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Top Five Reasons I’m Voting for Michael McGinn for Mayor

2013 July 23
by Rob Harrison


#5.  We shop at the same place for clothes.

When I ran into the Mayor at City Hall on the way to sit in on a PLUS committee meeting there, we were both locking up our bicycles and talking about riding in street clothes, and it came out he’d bought his suit at the same place I’d gotten my wool pants — Goodwill. I like a government official who is as thrifty in his personal life as he is in office. McGinn, working collaboratively with Council, has balanced the City’s budget and restored the City’s “rainy day fund.”

#4. He can admit where there is room for improvement.

At the going-away party for a Cascade Bicycle Club employee, a friend asked me about my post here on Citytank, “How Seattle Thwarts Innovative Building“. The Mayor overheard, stepped over and said, “Let me summarize: We suck!” That opened a great conversation on the subject of the Living Building Deep Green Pilot Program in which the Mayor allowed that I was right, that there could be better ways to get more ultra-low energy buildings built in Seattle, and that we seriously needed to make that happen. Humility is an admirable quality in anyone, but especially impressive in an elected official.

#3.  Mike is the best candidate.

Here is my take on the others:

Ed Murray: I can’t tell what Ed Murray believes in. Though his message is all “I’ll be collaborative and get things done,” his campaign has been mean and divisive, and from what I can tell about what’s coming out of Olympia these days, he’s not getting a whole lot of done down there. Sorry, not buyin’ it. The fact he’s gay doesn’t mean he should be mayor any more than it means he shouldn’t, though I admit that was a point in his favor for me before I checked out his campaign website and found, well, no vision. I’m more than a bit concerned about his Big Coal and Big Oil major backers.

Peter Steinbrueck: I like Peter a lot. He’s super intelligent and he’s an ARCHITECT, for Pete’s sake. (And an urban planner!) Several friends whose judgment I respect are backing Peter. I do think he’s been painted a little too swiftly and broadly with the NIMBY brush by writers looking to pigeonhole the various candidates for easy reader consumption. That said: Seattle absolutely needs intelligent urban planners…doing urban planning! The skill set for running a city is a different one, I think, than what I’ve seen expressed in his campaign so far, which has been at times stumbling and amateurish. (Going after the dog-owner constituency? Seriously?) An urban planner absolutely ought to have exactly the kind of nuanced views that Peter has. More importantly and unfortunately though, Peter has come down on the wrong side of a couple of issues that are big deals for me. The idea that retaining views of the Space Needle ought to be considered in zoning seems off the wall. And then there’s his endorsement by John Fox of the Seattle Displacement Coalition. The views that Peter would have to have to get Fox’s endorsement are deal-breakers. I was there at the Mt. Baker Community Council meeting where Fox cronies handed out pictures of the slums of Mumbai to illustrate what would happen if the area was rezoned to allow higher density. Peter did–and would again–make a fantastic City Council member. I will get behind him 100% if he ever runs for that office.

Bruce Harrell: I met Bruce when he came to speak just after I did at the Cascadia Green Building Council’s Come Rain/Shine event, a day-long charrette on getting to net-zero water in development and in buildings. He came late, looked kinda bored, said his bit, and left. He seems like a nice guy, but I was not impressed with his commitment to my issues. I don’t know why he’s running.

Joey Gray: I really like Joey. She’s earnest, and principled, and committed to working hard on what I think are exactly THE super-important issues. I wish she was running for Council instead of Mayor. If she was I’d vote for her in a heartbeat.

I listened to the others at AIA Seattle’s Mayoral Forum, and have read about their positions in various articles, but I don’t think Kate Martin, Mary Martin, Charlie Staadecker or Doug McQuaid are particularly contenders in this race.

#2.  As a bicycle commuter and ardent advocate for everyday bicycle riding, how could I NOT vote for a candidate nicknamed “Mayor McSchwinn”?

I’ve been car-free for more of my adult life than I’ve not been; I share my office with Cascade Bicycle Club; I ride to work every day; I want my son and his friends to be able to ride on the street safely; I want to live in a city where there are other ways of getting around besides the automobile. Michael McGinn has advanced this cause consistently and well over the last four years, as evidenced by his endorsements from Cascade Bicycle Club, Seattle Bike Blog, and Seattle Transit Blog among others, and I want more of this. (Faster, of course.)

#1. Mike McGinn has put addressing climate change at the forefront of his policies.

This is the central issue of our time. If we act decisively on climate change now, Seattle can lead and export innovative solutions to the rest of the US. If we don’t act now we’ll be playing catch-up, and all of the other issues we’re talking about now in this race will fade into the background as our financial and intellectual resources become increasingly dedicated to adaptation and mitigation of the effects of climate disruption.

McGinn spoke eloquently about climate change at the fundraiser I co-sponsored with Alan Durning of Sightline Institute, Brice Maryman of SvR Design, and Chuck Wolfe, author of Urbanism Without Effort, (paraphrasing): “We are the last generation who can do something about climate change. In 20 years, when my kids ask me what I did about it, do you think I’ll want to say ‘I got along with other politicians’?”

I first met Mike McGinn at the Carbon Neutral Unconference at Mithun, (organized by Alex Steffen and Justus Stewart) not long after he was elected. (Councilmembers Richard Conlin and Mike O’Brien were there too!) The Mayor has been at the leading edge of so many initiatives in the realm of climate change: the Carbon Neutral Seattle study that followed that initial day’s work; developing  the Carbon Neutral Action Plan; divesting Seattle from fossil fuel holdings; light rail expansion; road diets; bicycle infrastructure improvement; fighting against the Deep Bore Tunnel. (Which I personally think is certainly showing signs of being a A Very Big No Good Terrible Bad Ideaâ„¢ — how about those eight lanes of traffic on the waterfront?)

Mike McGinn is a man with principles. He is not a politician, and as such he has taken a lot of flak about that from, well, mostly politicians. McGinn’s principles are my principles, and I deeply believe that those principles ARE worth fighting for, that we must act NOW or pay a price in human suffering later that we cannot bear.

I have learned something about endorsements hanging out with my friends at Cascade Bicycle Club. They base their endorsements solely on how the candidates stand on issues that will affect members of the club. My “club” is climate change. Climate Change has been the central issue of my work in architecture for 20+ years. It continues to be the lens through which I view candidates for office. In those terms, no one else is running for Mayor. I heartily and unequivocally endorse Mike McGinn.


Rob Harrison, AIA, is a Seattle architect and Certified Passive House™ Consultant.