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Originally published September 6, 2009 at 6:00 AM | Page modified September 30, 2009 at 12:15 PM

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Seattle mayor candidates need to bring positions on city issues into sharper focus

State Sen. Ed Murray has turned down a write-in campaign for Seattle mayor. That leaves the two individuals who survived the August primary, Joe Mallahan and Mike McGinn. Here is our blueprint of topics for the two new politicians to become well versed and very specific about.

THE Seattle mayoral race zoomed in to clearer focus with state Sen. Ed Murray's announcement he will not be a write-in candidate. Now the two new politicians competing in the general election should explain their very specific plans for the city.

Some Seattleites are understandably jittery about the limited public experience of Joe Mallahan, often known as the T-mobile executive who should have voted more often, and Mike McGinn, the former Sierra Club leader who would undo the decision to build a downtown tunnel.

But if Mallahan and McGinn become better versed about key issues, the city could benefit from an outsider's fresh perspective. Entrenched politicians have been disconnected from the harsh recession that hit citizens hard. Both candidates should explain exactly what they would do to shore up the city's fiscal house.

Clearly, the city fared better during the downturn than the state or King County, which faced huge budget cuts. The county must constantly reassess services it can continue to provide. The city shortfall is $72.5 million.

Still, the next leader must have a vision of how city government can contribute to an economic rebound. Seattle is becoming increasingly unaffordable for many residents. Predictable annual requests for tax levies for various projects arrive too frequently — with little regard for residents being priced out.

McGinn's efforts on the park levy last year, which won voter support, reveal an individual who may not understand citizens can't afford every item on the list. Voters finally uttered no — to the bag fee.

Fiscal accountability and efficiency should be the mantra. Who would candidates appoint to key leadership positions?

The police-chief job is open, and both candidates should state clearly how they would make the streets safer. Citizens already feel vulnerable about the fragile economy. They should not have to worry about wanton gang activity, aggressive panhandlers and open drug dealing.

The future of downtown will be a centerpiece in the campaign. McGinn wants to abandon the tunnel replacement for the Alaskan Way Viaduct. His favored solution, the surface-transit plan, is impractical. It would jam downtown streets and overwhelm Interstate 5.

Perhaps the recession and its significant reverberations mean the viaduct decision is not final. A tunnel might be best, but all options should be on the table.

Voters should be impressed by the candidate who best understands the fragility and pain of the economy. The next mayor should have specific plans for getting the city out of its doldrums and moving forward.

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