Tunnel vision

If Mike McGinn wins his race for Seattle mayor, he will no doubt credit much of his success to his firm stance against the Big Bore tunnel, and the latest Survey USA poll shows McGinn may be picking up momentum. But if he ends up losing the race to T-Mobile exec Joe Mallahan, I think it may be fair to argue that that is exactly the issue that did McGinn in.

It’s no secret that since the primary Mallahan has enjoyed broad, if somewhat tepid endorsements from business, labor and other organizations firmly grounded in the mainstream of the Seattle establishment, as well as many of Mayor Greg Nickels’ former supporters. If there was a Democratic political machine in Seattle (and there most definitely isn’t), the sound you’d be hearing right now would be its rusty old gears grinding into place behind Mallahan.

Why? Well, although the political insiders I’ve talked to all lament Mallahan’s lackluster and uninspiring campaign, and openly question whether he’s really prepared to be an effective mayor, they all point to the tunnel as the single issue driving them into the Mallahan camp. Oh, they don’t all love the tunnel, and most are quick to criticize its financing, but the establishment consensus is “enough is enough” on our near decade-long thumb-sucking over replacing the Alaska Way Viaduct. As much as they fear Mallahan may prove an ineffective mayor, they equally fear that McGinn may prove quite competent, if only in his promise to block the tunnel project.

Of course it’s not as simple as that. Many business types argue that the tunnel is in fact the best and least disruptive choice for both maintaining mobility through the downtown and redeveloping the waterfront, while some of the labor-types view the tunnel purely in terms of jobs, jobs, jobs. But if McGinn wanted to make the tunnel the number one issue in this race, he’s certainly succeeded… at least with the bulk of Mallahan supporters.

Despite his lack of political experience (or even, you know, voting), Mallahan has now clearly been cast as the establishment candidate, while McGinn is making the most of his role as the populist outsider. And while being a populist isn’t a bad thing to be in a Seattle election, I wonder if McGinn may have overestimated the breadth and depth of popular opposition to the tunnel, while underestimating the obstacle establishment money and endorsements could prove to his mayoral ambitions?

Comments

  1. 1

    ivan spews:

    If McGinn loses, it won’t be because of opposition to the tunnel. Lots of people hate the tunnel for lots of different reasons, and many of them are supporting Mallahan.

    Rather, if McGinn loses, it will be because he insists on the traffic-clogging, job-killing, business-hostile “surface option.”

    IMO the tunnel sucks. You can’t even enter and exit to it from downtown, and who in hell wants to pay tolls to drive it over and above its price tag? But tolls and all, cost overruns and all, I’ll take it over the insane “surface option.”

    But to avoid the cost overruns, to maintain traffic capacity and mobility, to keep Port traffic separate from 99 traffic, to avoid hours-long tieups around the ferry terminal, and to not cut off Ballard and West Seattle, there’s only one sane solution.

    Retrofit the damn thing. Build as much light rail as we can in the 99 corridor in the estimated 25-year life of a retrofit, and then see about tearing it down.

    If this race for mayor is a referendum on the tunnel, it’s a toss-up. If it’s a referendum on the “surface option,” McGinn loses, and loses big. The “surface option” is NOT a majority position in this town, and its defenders are not a representative sample of the electorate.

  2. 2

    Alki Postings spews:

    I SWEAR TO F**KING GOD…if you people make me ‘vote’ ONE MORE TIME on this time tunnel, or decide to hold another 5 years of community meetings and discussions I’m going to scream!

    For F**KS sake, just make a decision and stick to it! We vote for the monorail, design it, spend $100 million prepping, then cancel it after FOUR more votes, because we don’t like the financing scheme, instead of just redoing the financing. It would be running by now and I’d have mass transit into West Seattle and wouldn’t be NEAR as worried about WHATEVER we do (eventually) with the viaduct.

    I love Seattle, but it’s leaders and political thinkers (right and left) are SUCH cowards, they never just make a decision and defend it, it’s just more votes, more meetings, more discussions, more initiatives.

    NONE, I repeat, NONE of the options for the viaduct are perfect. Some are costly, some of cheap (and stupid). It’s not an easy choice. Since it’s such a BIG deal to downtown, just pick whatever works the best long term. My personal vote, go ahead with the damn tunnel, put a $3 ‘toll’ on it and be done. I’d be happy just because we could move on to other issues. Or just tear it down and assume everyone will start commuting from West Seattle via bicycle. Don’t really care anymore.

