One Issue

[ The deep-bore tunnel would provide no access to the downtown core from SR-99. ]

The deep-bore tunnel is the loose cannon of Seattle’s upcoming mayoral election.  In the primary, the tunnel energized Mike McGinn’s supporters while it drove many greens away from the Nickels camp, and was arguably the single most important issue that led to Mayor Nickels’ defeat.

Now in the general election, the burning question on every Seattle politico’s lips is, will the loose cannon tunnel end up pointed back at McGinn, and hand victory to Mallahan?

Recent polling results that show Mallahan doing well in neighborhoods  like Fremont have been interpreted by some as evidence that the tunnel issue has caused many who would normally be expected to back McGinn to opt for Mallahan instead.   My interwebs have been flush with anecdotal stories along these lines.  Though at this point nobody really knows how big a factor it may turn out to be.  And Publicola’s polling also revealed that a whopping one third are still undecided.

As a McGinn supporter and one who also believes that the deep-bore tunnel is a spectacularly bad idea, my response to those who would  seem to be compromising their values in a broad sense by letting the tunnel be the single deciding factor, is this:  There is a lot more at stake here than the tunnel.  We are deciding between two futures for Seattle, and the tunnel is just one of the many potential manifestations of that choice.*

Many have accused McGinn of being a one-issue candidate, even though his past experience and his prolific production of ideas on wide range of issues during the campaign both testify otherwise.  But in any case, if one is in the habit of deriding one-issue candidates, then one ought not be a one-issue voter.

And the truth is, it is Mallahan who is turning out to be the real one-issue candidate of the race: We still don’t know much about why Joe Mallahan wants to be Mayor, but at least we know he’ll get that tunnel built, whatever it takes.


*Postscript:  Of course, the tunnel happens to be a quintessential example of the kind of challenging choices our future will increasingly demand.  Mallahan’s future is one in which we respond to such a choice by doing what we’ve always done—building more roads, in this example—and denying the reality that the most prosperous cities of the future will be the ones that aggressively apply their energy and resources towards making the transformation away from car-dependence.