Jan 1, 2022
For the last show of the year, we have the first part of a discussion with Executive Director of America Walks and former mayor of Seattle Mike McGinn about how the City’s response to the recent snowstorm and Harrell’s recent appointees highlight opportunities for the incoming administration to both learn from and leave behind the past as they stand up a government to lead us into 2022 and beyond.
As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at officialhacksandwonks.com.
“Why Sweden Clears Snow-Covered Walkways Before Roads” by Angie Schmitt from Streetsblog USA: https://usa.streetsblog.org/2018/01/24/why-sweden-clears-walkways-before-roads/
Disability Rights Washington - Disability Mobility Initiative: https://www.disabilityrightswa.org/programs/disabilitymobility/
“Does Adding an Extra Driving Lane Make Traffic Worse?” by David Stockin from Drivetribe: https://drivetribe.com/p/does-adding-an-extra-driving-lane-E6FPiVJnQSCPun1-pS-Q-A?iid=Ic6o2PzdQcaGewi7L9kSbw
“The Fundamental Law of Road Congestion: Evidence from US Cities” by Gilles Duranton and Matthew A. Turner from American Economic Review 101: https://pubs.aeaweb.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1257/aer.101.6.2616
“'Zombie highways,' mass transit failures: PBS 'News Hour' takes look at Birmingham” by Bob Sims from Advance Local: https://www.al.com/spotnews/2009/08/zombie_highways_mass_transit_f.html
“Inslee’s Proposed 2022 Budget Plugs Holes in Highway Megaprojects” by Ryan Packer from The Urbanist: https://www.theurbanist.org/2021/12/27/inslees-proposed-2022-budget-plugs-holes-in-highway-megaprojects/
“Seattle Mayor-elect Harrell names niece deputy mayor, lists other appointments” by Sarah Grace Taylor from The Seattle Times: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/bruce-harrell-announces-key-cabinet-members-appoints-niece-as-deputy-mayor/
“Seattle Mayor-elect Harrell appoints final deputy mayor, other leaders before taking office” by Sarah Grace Taylor from The Seattle Times: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/seattle-mayor-elect-harrell-appoints-final-deputy-mayor-other-leaders-before-taking-office/
[00:00:00] Crystal Fincher: Welcome to Hacks & Wonks. I'm Crystal Fincher, and I'm a political consultant and your host. On this show, we talk with policy wonks and political hacks to gather insight into local politics and policy in Washington State through the lens of those doing the work with behind-the-scenes perspectives on what's happening, why it's happening, and what you can do about it. Full transcripts and resources referenced in the show are always available at officialhacksandwonks.com and in our episode notes. Today, we're continuing our Friday almost-live shows where we review the news of the week with a co-host. Welcome back to the program, friend of the show and today's co-host: activist, community leader, former mayor of Seattle, and Executive Director of America Walks - the excellent Mike McGinn.
[00:00:57] Mike McGinn: I'm glad to be here, Crystal.
[00:00:59] Crystal Fincher: Glad to have you here, as we close out 2021 and tiptoe gingerly into 2022 - and just wanted to talk, not just about what's happening this week, but contextualize it and what's happening through the year. And there was no one better to do that with than Mike McGinn, with so much context just in organizing and urbanism land use policy - and few things you picked up as mayor of Seattle.
So this week, we are in the midst of seemingly unending snow that we're dealing with - it snowed on Christmas, it is snowing right now as we're recording on Friday morning, temperatures have not been above freezing all week, they're just supposed to get above freezing today - briefly - before we get some more snow perhaps this weekend. And so we've been blanketed with the snow, mobility has been a challenge, sidewalks have been treacherous - and please shovel your sidewalks, folks - but there's been no cohesive strategy and a ton of people haven't. Our streets have been a mess. Also, it's been freezing and dangerous for people who are unsheltered and we have an imperfect emergency response. And we've talked many times about our responsibility to keep our neighbors safe from extreme climate - heat in the summer and now freezing cold, which can be lethal if you're out there. And so as you're looking at what we're dealing with, what does it tell you about where we're at in Seattle?