    Somedays the indecisiveness of this city bugs me…or does it?

  3. 3

    spews:

    ivan @1,

    Well, I guess I have conflated the McGinn’s opposition to the tunnel with his support for the surface option, but without saying so. Yes, many of those who cite McGinn’s opposition to the tunnel, do so out of opposition to the surface option.

    That said, I don’t know many folks who believe McGinn can actually succeed in getting a dime of state money or an ounce of state cooperation toward a surface option. They just think he’ll succeed in dragging on the Viaduct replacement debate for another half decade or so.

  4. 4

    spews:

    McGinn is popular for other reasons than his opposition to the tunnel: he has taken a number of stands that are widely popular in Seattle and many of them appear to reflect his personal convictions. Much of the public hates the Seattle establishment as well.

    I am concerned that Mallahan is going turn out to be a stealth wingnut. We still don’t know why he is running, and that alone ought to be a red flag. It surprises me it is not.

  5. 5

    spews:

    The tunnel opinion is the only thing at this point keeping me from voting for McGinn. Would it be too much for us to hope that the tunnel gets built even with him as mayor?

  6. 6

    ivan spews:

    Goldy @ 3 says:

    That said, I don’t know many folks who believe McGinn can actually succeed in getting a dime of state money or an ounce of state cooperation toward a surface option. They just think he’ll succeed in dragging on the Viaduct replacement debate for another half decade or so.

    Oh, I agree with this totally. But the “new urbanist” cult that is heavily invested in McGinn’s campaign actually thinks it can pull the “surface option” off. If McGinn is listening to these people, he’s as batshit as they are, and has no business being mayor.

    None of this is an argument for Mallahan, who is in so far over his head that Jacques Cousteau couldn’t find him.

  7. 7

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    2. Alki Postings spews:

    I SWEAR TO F**KING GOD…if you people make me ‘vote’ ONE MORE TIME on this time tunnel, or decide to hold another 5 years of community meetings and discussions I’m going to scream!

    Alki–
    How would you like an accounting for all the wasted $$ on studies, re-studies etc.??
    There is no clear accountability.
    It is BATSH*T crazy.
    these KLOWNS are so in love with process, process, process,
    They invested the Elsie the Kow method of over-processing and indecisiveness…CHEW, SWALLOW, HACK IT UP and repeat process over & over & over again…ALL AT THE TAXPAYERS EXPENSE!

    They mistake motion for action…and the Bureaucrats and their Consultant pals laugh all the way to the bank!!

    Where is the CLEAR accountability?
    Too difficult for the Times to do some Public Records requests and disclose to us who has been paid what apparently.
    I guess the Times expects citizens to do the work for them!
    No wonder all these newspapers are going broke.
    Little relevant investigative journalism.

  8. 8

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    BTW, we were warned years ago that the existing Viaduct was in imminent danger of crumbling. It’s still standing. The best option of repairing the existing structure is still the best option…except for the Seattle Developer elite.

    We are still in a deep recession.
    People are taxed to the max.
    Stop the madness.
    Retrofit the existing Viaduct and live with it!
    It’s part of our History, just like the old buildings we covet!!
    Besides, we the Cascadian Fault Line explodes in the next 40 years or less, the tunnel won’t survive in that liquefaction zone. Nothing will.

  9. 9

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    ivan spews:

    None of this is an argument for Mallahan, who is in so far over his head that Jacques Cousteau couldn’t find him.

    Now that’s funny!
    I can see a little spoofy segment by McGinn using Lloyd Bridges and SeaHunt footage entitled
    “Where’s Joe”? Like where’s Waldo.
    However, sadly, the same can be said for McGinn.

    Seattle Mayor is a tough job…tougher than it need be thanks to nickels who is thankfully put out to pasture.

  10. 10

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    “Many business types argue that the tunnel is in fact the best and least disruptive choice for both maintaining mobility through the downtown and redeveloping the waterfront”

    Then let them pay for it.

    Of course, they won’t. The whole point of investing in Mallahan’s campaign is to make someone else pay for it.

    They probably don’t care very much who pays, as long as it’s not them. Eastern Washington motorists — no problem. Seattle homeowners — no problem. Toll-paying drivers — no problem.

    The idea here is to make other people pay for a public project that will increase their business profits and property values. That’s what the business community is always about — keeping profits and shifting costs to others.

    This issue isn’t just about whether a tunnel is a good or bad idea, or the best or not-best option. It is, as always, about the rich screwing the unrich to make themselves even richer.

