In recent weeks, Seattle’s leaders have disdainfully shown they know how to exert their undue influence on local politics.
Mayor Ed Murray, in his first half-year in office, has already made several moves that have residents questioning his commitment to his constituents and his use of the city’s funds. His newly created Office of the Waterfront spent a wasteful $9,600 for a welcome sign: a 62-foot mural painted on the east side of the to-be-demolished Alaskan Way Viaduct, to draw people to the construction-impacted waterfront.
Then, after his Income Inequality Advisory Committee failed to meet its deadline for putting together a $15 minimum-wage proposal, Murray developed his own plan — a process committee member and business owner David Meinert called “a charade.” He accused Murray of presenting a plan that heavily favors labor, instead of one of consensus that the committee was developing.
In early June, news broke that Murray gave former mayoral opponent-turned-ally Peter Steinbrueck a $98,000, no-bid consulting contract with the Department of Planning and Development in March. Steinbrueck’s urban-planning résumé notwithstanding, Murray made no secret that he wanted him on the city’s payroll as a full-time staff member, but budget constraints prevented Murray from hiring him earlier this year.
This was immediately followed by the City Council’s approval to give the city’s highest-paid employee, City Light CEO Jorge Carrasco, a pay raise of up to $120,000, payable by utility customers. Murray requested it be retroactive to the start of the year; the council opted for July 1. This clearly contradicts their urgency to lessen the pay gap between workers and executives like Carrasco.
And then City Light tried to mask the expected bad publicity by paying $17,500 to “a network of influential bloggers” to write positive, online content about Carrasco and the agency — this news itself ironically outranked their feel-good stories in online searches.
King County Executive Dow Constantine then vetoed a plan by County Councilmember Rod Dembowski, who had raised Constantine’s ire by proposing the adoption of a budget first and setting Metro Transit service levels accordingly. His plan could have deemed the transit cuts promised for 2015 as unnecessary.
And the Seattle School Board voted 4-3 to spend $3 million on a math textbook that its advisory committee voted against and is nearly twice as expensive as the one the group selected.
Maybe that’s why disaffected Seattle Public Schools Superintendent José Banda is so eager to leave for a position in Sacramento after only two years: He needs to get out before he gets too entrenched in Seattle’s political thinking.