How To Win In November

What comes next?*

As Mallahan and McGinn now turn their attention to the general I thought I would post my $0.02 about what could happen next. I could be totally wrong about my sense of this but, from a political perspective, I think this is how to win.

Stick with the tunnel!

Detractors have whined (sorry, detractors) about McGinn raising the whole tunnel thing again. “Its Seattle process run amok,” they say. “Let’s just get on with it please” and “that’s all he talks about.”

Well I hope he continues. Stopping the tunnel is not about Seattle process but about the most serious act of malpractice of government in a generation, perhaps ever in our city. There are two reasons to keep hammering on the tunnel.

First, everyone will incessantly ask about it. “Why are you so focused on the tunnel?” The answer is “I have to. If this City commits $900 million dollars (which is sure to become $1 billion) we won’t have money to do any of the other critical things this city needs done. We are essentially committing to a decade of our resources into essentially will be a Viet Nam like quagmire. How can we focus on crime, sidewalks, transportation—all things our City is supposed to do—when a years worth of City budget dollars are going to be pumped down a hole for less than two miles of tunnel, with no exits in or out of downtown, not enough capacity and no ability to accommodate transit.”

The second and more practical reason is that it focuses attention on McGinn and keeps it there. McGinn will win because everyone will be talking about McGinn and the tunnel. Malahan will kind of just disappear. And the more we talk about the tunnel and the more people realize what a horrible boondoggle the thing is the more people are going to think it’s a bad idea.

I am so convinced of this that if Mallahan was my friend I would advise him to abandon his pro-tunnel stand, maybe even just say he’d be willing to rethink his position. The basis of McGinn’s candidacy would effectively be threatened because the issue that animated his resurgence would be gone. All that would be left is a fundraising knife fight which he would be almost certain to lose. But it is highly doubtful that the interests arrayed against reconsidering the tunnel option will allow Mallahan to double back on his position.

*I know there are a lot of issues with viaduct-replacement-tunnel financing that are completely not part of this message. But this is about politics. The fact is that the City will have to spend some money to fix the sea wall and dismantle the viaduct, even if  money that has been dedicated by the state goes away. Here is one recent rundown of all the different sources of money that are in play on any scenario and here is McGinn’s response to the “we’re gonna have to pay anyway” charge. It is a complicated and nuanced issue and it is good to know McGinn is on top of it.

12 Responses to “How To Win In November”

  1. Where's my world-class, dammit!

    I would do the math first and see how many voters voted for a pro-tunnel candidate as opposed to a surface + transit candidate. I was surfing the P-I reader comments and saw someone bring up a figure of 68.5 percent voting for pro-tunnel, or anti-surface + transit candidates or whatever. I’ll let someone run the totals for me as I can’t stay up much later, but I have a hunch riding the tunnel issue might be a great way to drive his general election campaign into the ground.

    HAA HA HA HAAAAA!!! OK, it wasn’t that funny. But I am up past my bedtime.

    Seriously, if I were McGinn, though, I would frame the debate on development and density as this: “I know a lot of you aren’t happy with the way development has proceeded in this city. I’m not either. Like you, I don’t want to live in a city of cookie-cutter condos and townhomes.

    *maybe something here about tying in density to the environment — I’m tired guys, I can’t write a whole speech right now*

    “So, as mayor, I’m going to commit myself to putting the full weight of my position — both in terms of policy and in the bully pulpit — to encourage development to take on a style that all Seattleites can be proud of. We live in a beautiful land — we should have beautiful architecture to complement it.

    “We can either build tomorrow’s tenements today, or we can build something that will last decades, if not a century, and show the whole world how to craft a wonderful city. As Boeing did for airplanes, as Microsoft did for computers, as Starbucks did for coffee#, let’s see to it that Seattle does the same for cities.

    “Those developers who want to slap up inferior housing and charge superior prices will not be welcome in the Seattle I’ll govern. Those that want to create a beautiful city will prosper financially as well as spiritually##.

    “To that end, while we’re going to tighten quality controls, we’re also going to open up the rules to give architects the freedom to create solutions. We’re going to say ‘Meet these goals, and use your brain on how best to get there.’

    *Wrap up with stirring conclusion. I’m tired.*

    Frame it not as trying to jump through hoops to appeal to outsiders. That approach is going to go over like spoiled lutefisk. Frame it as something to brag about and be proud of. That’s my advice. Now I’m off to sleep.

    # Yes, I know. You hate both Microsoft and/or Starbucks. Work with me here, dammit!

    ## Someone else come up with a better word than “spiritually.”

  2. Gordian

    Whether or not the tunnel continues to be what the McGinn camp focuses on, it’s clear that they’re going to have to learn how to explain it better. I heard two Mike McGinn’s on Friday. For the King 5 TV coverage after Nickels conceded, McGinn seemed like little more than a rabble rousing, populist candidate who understood little about what it would actually take to stop the tunnel. And then on KUOW, I heard a McGinn that was articulate, thoughtful, and almost Obama-like in being able to speak to these issues. A lot of the difference came in the radio vs. TV thing, but I noticed a big change was the fact that the King5 team really tore into him re: the budget and tunnel, and he had little specifics.

    If I had advice to give them, it’s this: formulate an actual plan for budget and tunnel (how do we get from here to there) that goes beyond “when you bring people together blah blah blah” (that only goes so far). And then have those at your ready, but start to tell the bigger story of Seattle. @1 had some very good ideas. And McGinn is *really* good at that. I’ve seen him speak through during his Great City days – the dude knows how to connect with people and how to connect the dots between good development, the environment, and urban livability. That’s the McGinn I want to see run.

    The tunnel platform is starting to just seem a lot like scare tactics. McGinn needs to stop that and start with the inspiration.

