Monday, September 28, 2009

Gentrification is a bad word in Seattle, the other Seattle, if only that were the problem here

I do not see McGinn peddling his electric-assist bike up North Aurora, or Joe Mallahan standing on the overpass at 125th Street pontificating. There is no neighborhood romance to leverage into votes here.

There are no art galleries serving white wine, and no battles over street cars.

North Aurora in Seattle looks much worse than South Aurora in Shoreline. Same road, two different cities.

There are no battles to bring light rail stations, monorails, or pramanades. No tourist gift shops hawk cheesy totem pole t-shirts to cruise ship passengers here.
But this is still Seattle, paying Seattle taxes, isn't it?

Gentrification is a bad word in Seattle, the other Seattle, if only that were the problem.
Read the latest rerun of this story at the Seattle Times right here.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Seattle City Councilman Nick Licata (aka Dr. No) Proposes to drag his feet on the deep bore tunnel for up to 8 months!

Why does Nick Licata want to hold up the replacement of the Alaska Way Viaduct?
What is so important to him that delaying the entire project for up to eight months more is the best option?

Let's find out.

Urban Politics #280, 9/25/09

By City Councilmember Nick Licata


Today Mayor Greg Nickels presented his 2010 Proposed Budget to the City Council. One of the major elements accompanying his final budget is accompanying legislation to the Council requesting that we approve a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the State signing off on $787 million for the city’s obligations to fund projects related to the bored tunnel.

The Council is receiving this legislation eight months after he signed an agreement with the Governor and King County Executive. The Council is scheduled to take a week to evaluate his proposal and approve the MOA. The legislation will be introduced Monday and up for a vote Tuesday in the Transportation Committee, with a final vote expected the following Monday.

There is something wrong with this picture. Why rush to sign an agreement that is barely off the press? What is motivating this breakneck speed after no action for months? I fear that the public may get the impression that the current Mayoral election may have something to do with it. There is no clear reason for the City Council to bypass our budget deliberations.

Ok, let's insert some facts missing from Council Member Licata's memory. "Barely off the press" to Licata is months old.

The Washington State Legislature passed Senate Bill 5758.

Apr 24 Senate concurred in House amendments.
Passed final passage; yeas, 39; nays, 9; absent, 0; excused, 1. (View Roll Calls)
Apr 25 President signed.
Speaker signed.
Apr 26 Delivered to Governor. (View Bill as Passed Legislature)
May 12 Governor signed.
Chapter 458, 2009 Laws. (View Session Law)
Effective date 7/1/2009.

Remember something, anything, from back in April. How about something from the press? No, yes, maybe?
How about this?
On the May 27, 2009 edition of City Inside Out: Council Edition, Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata, a longtime opponent of replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a tunnel, said, "I've never been a big fan of the bored tunnel but if they are going to do it-this might be the best opportunity.".

What happened between May 27, 2009, and September 25, 2009?
The "best time" turned into "what's the rush".

Could it be... McGinn?

The city Transportation Subcommittee has been meeting regularly, as sub-committees do. Then they approve, or recommend action to the full council.

Nick Licata is not on the Transportation Sub-committee. He, like the rest of the council members not on this, or other committees, get recommendations all the time to review and consider for full council review and action. There is no rush, just grandstanding by a council member not part of the sub-committee, but fully aware of the impending requirement for council action to support its obligation to support the law passed nearly six months ago, and went into effect more than two months ago.

Back to Licata's statement:

The Council should act responsibly in considering legislation stating the City’s intent to enter into an agreement with the state and agreeing to fund $787 million in City projects as part of the bored tunnel project to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. The proposed budget includes $603 million, well short of full funding. It appears that over 80% of the cost of the public open space on the waterfront is not identified.

So, the council, that has been living with the law for a couple months, has sub-committee meetings on the viaduct replacement, needs to slow down because the "public open space on the waterfront " does not have funding. A major earthquake and much of viaduct will be "public open space on the waterfront " in a matter of seconds, it is sinking into the earth a little at a time, you can not delay gravity.

The "public open space on the waterfront " is a Seattle want. Ripping down the viaduct and replacing it with the already paid for tunnel is a need.
Offer an amendment to postpone acting on the "open space" until funding can be secure, offer that next week, if that really is your reason for wanting to delay the project, and I do not know it is, really. You flip-flopped from now is the time, to dragging it out.

