CHS: Where have you been?
“Come on guys, listen. I know you guys wanna be mayor, but this is a real issue. Get serious about it.”
McGinn: I’ve been here in Seattle. Probably the thing I’ve worked the most on is still climate, fossil fuel divestment. Working on the Gates Foundation campaign, as well as working with other divestment activists, kinda helping other activists around the country. That’s been one thing. My podcast also, which has been fun and writing in Crosscut.
I also found myself getting deeply involved in the last election cycle, with helping city council candidates that I liked.
Unchained by a damaging sex abuse scandal that removed incumbent Ed Murray from a powerful pole position, 21 candidates are vying this summer to be the next mayor of modern-day Pacific Northwest boomtown Seattle, Washington. Of those 21, only two will survive the first round cut from the August 1st primary. CHS may be on a summer news break but we couldn’t resist opportunities to talk with the candidates most likely to be on the mind of Capitol Hill voters in the coming weeks: Jenny Durkan, Nikkita Oliver, Cary Moon, Bob Hasegawa, Mike McGinn, and Jessyn Farrell. The interviews were conducted in recent weeks at locations across the city including coworking spaces, campaign offices, and a diner. The talks varied but revolved around a core set of Seattle issues: Black Lives Matter, affordability, addiction, and homelessness. We have edited the conversations for clarity and length.
In this Q&A, CHS talks with former Seattle mayor Mike McGinn about his campaign to return to City Hall and — apparently — settle a few scores along the way. Our conversation included a roster of Seattle politicians on McGinn’s shit list and the causes he has pledged to fight for even harder a second time around. You can learn more at mcginnformayor.com.
CHS: How so? Doing what? Knocking on doors? Making phone calls?
McGinn: No, no, no. I get a lot of people asking me what it’s like to run and how do you do it? And what do you need to do to run? And so, that was one of the things I talked to candidates about. The other thing I was talking to them about was, besides kind of the practical aspects of running, I was really trying to use, particularly the last election cycle, I was trying to use it around some causes. And one of them was CareerBridge.
When I was mayor, we launched it, it was a program for returning felons. And so, I’m kind of proud of what we did there. Burgess blocked it. I worked with (John) Roderick, and then, (Jon) Grant, to make it an issue in that race. I made it an issue. I helped Tammy Morales in her race against Bruce Harrell. It wasn’t just CareerBridge, it was also the extension of Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative to 18 to 21-year-olds. Both of those, the Council blocked. So I worked with the candidates to make that an issue, because I knew that if we did that, it’d probably get fixed. And you know what? CareerBridge was expanded. Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative has now been expanded up to 24-year-olds.
CHS: So, as a portal into your soul, what is it about CareerBridge? Why do you think it’s important in Seattle right now?
McGinn: Well, we have systems for arrest, prosecution, and incarceration, mass incarceration. And primarily of the people of color: Black people, Latino. And it kind of became impressed upon me when I was mayor. I was meeting with the black pastors. We were talking about a spike in shootings that occurred. And they said, “A lot of this are people who come back to the community. We know the people who wanna be serious about not returning to crime, who want to make a life for themselves. But they need help.” And it’s not just job training, or social services, it’s a community support network around it as well. And we can help provide that.
So that inspired me. I also went to Mary Flowers, who has worked for HSD, invited me and others from the program to go to meet with the Black Prisoners’ Caucus in Monroe. And that had a deep effect on me too. It was both talking to the men about how they felt and what they’re trying to accomplish, we had a circle. But it was also hearing Mary talk about what it meant to the black community with so many of our men ripped out of it. If we’re gonna be a successful community, we have to address all the reasons at the front end. But all the men and women returning from incarceration to our community, we need to figure out where their place is in this community. That benefits all of us. So, yeah, I just felt really passionate about it. And I’ll be honest. I was still angry at Burgess and Harrell for blocking that then, because they were doing it for political reasons. And they were lame reasons around data. Or it’s not proven itself effective yet. And it’s like, “Come on guys, listen. I know you guys wanna be mayor, but this is a real issue. Get serious about it.”
