Mike McGinn made a lot of promises.
He was a neighborhood man who would appoint neighborhood managers. He was a nightlife advocate who would extend bar hours. He was a transit advocate who would extend light rail to West Seattle and Ballard.
Immediately after taking the oath of office at 2:05 p.m. on January 4, Mayor McGinn said he "believed" in creating opportunity for the disadvantaged, fostering new industries to aid an impoverished economy, and building a model environmental city. This was in addition to the promises he made to Seattle during his campaign.
But a full 100 minutes into his first term, it was clear that McGinn and his new administration were falling short. Some were pronouncing his first 100 minutes a failure.
The tradition of marking accomplishments after 100 units of time began with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who in 1933 took the presidency with a pledge to rescue America from economic collapse. Critics and supporters alike paused to take stock of Roosevelt's first 100 days. Today we live in an accelerated culture. We have faster cars, a 24-hour news cycle, the internet, Hot Pockets. And in our accelerated media and political culture, we take stock of a new administration after 100 minutes.
"I haven't seen change or hope," said Toby Crittenden, spokesman of liberal advocacy group Washington Bus, 100 minutes after McGinn was sworn in. "In the first 100 minutes, there is an air of possibility, like fog on the ports of Seattle," Crittenden said, sweeping his arm toward Elliott Bay, but he could detect no actual progress.
Rather than enacting the progressive agenda that he ran on (and The Stranger feverishly lobbied for)—expanding the mass-transit network, boosting arts funding, protecting nightclubs—Mayor McGinn squandered his 100 minutes by accepting gifts, listening to music, and consuming an egg.
"I am expecting to step outside today and take a train to West Seattle," said King County Executive Dow Constantine in a reception area at City Hall, commenting on McGinn's vow to extend light rail to West Seattle and Ballard. But there was no new light-rail line as McGinn's first 100 minutes drew to a close.
"People are going to start realizing after the cheese and crackers run out there is still a lot to be done," Constantine said, gesturing toward the buffet.
Some attendees cautioned against such haste in judgment. "I'm not sure that there is anything you can do in the first 100 minutes that makes a lasting impression," said David Miller, former city council candidate and past president of the Maple Leaf Community Council, who was standing just outside the city council chambers. (Indeed, former mayor Greg Nickels, who was absent, required 4.2 million minutes in office to cement his legacy.)
"Give it 100,000 minutes [70 days]," Miller added.
Thirty minutes from the 100-minute mark and 200 feet from the buffet, when hopes were still bright, McGinn strolled down the steps from the city council chambers to the foyer of City Hall surrounded by his new three-man security detail. (Another broken promise: McGinn, an avid cyclist, said during the campaign that his security detail would be biking with him, not walking.) The Consul General of the People's Republic of China in San Francisco presented McGinn with a gift-wrapped ceramic horse. A band drowned out any potential for work at the city headquarters.
McGinn made good on one campaign promise during his first 100 minutes: to cut spending. The new mayor issued an executive order that called for 200 city staff positions to be terminated. But asked 59 minutes after his oath who would be laid off, McGinn said that it was too early to know. When would the city see a ticker tape parade of pink slips? "Within the next three months," he said, or not until 130,000 minutes into McGinn's term.
More broken promises: McGinn didn't visit any neighborhoods in his first 100 minutes, nor did he plant a single tree. He was lucky to escape any major crisis that would test his public-safety platform: Only 21 calls to 911 were reported in the first 100 minutes, most the result of minor medical emergencies and automated fire alarms (there may have been more if McGinn had fulfilled his pledge to allow 911 calls via text message). But if McGinn was feeling pressure to actualize his cumulus word cloud of promises, it didn't show.
Instead of implementing key elements of his platform—appointing a new police chief, building a fiber-optic network, constructing affordable housing—the new mayor pressed through the throngs toward the buffet table.
The establishment smiled as McGinn set aside his ambitious agenda in favor of cheese and crackers, chips and dip. City council member Richard Conlin called McGinn's executive order calling for staffing cuts "excellent." New spokesman Mark Matassa played for time, saying McGinn would satisfy his pledges "after the first 100 minutes had expired."
On one crucial issue, however, McGinn delivered: Early in the campaign, McGinn took a strong position against building a deep-bore tunnel under downtown Seattle; at the 100-minute mark, there were exactly zero deep-bore tunnels under downtown Seattle.
"Can I tell you a little secret?" Mayor McGinn said when this reporter caught up with him at the buffet table. The mayor tossed a deviled egg into his mouth. "I have actually been the mayor since midnight on New Year's Eve. I watched the fireworks on TV, and after 15 minutes, I went to bed."