It is hairsplitting grandstanding like this that you embrace as "responsible" footdragging, and then object when your opponent says that you have a reputation for obstruction. I wonder where she gets that from? Oh ya, from you.

Back to Licata's statement:

Voting two business days after receiving the Mayor’s funding proposal falls short of accountability standards we should be setting for ourselves. We have eight weeks to consider the Mayor’s budget; the MOA should grow out of that work, not precede it.

The mayor is restating what was reflected in the legislation from Spring, that went into law in Summer, and is now in the Mayor's budget proposal this Fall. This stuff is outlined in a brochure published last May, in color, with pictures. Seasons have passed, laws have passed, sub-committees have been meeting. Not enough time for Licata, for some reason.

And while Seattle City Councilman Nick Licata is sending out his press release stating that he wants to slow down, the Seattle City Council sends out its own press release stating that it is ready to move forward:Council set to solidify alignment with the state on Viaduct replacement
Transportation committee will vote on authorizing forward progress

SEATTLE - On Tuesday, Sept. 29 the Transportation Committee will review and discuss a Memorandum of Agreement between the Washington Department of Transportation and the city, which would authorize the parties to move forward with the Alaskan Way Viaduct Deep Bored Tunnel and Seawall replacement.

While the city, county and state have previously agreed on the deep bored tunnel alternative, this agreement marks the fourth in a series of contracts for the project. On Sept. 8 the Council approved three MOAs with the state, authorizing more than $480 million in state funds to be used for reconfiguration of the south portion of the Viaduct.

“This legislation is timely and appropriate,” said Jan Drago, Transportation Committee Chair. “The state and the city are continuing to make progress on the bored tunnel replacement and this is one of many pieces in that process. The legislation will prepare Council for necessary financial actions which we will address during budget deliberations, beginning next week.”

This agreement outlines the state and city’s responsibilities and provides a clear path for progress. It recognizes the necessity for all entities to work collaboratively toward completion.

"I'm pleased that Mayor Nickels and the Seattle City Council are moving forward with the State of Washington on this Memorandum of Agreement," said Gov. Chris Gregoire. "Replacing the Viaduct with a deep bored tunnel was a decision involving years of analysis, evaluation and deliberation to arrive at mutual agreement. We have no time to waste if we are to ensure the safety of our citizens and our future economic viability that relies heavily on our transportation systems."

“Our responsibility is to both provide safe, effective transportation solutions and to lay the foundation for a great urban waterfront for future generations,” said Council President Richard Conlin. “This legislation commits the city to continue working in partnership with the state to fulfill that commitment.”

Once discussed and voted on by the Transportation Committee, the proposed legislation would go before the Full Council for a vote, which is expected to occur on Oct. 5.

Hmm, the council is ready, Licata is not prepared to move forward.
And more Licata:

Seattle can be a good partner with the state by replacing the central seawall, establishing a promenade on the downtown waterfront, completing the Spokane Street Viaduct Project, and replacing utilities on the central waterfront. Signing an MOA with the State on these items is a reasonable step to take, but the Council should first determine how we are going to pay the bill. The Mayor has released only the vaguest of plans, including parking taxes, possibly increasing property taxes, and a new vehicle license fee.

Vaguest of plans?
This is how it is spelled out in the Mayors budget, and highlighted in the Seattle Times, dollar values, dates, potential sources.

The Council says that they are ready, are you part of the Council?

And more Licata:

In 2008 the City Auditor cautioned about beginning large capital projects without full funding in place. This agreement commits the City to a path to begin capital projects without telling the public how this full funding will occur; it goes against the spirit of the Auditor’s recommendations.

The state legislature required WSDOT to report back in January with a revised cost estimate for the bored tunnel (and prohibited awarding contracts before that), and whether $400 million can be raised from tolling. A 2002 study estimated $35 to $95 million could be raised. The legislature required cost overruns to be paid for by Seattle property owners. This agreement does not address this provision, and acting prematurely could place Seattle taxpayers at risk.

It’s time to do our homework.


Citizens are directed to the following website to complete a form to
send an email to the Mayor's Office.

