MAYOR Mike McGinn is urging the Seattle City Council to stop construction of a complex of six- and seven-story buildings in the West Seattle business district unless the Whole Foods there will pay wages and benefits high enough to satisfy him. A mayor should not be making land-use decisions for that sort of reason.
Whole Foods, which is nonunion, says its non-leadership jobs pay an average $16.15 an hour plus benefits and stock options. We have not analyzed Whole Foods’ full pay and benefits package and don’t know whether McGinn has either. His attention seems to be focused on his chances for re-election, which may have improved when United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21 endorsed him. Not coincidentally, Local 21 represents the workers at Whole Foods’ competitors.
Candidate Peter Steinbrueck called this an example of “corruption.” The word is arguable, but at least Steinbrueck had the courage to call the mayor out, as did candidate Charles Staadecker, who said the city ought to have “a well-established set of rules” for vacating alleys rather than a decision pulled from the executive pocket. Surely, no mayor should be tempted to block an otherwise lawful private development in order to get a political endorsement.
There is a larger question here about the power of a mayor to affect the unequal distribution of private incomes. All the candidates talk about inequality and Councilmember Bruce Harrell has made correcting it the centerpiece of his campaign, but a mayor is limited in what he can do about it.
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It is not clear that blocking Whole Foods — and the rest of the project, including other retail stores and 370 apartments — would accomplish anything other than preventing the creation of a new place for the people of West Seattle to live, work and shop.