Endorsement: Mike McGinn for Mayor

20130517-132539.jpgEvery now and again, an excited tweet or facebook post pops up from an everyday Seattle resident who saw their mayor smiling and waving as he biked by.

For Mike McGinn, biking isn’t just a talking point or desirable voting block, it’s a part of everyday life and symbol of a better, yet reachable, Seattle.

Maybe that’s why so many of McGinn’s political opponents like to attack his pro-bike record. Because it’s a core part of the direction he wants to lead the city.

And that’s exactly why he deserves your vote in the August 6 primary.

As mayor, McGinn has spent a lot of political capital on safe streets issues. He backed extremely unpopular road safety projects and faced a media firestorm and outraged citizen and industry groups. He received a lot of bad headlines for those projects, followed by a scant few good ones when follow-up traffic studies proved the projects were successful by every measure.

But his steadfast support for streets that are safe for everybody has played a huge role in changing the city’s conversation about transportation. When he took office, the battle for bike lanes was being fought largely between hard core commuters and whoever dared to stand in their way. Seattle Neighborhood Greenways did not even exist yet (neither did Seattle Bike Blog, for that matter).

Now the conversation about cycling is all about roads that are safe for people of all ages getting around town on trips of all kind. It’s about kids biking to school or families biking to the grocery store or the park. And, yes, it’s about people biking to work and back home safely. He has supported the city’s neighborhood greenways movement at every opportunity. He also engaged multiple city departments, media outlets and neighborhood groups across the city in a Road Safety Summit that played a big role in shifting road safety conversations away from “cars vs bikes,” instead focusing on the idea that streets should be places for all people to use safely regardless of how they choose to get around.

His leadership has turned SDOT into a more safety-focused department that takes resident concerns about dangerous streets seriously. When he says that safety is his top transportation priority, he is not just giving lip service. You know he means it.

Perhaps due in large part to how dramatically the road safety conversation has shifted under his watch, there are no Rob Fords in the crowded mayoral candidate field. Being against safe bike lanes would be a serious political miscalculation. Even Charlie Staadecker, the candidate who seems most interested in arguing against bike lanes on busy streets, agrees there should be safe bike routes. (Joey Gray is totally all about bikes, but doesn’t stand much of a serious chance in the race with her poll numbers at 1 percent. Mary Martin’s bike lane stance is something about freeing Cuban prisoners. I hear Doug McQuaid is a real person, but that has not yet been 100 percent proven yet).

Of the top-polling candidates, Ed Murray, Mike McGinn and Peter Steinbrueck have all voiced strong support for safe bikeways, neighborhood greenways and finding a sustainable and significant funding source for biking and walking projects.

You can hear more about their road safety positions in this video of a mayoral forum hosted by Seattle Neighborhood Greenways and moderated by myself and Bike Works’ Deb Salls.

Bruce Harrell seems the least interested in making biking and walking safety a priority in his campaign, but he also doesn’t seem super interested in stopping the city’s progress. He has questioned the cost of cycle tracks and the price of automatic school zone speed camera tickets, signs that he might not be the strongest leader on the issue of road safety.

Steinbrueck told CapitolHillSeattle.com that he believes biking and walking safety should be the top transportation funding priority, even suggesting that transit funding packages are a distraction from what should be a focus on investments in biking and walking safety:

“The highest priority for me is pedestrian and bicycle safety, because those are the most vulnerable on the street and because we lose 10 to 15 people a year in pedestrian-vehicular conflict”

But, of course, fast high capacity transit is a vital part of a Seattle that is truly friendly to walking and biking. It’s one example of Steinbrueck’s questionable tendency to try to separate walking and biking from other key issues that have a strong effect on it.

Another example is land use. Steinbrueck has received a lot of support from people who don’t want to focus density in central Seattle neighborhoods, like Capitol Hill and South Lake Union. As he told CHS:

Rather than spending the city’s time and resources on accommodating more density in central Seattle, Steinbrueck is more interested in finding ways to encourage density in the city’s outlying areas.

“If you exclude single family homes on Capitol Hill, there’s not a huge potential for massive growth,” he said.

But as Seattle-based WalkScore has done an absolutely fantastic job illustrating, land use and walkability/bikeability go hand-in-hand (see also this post about their eye-opening ChoiceMaps feature). The more destinations within an easy bike ride or stroll of more homes, the more people can experience life in a truly walkable and bikeable neighborhood. And that’s exactly the kind of place people want to move to these days. Ask anyone who has tried renting a place on Capitol Hill or the Central District recently and they will tell you: There is a huge need for more housing in central Seattle. And the Capitol Hill light rail station is not even open yet.

Ed Murray has essentially never voiced significant opposition to a walking or biking position McGinn has held, from what I can tell (they did have a spat on Slog about Sound Transit service areas that I’m pretty sure 99 percent of the electorate slept through). He also hasn’t really offered many new positions, instead choosing to paint the mayor as divisive and making the case that though he essentially agrees with McGinn on everything transportation-wise, he would somehow bring people together better to make more happen.

