Okay, so as you just read: On July 16, Mayor Mike McGinn announced he'd recommend the denial of an alleyway for a development in West Seattle. McGinn says anchor tenant Whole Foods is the kind of employer whose nonunion wages don't contribute enough to the "public benefit" that must be considered when selling city property.
But for all the mayor's grandstanding, McGinn really doesn't have much say over so-called street vacations, anyway. Ultimately, "the city council makes every vacation decision," says Beverly Barnett, a strategic advisor at the city's transportation department.
It's the council's transportation committee that will first consider the project. And that committee is headed by Council Member Tom Rasmussen, who has clashed with the mayor on virtually every major transportation dispute in recent years: building the deep-bore tunnel, widening the 520 bridge, funding the city's Transit Master Plan.
So did McGinn work out issues with the officials who have authority on the project before he took his opposition public? That would be a no.
Although Rasmussen declined an interview, sources working with the city council say that while they're not surprised—this is classic McGinn—it's frustrating to have the mayor weigh in publicly when every detail of this project and its benefits has been debated and fine-tuned for months behind the scenes.
Not to mention, the transportation committee won't feasibly be able to start looking at this project until almost wintertime—by the time it reaches a full council vote, McGinn may have lost the election. If he wanted a real say on this specific project, say people in the know, he would have started his advocacy in spring.
Robert Cruickshank, the mayor's spokesman, says it was deliberate that they bypassed the usual behind-the-scenes work. The mayor is making a "policy statement that... the public should be aware of," Cruickshank says. In other words, the mayor's office is attempting to set a new precedent of what constitutes public benefits—good wages and benefits—and they wanted to make that case in public.
But lacking a backroom strategy, McGinn could set a different precedent: that the mayor's recommendations are meaningless when the city confronts controversial employers like Whole Foods and Walmart.