Seattle Space Needle Reflection at Night

About a Tunnel. About a Mayor.

Alaskan Way Viaduct and Downtown Seattle Skyline

Alaskan Way Viaduct and Downtown Seattle Skyline

Well, it looks like the tunnel is headed for a vote, although it doesn’t really look like the vote is going to count.

Yesterday, the City Council decided to proceed with a referendum which will determine whether or not the city can “give notice” to the state. If “yes”, such notice will allow them to go ahead with the construction phase of the tunnel agreements.

The state has already said that they will disregard the vote, so I suppose it will be largely symbolic. I’ll show up anyway and, of course, I’ll vote “no”. I am under no illusion that I will be on the right side of the outcome, however.

Most Seattleites don’t really care what happens Downtown. Half of them probably couldn’t name five streets down here off the top of their heads. Seattleites like to fancy themselves urban sophisticates, but the city is zoned 70% for single-family houses. There is no appreciable difference between parts of North/West Seattle and parts of Lacey, WA. Folks north of the cut would be mortified if Skype erroneously assigned them a 425 or 360 area code, but the urban elitism is mostly a put-on.

The majority of Seattleites wake up in the morning, drive their cars to work, and drive their cars back home in the evening. We know that this is the norm, and it is not in jeopardy. Only 3% of the transit budget is devoted to bicycle projects, which is reasonable since 2% of people currently bike to work. Still, this confounds the media and a vocal minority in newspaper comment sections.

After all, why would anyone ride a bicycle?

If they do, shouldn’t we license them like cars? Even though they weigh 25lbs, cannot be ridden on the freeway, and are not entitled to a full individual lane, shouldn’t we punish these people in some way for being different and thus threatening everything we hold dear?

Good old Seattle. “Greenest” city in the USA. Home to more environmental activists per-capita than probably any other city on Earth.

We complain about pollution. We complain about the depletion of natural resources. We complain about foreign wars fought over oil. Then, we get in our cars and shake our fists at people who contribute to none of the above.


Because the respected journalists at the Seattle Times told us to. We do read The Times, you know. It’s what educated Seattleites do. It’s what separates us from the proletariat in Tacoma.

At least, this is what we tell ourselves. The truth; that we are hypocrites and far less cosmopolitan than we let on; is much less glamorous.

While I’m on the subject of the tunnel issue, I would be remiss if I didn’t address a few “critiques” that were lobbed my way this past week or so. Critiques which are somewhat related to the tunnel.

You see, I have been accused, and my blog has been accused of being “Pro-McGinn”.

The horrors.

The charges were leveled at me as if I were being accused of clubbing baby seals.

I mean, do I really want to be on the wrong side of corporate media on this issue? Do I really want to risk alienating or even infuriating the Seattle bourgeoisie?

People wondered why I was kissing McGinn’s rear end all of a sudden. What was the deal with all the sappy pro-mayor stuff? After all, I’ve never before supported any politician in the history of my blogging “career”. What gives?

Well, the fact of the matter is that I do support Mayor Mike McGinn. For the most part. I would be dishonest if I said that I agreed with him about everything, but the man gives me hope. Hope I never thought I would have in politics.

I’ve lived under many mayors, and in my humble opinion, McGinn has shown the most integrity.

Half of his positions have been wildly unpopular with the big money in this town, but he has largely stuck to his guns. Only 2% of people commute by bicycle, yet he still advocates for them. He has taken on Olympia. He has stood up against powerful interests and he’s voted against his own self-interests. He’s all but assured lessor monetary support in the next election. This is virtually unheard of in American politics anymore.

And how do we react?

We react like big money wants us to react. We shout at him, yell at him, and call him names. We play right into their hands.

We should all be ashamed of ourselves.

The local media has launched an all-out war on McGinn, and it’s none too subtle. When I say “local media”, I mean pretty much all of them. The Times, the P.I., King 5, KOMO … they all have marching orders and those orders are clear. “We want the tunnel, and all who stand in our way must be crucified”. We don’t want any more bicycle advocates in city government.

