Seattle City Councilmember Tim Burgess has announced he’ll run against incumbent Mayor Mike McGinn in the fall 2013 election. And state Sen. Ed Murray just launched an “exploratory committee,” all but guaranteeing he’ll join the race for Seattle’s mayor after the next legislation session.
Others waiting in the wings include former King County Executive Ron Sims, Port Commissioner Bill Bryant, City Councilmember Bruce Harrell, former Bellevue and Bremerton mayor Cary Bozeman and — of greatest interest to us — former City Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck.
Why Steinbrueck? He’s the only candidate on the horizon likely to actively embrace progressive and neighborhood values and speak out against the current downtown and pro-developer bias that so dominates City Hall.
Here’s why we think his chances are very good, provided he doesn’t hesitate to accept the mantle of “outsider” willing to rock the proverbial boat.
A true progressive
Steinbrueck, who served on the council from 1997 to 2007, was an integral part of a true progressive wing on the council along, with Judy Nicastro and Nick Licata. Occasionally, the three of them could corral two other council members and beat back pro-developer legislation and even secure new laws responsive to our neighborhoods.
While Licata remains on the council, he’s increasingly unwilling to do to more than eke out marginal improvements to otherwise-bad legislation. Who knows? Steinbrueck as mayor might recharge his batteries.
A Steinbrueck mayoral bid is guaranteed significant support right out of the gate precisely because there’s no one else among those considering a run who’s demonstrated willingness to effectively represent progressive and grassroots constituencies and challenge the status quo.
As a former councilmember and son of Victor (credited with saving Pike Place Market), the Steinbrueck name still carries a lot of weight — at least among older voters, the ones most likely to vote in an early August primary.
And Steinbrueck has the potential to capture neighborhood and small-businesses support —the folks alienated by the attention and tax dollars current city leaders lavish on South Lake Union, downtown and development interests.
That’s provided he truly distinguishes himself as the neighborhood/small business/social justice guy who seeks to return more resources to low-income and working people and calls for developers to pay their way with impact fees and replace, “one-for-one,” low-income housing they demolish.
Meanwhile, the rest of the potential field and our current mayor are likely to speak in generalities. They’re all going to say, “I’m the candidate for a better transportation system, improving our schools, jobs and public safety. I support the housing levy, etc.” Geez, who doesn’t support these things?
But when asked about massive upzones planned for our neighborhoods and overdevelopment that’s already destroying Seattle’s tree canopy, creeks, open space and existing low-income housing, clogging our streets and blocking our views, McGinn and the other potential candidates are going to give us tired, old platitudes about how more housing and more density are good for us (no matter how expensive that housing is or overbuilt our neighborhoods are). It’s the same, pro-growth agenda we’ve had all along that simply accentuates inequality and erodes the livability of our city.
Some have mistakenly labeled McGinn as a progressive. In reality, he’s worried about losing support from people like Real Change editor Tim Harris and other homeless advocates and social-service types who backed him in the past election.
McGinn thinks simply doing a little bit more to support the homeless and the housing levy is enough to paint himself as progressive and offset his pro-growth, pro-developer bias. Doubtless, Burgess and others in the race will be doing the same: trying to look progressive while doing all they can to secure support and campaign contributions from the corporate sector.
In fact, McGinn may be the worst of the bunch because he must mend fences with the downtown establishment. He also has a completely warped sense of where our transportation dollars should be spent (i.e., pushing a billion-dollar streetcar system and other rail solutions while our neighborhoods — especially poor and minority neighborhoods — live with streets full potholes, no sidewalks, reduced bus service and rotting bridges).
While McGinn and the other challengers fight over the same voter base, Steinbrueck could capture everyone else: a very disaffected and, we believe, clear majority of Seattle voters.
We’re glad to hear Steinbrueck has backed away from outright opposition to the recently launched campaign for district elections and might even come around to actually supporting it. Being labeled as the anti-district-election candidate could negate quite a bit of his value as the anti-establishment candidate.
We strongly believe voters would leap at the chance to vote for someone speaking forcefully on behalf of neighborhoods and against the pro-growth, pro-downtown machine.
It reminds us of another election many years ago: the 1977 mayoral race. A TV commentator named Charles Royer came out of the blue and spoke of returning resources to our neighborhoods and putting human needs first.
Relying on his name familiarity and tapping widespread disgust with the status quo, he trounced a slew of establishment candidates in the primary and then beat Paul Schell (the downtown candidate) in the final. It can happen again in 2013.
JOHN V. FOX and CAROLEE COLTER are coordinators for the Seattle Displacement Coalition (www.zipcon.net), a low-income housing organization. To comment on this column, write to QAMagNews@nwlink.com.