Seattle City Councilmember and mayoral candidate Bruce Harrell has joined the debate over a West Seattle Whole Foods development that Mayor Mike McGinn has sought to impede by denying a key alley vacation over wage concerns.
Harrell had previously not commented even as rivals Peter Steinbrueck and Ed Murray accused McGinn of political grandstanding for singling out Whole Foods. But in a statement Thursday afternoon, Harrell called McGinn’s position “shallow” and said it ignored too many important policy questions.
“The Mayor is well within his rights to express our city’s values when the city evaluates what public benefits should be derived from a private development when public assets are sold. In this case, the issue is fair and living wages for employees…” Harrell said. “The problem here is that the Mayor has prematurely articulated a concern without any context.”
Harrell argued there are many “public benefits” that are traditionally considered from developers in exchange for the city granting an alley vacation, such as parks and street setbacks. He asked: “why should this one issue be the basis for disapproval; particularly when they may be paying a living wage to their employees?”
“We must look at the entire package of public benefits, not just one component. The Mayor’s recommendation is very shallow in substance and provides a weak argument as to why we should drastically change historic practice. A good executive would work with the community affected, the developer community, the tenants, and the City Council in order to develop a good set of public benefits and avoid grandstanding for political gain.”