A look back at Capitol Hill’s mayor: Mike McGinn, groundbreaker

His administration helped to line up the funding to make it happen and he was there to help break ground early in 2013 but...

His administration helped to line up the funding to make it happen and he was there to help break ground early in 2013 but…

McGinn won't be mayor to cut the ribbon when 12th Ave Arts opens in 2014 (Images: CHS)

McGinn won’t be mayor to cut the ribbon when 12th Ave Arts opens in 2014 (Images: CHS)

Candidate McGinn in those days, the future mayor of Seattle stopped by Capitol Hill Garage Sale Day in 2009 (Images: CHS)

Candidate McGinn in those days, the future mayor of Seattle stopped by Capitol Hill Garage Sale Day in 2009 (Images: CHS)

Love him or hate him, Mayor Mike McGinn was Capitol Hill’s mayor. We were his strongest core of support in the 2009 election and served as the backdrop to his biggest mayoral ups and downs. He announced his unlikely candidacy here, celebrated an inspiring win, and conceded defeat four short years later, all on Capitol Hill.

By most accounts McGinn was a good steward of the office for the neighborhood. He retained a majority of the vote in the Capitol Hill after four years in office, kept his Stranger endorsement, and was a dependable supporter of public transit, biking, and dense city living.

However, McGinn’s tangible legacy on Capitol Hill is more difficult to put your finger on — you can give it a try in the survey below. He came into office too late to lay the groundwork for Capitol Hill’s new urbanism — and left too early to see it come to full fruition. The First Hill Streetcar might be his most lasting legacy on the Hill, but he won’t be smashing the champagne bottle on its first voyage. 12th Avenue Arts got off the ground with McGinn’s support, but it will likely be Ed Murray that cuts the ribbon. The Bullitt Center was a favorite project but how many Capitol Hill residents will ever actually step inside the building?

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McGinn dug in as the Bullitt Center broke ground at 15th and Madison in 2011...

McGinn dug in as the Bullitt Center broke ground at 15th and Madison in 2011…

And he was there with Harriet Bullitt as she cut the ribbon in 2013 (Images: CHS)

And he was there with Harriet Bullitt as she cut the ribbon in 2013 (Images: CHS)

Education, transit, and jobs were McGinn’s top issues coming into office. Crime and police reform weren’t passions or priorities, but a federal investigation into SPD practices coupled with several high profile homicides, including a few in central Seattle, forced the issue over his term. Public safety became a key issue on Capitol Hill and McGinn responded with extra patrols and night lighting around Cal Anderson Park. Many said it was too little, too late.

A very poor picture we took of McGinn as he announced his candidacy at Piecora's, of all places, in 2009 (Images: CHS)

A very poor picture we took of McGinn as he announced his candidacy at Piecora’s, of all places, in 2009 (Images: CHS)

McGinn prepares to celebrate his top-two finish in the 2009 Primary outside Havana:

McGinn the hot and sweaty night he got the 43rd's endorsement in the 2009 race vs. Joe Mallahan (Image: CHS)

McGinn the hot and sweaty night he got the 43rd’s endorsement in the 2009 race vs. Joe Mallahan (Image: CHS)

McGinn debated Murray at a Capitol Hill forum in 2013 (Image: CHS)

McGinn debated Murray at a Capitol Hill forum in 2013 (Image: CHS)

McGinn consoling supporters on Election Night 2013 (Image: CHS)

McGinn consoling supporters on Election Night 2013 (Image: CHS)

Advocating for progressive bike policies wasn’t just an election season exercise for McGinn, he showed what real leadership on the issue can look like and eared glowing endorsements from the Seattle Bike Blog and Seattle Transit Blog. The Broadway Bikeway and McGinn’s bold embrace of the Master Bike Plan will keep him in the good graces of Capitol Hill’s cycling contingent long after he leaves office.