CHS: So how much of your running is about settling old scores?
McGinn: It’s about the future. I wanna be really blunt. It’s about the future. It’s about how do you create something. But let’s be clear. There are people who… There are sides in this city. And now, we’re getting an election right now where people are gonna make believe there aren’t sides.
CHS: Yeah, it’s so hard to see the sides sometimes.
McGinn: It is hard. Because that’s the job. That’s how the establishment side works is they really work to portray themselves as solidly within Seattle’s progressive values.
CHS: Hold on, the former Mayor of Seattle who’s running again just told me about the establishment side, clearly telling me he’s not… you’re just not part of the club?
CHS: Don’t you get in? Don’t you get keys to stuff, and…
McGinn: I’m not sure they ever wanted me, but I’m not sure I ever… That’s not why I ever ran. I didn’t run to be a member of the establishment club, I ran because I thought that climate change was a real thing that we should take seriously. I thought we should do better for neighborhoods and I always wondered as a Sierra Club advocate and neighborhood advocate, I always had this experience of, man everybody comes to our endorsement meetings and say they care about climate. Everybody comes to our neighborhood and say they care about the neighborhood, yet somehow or another when we get actually into the nitty gritty of governing we’re not seeing delivery on these topics, and then I became mayor and I discovered that low income workers felt the same way, I discovered that communities of color felt the same way, discovered immigrant refugees felt the same way, and they felt that way for a reason. And I’m being really blunt to you. You ask a good question, you kind of opened me up a little bit here, but by the time all of the corporate lobbyists and the big donors are taken care of, there’s just not much left over for everybody else.
” I have a little more of a platform than other people so that’s what I tried to do with Shell Oil.”
I got out on the water in my kayak and I editorialized and I used my voice. I have a little more of a platform than other people so that’s what I tried to do with Shell Oil. Every one of those port commissioners said that climate change is a priority and they opposed Arctic drilling, but as soon as Shell came knocking, the dollars start and the port let ’em in. And we discovered that they had briefed Ed (Murray), and according to the CEO, Ed had agreed to remain neutral in the debate. Ed denied it but I tend to believe that that’s… I know how the system works… That’s why they briefed him in advance. Are we going get our permits or are you gonna block us? Is what they wanted to know. So I see that and I’m still highly motivated by this. So here we got a race now, we got everybody standing up at every interview saying climate change is a priority. Working people are a priority. And what I’d ask the voters is, “Who took risks on that, and who actually stood up on it?” Because everybody’s gonna tell you that but are they really willing to make hard choices in a way that might mean that you never get invited into the establishment club? And that’s what I did.
CHS: And do you feel like the first time through, the environmentalist part of you got lost because this job does that?
McGinn: Well, governing is different.
CHS: Yeah, looking forward, do you feel some sense of how you would be able to, in this second round, keep it on the front burner more?
McGinn: Oh, well, absolutely. Well, I think there’s two things. One is I wasn’t it and that’s really true, and moving from that advocate role to the governance role is a really big transition in a way that I think should some of these other candidates be so lucky to win, they’re gonna find out what the challenge is.
It’s very different when you’re mayor because there’s so many different constituencies in the city and trying to understand who they are, where they’re coming from, and what matters to them takes time. The other piece is how do you move a bureaucracy. I don’t know what the number is now. It was 11,000 (city employees) when I was mayor, I hear it’s 14,000 now.
How do you direct the dollars? How do you drive agenda? And I think that the biggest thing for me is and for me coming in as a new politician, I was trying to figure that out. I had to make $67 million in budget cuts my first year, I had to get the mayor’s office set up, I had to get agency heads appointed. We had to figure out how to drive agenda, and that takes time, and I think I did. If you look at my third and fourth year versus my first and second years you can see how much more agenda we were driving, and positive agenda, and progressive agenda as well. But I think when I came in, I rightfully got some criticism for maybe not having it all figured out yet. It was more than that.