[00:02:50] Mike McGinn: Well, first of all, I just want to say that it goes from an old mayor to a new mayor at midnight on the 31st, or the first minute of January 1 - and I actually went outside to check the weather the second I became mayor, right? Because I was actually thinking about at the time - what would it be like to enter office if there was something happening? And that's happening right now to Bruce Harrell. So clearly the response that you see to a snowstorm is based on muscle memory and work that's done years and months in advance. So for example, I believe they're still substantially using the road clearing plan that we adopted - and I took office a year after a snowstorm that really showed some weaknesses in the snow response of the City of Seattle. And so there were a lot of big changes made after that. And we still follow that strategy. But there are things -
[00:03:52] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, we lost the mayor over that snow response.
[00:03:55] Mike McGinn: Yeah, that was big deal. And at the time, this City didn't really use salt, it pushed snow to the middle of the road - not to the edges. And we got a long, cold stretch so it froze in the middle so people couldn't make turns - all the streets were icy. It really had really dramatic effects on the City and the City's residents. And that was a big deal. So we changed a lot of that - the focus now is on plowing the transit routes first, we even shared online the GPS of where they were going. And we use salt because it turns out actually - all that sand has an effect too on the City's systems and storm drains. And the salt was not that big a deal, not as big a deal environmentally.
So we made all those changes but it still took us a couple of snowstorms to really get it right. The very first one - there was freezing on the West Seattle Bridge and it shut down stuff. And the brine that was used on the roadways in advance of the storm wasn't powerful enough. So Bruce Harrell will be coming in and it's not like he can change all of that stuff in the past. But it's - one thing I learned though, was it's - a mayor does make a difference in the moment to moment, because there are decisions that have to be made. And we are seeing some of that right now, right? Like as we discover the City can't open up the winter shelters that it wants to open up because people are having trouble getting in to man those shelters because of the conditions.
So we have an Emergency Operations Center that opens. I discovered that you want to be there before the snow starts falling, or the ice, or the wind, or whatever the issue is. And you stay there through it for a couple of reasons. One is that you might be able to help facilitate some decisions - you might be able to make a phone call to another arm of government. But I think it's also just a show of support for the City employees that are doing the work. They know it's important when the mayor is there and it matters to them. So for this to be happening during a transition, hopefully everybody is in a position to keep pushing. But this is really something that I hope Durkan and Harrell are working on because there are people, and particularly the least powerful among us, who are counting on the City to innovate and come up with different ideas and different solutions to take care of people in circumstances like this.
And I remember being down at EOC, in the Emergency Operations Center, and overhearing the conversations of people on the phone who are working to try to get people to treatments they needed. And just dealing with the situations that come up - that maybe there's a City resource that can be used in that moment to help people. And you need that attention to detail and attention to the developing circumstances to be able to do that. You don't want to read about it the next day - that a bad thing happened and nobody was there to help from the City who should have been.
[00:07:12] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, completely agree. And as I look at this, just looking more forward, we're in a continuing, worsening climate crisis. And we are seeing more extreme temperatures than we've seen in decades - right now on the cold side. We saw that on the hot side earlier this year. And so it seems that we should be preparing for more extreme and more prolonged weather events of all different types. And so to your point, you put in place and largely constructed a snow response strategy after the catastrophic failure that helped to lead to you -
[00:07:55] Mike McGinn: 2009. Yeah.
[00:07:56] Crystal Fincher: - to being in office. Yeah. And it has been updated since then, but now we're at this time and it is foreseeable that these staffing issues as we move forward are going to be - there're issues with staffing for these kinds of services when we're not facing this kind of an extreme challenge - it only gets worse when we are. How do we plan to be more resilient as we move forward? How do we plan to make sure that we have more than just a bare bones, nighttime, get out at 7:00 AM, shelter - and it's still freezing outside and we're putting people out there. How do we focus on perhaps not forcing people into congregate shelter? Are there better options that we can provide even in an emergency situation?
So really there's a big opportunity for the Harrell administration, as we move forward, to update this plan and this policy and this capacity. And a lot of people would be surprised to understand that government provides a lot of services - not directly - I mean, they certainly do their share of direct services, but they contract with a lot of companies and service providers. And even what we're asking them to do is the same as it has been. And we need to talk about updating that and making sure that they have the type of capacity to respond to this and that they're prepared for a response for today and not the response of 10 or 20 or 30 years ago. Everything is demanding more updated, more relevant, responsive, resilient solutions. And I see this as a big op opportunity for the Harrell administration to take on. And one that's going to have more consequences if they don't.
