If The Dynamic Doesn’t Change, It’s Game Over

Though I suppose Joe Mallahan could still buy the election even if he doesn’t improve on the lackluster performance he exhibited at yesterday’s mayoral debate.   Despite Mallahan having a home team advantage—the debate was sponsored by the pro-business, deep-bore tunnel-loving Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce—McGinn clearly dominated.  And that’s not just my pro-McGinn bias speaking.  Go see for yourself here.   PostGlobe has the gory details here.

I interpret McGinn’s success in the race so far as another manifestation of deepening cracks in the aging edifice of Seattle’s status-quo political power structure.  Seattle is evolving rapidly and inevitably some are going to get left behind.  Think Seattle Times compared to Publicola.  The Chamber has long been a dominating force in business-as-usual Seattle politics and in this election Joe Mallahan is their man.  In contrast, McGinn derives his power from the grass roots, and his all-volunteer campaign is fueled by those with a new vision for Seattle. 

If elected, McGinn will not be beholden to the Chamber or their ilk.   It’s hard to imagine how that sort of power structure shake up would not be good medicine for democracy in Seattle.

24 Responses to “If The Dynamic Doesn’t Change, It’s Game Over”

  1. Bill B

    sadly if Mallahan is elected and he keeps his campaign promise to reduce the consultant payroll, dan and the urban planning elite/industry may be out of a job.

    hopefully, if Mallahan is elected and keeps his campaign promise for a top to bottom review of the departments (the most interesting and status quo shaking statement of the ‘debate’), misshapen projects like the station area “planning” and top down neighborhood planning farces may be halted.

    refreshingly, if Mallahan is elected, the City’s letting of contracts up to $260,000 without bid would be halted.

  2. Ross

    McGinn’s success has a lot to do with who he ran against. A mayor who was ridiculously unpopular, a city council member whose polices were very similar to the mayor’s, a mediocre ball player with very little public experience, etc. If Licata or Steinbrueck had decided to run, either one would have coasted to victory.

    Now all McGinn has to do is win a race against a mediocre businessman who has hasn’t even voted in several of the last elections. Absentee ballots have been available for twenty years — how hard is it to just vote? Frankly, this has been one of the weakest fields for mayor that we’ve had in a very long time. The races for city council, on the other hand, seem to have lots of good people running.

    [QUOTE]If elected, McGinn will not be beholden to the Chamber or their ilk. It’s hard to imagine how that sort of power structure shake up would not be good medicine for democracy in Seattle.[/QUOTE]

    You don’t have much of an imagination. :) In the short term, I agree with you. However, what if McGinn wins and then turns out to be incompetent? What if businesses move out (to the suburbs or to other cities)? What if the crime problem (already getting worse) gets really bad? I doubt these things will happen but it could, and it might create a reactionary backlash. It might create a feeling amongst many that we should kiss the ass of the Chamber instead of just listening to them.

  3. Stacy

    Does Joe Mallahan really think that it’s the Mayor’s job to micromanage all of the City’s Departments from top to bottom? Would it even be physically possible for him to have enough time to take on this task if he choose to do so (back of the envelope calculation = no way)? What does Joe actually mean by “effective management and efficient government?” Because all I have heard him suggest is cutting consultants and “reducing the head count” (e.g. firing people). What’s the point of a top to bottom review if you have no vision or goals of what you’re trying to accomplish through the process?

  4. Joshua Daniel Franklin

    Bill B, has Mallahan said anything about planning? I’d love to hear his views, but I haven’t heard anything. McGinn was talking about community benefits and neighborhood voice, and then:

    Scher (to Mallahan): What would you do?

    Mallahan: About the same, I think we’ve talked about it enough.

    I’m willing to give Mallahan a chance at my vote, but honestly everyone is talking about his poor performance last night.

  5. Daniel

    This is an interesting piece for both of them to consider and it links to HAC:


  6. freddyj

    Dan et. al. don’t read Crosscut. It’s not journalism.

  7. toots

    Let’s get a real urban planner in the Mayor’s office. I heard this guy Paul Schell is an urban planner. He must be good. He’s got my vote.

  8. Matt

    Totally agree on the upshot of the debate:

  9. Poop

    Hmm, good point toots. As long as nothing else happens in the course of a McGinn mayorship, the entire political spectrum in Seattle will be overhauled! Things will be completely different! (yes, I’ll be loving a mayor who doesn’t know how to run the police force, among other things). Jesus, Dan, get some perspective. Opposition to the tunnel and his stance on transit and devlopment is ONE issue. An important one, but not the only one. Your hypothesis that it will be a “power shake-up” is completely asinine. Seattle has had a long line of outsider mayors (Schell is one of them). So don’t make the declaration that the system will crumble to his liking. Or Mallahan or any candidate for that matter. It’s fucking politics.

  10. David in Burien

    I can’t believe I am actually going to write this, but I agree with Poop (@9). I’m a fan of HAC but “overhaul” is a huge overreach. This election offers Seattlites two largely unqualified mayoral candidates and all because of some mostly untenable “dislike” of the previous two-termer.

  11. dan bertolet

    One thing this thread demonstrates is the weakness of this medium. My brief speculation about a “shake up” is interpreted @9 as my claiming that “the system will crumble to his liking.”