But it was also taking on the narrative that you may have heard… There was a narrative out there of, “Oh, the council doesn’t like McGinn.” Well they didn’t like me because I said that the tunnel had the potential to have big cost overruns, and we should not approve an agreement with them until the state agreed to take cost overruns. I vetoed an anti-panhandling statute. I pushed for things as we mentioned already, for expansion of the CareerBridge or expansion of Youth Violence Prevention Initiative.
I pushed for things that weren’t in their wheelhouse, and they weren’t happy with that. I pushed for encampments. Two or three times I made them vote, and they were 5-4 votes, and then when Kshama (Sawant) beat Richard Conlin and now it was 5-4 to the other way and now encampments are legal. So what I was doing was using the agenda setting path. I pushed for the Seattle transit master plan, and for us to do planning for light rail to Ballard. And I had a council member come to my office and say he couldn’t support that because if I was gonna use pushing for a transit master plan as an alternative to the tunnel, and then he couldn’t support that.
So that’s what they meant when they were criticizing me. That was a very, if you look back, that was a very Chamber of Commerce dominated majority and that agenda was different from my agenda. But the way it came out the back end, if you said it got lost, the way it came out the back end was how much is McGinn passing, we actually passed a lot of things. But instead of what side am I on and what side are they on, and it turns out that when you’re an insider coming in, the other side has real power to drive narrative in a way that an outsider has to learn how to get it. So that was my dilemma.
CHS: So what would it be different this time?
McGinn: Holy cow, did I get an education in how the system works and how to move agenda through City Hall and through the agencies, and with the people, and we’ve got a different council now.
CHS: The council seems quite a bit different, but is it? And is that seem like a great opportunity for you.
McGinn: It is. It is quite a bit different. It is a great opportunity. When we’re talking about why is it different, in part it’s different because I think that the agenda I was pushing exposed to the public some of the real fault-lines in Seattle politics. And that helped make it easier to elect better council members in the future. And by the way I don’t mean to be negative towards Richard because Richard and I actually developed a very strong working relationship. I wished he’d voted the other way on the encampments, because I think that encampments vote hurt him in the race against Kshama. And so, I use that as pushing a positive agenda, a progressive agenda. Showing where the differences were I think helped create the foundation. But the public was going there, too. It wasn’t just me. I was going where the public was going. And so, more candidates were able to tap into that in the future.
CHS: So how does this kind of race play out? There’s a sense of, number one, it’s already, for some, a given: Jenny Durkan and a lot of money. But then there’s you guys left to tangle and work out a single issue that you ride to try and get across the finish line? How do you get through this race, from a wonky political standpoint? I don’t get it.
McGinn: I saw it in 2009 with two outsiders running against Greg (Nickles) but then Joe (Mallahan) became an insider, the Chamber and big money swung behind him. You got the Chamber and Democratic Party establishment. And they were behind Ed (Murray). I picked up labor support and environmental support in both races more so then. It was pretty clear that when Ed was in trouble and that they were looking for who was their new candidate to back. And Jenny, the answer is Jenny. The answer is Jenny. The fact is she’s raised a lot of money and that money doesn’t just flow. I’m sure there were a lot of serious backroom conversations about what her positions were gonna be on the issues important to the donors. I’d love to have tapes of those conversations.
CHS: There are probably a few strings and a couple of promises…
McGinn: Oh, yeah. Look, I remember in 2009 there was a week where I outraised Joe Mallahan. And I was like, “Holy cow, I’m raising more than Joe.” It was after the primary. I’m like, “I’m a horrible fundraiser,” still am, always have been. And then one week, the floodgates opened and was like, “Okay, the conversations have now occurred.” So that’s what happened when Ed was in trouble. The conversations were occurring about who they’d coalesce behind. And obviously Jenny said the right things, “So let’s coalesce.” So I do think it’s the rest of the candidates over here on the left are going to be…
CHS: So it’s left to somebody like you to fight with somebody like Cary Moon, to fight with somebody like Nikkita Oliver for this race?
McGinn: I don’t wanna do that. Obviously, I think Nikkita is representing a voice and a constituency that four years ago or eight years ago, wasn’t really being heard. I think it’s actually awesome that that voice and those concerns are here. I think they should be here, post-election, regardless of what happens. That voice needs to be part of the discussion. I felt sometimes when I was Mayor, I was like, “Man, don’t people get this stuff? Can’t they understand how deeply entrenched some of these systems are?” But it’s hard. So I think it’s great.
