Seattle is already known as one of the nation’s greenest cities (in more ways than one). Local political controversies brew left of center, and environmental inclinations are practically a prerequisite for running for office. If no candidate poses a fundamental threat to the city’s signature sustainability, how much is really at stake in today’s mayoral race?
Incumbent Mayor Mike McGinn was a relative unknown when he ran four years ago -- the lawyer, Sierra Club leader, and avid bike commuter had never held political office, but he pushed a pro-transit, grassroots agenda to defeat then-incumbent Greg Nickels, who had an impressive enviro record of his own. Nickels was notorious for being difficult to work with, and McGinn’s reputation has followed the same course -- his thorny leadership style has become his most well-known weakness.
But McGinn didn’t disappoint when it came to upholding Seattle’s reputation as an international leader on urban climate and sustainability issues. He’s made his opposition to coal-export terminals loud and clear and brought together a coalition -- the Leadership Alliance Against Coal -- of other regional business and political leaders who feel the same way. He called for the city to divest its pension funds from fossil fuels. And, true to his original bike-boosting image, McGinn has continued to expand Seattle’s cycle infrastructure. The mayor committed funds to the city’s bike master plan and has overseen the installation of protected bike lanes on major routes. He also called for a Seattle-only ballot measure to raise funds for the expansion of light rail to keep transit dollars from getting held up at the county and state level by suburban politicians reluctant to fund anything that might benefit Seattle’s unwashed carless masses.
What will happen to McGinn’s impressive green agenda if his challenger, State Sen. Ed Murray, triumphs, as the polls suggest is likely?