THE two candidates for Seattle mayor are both die-hard progressives. They identify many of the same challenges ahead as the city reaches back to economic vitality. They even share some policy platforms.
But the choice becomes clear on their widely different approaches to governing. State Sen. Ed Murrayoffers a return of pragmatic, effective leadership to City Hall.
He has campaigned as the mayor who would lower the bridges after four years of a “fortress Seattle” mindset. This means the city embracing, rather than turning its back on the Port of Seattle and the jobs-rich maritime and industrial core; collaborating with federal police monitors; working more closely with Seattle Public Schools to bridge the achievement gap; and repairing frayed relations with Olympia, where Seattle has a critical wish list of legislative changes.
Murray’s career highlight — an 18-year campaign to change the hearts and minds of colleagues in the Legislature about same-sex marriage — demonstrates the skill and temperament to do it. His experience and message have been a magnet for impressively diverse supporters — from big labor unions to the chamber of commerce, from rank-and-file police to ardent advocates for the homeless.
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Mayor Mike McGinn, as he often says, did learn on the job. But he remains at heart a grass-roots activist rather than a statesman, adept at finding and driving wedge issues for narrow political gain — even where they do not exist. It is telling that five City Council members who worked closely with McGinn now support Murray, the first time a council majority has opposed the sitting mayor in recent history.
On core issues, Murray would be more effective. His administration would be far more likely to draw star-caliber, reform-minded candidates for the chief of police job; given that chance in 2010, McGinn whiffed. A strong chief is critical to repair the Seattle Police Department’s reputation and to quickly advance the reforms mandated by the city’s consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice.
To improve transportation and transit, Murray emphasizes a regional approach, including mending relations with state legislative leaders whom McGinn ripped in opposing the Highway 99 tunnel. Murray, a transportation budget-writer in the House and Senate, strikes the right balance between maintenance, which has suffered, and critical investments in mass transit, roads and freight mobility, which flow from state and regional partnerships.
Murray has support from business leaders, but he needs to be reminded that taxes fund government. A $15-an-hour minimum wage, which he supports, comes at a cost. But he is more trustworthy than McGinn, who recently mocked Murray’s support from Amazon.com. What kind of a leader mocks a major part of the engine of his city’s economic recovery?
As the economy begins to hum again, the next mayor has a chance to plumb the deeper and difficult chasms of Seattle — including making housing more affordable and narrowing education outcomes that break on color lines. Murray, a legislative dealmaker for nearly two decades, offers pragmatic leadership. McGinn, a progressive ideologue, has sown division.
Come Nov. 5, Seattle voters should lower the bridges and elect Ed Murray mayor.