  11. 11

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @1 “there’s only one sane solution. Retrofit the damn thing”

    You’re insane. Not only is throwing money at an old structure a bad investment, the engineers say it can’t be done. The soil under the footings is unstable. With the structure shifting on its footings, no amount of steel will keep the concrete from cracking.

  12. 12

    Michael spews:

    @2

    love Seattle, but it’s leaders and political thinkers (right and left) are SUCH cowards, they never just make a decision and defend it, it’s just more votes, more meetings, more discussions, more initiatives.

    Yay! Right on.

  13. 13

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @2 The monorail was cancelled because it was going to cost $11 billion, not the $1.5 billion that voters were told it would cost.

    Okay, that’s a slight misstatement — the monorail was cancelled because the people who voted for it with the intention of evading the car tax that would pay for it changed their minds after the Legislature closed the loophole and they realized they wouldn’t get something for nothing after all.

  14. 14

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @3 I think the fact these two characters are the finalists in the mayor’s race, and neither of them has a reasonable solution to the viaduct, demonstrates just how complex and difficult an issue the viaduct is.

  15. 15

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @7 Only someone who thinks the public should have no say in multibillion-dollar projects they will be asked to pay for and which will affect their quality of life for the rest of their lives thinks money spent on studies is “wasted.”

  16. 16

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @8 “The best option of repairing the existing structure is still the best option…except for the Seattle Developer elite.”

    Of course this is what I expect from you, given that your views on everything else under the sun are utterly idiotic.

  17. 17

    Chris Stefan spews:

    @4
    Follow the money, look at Mallahan’s donor list now compare it to Hutchison, Rossi, the pro I-1033 camp, anti-prop1, no on R71, etc. Certain names keep popping up such as John Stanton, Suzie Burke, and Martin Selig.

  18. 19

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    15. Roger Rabbit spews:

    @7 Only someone who thinks the public should have no say in multibillion-dollar projects they will be asked to pay for and which will affect their quality of life for the rest of their lives thinks money spent on studies is “wasted.”

    I didn’t say “studies” as such were a waste…I said the studies done on this project have become excessive and as such, a waste.
    When is enough enough Rog??
    How much has been spent and how many years wasted as costs escalate??

    Put a bunch of you LEFTIST PROGRESSIVE types in a room to decide what color to paint stripes on the road would take about 10 years and $1 BILLION!

  19. 20

    Steve spews:

    @8 “BTW, we were warned years ago that the existing Viaduct was in imminent danger of crumbling. It’s still standing.”

    Good grief, what a fucking idiotic thing to write, even for our resident idiot, Klynical KLOWN.

  20. 22

    Jason spews:

    I’m not here to defend Mallahan outright, as it’s clear neither of our mayoral candidates are ideal, but I’m getting disgusted with the rumor-mongering of people (who seem to clearly be McGinn supporters) trying to claim that Mallahan is a stealth wingnut or a Republican, without any supportable facts.

    Just as a single example, he’s received endorsement from numerous elected *Democrats* and some LD chairs, as well. For another, a Republican probably doesn’t spend the fall of 2008 volunteering & phonebanking for the Obama campaign. Oh, heck, for another a Republican can’t almost beat out Nickels for the King County Democrats endorsement in the mayoral primary. Even a stealth wingnut, like Hutchison, wouldn’t have been able to pull that off.

    Yes, he has developers & other business interests giving him money. Shocking, considering his opponent! Bring something of substance or go back to Red State or your birther blogs. That’s where this level of mudslinging belongs.

  21. 24

    passionatejus spews:

    Tear down the viaduct and replace it with a surface/transit option. That IS the best choice of the three.

    Look to New York, San Francisco and Portland.

    It can be done and it should be done.

    In each of these three cities when the waterfront freeways were torn down people said it couldn’t be done.

    And when it was done, the cities were better of for it. Traffic was diverted elsewhere and vibrant public spaces were created.

    We can and should do it here as well.

    http://www.streetfilms.org/arc.....francisco/

  22. 25

    Vancouver spews:

    Wow, I guess we need an underground freeway too, for billions of dollars, that way we could become the premier world class city in all of Western Canada if only we had that underground tunnel that only carries 50,000 a day, like your 45th street, and has no exits downtown.

    Not, eh?

  23. 26

    ArtFart spews:

    @13 The Monorail was cancelled because Seattle’s power elite didn’t want it.

    The same folks have now decided that the waterfront is to be transformed into a glitzy high-end condo paradise, so the tunnel serves their interests perfectly, by diverting all the traffic elsewhere.