I have support in a lot of different pockets across the city. We’ll find out how much.
CHS: So what is the state of the city you used to run?
McGinn: Well, it’s great to have jobs. I remember what it was like to not have jobs. That was hard. I came in, and it was like 9.5% unemployment in the city. And that was the thing, jobs, jobs, jobs. And I prioritized jobs. Although, I prioritized jobs in a way that was consistent with my objectives on climate and consistent with my objectives on equity, which put me at odds with people because some people wanted jobs that would make climate worse. And I was like, “No, come on, we’re better than that. This is Seattle. We can show a different way.” So that was then. Now, we’ve got the jobs. But what we have is this growth is so powerful. But the question is who is it benefiting? And the answer is that we have all of this revenue coming into the city. The city budget’s grown 25% in the three years, $250 million a year. And yet we have a mayor and council who are saying, “We don’t have money for homelessness.” Going back to what I was saying earlier. Hold it, we have that much more tax revenue from all of this success, why can’t we prioritize this? What’s going on?
“I know how the budget works and I know what the rules are and I know where we can get the money if we wanted to.”
So that gave me concern. And then the answer to every problem was, “Well then, what we need to do is more taxes,” but the taxes are regressive. So that’s what you see here is property taxes or sales taxes is always the answer. And what you’re asking for is the people most impacted by growth, the ones that are getting squeezed out by rising housing prices, are being asked to pay the most to deal with that growth, because it’s so regressive. And I think that this is creating a level of concern that really, now that I’ve been out on the campaign trail and talking to people, I was hearing it already. It’s one of the things motivating me to run. But there’s a lot of angst out there about this because people can’t afford to live there. And it’s obviously more marginalized populations feel it first, but this is everybody. People who like, “No, if I’m working and I’m contributing to the city, and shouldn’t I be able to live here?” So it’s extending itself.
It’s almost more divisive than I’ve ever seen in the city right now, because the impacts of growth, both the benefits of growth aren’t being shared. And that is the challenge of this race. Who’s gonna come forward and really both present ideas around that and have a demonstrated commitment to doing something about it? Part of the answer is, I think you need to look at, one, we’ve gotta use our existing dollars more wisely, we have more money, let’s prioritize the budget. What if we went in and did a budget review to free up money for the most important things like home assist and affordable housing? And then two, to the extent we need dollars, we should be looking to those that are doing the best and that would be with the income tax, high income, income tax on the wealthy. Legally, there are some legal challenges to that and if not that I think we should be looking to on those successful corporations, big corporations, to pay more taxes. And going back to two sides in this town. That’s gonna be the defining issue, who’s prepared to do that and who’s accepting a lot of money from those folks.
And I’ll tell you, I’m prepared to do it. I know how the budget works and I know what the rules are and I know where we can get the money if we wanted to.
CHS: Is there really a path to a Seattle income tax or more business taxes? It’s very difficult to find.
McGinn: The income tax path is very difficult to find and so, that’s why I keep saying taxes on successful corporations. We do have the capacity to look at options like increasing the exemption for small businesses, take more small businesses out of it and raise the rate on larger businesses who are the most successful. It wouldn’t be fair to increase it on small businesses because their margins are so low, and it’s not an income tax, it’s a gross receipts tax, which is unfair. We also have the employment head tax and we could exempt small corporations and put that on large corporations as well, but those could generate real dollars. But again, I don’t start there, I also think when generating real dollars from the existing tax structure, but we’ve seen… Where is the money going? And that’s one of the things that I kinda wanna get in there to figure out. It’s hard from the outside to look at that growth in the budget and say, “Why do we have thousands of more employees, why do we have all of this growth, yet we continue to hear the pleas of poverty from the mayor’s office?”
