In recent weeks, Seattle’s leaders have disdainfully shown they know how to exert their undue influence on local politics.
Mayor Ed Murray, in his first half-year in office, has already made several moves that have residents questioning his commitment to his constituents and his use of the city’s funds.
His newly created Office of the Waterfront spent a wasteful $9,600 for a welcome sign: a 62-foot mural painted on the east side of the to-be-demolished Alaskan Way Viaduct — to build a “strong visual connection between the waterfront and downtown,” according to a news release, and draw people to the construction-impacted waterfront.
Then, after his Income Inequality Advisory Committee failed to meet its deadline for putting together a $15 minimum-wage proposal, Murray developed his own plan — a process committee member and business owner David Meinert called “a charade,” just before the City Council was to vote on it. He accused Murray of presenting a plan that heavily favors labor, instead of a consensus-building one that the committee studied and debated.
In early June, news broke that Murray gave former mayoral opponent-turned-ally Peter Steinbrueck a $98,000, no-bid consulting contract with the city Department of Planning and Development in March. Steinbrueck’s urban-planning résumé notwithstanding, Murray made no secret that he wanted him on the city’s payroll as a full-time staff member, but budget constraints prevented Murray from hiring him earlier this year.
This was immediately followed by the City Council’s approval to give the city’s highest-paid employee, City Light CEO Jorge Carrasco, a pay raise of up to $120,000, payable by utility customers. Murray requested it be retroactive to the start of the year; the council opted for July 1. This clearly contradicts their urgency to raise the minimum wage to lessen the inequality between workers and executives like Carrasco.
And then City Light tried to mask the bad publicity this would generate by paying $17,500 to “a network of influential bloggers” to write positive, online, “doctorate-level content” about Carrasco and the agency — this news ultimately and ironically outranked their feel-good stories in online searches. Now, City Light is trying to get a refund because it “didn’t deliver the results we intended,” the utility’s chief of staff told The Seattle Times.
King County Executive Dow Constantine then vetoed a plan by County Councilmember Rod Dembowski, who had raised Constantine’s ire by proposing the adoption of a budget first and setting Metro Transit service levels accordingly, versus the reverse. Doing so could have deemed the transit cuts promised for 2015 as unnecessary.
And the Seattle School Board voted 4-3 to spend $3 million on a math textbook that its advisory committee voted against and is nearly twice as expensive as the one the group selected.
Maybe that’s why disaffected Seattle Public Schools Superintendent José Banda is so quick to leave for a similar position in Sacramento after only two years: He needs to get out before he gets too entrenched in Seattle’s political thinking.