Though he has positioned himself as the business candidate, it's not clear Joe Mallahan has succeeded all that well in business. (The BBB gave T-Mobile an F rating while Mallahan was "Vice President of Customer Delight.") And it's not clear that success in business would translate into success in office.
But enough from the candidates. What do people in Seattle's business community think about Mallahan and McGinn?
Jeffrey Taylor, insurance agent for State Farm for over 10 years. His office is in the Columbia City/Seward Park neighborhood:
I'm still making my decision. I haven't finished all my research yet. But I'm interested in mass transit—it helps my clients get to my business and helps them save money. I'm for extending light rail to the Eastside. A lot of my clients work there. Being from Chicago, I know that trains work. It makes for a smart city. I also want park-and-rides inside the city. It's a big issue for the Columbia City business district and not something Nickels supported.
Business experience can translate into political experience—if you have that elusive "it" and you're a good leader. But I'm not endorsing either candidate yet.
Frank Rizzo of Rizzo's French Dip in Ballard:
- That's Frank on the left.
I've been supporting McGinn for months. He seems like a down-to-earth gentleman, like he knows what he's talking about. He seems like a good man, not like he's in it for the money. He's not: "I'm gonna be the mayor and fuck all you guys." He wants to help the city and help the city's people—he's for the working man. He's not for the rich.
I've been putting McGinn stickers on all my sandwich bags, telling people: "Don't be a dope, make sure you vote!"
Bruce Herbert, chief executive and investment manager of Newground Social Investment on Queen Anne. (Herbert cut his teeth on Wall Street 26 years ago with Merrill Lynch, then opened his own shop. Newground has been around for 16 years.)
The fact that Joe has not voted is a deal-breaker. Would the FC Sounders hire a coach who has never played soccer? No wait—it's even worse than that. Would the FC Sounders hire a coach who not only has never played soccer, but has never watched it on TV? You start a political career by voting. Not by asking to be king of the hill without a record of past performance.
I also think Mike's new openness to the tunnel showed a degree of good judgment and humility—it's a good indicator. You have to deal with change.
Darryl Smith, realtor for Windermere in the Mt. Baker area for almost 15 years. He is also past president of the Rainier Chamber of Commerce, a South-Seattle business board, past chair of the Columbia City Revitalization Committee, board member of the Rainier Valley Community Development Fund, board chair of Great City, and a McGinn campaign volunteer.
Mr. Smith said many things about how McGinn would be good for business. A few excerpts:
Mike is in favor of keeping the head tax—that goes to fund fixes we need for sidewalks and transportation to make it easier for people to access business districts. It funds the stuff that makes business more accessible and it's only a few dollars a head. I know of no small business owners who have complained about—or even really notice—that head tax.
We opened a campaign office here in SE Seattle in King Plaza, in the heart of the Vietnamese and African business community. You need to put feet on the street all around the city to learn what the small business needs and challenges are. You have to go and listen to people—there is a lot of wisdom in those communities.
I honestly don't know what Mallahan offers. Michael came to the Rainier Valley Chamber of Commerce and Mallahan sent a surrogate. I hear from my friends on the Chamber that they felt bad for the surrogate. They had specific questions and all she could do was read from a prepared statement. She looked silly up there. It's too bad.
Tim Nuse, coordinator of the "Corporate Social Responsibility Team" at Starbucks and chair of the 34th district Democrats:
The business community is divided. It's interesting to see that executives are divided—but certain things are consistent. The head tax is a concern. For some businesses, the administrative costs to keep track of the data necessary to pay it appropriately is actually more money than the head tax itself. A lot of businesses want to contribute what they owe, but want to do it a more efficient way.
Another issue is transportation—major concerns there. But both candidates have areas that cause concern. For many retailers, specifically the food industry, packaging is an issue. The city is trying to do good things for the environment, but some of the choices they're making aren't better for the environment and are a burden on businesses.
I was in the room with Starbucks executives when they met with both candidates, but I'm not a spokesperson so I cannot comment on any details from that.
Len Davis, Pangeality Productions in the Rainier Valley:
Barack Obama was a lawyer without much business experience. Did that make him a less attractive candidate? No. I'm pretty excited McGinn has an opportunity to win this election and put Seattle on a different footing, to be a global leader.
Brian Allen, a technology consultant for green building and renewable energy, based in West Seattle. Before starting his own shop here, he worked in Latin America for Chiquita Banana and Morgan Stanley, helping with IT and infrastructure build-out.
Having come from a corporate background and having lived around the world, I look at Mallahan and see someone who wants to be the strongman—almost a caricature of the business guy who thinks he can manage city government like a company.
I fear what will happen with Mallahan. Think about transportation. I've been following the oil markets for years and production in the Middle East. And he's betting on cars and highways—that's a terrible idea. I'm not seeing creative, long-term thinking from Mallahan.
The head tax? That's $15 a head. Give me a break. And it goes to pedestrian stuff and bicycle stuff. You won't be saving much by nuking that tax, and you'll be doing some serious damage to the city.
McGinn is better at building an amazing team—and it's volunteer! Anybody can buy a decent team, but to build McGinn's team for free? Wow. As a manager, that inspires me. If McGinn gets in and Dow gets in and they see eye to eye, we might see some amazing changes in this city.
The most telling quote comes from Tim Nuse at Starbucks. He was in the room while Starbucks executives interviewed the candidates (individually) and says: "The business community is divided. It's interesting to see that executives are divided."
Business executives are supposed to be the Mallahan stronghold—but they're divided. Good news for McGinn.
The runner-up quote, from Len Davis: "Barack Obama was a lawyer without much business experience. Did that make him a less attractive candidate? No."