THE darkest clouds of the Great Recession have lifted to reveal construction cranes hovering above Seattle. A technology campus flowers around South Lake Union. The city of Seattle’s financial prognosis is perking up.
But a sunnier forecast in Seattle should not diminish the challenges the next Seattle mayor will inherit. Among them: the waterfront rebuild and preservation of the industrial core; a growing population demanding transit and congestion relief; endemic inequities in Seattle’s schools and neighborhoods; and the need to lay seeds for the next Amazon.com.
These all require a mayor with a regional view of Pugetopolis, proven political and deal-making skills and resources to hit the ground running. Ed Murray is the clear choice.
Murray’s experience is stellar. Representing central Seattle as a state Representative and Senator for 18 years, Murray, 58, is the rare legislator who has written operating, capital and transportation budgets. He knows what is possible, and what is reasonably attainable.
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Seattle needs that type of pragmatism. For the past four years, it has witnessed the results of Mayor Mike McGinn’s ideologically driven agenda: fractured relations with the City Council, the city attorney, the U.S. Department of Justice, the former governor, the state Legislature and others. It is no wonder voters in 2011 rejected, in quick succession, McGinn’s stubborn efforts to kill the Highway 99 tunnel and his plan for a $60 car tab. He lost the trust of voters.
After two years of a four-year term, McGinn finally seemed to be learning lessons at mayor’s school. But his recent backroom deal to award a hedge-fund manager city resources for a new Sonics arena shows he didn’t pass. His campaign attempts to seize credit for the recovering economy and for voter approval of a broadly supported city education levy reveals his record as threadbare.
Leading candidates to replace McGinn are all deep-blue progressives. Former City Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck smartly champions Seattle’s vital maritime industry and a more nuanced urban growth management. Councilmember Bruce Harrell is eloquent about the urgent need to bridge the city’s quiet racial and economic divide.
But Murray offers the best hope to untangle the challenges of the next four years.
His impressive political skills were on display in his two-decade campaign to win equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. It is an incremental campaign, requiring patience, discipline and persuasion of less like-minded colleagues. Murray inched Washington, step by step, toward November’s voter approval of same-sex marriage.
Those skills are the reason Murray has the most-impressive list of endorsements, including that of former King County Executive Ron Sims, the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s political arm, labor unions, Washington Conservation Voters and City Councilmember Tim Burgess, a one-time mayoral candidate.
His ability to galvanize a broad political base will be critical when renewal of Seattle’s Bridging the Gap transportation levy, and most likely a Sound Transit 3 package, go to voters.
Early in his mayoral campaign, Murray showed some knowledge gaps in Seattle-centric issues. He has caught up.
He accurately notes that the best pool of candidates for Seattle police chief won’t emerge unless a new mayor is elected. He understands the range of roles the mayor can play in boosting Seattle school performance. And his experience in Olympia provides him the most complete vision to fill Seattle’s unmet transportation and transit needs.
Making tangible improvement on those and other issues requires Seattle to step out of a bubble of superiority, which has marked city leadership for years. Environmental and transportation issues know no municipal borders. Solutions require cooperation, not antagonism.
Murray has the record of effective leadership, the contacts and the political skills. Ed Murray should be the next mayor.