The only concrete proposal Murray has made (that I can find) is to create a Seattle Transportation Master Plan that would combine the walking, biking, transit and freight mater plans developed during the past half decade or so. But OMG, if there’s one thing Seattle doesn’t need, it’s another damn transportation master plan. We need a mayor with a clear drive to build the stuff we already have planned.

We wrote a few months ago challenging the other mayoral candidates to try to outflank McGinn as the most inspiring candidate on transportation issues. Nobody did (though Kate Martin deserves a shout out for taking us up on the challenge and having a very interesting chat over coffee).

We currently have a mayor who has proven he is willing to take political hits to make biking, walking and transit projects happen. He clearly understands how city transportation should work, he understands how urgently we need safe streets and fast transit, and he is willing to do what he can to get us as far as possible in the time he has in office.

That’s why Seattle Bike Blog says you should give Mike McGinn four more years.

A note on voting: Ballots are in the mail. Don’t throw yours into a stack of mail. Vote early. See more 2013 primary endorsements here.

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9 Responses to Endorsement: Mike McGinn for Mayor

  1. David says:

    There are new construction projects everywhere, South Lake Union is becoming a world class tech hub, abandoned lots are becoming mixed use developments, the unemployment rate is down, new schools are being built, cycle tracks are finally starting to appear in places like Linden Ave and 7th Downtown, and crime is at a 30 year low.

    Go Mike.

    • Leif Espelund says:

      This is the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” argument. :) I think it fits here.

      Also, I love that all these candidates talk about how McGinn is divisive, that he can’t work with the council. It’s kind of hard to get cooperation when right off the bat two of the nine members are gunning for your job (now one) and probably don’t want to give you any “wins”. Then figure that those two have coalitions with other members, add in the people who genuinely disagree with you, and the handful who are too timid to do anything and it is a surprise McGinn has been able to get anything done with them.

  2. Mark says:

    I have, in recent years, taken to calling potholes “McGinns” and have been frustrated by the lack of execution when it comes to building bicycle infrastructure and maintaining existing facilities in Seattle. There is a national wave of bicycle infrastructure and, frankly, even with the Linden cycle track and Ballard greenway, Seattle is barely keeping up. Visit Portland and you’ll see how very far Seattle has to go if it wants to crack 6% bicycle mode share.

    However, I watched the video as you suggested and despite some poorly designed questions that seemed to invite fanciful answers by the candidates, I did come away with a better feeling about Mayor McGinn and his plans for building a stronger bicycle network. To earn my vote, the mayor needs to make a persuasive case that the pace of projects moving from the drawing board to the ribbon-cutting will increase substantially in his second term.

    • JesseMT says:

      Mark – I share your frustration at the pace of some of the needed infrastructure improvements, but I think most of the blame falls on the Council and the alliance of establishment business interests and media who scream “War on Cars” every time somebody suggests improving bike safety. I also think you’re asking the wrong question. Instead of asking the Mayor to prove that things will speed up second term, why not make the other guys prove they can do better?

      Of the other serious candidates, Steinbrueck is openly hostile to the kinds of density and transit improvements that will make Seattle a more bike-friendly city, and Harrell seems completely uninterested in the topic. Murray’s campaign has been shockingly unspecific, but we know he’s been endorsed by the Seattle Chamber and the Seattle Times – not exactly champions of cyclists and ped safety.

  3. No traffic lights says:

    Mike McGinn is the perfect Mayor for Seattle at this particular point in time. He’s also a pretty swell, positive fella on a personal level.

  4. Ulysses Hillard says:

    You said, “But, of course, fast high capacity transit is a vital part of a Seattle that is truly friendly to walking and biking.”

    I might agree if rapid transit, in Seattle, always meant grade separated routes. Here in Seattle and with Mayor McGinn, though, this means more streetcar lines.

    I am appalled that there are bicycle advocates that advocate any mode of transport that make bicycling less safe. I have only seen streetcars make bicycling a given route more hazardous – particularly when put in parallel with any existing bike route. I owe several injuries to rail in the streets and you know what? Those were in cities where it doesn’t rain as often. I suggest asking the members of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition what *they* think about streetcars or calling them “rapid” while they are at-grade. There are now rails in place on Fairview, Jackson, and Broadway. Do they make riding those streets more or less safe now? How about on wet days?

    I voted for Peter Steinbrueck. I hope anybody but McGinn wins because that is the only chance I see for preventing a streetcar on my own commute route, Eastlake.

  5. Pingback: Top Five Reasons I’m Voting for Michael McGinn for Mayor | citytank

  6. Pingback: Comparing bike commute rates to the mayoral primary results | Seattle Bike Blog

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