And again, having dealt with having to make deep cuts and prioritize, we should be having more discipline on our existing programs so that we can take this explosion in revenue and direct it towards priorities. And again, that’s a place where I think if you’re asking for differences between candidates, I think I can come in and start that dialogue having spent four years analyzing and putting together budgets for the city, which were substantially adopted by the council with modest changes. Because only the mayor who can make those hard choices, council doesn’t have the capacity and it’s not a criticism of any individual person, but it’s just kind of how the system works.
Sorry for carrying on about governance but…
CHS: No, I think that optimizing government and optimizing the city in the way it spends money is required given that the flow from Olympia gets constantly kinked…
McGinn: And the feds! And the feds. I’m glad you said that, because that’s the other thing that was kinda motivating me. It’s like there’s a day of reckoning coming on the city budget. And it’s not just about Trump’s budget, it’s about the Republicans in Congress and there’s also… We know that the economies don’t expand indefinitely. They turn back around and there’s gonna be some economic contractions at some point. So, are we building our budget in a way that we can sustain into that, or are we going to have to make deep cuts once again in the future in ways that are most likely upon those who most need help? Having the discipline on existing spending so that we can prioritize our needs, deal with the impacts of Trump, deal with impacts from the state. I just think it’s a very high priority. And I know it’s wonky. It’s not as big an issue as other ones might be, but it is the real issue because it is the budget that gives us the best opportunity to achieve our values.
CHS: What about Capitol Hill? What’s its future? What do you do for a neighborhood like Capitol Hill, Seattle?
“Capitol Hill actually should be an example to the rest of the city…”
McGinn: Well, Capitol Hill is such a desirable neighborhood for so many reasons. It’s so close to downtown and it does have the history there. And people are rightfully concerned about history being lost. And then here we are sitting in Greenwood. And let me tell you, Greenwood’s a lot cooler than it was 10 years ago, and in part it’s because a lot of folks that couldn’t live on Capitol Hill can’t and they move into neighborhoods like this and making something out of them. I think that’s the challenge across the city is how long till Greenwood is like, “Oh, I can’t afford to live in Greenwood”? And it’s already happening.
It’s funny, Capitol Hill actually should be an example to the rest of the city. You can walk down a street and you can see an apartment building and a house and a courtyard apartment, and it all seems to fit together and be great. So when people say, “Oh, we need to pick up the character of our neighborhood,” Capitol Hill had a hell of a lot of character with a lot of different diverse building types in it. If you get further north on Capitol Hill, it all turns into nice, big, leafy green streets. And historically, I didn’t do as well on those leafy green streets as I did, go look at the maps, as I did in the places where people lived in apartment buildings.
I think we need to figure out how neighborhoods across the city can accommodate young people and can accommodate people who wanna get downtown. And part of the answer to that is transit. And the part of one of the one things that makes downtown neighborhood so appealing is relative easy access. Things like getting light rail to Ballard in West Seattle makes a difference, kind of a Dan Savage point that he made in his recent article. Having bus lines on 15th and Aurora and over the West Seattle Bridge, and to more neighborhoods and frequent service.
These are the types of things we need to do. And then for Capitol Hill, it’s about relieving some of that pressure on it by having more places be like it. And continue to invest in arts and culture and nightlife and all those things that make it special.
CHS: Seattle probably has more plenty of big challenges beyond Capitol Hill.
McGinn: Yes. You go down to the Southeast, I was meeting with East African folks, many of whom are supporting me in this race. I’ve got leaders, I’ve got some great endorsers. And they’re looking to go down to Hillman City, and Othello and those places and it’s like those communities are struggling in this economic environment. So how do we help them?
CHS: What about the latest development around the Central District?
McGinn: Those deals are great. And the whole equitable development initiative. I think it’s great, I think it’s really great stuff. Because we’re also trying to figure out how you can make sure that there’s ownership by the communities that have been there. But it’s such a powerful…
CHS: But, at Midtown Center for example, it’s still a commercial developer, Lake Union Partners.
