During his State of the City Address delivered in packed council chambers this afternoon, Mayor Mike McGinn pledged to put a plan before the Seattle City Council to expand light rail into neighborhoods like Ballard, West Seattle, and across the 520 Bridge. "The 520 Bridge needs light rail," said McGinn, explaining that with peak tolling prices, commuters could be paying $7 or $8 each way. "If they're going to charge $8 to cross the bridge, we need to give people a low-cost transit choice—otherwise we've just spent $4 billion on a bridge for rich people."
This was one of the highlights of McGinn's hour-long speech, which he contrasted with abstract platitudes about Winning the Future*, which I guess is not just a tacky phrase uttered by our President during one underwhelming speech (quietly forgiven, quickly forgotten), but a slogan we are expected to take seriously now.
That said, McGinn's speech was overall cohesive, concise, and pretty ballsy (.pdf). He began by praising individual council members—McGinn's been characterized as at odds with the council since taking office—for the collaborative legislation and projects they mounted in 2010. He wasted no time dwelling on the ruts his office hit over the past 12 months. He saw the speech as a chance to rebrand himself as well as city and he took it.
McGinn outlined his priorities for the next year (and they're pretty ballot heavy): pressuring city council to fund the seawall through a ballot measure, putting the tunnel before Seattle voters, funding an ambitious education levy, and investing nearly $50 million in small Seattle businesses, among other things.
McGinn also drew a line in the sand with the Seattle police officers union, which routinely advertises the disdain cops hold for Seattle and its residents. The mayor called on union representatives to "face facts" and become "part of the solution"—or else continue with their full-time jobs of being feckless, uncooperative dickbags. It almost made up for the 47 times and ways he told me I could Win the Future.
How to Win the Future* after the jump.
*By First Smothering the Past Quietly, With a Pillow.
Creating Jobs: McGinn says that the Seattle Jobs Plan has already financed 79 local businesses with $32.5 million to create or retain 630 jobs. In 2011, the ity will deliver $48 million in financing for small- and medium-sized businesses. This money will also help fund ongoing adult education and training services.
Energy Efficiency: Responding to Obama's Better Building Challenge, the city's investing $2 million this year, $4 million next year, and millions after that to make sure all city buildings are at least 20 percent more efficient by 2020. Another program—Community Power Works—is using $100 million to retrofit homes and apartment buildings.
"Right now we're failing our students": The $231 million Family and Education Levy renewal (a doubling of the last education levy) will fund programs that the Seattle Public School's budget can't cover—like preschools, health clinics, tutoring, and summer school. "Tim Eyman has set this state on a path that will let our schools collapse and our children fail in order to save a few dollars," said McGinn. "The achievement gap is very clearly a moral issue. I suggest to you this is also a also a bedrock economic issue." Once baby boomers retire, the new workforce will be 40 percent people of color. "And we will fail to compete on the global stage if we write these students off today."
SPD Needs to Relocate to Seattle: McGinn mostly hit the right note with this touchy subject. He began by highlighting some of the great programs SPD officers run—late night basketball clinics, chess clubs, and other after school programs geared towards at-risk youth. This is all great work that SPD is lazy about promoting.
Then McGinn got tough. He pointed out that just 18 percent of our police officers live in Seattle—meaning that 82 percent don't. "It's hard to have a good local police force if the police force isn't local," said McGinn. He noted that state law prohibits the city from requiring SPD officers to be residents of Seattle, but "we have over 300 officers who are eligible for retirement," he said. "That gives us an opportunity to recruit officers from the community and who understand our community and its values."
McGinn then politely attacked the police officer's union—with which the city is currently renegotiating contracts—for being a large part of the problem. "I'm not sure that the union understands the nature and severity of the problem. They need to face facts" and start negotiating, McGinn said. He didn't outline a specific strategy for healing the city's relationship with its police force but I kind of think that was above and beyond the capacity for this (already ambitious) speech. His message to union leaders was clear enough. For now.
Expanding Light Rail in Seattle: This summer "I will send to council a Transit Master Plan for high capacity transit" maybe to Ballard, to West Seattle—all the fuck over the place, says McGinn. It falls a little short of his campaign promise but is still very exciting news.
Which brings us to...
Funding the Seawall: The Seattle City Council needs to stop dithering and put it on the ballot, says McGinn.
Killing Voting on the Tunnel: What the fuck—throw it on there, too. "We need to let the public decide," McGinn says. "I think they're entitled to a vote."
And there you have it: Mayor Mike McGinn's Plan to Win the Future in 2011.