Mike McGinn

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn is no fan of fossil fuels.

Student groups at 192 colleges and universities are calling on their schools’ endowments to sell off stocks in fossil-fuel companies, inspired by a 350.org campaign that we’ve reported on before. Now that campaign is spreading from campus to city hall, as Climate Progress reports:

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn is now calling on his city to strip fossil fuels from its two main pension funds. According to the city’s finance director, Seattle has $17.6 million invested in Chevron and ExxonMobil, as well as smaller investments in other oil and gas companies. Mayor McGinn sent a letter to the city’s pension fund managers on Friday calling for them to move their money elsewhere.

McGinn is the first municipal leader to get on board with 350’s campaign. As the mayor explains on his blog, he doesn’t control the investment of pension funds, but he and his staff want to work with the city council and the pension board to help move toward divestment.

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McGinn, a local Sierra Club leader before he was elected mayor in 2009, has also recently criticized proposals to send coal trains through Seattle to ports on Washington’s coast. He’s commissioning a study on the potential economic impacts of the trains and coal-export plans. “I’m not sure very many jobs are being created in Seattle, compared to impacts,” he said earlier this month.

You might think these moves would endear McGinn to the Emerald City’s notoriously green voters, and no doubt many of them approve of his fossil-fuel bashing, but he’s not been a popular mayor. Earlier this year, the Seattle Weekly lobbed the ultimate insult at him: “Seattleites just aren’t warming to Mayor Mike McGinn. He’s becoming our own Mitt Romney: No matter what he says or does, something about him just can’t connect.” A number of high-profile Seattleites are looking to challenge him in next year’s election, and even the green lobby isn’t firmly behind him. From The Seattle Times:

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The mayor’s most solid supporters are the pro-transit, pro-density, urban environmentalists who share his vision. They still back him, but question his effectiveness, and their support, in some cases, is lukewarm.

Local writer and environmentalist Roger Valdez said that while urbanists and transit advocates are likely to vote for McGinn, their enthusiasm is not guaranteed, especially at the end of a term in which some feel sustainability and density did not always win enough of the mayor’s attention. …

The Cascade Bicycle Club helped elect one of its own when it campaigned for McGinn three years ago. McGinn, who often commutes by bike, spent much of the 2009 campaign in a helmet, passing out “Mike bikes” campaign stickers. Chuck Ayers, the club’s executive director, said the mayor fulfilled the city’s bike master plan, but did nothing extra.

“I think we had high hopes that more would be done in terms of providing safe places for bikes and pedestrians,” he said.

Like his predecessor, former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, McGinn is getting praise from enviros on the national level. And just like Nickels, he could nonetheless find himself unceremoniously booted from his job. All politics is local, and that means green politics too.