The Broadway Bikeway -- or, at least, part of it -- debuted before McGinn left office. Misunderstood and wrongly maligned, the useful and forward looking project makes a fitting McGinn monument (Image: CHS)

The Broadway Bikeway — or, at least, part of it — debuted before McGinn left office. Misunderstood and wrongly maligned, the useful and forward looking project makes a fitting McGinn monument (Image: CHS)

Given the importance development issues have played in the neighborhood, McGinn seemed to stay out of the fray. He voiced tepid support for microhousing and for preservation-minded development but did little to influence either directly. A plan forged in the community and signed off on by the City Council will open Broadway’s Capitol Hill Station to “transit oriented development” that will soar to 85-foot buildings — but that construction may not even be completed during Murray’s first term.

McGinn joined his political brothers and sisters to turn dirt, too, at the groundbreaking for the First Hill Streetcar in spring of 2012. We assume he'll be invited to the ribbon cutting when the line begins operations in late 2014 (Image: CHS)

McGinn joined his political brothers and sisters to turn dirt, too, at the groundbreaking for the First Hill Streetcar in spring of 2012. We assume he’ll be invited to the ribbon cutting when the line begins operations in late 2014 (Image: CHS)

In the end, McGinn’s legacy for the neighborhood and possibly the city as a whole will likely be as the man who turned over plenty of new ground in Seattle politics and in the creation of important and needed Seattle projects only to have those who follow earn the credit of success.

Here’s a look at McGinn’s most important Capitol Hill moments over the years from the CHS archives:

2009

  • March 24th: “Possible Nickels challenger” announces his candidacy for mayor at Piecora’s on Capitol Hill.
  • September 8th: An early supporter of the Broadway Streetcar, McGinn rebuffs Mallahan’s opposition to the project.
  • November 9th: McGinn wins it and declares victory on Capitol Hill.
  • December 2nd: A look at how Capitol Hill made McGinn mayor.

2010

  • March 19th: McGinn seals the deal on the Broadway Streetcar (and pushes for rail to be added to the 520 bridge).
  • May 17th: In one of his early “legacy” Capitol Hill projects, McGinn says yes to the Broadway Hill Park.
  • July 14th: Speaking at the Century Ballroom, McGinn rolls out his pro-nightlife plan to Pike/Pine establishments.
  • September 27th: McGinn mostly spared Capitol Hill specific projects in his downsized 2011 budget.

2011

  • January 27th: Capitol Hill parking rates go up and hours are extended under McGinn.
  • February 17th: 12th Avenue Arts and other Capitol Hill projects get a chunk of $145K McGinn makes available for the neighborhood.
  • July 15th: McGinn renews his push for later bar closing hours under his nightlife initiative.
  • August 19th: McGinn responds to calls from the twittered masses for more police presence in Cal Anderson Park.
  • August 30th: The Bullitt Center breaks ground after using McGinn’s tax credit program to help finance it.
  • September 24th: Seattle labor history is made at Plum Bistro when McGinn signs the city’s paid sick leave ordinance into law.
  • October 7th: McGinn opens City Hill Plaza for Occupy Seattle protestors.
  • October 19th: McGinn secures a $900K grant to study connecting the Broadway streetcar to the SLUT.
  • November 11th: 12th Avenue Arts gets $7.7 million from a McGinn initiative to build low income housing.

2012

  • February 29th: McGinn declares a “public safety emergency” after Darek Darewski is murdered on Harvard Ave.
  • April 22nd: The mayor spends the end of April on Capitol Hill, including at the First Hill Streetcar groundbreaking.
  • April 25th: The mayor quickly shuffles past Bauhaus on a walking tour of the Hill.
  • May 30th: Extended bar hours looses on a 2-1 vote at the state liquor board.
  • September 24th: Capitol Hill line items, including bike and transportation projects, make it into McGinn’s budget.
  • October 3rd: McGinn officially opens bids to lease the city’s “dark fiber” network for gigabit Internet.
  • October 24th: At risk of closing, Peace for the Streets by Kids gets a $20K matching grant from the mayor’s office.
  • December 5th: The beginning of the end: Ed Murray announces an exploratory committee for mayoral run on Capitol Hill.
  • December 13th: McGinn announces a deal with Gigabit Squared to bring super-speed Internet to the city.

2013

  •  February 21st: McGinn attends the groundbreaking ceremony of 12th Avenue Arts.
  • April 22nd: The Bullitt Center opens!
  • May 1st: Garfield High School hosts all eight contestants in the crowded race for mayor.
  • July 24th: The mayor sits down with CHS to discuss why he should win over Capitol Hill again.
  • August 16th: McGinn announces plans to keep the lights on at Cal Anderson Park.
  • August 19th: McGinn rolls out the Gun Free Zone program at Oddfellows.
  • August 27th: A look at McGinn’s political border war in Capitol Hill.
  • September 13th: Some crime gets slightly worse on Capitol Hill under McGinn.
  • September 26th: The mayor rolls out an alternative justice pilot program in the East Precinct.
  • October 4th: McGinn and Murray take the Barboza stage in Hill-centered forum.
  • October 7th: CHS readers say McGinn is better for the Hill, but won’t win the race.
  • November 5th: McGinn all but formally concedes the mayoral race to Murray at 95 Slide.
  • November 19th: Money for the Egyptian and a Capitol Hill eco-district make McGinn’s outgoing budget.
  • December 1st: McGinn outlines ambitious bike plans, including plans for a 23rd Ave greenway.
  • December 3rd: Capitol Hill voters weren’t quite as smitten with McGinn as the first time around.IMG_6177-600x900 (2)

9 thoughts on “A look back at Capitol Hill’s mayor: Mike McGinn, groundbreaker

  1. Good riddance. Even his signature “achievement,” the Broadway bikeway, seems to have some problems, and so far doesn’t seem to be getting much use.

    I am confident that Ed Murray will be a much better Mayor.

    • I couldn’t agree more with Calhoun. I have lived thirty years in Seattle on the hill and this man has to be the worst “leader” in Seattle history. Here is how I will remember him:

      1) Streets on the hill have never been in such poor condition. Filthy and crumbling. In the 13th years I have been in my house my street (18th between Denny and John) has been cleaned ONCE. Twice in this bozos administration I have called SDOT to have it done and have received the nastiest customer “service” ever. Of course the street remains filthy and thick with muck. My liver is really chapped at the $225,000 street sweeper being purchased for the bike lanes and yet there is no $$ to clean my street. I have been to Broadway 6 times in the last week and have yet to see anyone using the bike lane. Of course we all know about the armored truck that DARED to park there. I have been bicycling for almost 50 years BTW.

      2) Upzoning the neighborhood without proper neighborhood involvement. In L3 zones the heights have been raised supposedly to 40 feet and yet we have all these 5-6 story buildings going in everywhere that TOWER over their neighbors. A lesson in scale would be in order for the powers that be. I have a new 68 unit luxury apartment building going in next door to me which is fine except it will be 20 feet taller than my 38 foot tall house. How does 40 feet become 58 feet? Sally Clark herself has mentioned that she had no idea that 5 story buildings would be the result of her 2010 zoning changes. Go take a walk and behold these buildings and how they “fit in.” Not.

      3) Microhousing/Workforce housing/aPodments etc etc. While I agree that we need affordable housing for folks I feel that these things have actually driven the price of existing rentals through the roof. Just a year or so before these came on the average rent was $2 per square foot or so. Flash forward to the present and the average is in the $3-$4 per square foot range. If you were an apartment owner and saw that the “micros” were going for $5-$8 per square foot wouldn’t you raise your prices accordingly? Two old brick buildings near me have sold in the last year and a $950 one bedroom apartment is now $1,700. Needless to say there has been a mass exodus of folks from the neighborhood as a result many of whom have live here as long or longer than me. I also feel that the notion that the more we build the cheaper it will be is utter BS. Capitol Hill is smoking hot and Amazon is going to need thousands of highly paid techies to work in their new buildings. We could put 10,000 units on tomorrow and I would bet that prices wouldn’t drop a dime.

