This morning, about 30 people representing labor unions, neighborhood organizations, and advocacy groups were given their marching orders—in the most egalitarian way marching orders can be given—in the mayoral transition offices on the 60th floor of the Seattle Municipal Tower. Mayor-elect Mike McGinn asked the individuals, as community ambassadors, to go back to their respective constituencies and listen.
"We did not run a traditional campaign and we don't want to have a traditional transition," says Aaron Pickus, a staff member on McGinn's team.
The plan goes like this: They have to ask three questions (see below), write a summary on what they heard, and, at the end of this month, McGinn will hold three town halls (one in the north, one in the south, and one in the central city). In other words, this is a grassroots approach to the taking control of mayor's office. But this is no slapdash ship; the group members must email their one-page executive summaries by 8:00 a.m. on the 23rd. No faxes. These are the questions the McGinn administration wants answered:
1. How do we build the strongest possible team to achieve the policy objectives and values set forth?
2. How do we build public trust in the new administration?
3. What do you view as the incoming administration and the city’s greatest challenge — what should we do first out of the gate?
"We wanted to get the greatest possible amount of information from the broadest cross section of the city so we don’t have a traditional administration," Pickus says.
Of course, McGinn is still working on the more standard elements of a metamorphosis from underdog campaign to city hall's highest office—such as breakfasts with former mayors, finding key staff, forging allies with business leaders, and talking with elected officials—but these people are his base. "We want to feed the roots and we need your input," transition team staffer Liz Birkholz wrote in an email to the group this afternoon. The group's members included Dave Schmitz, president of the local grocery workers and service union; David Hiller, Advocacy Director of the Cascade Bicycle Club; Wyking Garrett, a Central District leader who ran in the mayoral primary; Adair Dammann, executive director of SEIU 925; and members of Great City and scores of other civic leaders.