[00:09:42] Mike McGinn: Well, that use of the word resilient too - and it's worth looking at that because the pandemic certainly exposed every weakness in our society, and exposed the way in which inequality works at multiple levels - and who was exposed to harm because of the pandemic, whether it was the disease itself or the loss of a job or exposure to the disease, all of these things - and who didn't. It's a stress test on the system and a snowstorm is a stress test on the system too. And one of the things - you look at car commercials and they just love to show these big, robust vehicles muscling through the snow like there's some fantasy of freedom associated with that. But what we know from snowstorms, as an example, or flooding - is that it's a very fragile system - that a transportation system that relies on every individual, that they need a big vehicle to navigate the system - that system doesn't work. It doesn't take much stress to tackle that. Whereas if you have neighborhoods that are built around walkability - the ability to get down to the grocery store and pick up what you need, or get to a pharmacy, or get from your home to staff the emergency shelter. So that resiliency isn't just the walkability, but actually affordable housing throughout the City. So that the people who take care of the City can afford to live in the City and close to a bus route that might be operating - because we have enough snow plows to handle the arterials, but we don't have enough snow plows to handle every residential street. So there's all of these even more fundamental things we can do to create a resilient place.
And I remember that once in a snowstorm long before I was mayor and I walked home. I walked home from downtown to Wallingford where I was living. And I felt pretty good about it - like if something went wrong, there was probably a public house along the way where I could stop in and get warm. I was going to make it and people could still have a semblance of their daily lives. Whereas the person driving out to Issaquah might have been leaving their car out by the side of the road in a snow drift, wondering what to do next and how to get home. So these are just a resiliency that filters through everything. And we should be looking at our cities when the sun is shining and the weather is great, we should be looking at our cities with, Well, how do we make it so that people can afford to live here so they can meet their daily needs?
And it goes to snow clearing strategy as well. And we were talking a little bit about this before the show started. In Sweden, they went and studied and made a conclusion that they should clear the sidewalks before the roads, because the people who were using the sidewalks tended to be more women than men and tended to be on very important trips - for childcare, for getting to work and the like. And we're now developing a set of protected bike lanes around the City. And we got a little snow plowing machine for that - I don't know what they named it yet, but I forget, there was a whole naming thing going on for that - but the idea that if you had a connected network of those places, you could plow those. And that meant somebody in a wheelchair, if they could get from their front door to that lane, they could have a clear path to the neighborhood store. They wouldn't be isolated in their homes by the ice - that is what happens now to somebody who is disabled.
So looking at the strategies and rules we have around snow clearing of sidewalks, how - maintenance of sidewalks. Right now, it's the job of private property owners. And we started sending out crews - we were just starting to get at this - we started sending out crews to clear the corners downtown, because the snow plows of course piled up snow at the corners. But we were sending out crews with shovels. Well, why not hire a bunch of people with shovels to go out and make sure that there's clear paths on all the curb ramps where people need them, which is a lot of the City.
But these are the types of policy choices we can make about what we prioritize. And of course it's going to take money and it's going to take a different viewpoint. First, it's going to take a change of view - that maybe the person in the single-occupancy vehicle isn't the most important user of the transportation system that needs to be prioritized. It's the everyday trips that people who don't have vehicles need - center our transportation system around them, and we'll have a transportation system in which we all benefit from really great accessible neighborhoods.
[00:14:46] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. I completely agree. And to your point - for me, there was a term that was used a lot in the prior federal administration - prior administrations were picking winners and losers. And really that's what we do when we talk about transit and prioritization of cars. We are really eliminating the choice for people to walk, or bike, or roll, or to do anything but drive. We've made that so inaccesible and hard for people that - if people want to drive, great, but there are so many people who dislike so many elements of driving - dealing with traffic, dealing with parking, dealing with trying to be out on these roads and can you make it up a hill or not? And just the inflexibility of the system to support cars that we continue dumping money into. And if we actually did prioritize transit choice - that hey, you know what? If you end up driving, okay. But what we're not going to do is make it impossible for you to walk, for you to ride your bike. I mean, I saw a picture online this morning of right now in the middle of the snow and someone attempting to walk on Aurora. And they're basically walking on the side of the street because the sidewalks are just snow and ice - in the middle of this extremely dangerous road when conditions are ideal. And now they're driving on an icy snowy street. And you just look at that and have a sense of impending doom and dread because you know how dangerous that is on a clear, sunny, dry day. And we are forcing people to walk in the median, we're forcing wheelchair users to roll in the street because it is just impossible to do that on a sidewalk where a sidewalk exists.
