Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn announced Wednesday that he will seek a second term. At his press conference McGinn was flanked by leaders of nonprofits that advocate for immigrants and minorities. They said McGinn has been there for them in his first term as a champion of human services and public safety.
But the launch of his campaign was abuzz with questions about another issue: the possible return of the Seattle Sonics basketball team. McGinn announced right off the bat that he’d had no contact with arena backer Chris Hansen and could supply no information about rumored negotiations with the Sacramento Kings. He added that he thought it would be great if the rumors were true. “This is the next piece of the puzzle,” McGinn said. “We set the stage for Chris Hansen to go seek a team from the NBA."
McGinn said the return of the Sonics would be a stroke of good luck for his reelection bid. McGinn was one of the earliest backers of a Sodo arena plan that involves up to $200 million in public funds.
A Focus On Education
McGinn said during his first run for office, people seemed surprised that a mayoral candidate would focus on education without any direct oversight of public schools. But McGinn said other candidates have since jumped on the education issue. He also said he was proud of the passage of the most recent Families and Education Levy that, at $232 million, was double the size of the previous one.
If he’s reelected McGinn said he’ll focus city spending on programs to help young children prepare for kindergarten. “Today I am launching a new early learning initiative," he said, "to focus existing city resources on early learning, to get measurable results and to expand those investments in future years." McGinn said the initiative would be part of his next budget proposal.
Clash With Gregoire
McGinn said when he was elected mayor in 2009 he faced a steep learning curve. Late in his first campaign he pledged to execute agreements replacing the Alaskan Way viaduct with an underground tunnel. But he dug in on the issue of cost overruns, saying Seattle shouldn’t be left responsible for them.
His tense relationship with Washington Governor Chris Gregoire over this issue was on full display at a 2010 meeting of the Viaduct Oversight Committee in downtown Seattle. Gregoire insisted at the meeting that only the state Legislature could make any changes to the tunnel deal. “I know as a lawyer you know that,” she told him, to which McGinn responded, “Yeah.” With a note of irritation Gregoire continued, “So I don’t know why we’re having this discussion today. If you want it changed in law, you need to take that to the Legislature in January.”
Looking back as he contemplates his upcoming campaign, McGinn said he has no regrets on that issue. “I was asking the question of, 'if there are cost overruns on the tunnel, who will pay?' And I thought that was a fair question to ask.”
McGinn said his tactics got results. He said state officials have since indicated that the state, not Seattle, will pay for any overruns on the tunnel.
In his second term, McGinn said, he hopes to pursue a long list of transit projects including more buses, streetcars and light rail. At his campaign kickoff in South Seattle, McGinn even received applause for the city’s handling of snowstorms on his watch. That issue will be forever linked with the downfall of his predecessor Greg Nickels.
McGinn didn't have much to say about his crowded field of opponents except that he looks forward to debating them. So far they include City Councilmember Tim Burgess, activist Kate Martin, state Senator Ed Murray, real estate broker Charlie Staadecker and former City Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck.