Mayor Mike McGinn is a skilled debator. He speaks deliberately but forcefully, rarely stumbling.
So I cocked my head in confusion during KCTS 9’s mayoral debate last week when McGinn, in response to a question from KUOW’s Deborah Wang, seemed to be engaging in revisionist history.
“Four years ago you ran your campaign as an opponent of the tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. That was your signature campaign issue. Then just before the election, you announced that you would not stand in the way of the tunnel. But you did continue to fight it in your first year in office. So in retrospect was it a mistake to do that, or was it mistake to pledge you wouldn’t stand in the way of the tunnel?”
“People can go roll video tape of this one as well if they’d like to see what my position was then. Which was, I did support the tunnel as the choice, but I also believe we shouldn’t have to pay cost overruns.”
Watch the video below. It’s cued up to play at the beginning of Wang’s question:
Since when did the Mayor “support the tunnel as the choice?” Did the Mayor simply misspeak?
No. Instead, it’s part of McGinn’s campaign strategy.
Aaron Pickus, the mayor’s spokesman, said McGinn was referring to this Oct. 19, 2009 news conference when, two weeks before the election, the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to opt for the deep-bore tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. McGinn at the time said, “although I disagree with this decision, it will be my job to uphold and execute this agreement.”
That was what McGinn was referring to when he said he “supported” the tunnel as the choice, Pickus said. “We supported that decision as adopted city policy per the Council,” Pickus said.
The problem is the mayor said then, and later, he did not “support the tunnel as the choice.” He wanted the so-called “surface option.”
Nor did he support the tunnel once the City Council moved forward. He vetoed the Council’s decision in 2011 to sign a contract with the state and forced a public vote that was politically disastrous for him.
In debates against state Sen. Ed Murray, McGinn has tried to recast his opposition to the tunnel as being narrowly focused on protecting Seattle from theoretical potential cost overruns (which, by the way, Chris Gregoire, Rob McKenna, Pete Holmes and Jay Inslee all agree would not be borne by Seattle, should they even materialize years in the future).
Scaremongering on theoretical cost-overruns is McGinn’s most recent strategy. But his suggestion that he supported the tunnel once it became a done deal? Well, to quote Bill Clinton, that takes some stones.