  24. 27

    spews:

    I think McGinn would have much better chance of winning if his position were “Tunnel is OK if it has a viable financing plan, i.e. not one that puts all the risk of a state project on Seattle taxapayers.”

    Since the current financing plan is bunk (as we all know), that gives him a clear out to oppose the tunnel later on.

    But, sadly, I fear that the tunnel is one issue wher McGinn actually has the courage of his convictions. That said, I’m going to vote for him anyway, since he’s obviously far more qualified and aligned with my overall values. And, for what it’s worth, I think the financing plan for the tunnel is going to collapse no matter what.

  25. 28

    spews:

    Far more qualified?

    I am Really, really,…. Getting tired of the unrbanist legend of McGinn.
    He is a fucking lawyer, and urban lifestyle lobbyist.

    He has managed to divide the race on a single issue, is that really how he is going to “lead”.
    Is pushing initiatives the valued experience he has, should Tim Eyemann run for Governor off that too?

    Please, the electric-assist bicyclist lawyer has been elected to as many public offices as his opponent. They both lack the experience that the voters rejected when Nickels failed to make it to the top two.

    In the end the vote will be strangely similar to the polling data on the tunnel. McGinn is know by it because he worked his ass off to end up in the top two by riding that issue, now he has to live with it, no matter how many policy proposal static discharges his issues.

    In some way I think the tunnel becoming a moot point actually helps McGinn. Plenty of people like him, but not the go-it-alone surface option.

    In the end there is a chance that we will need the tunnel, and the surface option, if Seattle is going to stop talking about density and actually absorb it share of population growth over the next 40 years.

    I am just glad Jan Drago wasn’t in love with gondolas, or we would have a shit load of those before she left office, too.

  26. 29

    Walkable Greenwood spews:

    Mike divides. That’s what he does best. The other thing he does best is find a way to do his lobbying while collecting a paycheck. That worked over at Stokes Law until they figured out he wasn’t pulling his load and then magically Mayor Nickels came up with the dough for him to front Great Cities. (I think they met at Jenny Craig.) Did you ever contact Great Cities before they let him go? We’re talking complete nothingness. Someone, please pull back the curtain on this fake. Even when Mike is trying his hardest, he gets jack done and pisses off most in his path with his arrogant, rude, condescending demeanor.

  27. 30

    SJ spews:

    Ivan, Goldy

    Vote Against Palin for Mayor of Seattle

    Does anyone, conservative or liberal, still think Ms Palin is competent to be Veep?

    The mere presence of this bimbo on the GOP ticket cast doubt on the McCain candidacy.

    The same issues decide my vote for Msyor, evne though my symnpathies are with McGinn. At least as of now my vote will go for Mallahan against McGinn. He ,ay be a good souold but his lack of competence reminds me of Palin or Hutchinson.

    On many issue McG says WHATI want to hear. But he never follows through with HOW he would do anything.

    Two examples:

    I too prefer a surface option. Seattle should not turn into a big truckstop on the freeways running from Vancouver CA or Sab Fran. BUT, McGinn not only says nothing credible about how he would pay for a surface option, he has not even try to address the real needs of thew Port, Seattle’s business core or the communities along Aurora/99.

    I also applaud his claim to provide much needed leadership for the Seattle Public Schools. Sounds GOOD. But McGinn is no Norm Rice. His history shows no evidence of the sort of leadership Norm exercised (all too briefly). Nor does he seem to have any understanding of the legal and political problems mayoral leadership of the District would require.

    The comparison may be odious to my fellow liberals, but Mike McGinn strikes me as our version of Sarah Palin.

  28. 31

    SJ spews:

    @24 Artfart

    Financing aside, the idea of creating a sort of Central Park by the sound by burying the Tunnel seems good to me.

    Seattle has REALLY fucked up on several opportunities to create the sort of public paces all great cities have.

    Pioneer Square .. the stadia and lack of planning for area around them has left dreams of Seattle having a Gas Town far behind.

    Westlake .. never really much of a plan, the dumb idea of combining a traffic circle, a shopping mall and a mini grant square is mostly a traffic circle.

    The Commons .. What hath Paul wrought? SLU is at best Manhattan on the cheap. The waterfront park on Lake Union is barely bg enough to walk my dog. The wooden boat center is so under financed that they are turning the magnificent Winona into a big version of the half hull models one sees on the wall of the Seattle Yacht Club.