    ECB at Publicola wrote: “…Mallahan and McGinn, two wild card candidates who’ve got the Seattle establishment ‘fucking scared’—to quote a gossipy insider.” I think shaking up the status-quo like this is likely to be a positive thing for the city. And that’s fucking politics.

    And also, Mr or Ms. Poop, how many mayors come in with experience running a police force? Are you expecting micromanagement? Do you think the gang problem would be solved if only we had a mayor who was an expert at running the police force?

    And also, did Schell run an all-volunteer campaign and get outspent four or five to one? Does the McGinn campaign not seem even the least bit unusual or dare I say, inspiring?

    Perhaps it’s time to move on from lamenting Nickels’ loss.

  12. Billb

    Dan, you state that “McGinn will not be beholden to the Chamber or their ilk” – since most of us here have passed the 5th grade, dare I say that Poop@9 has your number on this one. It pretty much means the same thing – he just restated your position.

    Your rebuttal takes a wild turn by mentioning his campaign tactics. This has nothing to do with your original post that, again, stated, there’s going to be a “power structure shake up”. Again, in agreeing (gulp), with Poop, that’s an asinine assertion. It’s politics. Come back to earth.

    Poop’s note about the police force, I believe, is pointing out the reason Schell went down. He fucked up on WTO and then again at the Mardi Gras celebration. He couldn’t handle it. He was voted out. Can McGinn? Can Mallahan? And the police force, as P@9 pointed out, is only one faction of the government.

    Who gives a rats ass how McGinn got there (all volunteer – whoopee). Or Mallahan, or any politician. For once I’d like to see a candidate who’s not A.) a lawyer or B.) a developer.

  13. dan bertolet

    Thank you Billb@12 for demonstrating the first sentence in my comment @11. Anyway, it sounds like Mallahan’s got your vote: not a lawyer and not a developer. Perfect! You and John Fox are right on the same strange bedfellows page.

    To spell this out: beholden = indebted. If McGinn is not relying on powerful organizations like the Chamber to get elected, and he’s relying on volunteers rather than a massive politcal money machine to run his campaign, then it follows that he would be less indebted to the typical political players. This does not mean he wouldn’t or shouldn’t try to work together with players like the Chamber. But the dynamic would be different—in a good way, in my opinion.

    Call me naive, but it seems to me that being less beholden to the powerful few and thereby more beholden to the general public is a gain for democracy. To be clear, I’m not saying that Seattle’s political world would be turned on its head or that McGinn wouldn’t have to be a politician and play nice with the powers that be. But McGinn’s campaign gives me hope for improvement.

    I concede that “shake up” was probably too strong a phrase to use to describe the above ideas. I certainly didn’t anticipate that some people would equate “shake up” with “complete overhaul” or “the system will crumble to his liking.” My bad!

  14. Andrew Smith

    Certainly newspapers represent the business community via their advertising. How is that a change in Seattle and nnot just a change in the nature of media?

  15. T.U.

    Try again, Dan:
    From the P.I.-

    Publicola: McGinn’s Great City funded by biz establishment

    “Publicola has a piece about the ties mayoral candidate Michael McGinn’s advocacy group Great City has to business interests like Vulcan and Harbor Properties.”

  16. dan bertolet

    T.U. @15: Great City isn’t running for mayor. McGinn left Great City to run.

    Did you read the Publicola piece?

    “Interestingly, most of the companies that funded McGinn’s group have also been staunch political and financial supporters of lame-duck Mayor Greg Nickels, and very few have given to McGinn.”

  17. T.U.

    Right, Dan. And Dick Cheney left Halliburton to be the vice-president. Try again.

  18. dan bertolet

    McGinn/Great City = Cheney/Halliburton. You’re a hoot, T.U.@17. You and Poop should get together and discuss.

  19. T.U.

    Oh Dan, I had hoped you wouldn’t go there. Hopefully the point wasn’t lost on everyone who reads this crap (apparently it was with you, though). The point being: THEY’RE POLITICIANS AND ALWAYS HAVE SOMEONE TO ANSWER TO. And I ain’t talkin’ ’bout the ‘merican people.

    You’re continued insistence that McGinn is “less beholden to the powerful few and thereby more beholden to the general public”, flies in the face of history, facts, and politics (the P.I. article exposes his ties – you can’t deny it). Just as Nickels and Mallahan are tied to the “powerful few”, so is McGinn.

    It’s okay, though, McGinn’s different…for sure.

  20. dan bertolet

    Okay T.U., I get your point: All politicians are exactly the same. Thanks for the helpful analysis.

  21. Andrew Smith

    McGinn is a different sort of animal to most politicians. He reminds me of Charlie Chong. Not necessarily on issues, though he seems to be a physical conservative, but because he is so different than the rest of the seattle political elite.

  22. publicadministrator

    @21 that’s fiscal conservative, you idiot.

  23. Andrew Smith


    Sorry, I had my doctor’s appointment on my mind.

    You can go fuck yourself, ass hole

  24. dan bertolet

    Some of you worldly commenters best get over to the PI: there’s some out of touch loser over there ranting about the “power structure” and whatnot:


    “That brings us back to McGinn, who has run an effective insurgent campaign with very little money. If the business and labor crowd currently plotting against him fails, and McGinn is elected mayor, they should be afraid. Because he won’t owe them anything.”

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