[00:16:40] Mike McGinn: Yeah. If they can even make it down past the ice that's on the sidewalk outside their front door to reach that place. So yeah, we were talking about prioritization and money. I highly recommend by the way - what the State Legislature will be making decisions in the coming year about - where money should go. There's a lot of federal money heading to the states right now as part of the infrastructure bill. And I really commend to people in the state of Washington, across the state, but certainly the listeners here for Rainier Valley Radio and whoever else we've attracted to this podcast. Thank you, Crystal for your work for building and promoting this thing. The Disability Mobility Initiative is a partnership spearheaded by Disability Rights Washington, but they partnered with Front and Centered - they partnered with other advocates. And what they want to do is put the needs of non-drivers at the center of transportation policy. So that was the philosophy I was talking about earlier.
Because I think a lot of our transportation, and you'll see this in advocacy organizations - there's some advocacy organizations that are like, look, the powers that be are going to build their highways. They got all the power. And our job is just to try to fit in around the cars somehow in the policy making too. Maybe we should get a little bit more. Now transportation is now the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the state, in the country. It's behind this extreme weather. It's one of the things behind this extreme weather we're having. So it's a good reason to change it by itself. But how about a philosophy that instead of trying to fit in around this dangerous polluting activity, instead we said, well, how about we make it so that cars fit in around people, that we start to get the ability of people to walk to their daily needs, to walk to transit - and transit, by the way, as a middle leg of a walking trip says the Executive Director of America Walks - me.
[00:18:47] Crystal Fincher: It's true.
[00:18:49] Mike McGinn: It's true - mostly, mostly. I guess there's some Park and Rides out there, but it's mostly the middle leg of a walking trip. It extends how far you can walk by quite a bit, I've discovered. So why not build a whole system around that and then figure out how to fit in the vehicles around that that you still need. And that is how places were built until we abandoned the good sense of building walkable town centers and walkable business districts in order to prioritize jamming cars through them. So this is a big philosophy change and what's beautiful about the Disability Mobility Initiative is it's centering the needs of non-drivers. And again, that's great for everybody. And that's an approach that Washington state transportation advocacy is needed. And enough of, let the highway builders have their highways. Maybe we'll get a few dollars for the things we care about. Let's get the dollars in the right place to start with.
[00:19:52] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. And huge point in the coming months - there's going to be a lot of decisions made on this transportation package. We do know and have a ton of data that expanding highways does not improve traffic, which is often how it's sold. And so let's actually improve people's commutes no matter how they choose to take them, which is going to take a massive rebalancing of the share of our transportation budget that we spend on cars versus the share that we spend on everything else that - that's such a large portion of our community uses. So appreciate that.
[00:20:27] Mike McGinn: Nationally and locally, there's an issue. There's a phrase out there. There's something they call zombie highways. These are the highways that were drawn up in the heyday of the highway building era. And the reason they're called zombie highways is because they're still out there soaking up money for planning, and people are still trying to figure out how to raise the money to build them. 509 extension, which will - everybody goes, "Oh, great. It'll connect I-5 to that dead-end 509 by the airport." Yeah. It'll also send tens of thousands more cars a day through South Park, which wants to get rid of another highway that was built in the past that isn't so good anymore. We've got to stop funding the ideas from the 70s - 1970s - and start funding the ideas for the 2020s. And it seems like now would be a good time to think about that.
[00:21:17] Crystal Fincher: Now would be an excellent time. There was a great article in The Urbanist about this, this past week, and talking about the - Inslee's proposed budget and a significant amount going to highway expansion. And even conversations within Seattle of - do we have one bridge over Montlake versus two, and relying on old projections that are no longer needed and an increasing realization that hey, we don't need what we thought was needed 30 years ago, 20 years ago. Why are we still relying on the same projections? And I recall there was a mayor around a decade ago that had several conversations about this in terms of a tunnel, and few other things, which actually turned out to be correct. So yeah.