When people send messages to people like themselves they say one thing, when they communicate to a wider group they pull back a little. Nick Licata's attempt to drag his feet on this project is built off the least significat details, nothing that should at this juncture hold up the project. So, why does he do shit like this?
Because that is who he is, champion of hairsplitting, and grandstanding off that public hairsplitting.

I do not have any good reason to endorse voting for Jesse Israel, and that is a shame.
I will actively endorse voting against Nick Licata.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mallahan changed mind on Mercer after Vulcan mind probe

Money talk, flip-flop, Mallahan is now supporting Mercer Street beautification project.

I am now an undecided voter.

Seattle Times story here.

Have a great day,
Mike Baker

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Crosscut's David Brewster: The tone test for the mayor's race

I agree with David Brewster in comparison of tone of the two candidates for Mayor of Seattle. One is snarky, the other is B-O-R-I-N-G.

First, the context, here is the McGinn light rail proposal as reported in the Seattle Times (Seattle's only daily metro newspaper):
Mike McGinn pledged this morning to bring a plan before voters within two years to expand light rail to more neighborhoods within Seattle.

Neighborhoods that could be connected, he said: West Seattle, Ballard, Fremont, Queen Anne and Belltown.

"Seattle's values on these things just couldn't be clearer," McGinn said, at a news conference at the Columbia City light-rail station.

McGinn mentioned the possibility of funding the light-rail extensions with car-tab taxes, sales taxes or other taxes.

Sound Transit has a plan to ask voters in 2016 for neighborhood extensions, and a build-out to Everett and Tacoma. McGinn, though, is proposing to hold a Seattle vote sooner on light-rail within the city.
Seattle Times: Mike McGinn wants more light rail in Seattle, vote within two years

I have no idea how Mike McGinn, an attorney, will kill the deep bore tunnel, a state highway, and then go back to the state to get car-tab taxing authority (details, details). The legislature already loves Seattle, I am sure killing the tunnel, and then demand tax authority to make the tunnel's death possible is exactly what the state really wants to have happen, or not.

Anyway, back to David Brewster's point on tone.
Today's [9/16/2009] example was a tiff over a proposal from Mike McGinn for hurry-up transit to the unserved neighborhoods. Joe Mallahan riposted quickly:
“Light rail is a critical service that not only gets people out of their cars and off the roads, moving more quickly, but also promotes economic development along its lines. We need more mass transit investments but light rail is a regional transportation system and all additions need to be integrated into our existing transit network.

“When someone proposes a plan of this size, the responsible thing to do is let voters know how much it will cost and how he’s going to pay for it. Mike McGinn won’t be honest with voters about how much his proposal will cost and suggests putting this haphazard measure on the ballot the same year Seattle’s Family and Education Levy is up for renewal. I think the last thing we should do is pit kids against mass transit solutions.

“Voters approved a Sound Transit package last year that included studies for expanding mass transit options in other parts of the city. I will advocate for expediting those plans and work with Sound Transit to move forward in a responsible manner.”

To which McGinn quickly returned fire:
"In his response criticizing my light rail expansion proposal, Joe Mallahan made the accusation that we would be pitting 'kids against transit.'

"Mr. Mallahan's comment is uninformed. Seattle voters routinely pass multiple measures on the same ballot. Two recent examples include:

"Nov. 2008 - Seattle voters passed the Parks Levy (59% Yes), the Pike Place Market Levy (61% Yes) and Sound Transit 2 (70% yes in Seattle) at the same time with large majorities.

"Nov. 2006 - Seattle voters passed the Bridging the Gap Levy (53% Yes) plus King County's Transit Now (69% Yes in Seattle).

"My question for Mr. Mallahan is would he vote for a good light rail package and an education measure if they were on the same ballot?

"I also find it somewhat ironic that Mr. Mallahan is trying to raise concern about the Families and Education Levy (passed with a 62% Yes vote) as an excuse to not move forward on light rail. County voting records indicate that Mr. Mallahan has missed ten important elections since he moved to Seattle nine years ago including the last Families and Education Levy in 2004."

