When the news broke that the mayor’s office had hired former Cascade Bicycle Club Advocacy Director David Hiller, many of the city’s media outlets jumped on the news as hypocritical amid budget cuts across many city departments. After all, how could the mayor hire a “bike czar” while asking for more reductions in already slashed city budgets?
First off, Hiller’s position is not a “new” position, said McGinn. His office’s staff is made up of a number of people working to push the mayor’s agenda, and Hiller will be one of them.
“We’re expecting David to bring to this office the same type of ability he brought to advocating for bicycles,” said the mayor.
Hiller will not just be advocating for bicycle use and infrastructure, though that is clearly his specialty. He will be working to advance the mayor’s stance on the seawall, light rail and, yes, the deep bore tunnel, as well as any other major initiative in the office.
The position is also within the mayor’s office budget, which will be lower than last year, said McGinn. It is currently 36 percent lower than under Mayor Nickels. The office’s budget is 6 percent lower than last year, and will be lower next year than it is today.
If he is as successful for the city of Seattle as he has been for bicycle advocacy, he will be a great value for the city, said the mayor.
At the Bikes and Bagels event this morning at McGraw Square downtown, the mayor called on the bike commuters gathered to stand up against the “right wing talking points” going around arguing that it is bad for business to encourage transit and bicycle use.
“We need you to stand up, all of us, and when you hear that, you need to correct them,” he told the crowd. “We need this to be a safe place to be for everybody. It’s good for our health, it’s good for out economic vitality and it’s good for the future of our city.”
There is an often unstated assumption hiding under many major media reports that bicycles are not a serious mode of transportation, and therefore any money spent that even remotely appears to support bicycle use is a waste of money.
For a good example, watch this ridiculous video from KOMO created last night. My favorite part is where they spend a couple minutes talking about how its a waste of money, then at the end admit that the mayor’s budget is six percent lower than last year.
I think the real question to ask here is: If the mayor had hired a former CEO for $100,000/year to push his “pro-business” agenda, would we have seen the same outrage?
Senior positions in the mayor’s office are far lower than under Nickels. McGinn’s Chief of Staff Julie McCoy makes $125,000/year, whereas the deputy mayor under Nickels made $190,000, according to the mayor’s spokesperson Aaron Pickus. The communications director under McGinn makes $120,000, vs $160,000 under Nickels.
KOMO was so desperate to nail the mayor on this hire, they hung out in front of his home last night between 9 and 10 p.m. Turns out, there was hardly any meat to go after. Hanging out in front of the mayor’s home is something you do when he is under investigation for embezzling or something serious, not for when he makes a budgeted hire of someone who happens to be a former employee of a bike club.
While people may not agree with the mayor politically, it is disingenuous to suggest his office’s budget is bloated cronyism … or at least any worse than any other mayor’s office.