What about the rest of us, though? Those of us who don’t have large amounts of money or power to sway policy or media slant? McGinn is the best we can ever hope for.

This is the motivation behind my own articles. From what I have seen to date, I am literally the only blogger in this town that will hold myself out to the scorn of others by saying what I have said. I’m the only one that will take the rotten fruit thrown at me. Because of this, I am working extra hard to support the silent majority. The days of zines and rabid alternative expression in this town are over. Almost completely over. Even the supposed-alternatives and independent blogs are almost shockingly mainstream and “professional”. We want to be legitimate now, and this means soliciting the tacit approval of those whom we were tasked to keep honest.

Most of Seattle blogging is done by consensus these days, and nobody wants to be on the wrong side of an issue. It would upset the clique, and if Cobain was right about anything, it is that Seattle is … indeed … like high school again. No recess.

Now, look, I don’t know Mike McGinn personally. I’ve never seen the guy in person. I’ve never spoken to him. I emailed him once about a scooter issue (he didn’t respond), but that’s the extent of my contact. I sincerely doubt that he even wants my support. He probably wishes I was pro-tunnel. The mayor has enough PR problems and he certainly doesn’t need the baggage of being supported by the least-connected blogger in town.

As a citizen of Seattle, however, I’ve come to respect him a great deal. Contrary to what just about everyone in the media will have you believe, I am not all by myself. A very informal “elevator poll” (where I solicit the opinions of people I am trapped in elevators with on a daily basis) shows the Mayor’s support to be very strong here in the urban core.

A recent poll conducted by a firm critical of McGinn found that 2/3rds of Seattleites rate McGinn “fair” or better. Remember, this 66% is for a mayor who does not enjoy the support of the local media or the big developers. Throw in non-stop police scandals over the past two years, and it’s nothing short of a miracle that he’s still standing at all.

After all of this, it would be much easier for McGinn to simply acquiesce to the big money interests. This is what every candidate does. It’s job security. It is what our State Legislators do, and it is what our City Council members do.

My guess is that said interests assumed that McGinn would do the same once he got into office, and they are absolutely confounded that he has stuck to his guns. They are frustrated beyond belief. It’s never happened before.

So, what are they doing about it?

They are launching a bunch of astro-turf “anti-bike” campaigns. They already scared the bejesus out of the poor folks in Magnolia with threats of “McGinn is going to take your cars away”.

To date, it has worked. To be honest, I am surprised because supposedly-intellectual Seattleites were up in arms when Republicans used similar tactics during the Health Care debate. I guess we really are all the same after all. An easily-manipulated populace always looking to the talking heads in the picture box or big paper columnists, begging them to tell us which way the wind is blowing.

There are some hold-outs, though. Some people who have seen through it. I am one of them. Regardless of what the local media and pollsters tell you, I’m not alone.

Not even close.

Mike McGinn has my respect, and my thanks. Thanks for doing what no one else has, or probably will ever do. Thanks for not taking the easy path, and thanks for taking the risk of being unpopular with the most well-connected of us. Thanks for a bravery that is almost extinct.

Keep your head up, Mike.

The people are still with you.

3 comments to About a Tunnel. About a Mayor.

  • jimbo

    Thank you. The recent corporate media drumbeat has been relentless. These are exactly my thoughts – I’ve been amazed at the level of vitriol leveled at a guy who’s standing up for everything Seattle claims to be for.

  • bill_t

    For some reason, bicyclists everywhere have the same forks up their asses. I use to live in San Francisco, and I’m used to the holier-than-thou, Critical-Massed attitude. Fine, ride your freaking bike. You aren’t saving the planet. You are just looking retarded in your Spandex, helmet, and scrawny limbs.

    Only 2% of Seattle denizens ride to work? How much bending over do you want the other 98% to do so that these saintly two-wheelists can safely adjust their haloes?

    Just like retards with their pants around their knees, or hipsters with Vestas, many bicyclists are just poseurs. Only in cities like Seattle, SF, or Portland do they get away with it. Try that in Cleveland. Or Vegas.

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