      4) Historic Preservation? This one is a real sore spot for me. I am convinced that there really isn’t anything worthy of landmark status on the hill anymore according to the current Board. It is a real shame as many of our neighborhood buildings are over 100 years old. In other cities big and small many of these building would at least be deemed “contributing” structures to the character of Capitol Hill. Once it is gone it is gone forever.

      5) Demonizing single family homeowners in multi family zones. Quite frankly there aren’t many single family houses left really. I am one and do not appreciate being made out to be the “enemy” of progress with the City’s blessing by the likes of Sightline, Crosscut, Roger Valdez and others. I worked hard to buy a house many years ago and feel I have every right to be here and enjoy it. In 14 years near me 4 houses have been torn down and replaced with 27 townhouses. I am totally cool with that and the old houses weren’t that great anyways. Mine is. I will say in general that our entire city government is “anti citizen” in my experience.

      6) Crime. While the Mayor would maintain it is down I don’t see any evidence of it on the hill. It seems everyday anymore someone has been robbed of their phone, beat up, or even killed. I don’t go downtown anymore because it has totally been given over to the “socially less fortunate.” I am in hospitality and always wince when guests describe downtown Seattle as a “dump.” Obvously they won’t be coming back to our city. Very sad since tourism is such a big deal here.

      Okay I am done with my rant. I think it is fairly obvious how utterly disgusted I am with our city leadership (or lack thereof) over the last 12 years. I am hopeful that Murray can turn things around for Seattle and the beautiful vibrant neighborhood we all love to call home.

      McGinn in my opinion has been a complete and utter failure as mayor………………….

  2. Streetcars, aPodments and bike lanes get McGinn’s supporters excited. The rest of us want streets that aren’t crumbling, being able to walk through our parks feeling safe, an engaged police force that doesn’t seem defeated and apathetic, and responsible development to add quality housing in line with the neighborhood.

    Maybe McGinn should have tried breaking ground on some of those issues and he wouldn’t find himself being tossed after one term.

  3. McGinn talked a pretty good game sometimes, but mostly just talk and very poorly conceived actions. He hasn’t gotten enough flack yet for his phony campaign for the city to provide gigabit ethernet — we’ve now learned that while he was making such a big deal of his supposed gigabit ethernet plan during the campaign, the company supposedly preparing to do the work was defunct. Did McGinn know? Assuming he didn’t, he was just talking through his hat without bothering to check.

    Then there are the thousands of bicycles painted on the streets. Best possible use of the money while budgets were being cut for parks, education, safety? Hardly. As a biker myself I’m all in favor of real safety provisions, but painting pictures on the street does nothing except possibly give bikers a false sense of security (I had the right of way! The bike was painted right there on the street! Yeah, right…)

    And all our wonderful new streetcar tracks, so we can have very expensive streetcars as opposed to inexpensive buses — even special luxury buses would cost a fraction (they have special deluxe buses in places like Shanghai and they are very popular). Why are McGinn and his supporters so fixed on rails? Because it makes the vehicles go faster, well, not exactly. Because it gives us flexibility — actually, inflexibility. Because we can have much more transit during peak times, well, actually the streetcars are too expensive for that. Because… well, we have bright shiny new streetcar tracks in front of SCCC while we can’t afford to properly maintain the buildings of SCCC, one of the true gems of Capitol Hill. There’s some really stupid value choices going on here. (Actually this is one place McGinn and the City Council agreed showing why the voters were sensible in revamping the council as well as removing the mayor.)

    So here’s hoping for less talk and more sensible government under our new mayor who’s not much of a grandstander, but hopefully, an effective leader.

  4. He was a great leader and a great mayor, and supported all the things a city should be–Dense, environmentally conscious, and ped/bike friendly. Hopefully Murray won’t pull us back into the past.

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