Monday, October 19, 2009

(Seattle) "Election is mired in trivialities, missing the bus"

Joel Connelly:
Election campaigns can become increasingly disconnected from governing: Our 2009 election has revolved around endorsements, polls, PDC complaints, and interest group litmus tests.

By reading fundraising pitches from NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, you'd think Seattle City Council candidate Robert Rosencrantz might cast a deciding vote to overturn the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion. (Rosencrantz insists he is pro-choice.)

The greenie flavor of the season seems to be how candidates arrive at work. Last week, in the race for King County Executive, Dow Constantine's Prius was pitted against Susan Hutchison's scooter, although Hutchison admitted having a Lexus and a Subaru in the garage.

Does this matter?

The campaign's most important underreported issue is how the voters reach their workplaces.
A few weeks after the November election, the King County Council will decide how much and where to cut Metro bus service, and whether reductions will be defined as temporary or permanent.

The consequences, in Seattle, are enormous. More people are riding transit than ever before. A serious cutback would product serious traffic problems downtown. Seattle and Shoreline, with highest ridership, get shortchanged in the "40-40-20" formula for allocating new resources.

The new Seattle mayor can't miss the bus, and needs to round up fellow travelers even before assuming office.

Urgently needed is an alliance of King County's urban centers, to resist cutbacks in downtown-to-downtown bus routes and hit up the Legislature to get more tax money for a vital service.

Mike McGinn and Joe Mallahan need to be put on the hot seat before voters put one of them in the driver's seat.

With McGinn, we have testaments from Seattle City Council members -- on and off the record -- that he made a mess of the 2008 parks levy campaign. The beefs are that McGinn was unbending, did not delegate authority, and talked a blue streak.

McGinn has made the parks levy a centerpiece of his campaign. Did he learn anything from the experience, in which a co-chair was brought in to run the campaign?

Aside from a couple of congressional internships years ago -- one employer, ex-Rep. Al Swift, does not remember him --Mallahan is a neophyte when it comes to governing.

O.K., so who will be on the Mallahan transition team? Who will help him play a role in the Metro decision? Who will he consult in choosing a new chief of police?

The pick of a top cop can define a mayor's administration. The mayor and the chief must be comfortable with each other and work closely. WTO and Fat Tuesday offer painful, recent memories of disconnect. So, does the endorsement of Mallahan by the Seattle Police Officers Guild carry an unspoken agreement that the union can veto a candidate that it doesn't like?

McGinn seemed to display little initial interest in public safety issues. He has turned out a position paper. He launched a grandstanding attack on Mallahan for not wanting to set up a committee to screen chief candidates until after the election. So how would McGinn go about finding a compatible chief, and to whom would he listen?

The choice for King County Executive gives reason for discomfort.

In last Monday's debate, responding to a question from her opponent, Susan Hutchison declared: "I have never given money to the BIAW (Building Industry Association of Washington). My campaign manager has never worked for the BIAW. So I don't know what you're talking about."


Hutchison gave $1,000 to ChangePAC, the BIAW's front group, as it was launching a relentless negative attack on Gov. Chris Gregoire. The Republican consulting firm from California that's managing Hutchison's campaign was a mastermind of the anti-Gregoire campaign.

Hutchison attacks the county's Critical Areas Ordinance: Specifically, how would she change it? Will the county's environmental initiatives be allowed to wilt despite the candidate's flowery language about loving the outdoors?

As well, where is all the waste and inefficiency that Hutchison talks about eliminating? The majority of county employees wear a badge. Be honest. Paring back staffs of politicians at the courthouse will NOT close the county's budget shortfall.

He may just be pooped, but Dow Constantine hasn't exactly torn up the track during the general election campaign.

The executive's race is officially nonpartisan, but Dow and three other Democrats took more than 60 percent of the primary vote. The latest opinion polls show Constantine in the low 40's, and narrowly trailing Hutchison.

What if he pulls out the election with heavy "independent" spending by Democratic interest groups? Organized labor helped get him the nomination, and NARAL is seeking to reel in women voters on the East Side. Will there be IOUs to pay when there's no money?

The Dow Constantine stump speech seems to be of two minds on "the house that Ron Sims built": It's in great shape and I'm the guy to fix it. Which is it?
Voters are about to get ballots in the mail: It might be wise to hang onto them, and hope for a level of accountability that rises above who drives a Prius and who's the bigger abortion supporter.
Howie P.S.: Lynn Allen is a progressive blogger who writes about "Seattle's Confusing Mayoral Race." The Seattle Times offers this debate coverage: "Seattle mayoral candidates trade sharp exchanges." Sable gets proactive about the King County budget: "Facebook Petition to Save Funding for Human Services."

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