    The railroad cum sculpture garden is nice but too small and too industrial to act as a central public space.

    The one real possibility, the Seattle Center, has a lot to offer as the backyard of some theatres and concert halls. The weekly ethnic fests named after the same long gone insurance company as our ball field, are cool enough but when did you last ask your buy friend to “meet me by the Center House?”

    So, I hope that burying the tunnel will end up as mainly a commercial road .. more tha adequatre to handle the N-S truck traffic, and developmeent of the watrer front can become a real and quite wonderful chance to create a Seattle Waterfront Park. Just bve sure to make the marina big enough so I can park our boat there!

  29. 32

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    Hey SJ, Seattle needs to RAISE TAXES along with the Obama Feds, Gregoire State, King Kounty, School Districts etc.
    We need every taxing District to RAISE TAXES all at once or we’re all gonna die.

    Legally, only Obama can MASSIVELY DEFICIT SPEND, so let’s have him borrow and give it to all the hungry Junior Taxing Districts.
    Borrow, Borrow Borrow
    Raise taxes EVERYWHERE!

    And and by all means…let’s worry about asthetics in Seattle! No matter what the cost.

  30. 33

    aff spews:

    This is pretty funny, Goldy. You say the political insiders and establisment are being driven to Mallahan, (whom they acknowledge is deeply flawed candidate and absent a snowstorm and Steinbrueck’s stupid decision to ditch us for Harvard, wouldn’t even be in this race) by a McGinn’s single minded opposition to the tunnel. I’m not a political insider. I’m a grad student. I’m not establishment. I’m living on loans. And I have made the exact same political judgment to support Mallahan.

    I don’t know whether to be reassured or terrified by the consensus.

    I guess I take comfort in the fact that unqualified people go on to great things. Think Teddy Kennedy, Abe Lincoln (everyone’s second choice at the Chicago D convention). And then I think a little bit more about the likelihood of Mallahan going on to greatness and get depressed again. Maybe he’ll be a one-termer.

    Oh, and McGinn needs to stop saying that the city is on the hook for cost overruns. That clause is basically unenforceable, as attorneys working for both the city and the State will tell you. It irks me that he has made this a talking point. If he is going to tout his law credentials, then he shouldn’t misrepresent the law.

  31. 34

    Chris Stefan spews:

    @30
    SJ are you even watching the same Mayor’s race I am? Mallahan is the utterly clueless one who seems to have no idea what the city does or how city government works. At every forum I’ve seen him at and every interview of him I’ve read or heard he has come across as utterly clueless. He is getting better about hitting his talking points but he is completely lost if the conversation strays too far from there.

    Just take a look at the video of the Chamber of Commerce debate. Even though it was in front of a friendly audience Mallahan was like a deer in the headlights.

    Furthermore except at forums and the rare candidate interview his mouthpiece does all of the talking for him. I know what Charla has to say but I’d really like to hear what Joe thinks once in a while.

    I’ve previously pointed out some of the very odd campaign donations Mallahan has received. You have to wonder what some of his conservative anti-transit donors think they are buying.

  32. 35

    SJ Troll patrol spews:

    @3w2 Mr C

    If you really gave a horse turd about taxes you would be clever enough to see that not paying the bills means higher costs or lower income in the future.

    Riddle me this Trollstger ..

    As SLU grows, Paul Allan’s largely un planned (by the city)investments will raise or lower my taxes? I have been told it will raise them.

    Now tell tell me thios, as we put off fixing the waterfront,m our eventual costs … as loss in revenues or increase in costs of doing the bare minimum will be higher or lower?

    Would Seattle be fiscally viable as a truck stop?

  33. 36

    SJ Troll patrol spews:

    @34 Chris

    I am not enthusiastic about either Mike but Mallahan does have admin experience and contgacts needed to be a business like Mayor.

    While like you, I like some of McGinn’s comments, too many f them seem demagoguery. Hay, if I thought she really had an in with the Deity and if I were not an atheist I might be more impressed with Sarah Palin.

    Look, we havre very unimpressive Council in a city with very unlcear management structure. NBickles used smoke and mirrors to overwhelm the council. The M&Ms are not likely to have that sort of power and the Council is not well enough led to govern.

    The result could be a calamity for Seattle. The waterfront could end uo looking like the Detroit shore of Lake Michigan if McGinn really has no plan. The schools could get WORSE if he provokes
    fights he can not win. etc. Mallahan, with modest promises and good business ties is, I hope, less likley to make a serious mistake.

    Faint praise.