[00:22:07] Mike McGinn: Oh my God. And yeah - no - for the listeners that don't know, I thought - if you were around then, you knew. If you're new, maybe this is history. I thought we should not replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct with the tunnel highway. I thought we should invest in transit along that corridor. And there was not a single elected official in the state of Washington who would side with me on that, except for Councilmember Mike O'Brien at the time. The entire City Council, one of whom is now our mayor, thought that building a highway on the waterfront for $4 billion - and by the way, they promised at the time that then there wouldn't be a highway on the surface - and it turns out, they still need lots of lanes on the surface too is what they're saying. So we haven't let go of this magical thinking that more lanes will lead to a better transportation system, when what we know is that more lanes just leads to more vehicles and lots of other places too besides that highway. And that's a big source of the pollution we have and challenges we face. And it doesn't scale, doesn't stand up to bad weather. It doesn't scale and it's not a question of ideology. I like to say it's a question of geometry. If everybody is surrounded by a car, they don't fit in a city. You just can't fit them all. You just can't fit it all. It's just math. So be nice if we could figure that out. Yeah.
[00:23:29] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. I mean, I learned a lot of lessons from you in that too. I did not start off agreeing with where you're at - I'm like, "What do you mean? Just roads and transit - that's not going to be enough." And I was wrong. Lots of people were wrong. And lots of lessons to be learned throughout that. And one of the points that you made then was just like, "Hey, these projections are all out of whack. There's no way that this works and it creates so many problems when you count on capacity, then tolling on that capacity." And then that doesn't happen. Then what? Then what happens? And then the promise of no cost overrun. But anyway, we don't need to go back there. We can do year in review, but we won't do a decade in review here.
[00:24:18] Mike McGinn: There is a transition here. There is a pivot here - because one of the topics that we've talked about out is - topic of the week is there's going to be a new mayor. There's going to be a new mayor, but we're learning a lot more about his administration. And he did replace his transportation chief, and he's announced some new people he's going to come in. So the history of the past is still with us in the present. But let's talk about the present then.
[00:24:45] Crystal Fincher: Well, let's talk about the present. And to your point, Harrell announced the final round of his major appointees, deputy mayors - among those that were recently announced, big deputy mayor heading intergovernmental relations, intergovernmental office relations - I forget what the exact title is - but Gael Tarleton, former port commissioner, former legislator. Gael Tarleton - background in security and issues related to Russia. And Gael was a big supporter of Sara Nelson, a supporter of Bruce Harrell - certainly an indication of the direction that is being signaled in terms of policy, I would think.
[00:25:36] Mike McGinn: Well, I think there's a mixed bag of appointees. And I don't know everybody that's listed, but there are a number of people I do know. And for the one thing is - there are a lot of names, I'm not quite sure how to describe this - it's like there's some type of special LinkedIn that you have to be on in order to be hired by Murray, Durkan, or Harrell. Right?
[00:26:09] Crystal Fincher: Well, let me list some of them instead of - qualifying that. In the first round, a lot of them - Monisha Harrell, who is the senior deputy mayor and shares a last name with mayor, soon-to-be mayor Bruce Harrell, because she is his niece, but has a lengthy resume of her own. And I certainly will say, have seen - certainly there are a lot of people not excited about Bruce Harrell being mayor and that has led to some justifiable critiques of who he has slated for his administration. But what I don't want to feed into is just tossing people out, or their accomplishments out - especially women of color - their accomplishments out just because they're working in this administration. I try and keep my critiques policy focused. And I don't want to suggest that Monisha Harrell is not worthy of holding the position of senior deputy mayor at all. She's a board chair of Equal Rights Washington, member of the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund - extremely competent. And we'll see how that manifests within this Harrell administration. Tiffany Washington is going to be the deputy mayor of housing and homelessness, the deputy mayor of external relations - is that what Gael did? Is that intergovernmental -
[00:27:36] Mike McGinn: That's Gael Tarleton. That's Gael Tarleton.
[00:27:38] Crystal Fincher: Okay. That was - I'm looking at one of two articles - this one's by Sarah Grace Taylor. And part two, so yes, Gael Tarleton. And then some appointees from folks who worked in Harrell's office before. So two former employees of a City Council office, Jennifer Samuels, and - let me see - Jeremy Racca.
[00:28:09] Mike McGinn: Yeah.
[00:28:10] Crystal Fincher: Jeremy Racca, who worked as a former LA. So it's going to be an interesting time. Kendee Yamaguchi will serve as mayor of external relations, Gael Tarleton is the interim director of the Office of Intergovernmental Relations. As we talked about last week, and you just mentioned, there's going to be a new SDOT head. So Derrick Wheeler-Smith is going to be the interim director of the Seattle Office for Civil Rights. And it's really interesting to see a number of these appointees hold the title of interim. So I don't know what that means, and if they are planning on transitioning into that role, seeking others, but there are a number who still hold the title of interim. So these could change over time, but that's who we're looking at now.
