Friday, November 13, 2009

"Mike McGinn's First Assignment: Figure Out How to Pay for the Tunnel He Hates"

Laura Onstot (The Daily Weekly):
When the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to approve the plan for replacing the viaduct with a $4.2 billion tunnel, Mike McGinn, who built his campaign vowing to kill the project, did a dramatic 180. "If I'm elected Mayor, although I disagree with this decision, it will be my job to uphold and execute this agreement," he declared nearly one month ago. "It is not the Mayor's job to withhold the cooperation of city government in executing this agreement."
But McGinn has to do more than just not withhold cooperation. Now he's supposed to come up with the plan to pay for the very project he so loathes. And he has six months to do it.

When the city initially agreed to the tunnel plan, the state took on the burden of paying for the actual tunnel. The city must do $927 million in work to surface streets, rebuilding the seawall (crumbling thanks to gribble infestation) and moving things like the electrical systems powering traffic lights.

Part of McGinn's argument against the tunnel was pointing out that the city didn't have a specific financing plan in place. In his initial proposal, Nickels said the city could raise taxes on parking and on businesses and property owners benefiting from the tunnel (known as a local improvement district). But Nickels never proposed any specifics.

Now McGinn is charged with getting those specifics. Today the city council passed two measures requiring the new mayor to determine how the proposed new taxes should work by June 30 of next year. Transportation committee chair Jan Drago says the quick turnaround time is the result of needing to include the specifics in next year's budget.

As if figuring out how to pay for the very thing he once aggressively opposed wasn't bad enough, McGinn may find himself already headed for his first battle with Olympia. Throughout the campaign, McGinn insisted Seattle would be on the hook if the big dig went over-budget, thanks to an amendment put into the tunnel plan approved by the state.

Former opponents Greg Nickels and Joe Mallahan said McGinn was wrong, noting that Attorney General Rob McKenna called the amendment unenforceable. But McKenna told the PI's Chris Grygiel that Mallahan and Nickels were incorrect.
In other words, Seattle may find itself stuck with a much bigger bill on McGinn's watch, which is never good for the whole "getting reelected" thing that happens four years from now. Maybe this is why he was so opposed to the tunnel. McGinn has not responded to a message left earlier today.

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