The difference in tone is apparent, with McGinn heavier on the sarcasm and the gratuitous insults, as well as the punchy data. This lawyer knows how to address a jury and score points. Mallahan, meanwhile, is trying (aided by his grave tone) to plant in voters' minds that McGinn is flaky, a sound-bite politician versus the stay-with-the-program manner of Steady Joe. If McGinn risks getting whistled for low blows, Mallahan flirts with B-O-R-I-N-G.

Underlying this positioning is the question whether voters, stunned by the Town Hell events and "You lie!" taunts, will find McGinn's snarky manner off-putting or refreshing.
Crosscut's David Brewster: The tone test for the mayor's race

Mr. Brewster is right, message intent projects a tone. That tone is a product of the person, and how they express their ideas.

McGinn put the light rail idea out there as if we have to go it alone, like the monorail, and streetcars (not that we have to, but his message form could imply it).
McGinn compares the publics willingness to vote for $149 million for parks with a new light rail vote of 10x the tax cost is a bit of a reach. Comparing people voting for parks or even the the Seattle Library vote ten years ago, that spreads the pain and gain all over the city, is simply not the same as a multi-jurisdiction vote for Sound Transit light rail (ST). The project's larger scale spreads the pain and gain broader. Many hands make light (rail) work.

What I think most people in Seattle want to avoid are mass transit projects that can be compared with the failed monorail, $130 car tabs for nothing is still in living memory for the vast majority of citizens. While I am at here, the monorail mode of transportation is tainted with civic failure, and will take more time to pass before revisiting more monorail as anything more than an aspiration.

There is a point where too much tax is just that, concentrating too much gain, or pain, is unacceptable on its face. Proposing to vote on a formless and expensive proposal in two years is a socially dumb proposal, no matter how good the idea is behind it.

McGinn's proposal does look a little flaky, flacky, or simplistic. He put the idea out there as a proposal (to have a vote in two years). Proposal messages demand a finer level of information than aspirations. It has been my experience that proposals that demand money are expected by the person getting the message to have finite facts with which to agree to a reasonable solution with.

You can see the lack of specitivity in how people, in general, react (such as Mr. Brewster's story referenced above). 10% unemployment will have that effect on the masses. Call it mass transit consumer confidence, if you like.

This messaging failure could also say that McGinn is out of touch with the maturity of his broader message, or with the depth of understanding of the transportation issues with the masses. This is not a transportation wonktocracy.

My simple advice for Mike McGinn is to propose things that happen in the future in more open terms; civic aspiration, and an alternative idea to stopping the tunnel, should have been that message.

Joe Mallahan's response was spot-on, but uninspiring. In Mallahan's transportation messaging, and his direct response to McGinn's proposal, he has to express the broader ST transportation message, couched in perspective that would directly benefit McGinn's proposal. More simply, reduce McGinn to a subject matter expert voicing a poorly formed proposal. Mallahan should have taken the proposal's positive attributes and placed them into broader policy, being the policy maker. That's what a mayor does do, after all.

Mr. Mallahan's response was to fight the rough edges of McGinn's slightly ham-handed proposal, it should have been aspirational, placed into the ST context of win-win pain-gain spreading. Place the idea in the appropriate broader scale. For a guy espousing project management skills he, quite frankly, choked on that answer. Project management is the discipline of planning, organizing, and managing resources to bring about the successful completion of specific project goals and objectives.. The resources are tax payers that need meaningful transportation solutions. The project scope is big, and pitting it against resources for children, as Mallahan did, failed to provide a right-sized policy solution.

The more inspiring massage both missed was that by working with ST the western parts of Seattle could, and should, start thinking about light rail in ways that Bellevue and Redmond currently are. In Two years we should know where we want to have light rail progress in Seattle, and what it will take to make that happen for the citizens of Seattle.

There, a little ST, mention the broader ST idea, how do we fit in and play along, and an aspiration for Seattle.
Realistic and inclusive aspirations are what this election, and many others, are about.
Honestly, it is not that hard to express the direction you want to go in open terms that are inclusive and realistic to the broadest number of voters.

Have a great day,
Mike Baker

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tunnel, or Surface option? Eventually it could be both

In today's Seattle Times Mike Lindblom has written a story on mayoral candidate Mike McGinn's proposal to shelve the tunnel as the replacement for the aged Alaska Way Viaduct and go with a less expensive surface and transit option. The surface option would include increasing throughput on Interstate 5, a boulevard to replace the viaduct, and an increase in mass transit.