And Tim Burgess - former Councilmember, former mayor Tim Burgess - is going to be influential within this administration. So certainly a lot of names that we have heard, were used to hearing from 10, 15 years ago, are now back - as recently as 5 years ago for some of them. But here we are. So certainly a shift in tone and direction from -
[00:29:34] Mike McGinn: It's really interesting, because you are right to point out - there are names that are new to city government and then there are names that we have not seen before. And that's why I said, it's something of a mixed bag. And it starts one to wondering - what direction does he go? And I think that's where a lot of people are in right now - is the reading of the tea leaves, right? Like what will be Bruce Harrell's priorities as mayor? And how will he govern? And people look to appointments as part of that question.
I have to say - Burgess and Tarleton both give me pause - because both of them, specifically on these issues we were just talking about, represented an older view. And the firing of Sam Zimbabwe, who's a pretty competent administrator and a professional, and was mostly under the radar during his term. He wasn't out there either upstaging the mayor or making the mayor look bad - just being a dedicated civil servant. That gave me pause about - what does it mean for policy that Sam Zimbabwe was let go when there're so many other positions to fill. Like trying to get a new transportation head while you're trying to also get a new police chief and all sorts of other positions - why take that on? And it gives me fear that what we're going to see is that somebody was complaining that maybe Sam was building too many bike lanes or something. And that was the impression I got from reading The Seattle Times article on that - that somebody in Bruce's camp - and I remember Bruce saying something to the effect of, "I'll tell you what? I'm not going to lead with bike lanes," he said, during the forum, which was kind of a peering into Bruce's soul on transportation there, for a second.
And so that's bad. I think it's bad. I think it's a real challenge coming in, as mayor Harrell will be, coming in with the incumbent not going to be there. So all of the department heads and the people in city government, they didn't know who the mayor was going to be for a long time. And so - or whether they would have jobs. So in that situation, you see people leave. And I had the same experience because my predecessor lost in the primary. So everybody knew from August onwards that there would be a new mayor. And even after I took office, there were people who had applied for and received great jobs, and they'd come to me and say I'm leaving for the Obama administration or I'm leaving for a new national position. And there were about four of those. And each one of those searches is important and time-consuming and requires the mayor's personal attention because you really want good people in there. And I think that there's been a fair bit of turnover and interims. And so I think that's going to be one of the challenges for mayor Harrell - is standing up government, so to speak - not just forming his own office and how that functions, but also seeing how - getting the department heads in place to realize his vision.
Circling back to Burgess and Tarleton, both of those just give me a lot of concern because I just don't think either of them - to the degree that Burgess in charge of special projects is going to have some strategic leadership in this - that just gives me concern because I saw what he prioritized and what he didn't prioritize as a City Council president. And I just hope that Bruce will be listening to some more progressive voices in his administration than Tim Burgess.
[00:33:26] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, certainly - and Burgess's support and involvement in the Compassion Seattle campaign that was there to codify sweeps in the City Charter certainly gave a number of people pause. And the criticisms of progress attempting to be made in terms of the SPD and public safety in a meaningful way for everyone in the City - certainly a divergence in a lot of what has turned out to be popular opinion in the City and where Tim Burgess was at. And I think that, to me, probably more than anything symbolizes just the conversation - recalling the many conversations during your term that you had with the Council, and where the Council was at, is a very different place than where the Council is at - and by implication, where the residents of Seattle who are electing that Council, is at. The residents have made a turn in who they are electing and supporting in recalls for their Councilmembers. And so that is very different than some of the rhetoric that we've heard back when folks were in office. And certainly during this election cycle in 2021 throughout these campaigns.
[00:34:49] Mike McGinn: One of the things that I admire about Bruce Harrell, and mayor Harrell in a day or two, mayor-elect now but mayor Harrell - is when Tim Burgess wanted to pass an anti-panhandling statute, it was Bruce Harrell deciding to listen to the Human Rights Commission and vote against it, that meant that that didn't become law. And another thing that -
[00:35:14] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. He was the deciding vote. It really rested on where he was going to be at.
[00:35:17] Mike McGinn: He kind of cracked it open too, honestly. When he said he would vote against it, that opened the path for Mike O'Brien to come in as well. And so I could veto that and not have the veto overridden on that. And he also spearheaded the effort to get - that felons didn't have to check a box saying whether or not they had been a felon previously when trying to get rental housing. And that said something about who Bruce wanted to support.