  3. wes kirkman

    @2. Agreed. McGinn will need to inspire the voter, just as Obama did. I agree with Dan to the extent that the tunnel issue should not be left by the wayside…however, focusing his campaign on that may shoot himself in the foot. Unless he can put a positive spin on it. People respond better to positive discussion. Inspire us McGinn!

  4. David Sucher

    The issue is a tough one for both Malahan and McGinn.

    If Malahan pushes his pro-tunnel view very hard he loses because so many people see the tunnel as unwise, too-expensive, too-risky financially, too-focussed on a ten block section of Seattle etc.

    If McGinn pushes the surface/transit option he loses because so many people think it’s impractical, high-risk, politically-impossible in a regional perspective etc. And since I understand that McGinn sincerely believes in surface/transit, he may find it difficult to step away from it.

    I give political to Malahan as he seems less ideologically-committed to the tunnel. He may be able to step away gingerly from the tunnel as by saying something like that he favors it so long as some (actually impossible) condition can be met e.g. Seattle voters will take no financial risk whatsoever because ALL cost overruns will be responsibility of “someone else” such as the State Legislature, the design-build contractor, the tooth fairy. He still has the huge problem of where Seattle gets the $1 billion down payment.

    I’d say that the winner will move toward the Repair option as quickly and gracefully as possible. Maybe that means McGinn has an advantage because he can (justly) claim that he really wants “Repair and Prepare.” (Prepare to take the viaduct down, which will in fact take years e.g. actually planning the whole operation, putting the public transit portion in place, etc. You really thought it could be done quickly? In Seattle?)

  5. Joe G

    I agree with you Dan, McGinn can and will win this election with his anti-tunnel stance. As budget cuts come wider into view people will see the true ramifications of this mega project.

    @1 I also like your idea. I think that McGinn should incorporate this into his message. It certainly goes right along with his agenda. And this is something very near and dear to Seattleites hearts.

    Seattleites will soon awaken to the fact that Mallahan is the Elle Woods (with out the successful ending, of course) of Seattle Politics. Just waking up one day and saying, “Girls, I going to run for Mayor!” McGinn or maybe a “neighbors to elect Mike McGinn” campaign will need to push on this.

  6. freddyJ


    It’s sad for you to be pushing just one issue. It’s sensational and uninforming. Still I thank you for standing put on your values. I will find myself coming to your blog for all that is Viaduct related (while hoping for a little more on other issues at least)

    I really hope Seattle Voters will be more intelligent than to fall pray to a one issue campaign. I’ll be voting for the person who can show me a full range of understanding all the issues that Seattle faces rather than be duped into one polarizing issue.

    We will never completely agree with anyone politician. We MUST make choices based on who can act best on the most issues. If I have to sacrifice to cast my vote, so be it.

    Maybe that new hole can be added to the Underground Tour in five or six years. That way we get tourist to pay for it!

  7. JoshMahar

    Just a note to 3 and 5, this post was by Roger Valdez, not Dan Bertolet.

    Since this blog is so strongly affiliated with Dan it might be nice to have a little note about new writers and who they are when there is such a guest post.

  8. Joshua Daniel Franklin

    freddyJ, if you’re looking for wider political news coverage than an urban design blog provides, check out publicola: “The campaigns spent the weekend brainstorming on message and strategy. Expect lots of roll outs and press releases in the next few weeks.” They did interviews with each candidate before the primary and I hope they’ll do more. (By the way the above post was from Roger Valdez, not Dan.)

  9. Yes, it's me

    Hello, yes I, Roger Valdez, wrote the post.

    First and foremost it is my opinion and not associated with any other organization I work for or for any candidate. Just the one guy.

    Second, it is purely about politics not about how to run a winning campaign not a thoughtful or inspirational one although those things are NOT, and SHOULDN’T BE mutually exclusive.

    Anyone running for anything in this town ought to focus on the issues people care about while at the same time articulating a vision for the City beyond promising to keep snow off the roads when the next snow storm hits.

  10. wes kirkman

    *pulls head out of ___*

  11. freddyJ

    Thanks man. I’m going there.

  12. Sirkulat

    For those who’ve bought into the notion that the Deep-bore tunnel resolves north/south traffic through downtown, think again.

    Nevermind the Columbia/Seneca access ramps which make traffic downtown worse, the Deep-bore doesn’t provide thru-traffic access at Western/Elliott, currently about 40,000 vehicles daily, 2500 per hour, give or take depending upon the time of day. This traffic will be directed along the new Alaskan Way. Even half that much new traffic there will produce bumper-to-bumper gridlock all day long.

    It’s better that Seattle bite the bullet and dig up the waterfront for a Cut-n-cover that will maintain the Interbay/Ballard access. There’s no avoiding the mess of removing the AWV, rebuiding the seawall and Alaskan Way.

    WsDOT’s Scenario ‘G’ 4-lane Cut-n-cover was designed after the 2007 voter rejection of their 6-lane version to specifically reduce construction impacts. Coincidentally, it costs less than the Deep-bore by about $900 million.

    WsDOT videos show a new Alaskan Way with 4-lanes. Dream on. 6-lanes is probably necessary with this much traffic, and even so would not prevent gridlock.

    Think that Wide Plaza looks nice? Narrow it by 20′, then picture it with makeshift parking lots and driveways. You didn’t hear this from arduous committee discussion because WsDOT and SDOT department heads didn’t want the ugly details aired in public.

    McGinn is right-on to oppose the Deep-bore and emphasize a wholistic approach to transportation planning. I-5 needs upgrades. Transit service downtown must improve. McGinn is closest to being open to the 4-lane Cut-n-cover. Seattle would be fortunate to have McGinn as a mayor who thinks outside the box.

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