The good news is that McGinn's alterative would be cheaper, the bad news is that it will not be enough capacity.
The tunnel is a more expensive idea, it includes having vehicle traffic that is passing through Seattle not mixing with the local surface traffic. The good news is that seperating that traffic will help that some, the bad news is that it will not be enough capacity, either.

Skim through Washington State Office of Financial Management data here and it becomes pretty clear that Seattle is not absorbing as much population as the rest of King County, and King County is growing.
The facts are that people keep moving to King County, and to Seattle. King County increased by about 13% over the past 9 years, Seattle about 6.8%.

Over the lifespan of either option, surface, or tunnel, more capacity will be required, the question is moot.

McGinn scenario

MIKE McGINN would seek to move $2.4 billion in state highway funds to a "surface transit" plan instead of a tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Alaskan Way/waterfront: Demolish viaduct, rebuild surface road similar to present width, mostly four lanes, $825 million.

Interstate-5 widening: Eliminate left-side offramps to fit an additional lane through downtown, make other improvements, $553 million.

Utility relocation: Paid by the state instead of the city, $250 million.

Sea-wall replacement: Paid by the state instead of the city, $255 million.

Transit: Cost savings applied to buy new buses and increase service in waterfront and other areas, $500 million.

Source: McGinn campaign

Read about the strawman debate here, in the Seattle Times Newspaper: McGinn's no-tunnel campaign counts on fewer cars

Build the Tunnel, and make all of the surface improvements, and the increase in mass transit, and the bike lanes, and the sidewalks, and a million people will come to King County and Seattle, no matter what.

Do it all, start with the throughput tunnel first.

Have a great day,
Mike Baker

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Is having endorsers remorse?, the online mostly political newsy web site, back on August 3, 2008, endorsed Mike McGinn for Mayor of Seattle in the Primary Election.

Why did they like Mike a month ago?
In order, McGinn’s follow-up acts included: 1) Starting an urbanist nonprofit called the Seattle Great City Initiative, which, among other things, helped nudge the city council to pass the legislation requiring the city to add bike and pedestrian facilities whenever it tears up city streets. . . Endorses, Mike McGinn

There was more, feel free to follow the link, but the #1 was getting taxpayers to pay for improvements in and around private investments. How green of him.

Today, Erica Barnett has written a story to inform the Mike McGinn Kool-aid drinkers where Mike McGinn got support for Publicola's #1 reason for endorsing him.
So it may come as a surprise to some of his idealistic supporters that the group that financed McGinn’s Great City—in addition to environmental groups like the Cascade Bicycle Club and the Bullitt Foundation—includes many of the city’s biggest developers, law firms, and builders.
. . .
the group has posted a list of the companies and organizations themselves that funded the group’s creation.
. . .
The most prominent company on the list  is Vulcan, Paul Allen’s South Lake Union development firm. Although McGinn wouldn’t say specifically how much Vulcan had contributed to Great City, he does concede that the developer is among the organization’s top two or three contributors, along with Bullitt and the Land Conservancy.

McGinn Group Funded by Seattle’s Biz Establishment
BY ERICA C. BARNETT, 09/11/2009, 3:11 PM

The story got a shout-out from SeattleWeekly's Mark Fefer:
Where exactly is the surprise in the fact that real estate developers like Vulcan and Harbor Properties, and the architects they employ, are supportive of a group like Great City that's all about creating amenities for more density? Why wouldn't they like a group that led the charge in 2008 to get Seattle voters to put up $145 million in taxpayer money to fix up parks near the developers' condos and apartments?
News Flash From Publicola: Developers Like Density and Taxpayer-Funded Parks".

So, do not ask how and why Mike McGinn can oppose a tunnel replacement for the Alaska Way Viaduct, but be for the $290 million dollar reworking of the "Mercer mess" that does next to nothing to improve traffic (that IS the mess). It sure does look good in the middle of Paul Allen's Vulcan investment and development in the South Lake Union area (this for that?).

