if elected!

        I haven’t worked out why Jim Ellis is supporting her – this election is too important to pay back an old friend (Senator Gorton of old) with a back slapping return Republican vote. Either this, or Mr. Ellis knows something most of us here do not!

      9. It won’t be that bad, Ben, but now that McGinn has shifted on the tunnel, I can rest more easily that he won’t be as bad for Seattle as I thought formerly. I don’t agree with Mallahan’s non-committal stance on guns in the parks and public spaces of Seattle but beyond that, he doesn’t really have much to say on anything.

  15. I’d still vote for him. As a bicycle commuter, he gets it. Whether the tunnel is built or not the bicycling commuting in Seattle could be vastly improved without a huge amount of money if they would just put their minds to it and do it.

    Some paint, some round-bouts, some larger sharrows, some one way except for bicycle side streets and you could get near anywhere quickly via bicycle.

    The guy is a lawyer, what he said was, he’d follow the law. The Tunnel resolution is a shameless push by the tunnel supporters to get it done before the incoming mayor had a chance to change things.

  16. The thing is, the tunnel was not only one of McGinn’s central positions in general, it was also the base for all his other positions. He has a lot of great ideas for other things, but whenever anyone asked how he would pay for them, he said it would be through the money saved by not building the tunnel. Now he doesn’t have that revenue source that didn’t really exist in the first place to point to, so his campaign is practically pointless… I support him versus Mallahan, and I actually disagreed with him on the tunnel, but I’m worried that this about face will doom his campaign and even if he wins, make him a very ineffectual mayor.

  17. I was pleased to see this ‘political’ departure for McGinn and recognition of the reality of where things are at right now. It goes to prove something I have been saying all along that Seattle has an increibly poor choice of candidates in the mayoral race. These points I do know:

    Greg Nickels should have gotten through the primary and the reason he didn’t is because voters got lazy and assumed that he would so they voted for who they wanted to instead – this frequently happens in elections.

    Mallahan and McGinn both slip through unexpectedly and have to ramp up their connection to Seattle voters.

    The tunnel had the potential to screw one or other candidate and now in the end, what is the choice – between a strongly pro-tunnel candidate and now a luke warm but not necessarily a supporter of one? Inexperience has caused McGinn to change position, but neither candidate offers much by way of reassurance that Seattle will be in safe hands after Mayor Nickels leaves office.

    1. Nickels didn’t lose becasue voters were lazy. He lost because enough people were upset at the way he performed his job. He lost by, what, 2,000 votes? Are you telling me there wasn’t 2,000 pissed off Sonics fans that voted for someone else? Or how about 2,000 people uspet at his incompetence at handling snow removal?

      Laziness had nothing to do with it. Pissing off a good chunk of the voters in an election year had everything to do with it. Had he had another year, the success of Light Rail may have saved him. Unfortunately, it was too late.

      1. The snow removal issue is a red herring to be honest – it does not rank with the chaos surrounding the WTO mess of 10 years ago that cost Mayor Schell his reelection.

        I believe if you look at Greg Nickels’ record in the round rather than the specific, he is by far the stronger candidate than either Mallahan or McGinn are so far proving to be. My point in my post/comment is that voters felt they could vote by their preference on the assumption that Greg Nickels was assumed to be a shoe in so it wouldn’t matter if sense took a back seat in the primary. Proper voting depends on people voting with their heads as well as their hearts and in the primary unfortunately, they voted with their hearts and ignored perhaps what their heads were telling them. It is as silly as people voting for George Bush in 2000 because he seemed a more likable guy to have a beer with than Al. Gore would have been.

      2. Several of my friends either voted strategically (Nickels supporters voting for whom they thought would be the weaker opponent for Nickels in the general) or cast a protest vote in the primary fully expecting to vote for Nickels in the general.

        What really cost Nickels the primary was either burn-out (there has only been one 3 term mayor in the history of Seattle – we like change) or anger over the fact that Nickels got things done and wasn’t afraid to step on some toes while doing it.

      3. Nickles should have not run for a third term. I know many people believe that is just making predictions after the results are in, but I believed that before the primary. I was convinced that he would win re-election, just not by as strong a margin as he did in 2005. If he stayed out he could have embarked of a speaking tour of the state’s liberal establishments. he could have used that to make himself the front runner for the Democratic nomination for governor. I do not personially think that he would have been victorious in the general election. (Candidates who come across as Seattle candidates do not usuially win outside King county. Like Jim McDermott in his 1980 run for Governor.) But, he would have been in a great position to make an attempt. Now he has screwed that up.

  18. Please… He should have done this a week or two ago. Now might be too late.

    As some folks have pointed out, this has absolutely nothing to do with McGinn changing his opinion on the tunnel at all.

    On the one hand, he’s going to step back and let the tunnel collapse on its own — as many of the pro-transit folks around him have been saying for ages.

    On the other hand, he’s been branded over and over by the media as a one-issue candidate against Mallahan’s executive experience and ability to “drive efficiencies.”

    Hopefully, there’s enough time for the press to be forced to write about the other ideas he’s proposed in his several policy papers, plans, and speeches. Either that, or he’ll be like Prince — “the mayoral candidate formerly opposed to the tunnel.”

  19. We need someone who doesn’t throw sand and who is willing to make a 50 year vision for Seattle that balances needs and doesn’t polarize issues. Mike goes from fight to fight like the Sierra Club or the City of Seattle is his courtroom. Enough already. We need collaboration and efficiency not obstinacy and entrenched attitudes. I find Mallahan refreshing as he gathers data and opinions and forms malleable positions. When McGinn wants your opinion, he’ll give it to you. No thanks. I’m voting Mallahan.

  20. I was suprised to hear this. This is almost like ronald Reagan in 1980 just a few weeks before the election saying he thinks taxes will never be cut so he is no longer going to fight for tax cuts. It was not his only issue but it was a big one. This could hurt McGinn.

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