Ryan Blethen has a column defending the fact that the ed board talks about the mayor of the city in its masthead and the speaker of the state house. As a frequent critic of the ed board, let me say: that isn’t the problem. The problem is that you’re wrong about them.
Even casual readers of The Seattle Times’ Opinion section have probably noticed two names: Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and state House Speaker Frank Chopp.
Yes. They are high profile elected officials. I expect the ed board of the largest daily paper in the state to mention them.
They are difficult to miss because we have been writing a lot about them. As the editorial page editor I believe it is important to be persistent on issues we feel strongly about or that demand a spotlight.
Does anyone say not to cover the legislature or city government?
We have been all over Chopp, a Seattle Democrat, for sitting on a bill to revamp workers’ compensation. Chopp’s resistance to the reform proposal became a serious threat to completing the state’s budget.
The bill is unnecessary to move a budget forward, so it’s anyone insisting that it be part of budget negotiations is holding up the budget. Also, we don’t need to revamp, workers’ comp. And if we did we should probably not do it in a corporate friendly way. But seriously, nobody says don’t try to hold Frank Chopp accountable. We’re just saying what you want him to do is dumb and there are better targets if you actually care about passing the budget.
But as always it’s McGinn who really gets under the Seattle Times’ skin. Ryan, start off with something I’m not sure if it’s a mixed metaphor or horrible pun:
McGinn has become a regular thanks to his tunnel vision on the replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and numerous other issues. Last week’s McGinn editorial du jour was his hiring of the former advocacy director of the Cascade Bicycle Club. In an editorial we argued that David Hiller is not a great hire for a transportation and external communications gig. More important, though, was the way the announcement of the hiring was handled.
I literally can’t tell if “tunnel vision” is a joke or if he’s just trying to say McGinn is obsessed with one issue. In any event, you can’t have tunnel vision on “numerous other issues.” Tunnel vision means one issue, numerous issues means more than one issue.
Anyway, David Hiller is fucking rad. He helped turn the region more bike friendly. Right now, to take one example out of many, there’s construction on the Burke-Gillman trail in Lake Forest Park that Cascade helped bring about. Yes, he’s said some controversial things. Yes, he can be a lightning rod. Those are things that make an interesting story. The announcement aspect is so boring (not to mention piss poorly handled by the local media) that just thinking about it now, I’ve fallen asleep and am typing in my sleep zzzzzzz.
When the city is facing budget shortfalls, a mayor should know he needs to justify the hiring of a political ally in a well-paying job — even if that $87,500 job fills an existing opening. A clear explanation of Hiller’s hiring is not what the public heard. His job description was vague and the media were provided with a salary higher than the actual number.
*Re-reads this paragraph and decides to keep making fun of it*
Why should he get credit for significant cuts his office’s budget? Don’t you know that one specific hire is more important than the overall picture? (And I’m not even arguing that the amount he cut is right; the city probably should have kept the head tax, and it some of that money stayed in the mayor’s office, that’s fine by me.) Again, you’re allowed to look at the mayor’s office, but when you make dumb arguments, expect to get called on them.
Reporters rightly had questions because of the salary given and the lack of a job description. KOMO-TV was frustrated enough to send a reporter to McGinn’s house the evening Hiller’s hiring was announced. This angered the mayor and his staff. So much so that Aaron Pickus, the mayor’s spokesman, sent an email to the television stations telling them how far away they should stand from the mayor.
Because they have no idea how to contact him during business hours or at any of the multiple public events he does around town, KOMO were forced to go to his house after 9:00. And don’t give me that he’s a public official bullshit. We’re talking about a fairly routine hire.
Any politician with a taxpayer-supported salary should understand that reporters might show up in places they would rather be left alone. There is no Fortress of Solitude in politics.
If this was a major event, I’d agree. If, say, one of McGinn’s deputy mayors had got arrested and McGinn refused to talk about it, I’d be with you. Go to his house and demand answers. For David Hiller being hired, wait until the morning.
Anyway, how about going into super defensive mode and attacking a straw man?
One of the criticisms I often hear is that it is unfair for us to beat up on public figures. It would be if they didn’t have multiple outlets to voice their displeasure with us or support their cause. We are quick to offer up oped and letter space to the people we take to task. If a politician is frustrated with our stance they are free to complain about it to reporters, to us, or to unions or to business chambers.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that nobody has ever said it’s unfair for any newspaper to beat up on public figures. They may say your take is unfair. That you’re focusing on some public officials over others. Maybe someone has compared it to the embarrassingly fawning coverage Boeing and Microsoft get. Anyway, Ryan Blethen thinks he’s very brave for doing his fucking job. Poorly.