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March 29, 2011 at 10:13 AM

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Mayor Mike McGinn: "Positive" ratings only George Bush could envy

Posted by Joni Balter

For fifteen months, Seattleites have watched their new mayor, Mike McGinn, and wondered, Could this former environmental activist become mayor for all of Seattle?

At the end of a year and a quarter, McGinn looks like he will be a one-term mayor. He is too caught up in tunnel politics to make people feel he is running the whole city effectively. A new Elway Poll shows his public approval ratings are in George Bush territory: only 28 percent of Seattleites polled ranked his job performance as good or excellent.

Bush, by the by, left office after eight years with only 22 percent favorability numbers.

McGinn was elected in November 2009, but has been such an unusual leader that people began wondering right away if he could stretch enough to be a mayor, yes, for the environmentalists and young voters who elected him, but also for other Seattleites who prefer a more managerial, CEO approach. My rule of thumb is to give neophyte politicians like McGinn until July 4 of their first year to see what they will be like.

Late last year, I realized McGinn was not stepping up in the way one might hope. I wrote a column about McGinn and his politics of chaos. More recently, I have been thinking about the election of 2013. Someone other than McGinn will win that year, I suspect, and so the thinking aloud has begun.

Elway's poll, of course, is just one poll. McGinn's polling pals will be quick to point that out.

Elway contacted 405 Seattle registered voters between March 22-25 and the results show quite a lot of unhappiness or uncertainty with the new mayor. He has time to turn it around. But most Seattleites, I dare say, want a mayor with greater range. There is plenty of angst about the tunnel or any other viaduct replacement. But higher parking rates in a recession, potholes unfilled, troubles at the police department, all make Seattleites wonder what would happen if they had a mayor more engaged on issues beyond the tunnel.

McGinn's decision to be actively involved in a referendum to undo the council vote on the tunnel cannot stand well with citizens who were told in plain English that the mayor would not stand in the way of the project. That turned out not to be true.


An astute political observer I know remarked that a mayor can do a lot of damage in four years. My fear is that the observer was on target.

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