McGinn: But this is the historic problem, right? Is that the ability of the black community to own and invest and build stuff is just so… I don’t know what the right word is. We had so many policies that prevented black people from acquiring wealth for so long. And that’s a challenge. We see the same challenge in them in refugee communities and in other parts of the city. Like how can they have some ownership of land and businesses in a way that can be sustained over time? Little Saigon, Chinatown-ID. These pressures are intense. I think what I was saying about Capitol Hill also applies when you think about this, it’s like that’s what people want to live in, well-off neighborhoods. There’s so many barriers to building housing in them. Of course people who are looking for homes are gonna go to the places where the property’s less expensive that are still a proximity to downtown. We gotta figure out how to make more neighborhoods desirable to reduce that pressure.
3They’re already desirable. We need to make more neighborhoods open to people with more modest means being able to live there. Connect it by transit to downtown.
CHS: So what should the voters be looking for from this big group of candidates when it comes to homelessness? What should they be looking for in the candidates that something else is going to be added on top of the clean up, or is it really just about cleaning up the city? Do we just need to change these things and get rid of these camps and start there?
McGinn: The starting point is putting a roof over people’s heads, even if it’s as modest as a tiny home, right? But it’s actually having a place for people to go, and a variety of different options. Obviously homelessness was a challenge when I was mayor too. And my response with them was to try to open up more options. I mentioned already pushing for encampments. And I didn’t evict the SoDo encampment until Council, I think, passed a resolution and they all wrote a letter telling me to evict them. That was the Council I was dealing with.
Their solution to homelessness was to stop encampments, and ask them to be evicted. And I kept pushing on that. We opened up Fire Station 39, using city property in Lake City, we used City Hall as a shelter. There are policy differences, and I think the city is finding its way towards better policies around outreach, services, and low barrier housing. But there’s a fundamental policy in the city that we lost, which is if you need a place to sleep that’s under a roof, there’s going to be one for you. And the problem scaled, and the response didn’t. We had Ed declare an emergency, and then ask for somebody else to solve it. I think we just need to really rapidly scale up the amount of emergency shelter, the number of encampments with tiny homes. We have the resources to do that. We probably have the land to accompany it. We need to get navigation centers or all day shelters open in more places.
CHS: So I would assume you support safe consumption sites?
CHS: And things like figuring out where they’re going to be?
“Anybody else is going to spend a year or two futzing around trying to figure out, ‘How do you tackle this complex problem?'”
McGinn: It’s going be controversial, but I think we’ve reached the tipping point. And there’s some people in the public who are always going to be upset if there’s a tiny home encampment. But I think the middle ground of our city is like, “Okay, we know more robust measures are needed because we don’t want people sleeping outside. We don’t want people sleeping in parks.” There’s a compact we have with the city, which is we’re going to provide housing for the homeless. We’re just gonna do it. And we’re gonna keep our parks open for communities, and somehow or another, this issue has been so incredibly mismanaged by Ed. Let’s be serious about it.
CHS: But with the sweeps and the cleanups this spring and summer, that’s isn’t moving forward.
McGinn: Yeah, they’re backing up in this time of extraordinary wealth.
This is one of the other things that really motivates me. This is where, knowing the budget, knowing the communities, knowing the agencies, knowing resources. Anybody else is going to spend a year or two futzing around trying to figure out, “How do you tackle this complex problem?” I’m gonna get in there, and we’re gonna do it. Because I think the public wants decisive and robust action on housing the homeless and protecting our parks and open spaces in a way that we improve the quality of life for the individuals who are getting so slammed. Many of whom have income, by the way. They just can’t find a place to live.
CHS: So safe injection sites are a yes.
CHS: Municipal broadband.
McGinn: Yes. And no futzing around with anybody who tells you public-private partnership doesn’t know what they’re talking about. We tried it, it doesn’t work.
CHS: Why is that difficult to get done?
McGinn: So, in 2009, when I went in front of the Chamber for my endorsement interview and I promoted municipal broadband, the first 15 minutes of the interview were from a Comcast lobbyist explaining to me why municipal broadband was bad.
CHS: All right. Well, that’s easy.
McGinn: That’s why.
CHS: Do you oppose the new youth jail?
McGinn: Yeah. I think they should go back and take a new look. I think people have raised enough questions.