Have a great day,
Mike Baker

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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Seattle Times: Mayor candidates oppose 1st Avenue streetcar

I selected both Joe Mallahan and Mike McGinn for Mayor of Seattle in the Primary (that is the function of the Primary). Both candidates projected ideas and ideals centering on the citizens that actually live here, and work here.
The Nickels administration, as well as prior administrations, focused on downtown investments. That preoccupation can only go on for so long before the people that actually live here notice.
Every mass transit idea thought of by city government has gone into downtown. If you place the maps of the streetcar, metro transit, trolley, light rail, mono rail, sidewalk and street improvement, on the same map the consentration of lines is downtown and vanish as you leave downtown to the residential neighborhoods. We've noticed, and so have the mayoral candidates.

We have something in common:
Seattle mayoral candidates Joe Mallahan and Mike McGinn both said in recent interviews that they oppose a streetcar on First Avenue -- a 2.5-mile line that outgoing Mayor Greg Nickels included in last winter's agreement to build a highway tunnel, Sodo interchange, seawall, promenade and related items for $4.2 billion.

$130 for a streetcar to placed on an existing street (that has sidewalks) where a bus runs. Adding a bus might be a little less expensive.
McGinn said the first priority is to protect Metro bus service from recession-related service cuts, not build a streetcar.

He is seeking to halt the state's tunnel plan, and subsitute "surface-transit improvements," including work on Interstate 5, within the $2.4 billion state lawmakers already earmarked for viaduct replacement -- so there would be no city tax increases, he says. (One problem: the state Constitution requires state gas taxes to go toward highways.)

Streetcars are simply inefficient, Mallahan argued. "It is redundant to Metro bus service. Third Avenue [limited to buses and bicycles at peak times] is only two blocks away," he said.

On this matter I am not able to choose one candidate over another, but both candidates over Nickels and Drago in the Primary.

Mallahan added that he would study and maybe oppose Sound Transit's future streetcar across First Hill and Capitol Hill -- even though it's funded by last fall's voter-approved Proposition 1. The line is Sound Transit's consolation prize to one of the state's most populated neighborhoods, after rising costs forced the transit board to cancel a First Hill light-rail station promised to voters back in 1996.

Not long ago, streetcar fever gripped the City Council, which voted 6-3 in December to endorse lines reaching Ballard, the University District, South Jackson Street and the Seattle Center-First Avenue corridor --- in addition to the existing South Lake Union and voter-approved First Hill lines.

. . .
She [Jan Drago] also said the First Avenue line still makes "immense sense" because it can connect the SLU streetcar (which could be extended to First and Stewart) and the First Hill streetcar (next to the International District/Chinatown light-rail stop).

This was Jan Drago's mass transit "contribution" for the deep bore tunnel replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
The "multi-modal" transportation mish-mash that just dumps cash downtown, and has people standing around transferring from one mode to the next is an expensive mess. Combining wait-transer times with the actual travel time and it is no big shock that many people outside of downtown still NEED cars, and yet, I am paying for all of those transportation "solutions".

Read the linked story.
Seattle Times: Mayor candidates oppose 1st Avenue streetcar

Have a great day,
Mike Baker

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Seattle Times: Ed Murray won't run for Seattle mayor

The following message was released by State Senator Ed Murray (D - 43):

While I am deeply concerned for the future of our city and Michael and I are honored to have been approached by so many people and organizations we admire and respect, I am also a realist: write-in campaigns are extremely difficult, and time is short. Also, the recognition yesterday that Referendum 71 will appear on the fall ballot galvanized my decision.
I considered a write in campaign because I was concerned that one candidate wanted to reopen a fight with the state when we need to work together. The other candidate who seeks to become our civic leader has failed to engage in civic activities including on the most basic level, voting, something Americans in the south have died for in our lifetime.

I considered running because I believe Seattle is greater than the selfish conversation in the Mayor's race. Missing are issues and leadership on social justice. Issues of poverty and civil rights. This campaign to date has been about one bridge and one neighborhood. Issues such as our schools, neighborhoods and diversity are missing from this debate.

I urge the candidates to broaden their messages and address the critical issues facing our city and look forward to working with one of them as our next mayor.
From the Seattle Times

I would have voted for him. Now, it is back to a hairsplitting followed by a coin-flip, with Joe Mallahan and Mike McGinn.

Have a great day,
Mike Baker

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