I recall, late in my term, I was meeting with the Black pastors. I met regularly with them, and they were asking me a series of questions. They would ask me why had Council president Burgess not funded the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative the way I'd asked for additional funds. And I tried to explain to them about how Tim didn't think there was good enough data to support that. And they asked me about why Tim Burgess had not expanded a program for returning felons called Career Bridge. And I explained to them again that Tim didn't think there was good enough data. And then they asked why he had cut a program in Rainier Valley, just eliminated it from the budget, as the chair. And I'm sorry, I can't remember quite the name of the program, but again it was a program that worked in Rainier Beach. And I explained again - and they're all looking at me and I realized, they're actually asking me a different question. They said, "Why is that, though? Why is that?" And I answered them - because the point they were making is that, why was it the programs for poor people and Black people that were subject to this exacting scrutiny for effectiveness in the City budget, whereas other things seemed to fly through.
I had a great conversation with Girmay Zahilay about the King County Council - they just walked on some type of relief for the Convention Center. He said, "Yeah, if it was a program for poor people, we have this long exacting process to decide whether or not we can afford it or whether or not it's good. But if it's for other people, if it's for the big donors, it just flies through." And this is my concern. So when I look at this new administration, I'm looking for the Bruce Harrell that stood up against the anti-panhandling statute and stood up for the rights of people returning to the community from prison, and to not fall for that. And I'm really hopeful that the idea that we can't spend public money on programs to assist people until we know they're perfect is not the voice listened to in this process as well. And I think this is going to be a really big test of the new administration because Bruce came in with a coalition that doesn't like taxes, the business community doesn't want taxes. And will he stand up to them like he stood up to them on the anti-panhandling statute. And that's the Bruce that I want to - that's the mayor I want to see in Bruce Harrell and I hope he does it.
[00:38:20] Crystal Fincher: I feel the same. And to your point, in the mix of appointees, some of them certainly give me pause, others give me hope. I mean, there are certainly people who have done a lot of good work. I mean, I look at work Monisha Harrell has done, I look at work that Marco Lowe has done - I mean, the guy who wrote the book on transitions - and just very competent, and talking about the importance of these searches and getting the right people in place. As the Chief Operating Officer, just really focusing on execution within the City, which is major. You can have a great idea - Durkan had some good ideas that she was just not able to execute. And another lesson I learned during your tenure and administration was just how important the actual ability to manage - to manage people, to execute on programs and policy, and to not just set a goal, but to be able to work through the implementation of it and make sure that it actually delivers on the promise that it initially had. I think that was one of the major challenges of the Durkan administration and one that I think Harrell has the opportunity to do much better on.
[00:39:37] Mike McGinn: Yeah. And I think oftentimes what's covered in the media are the disagreements in policy between the City Council and the mayor. And so we see - what's the policy on sweeps, what's the policy on police officers, or the like. But there's so many things that - it really exists in the executive branch and there's nothing the City Council can do to make the City work better - that's a management function and an executive branch function. And I think that this is a place where the City really needs to rebuild its muscle memory, to rebuild its strength on execution on a lot of things. And again, there are people in departments who I'm sure are executing great right now, but what I just saw - so much of that is dependent ultimately on getting that alignment through the department director and to the top.
[00:40:42] Crystal Fincher: I always appreciate you and your insight. I always appreciate your ability to reflect and to look at what you did. And you're like, "Hey, this went really well, could have done this better." And I have certainly learned a lot from that over the years.
So I thank all of you for listening to Hacks & Wonks on this Thursday, December 30th, 2021. It's December 30th, oh my gosh. The producer of Hacks & Wonks is Lisl Stadler with assistance by Shannon Cheng. And our insightful co-host today was activist, community leader, and former mayor of Seattle, and Executive Director of America Walks, Mike McGinn. You can find Mike on Twitter @mayormcginn. That's M-C-G-I-N-N. You can find me on Twitter @finchfrii, spelled F-I-N-C-H-F-R-I-I. Now you can follow Hacks & Wonks on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts. Just type "Hacks & Wonks" into the search bar, be sure to subscribe to get the full versions of our Friday almost-live shows and our midweek show delivered to your podcast feed. You can also get a full transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced in the show at officialhacksandwonks.com and in the episode notes. Get boosted, stay away from the Omicron Rona - it's getting everybody out there - please be safe and be kind to your neighbors. And we'll see you in 2022.