CHS: North Seattle Police Precinct. A restart, half restart, what to do with it?
McGinn: Yeah, I think you need to go back to the drawing board, and figure out what the solution is. For it to go from $85 million to $160 million. Oh, but we don’t have money for homelessness, remember? Come on, man!
CHS: What do you think about rent control?
McGinn: I have supported the repeal of the prohibition, because I think the city, it’d be nice for the city to have little more flexibility to manage it. But I’ve never been a supporter of full on rent control. But the crisis is getting so big, you may have to look at what can you do to prevent the scope of rent increases in one year on people. I think that’s something, when I talk about flexibility, that’s something I think about. But in the long run, it’s not a solution. The solution is actually providing enough housing for people. Including public housing, as well as private sector.
CHS: Do you dare tangle with schools again? You don’t have to. You’re the mayor. And you’re not going to be able to actually fix it on your own.
McGinn: No, the mayor has to deal with schools.
McGinn: Because in order for kids to succeed, there’s so many things that happen outside of the classroom. And that was our focus. We doubled the families levy. We listened to 3,000 people, parents, teachers and small groups. They gave us the list of priorities. It wasn’t me. They gave me a list of priorities, and we acted on it. Health care in the schools. Getting visiting dentists to the schools, working on transportation to the schools, public safety, attendance campaign, arts programs. We launched Creative Advantage, which is, us and the school district started funding arts education to all the schools to help deal with inequity. Municipal broadband goes to it too. So, we’re not going have success in our schools if we leave it to the district alone. And we deal with the crowding issue. What can we do in the city to help with more people living here? You get more kids going to school in the public schools. It’s great.
My kids are in public schools. Go ahead, ask every candidate where their kids go.
There are times I feel like, “Am I doing right by my kids?” No parent wants to feel that way. But sometimes, you don’t have a choice. And so, the mayor doesn’t have a choice either. Because if your job is to care about the people of the city, you have to care about the school district. So, yeah. No, we made it a priority. I didn’t get a whole lot of credit for it at the time. We were so focused on the other issues where people were fighting. But we actually partnered with Burgess, partnered with the Council, partnered with the school district. I even partnered with the Chamber, man. I’m making stuff happen…
And I did it from the bottom up, right? This is what I’ve learned about the school system. There’s a bunch of the, I’m gonna call it, the we-know-what’s-best crowd, okay? And they’re usually well-funded. They tend to think, “Well, if we only applied business metrics, or some other type of metrics to what should be done.” And then, “If we can invent our own schools… ”
CHS: Run it like a business.
McGinn: Whatever it is. They’ve got all their theories and ideas about how they’re going to do it better. But they’re hesitant to test their ideas in public. So what they do is they try to engineer it through electing people to the School Board, getting the ear of the mayor, getting the ear of certain people. Enough of the who-knows-what’s-best crowd. How about we listen to kids and parents and teachers about what they need. And that was my attitude towards schools. And then, we have so many resources across city government. Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative was another one. So many different ways across city government that we can try to connect with our youth in a way that is meaningful to their educational success. By the way, my wife is on the board of AGE UP. All Girl Everything Ultimate Program, which is another… A program that works with South-end kids using ultimate frisbee as a tool for youth development. There’s so many ways we can help people and I don’t know. I’m still passionate about it.
CHS: And from the bottom up.
McGinn: From the bottom up man. From the bottom up, listen to people.The top gun guys, they’ve had their turn.
CHS: You’re still a revolutionary.
McGinn: And I know more about how the system works. So I’m gonna go in there this time and I’m gonna get more done faster.
CHS: You might be too dangerous this time.
McGinn: And I’m not going to… And you know what, when I say listen to everybody, bottom up includes small businesses. Bottom up includes the types of businesses that aren’t represented in the upper echelons of the chamber. There’s a lot of folks who feel left out of the process right now and you have to listen to everybody, it might lead you to surprising decisions on what to do that don’t fit the typical left/right spectrum but it’ll be better ideas if you listen to everybody.
CHS: And this is Seattle.
McGinn: This is Seattle, man. I love it. That’s why I’m running. I love Seattle.