Nickels says...clap your hands!
Greg Nickels is the man in the crosshairs these days. With an approval rating at 30%, he's got every candidate in>"/>
Nickels says...clap your hands!
Greg Nickels is the man in the crosshairs these days. With an approval rating at 30%, he's got every candidate in the field running against his administration's perceived failures, be they in building sidewalks or shoveling snow or replacing the viaduct. He's kept a somewhat low profile as far as campaigning goes--though the case could be made that every appearance is a campaign event to be re-lived on a photo-happy city website.
Today, at the African-American Museum, the Mayor touted his 8-year record and put out his proposal for years 9-12. But before he did that, he conceded that "I've made my share of mistakes" and then dismissed his competitors as offering "potshots and platitudes" (the Mayoral equivalent of calling them haters). The Nickels campaign, he says, will focus on the soundbiteable "substance, not soundbites." A look, then, at the afternoon's substance:
Nickels broke his agenda down into four areas--mobility, neighborhoods, jobs and opportunities, and poverty--that are largely continuations and expansions of current work:
On mobility, he promised to finish the First Hill Streetcar and start another streetcar line (though he wasn't ready to commit to a specific one among the proposed). The First Hill Streetcar, it's worth noting, will be built by beleaguered SDOT but paid for by Sound Transit, as it's part of the package that passed last November. (Nickels, of course, touted his work with ST at every opportunity today.) He also said he's got a plan in the works to partner with Nissan to create 1,000 electric car charging stations. And he continued to tout the pedestrian and bicycle master plans.
On neighborhoods, he hyped up his youth violence prevention initiative (debates over which are summarized in this article by Vernal Coleman) which he claims will reduce youth violence by a whopping 50%, and said he'd expand the city's current programs for assisting immigrants and refugees and create 100 acres of new green space. (He'll have money for those parks, thanks to a parks levy he opposed.) 66.5 acres of that would come from lidding reservoirs, as was done at Cal Anderson Park. Finally, he promised up to $1 million per conversion of abandoned school into community center.
On jobs/opportunities, he promised "hundreds of millions of dollars" in stimulus and other money from the feds, which is pretty bold, given the way the city was shut out of stimulus money by the state earlier this year. But Nickels said he'll be going straight to the source, touting his meeting with Obama over the weekend. Much of the money, he said, would go to clean energy jobs.
He said he'd raise the B&O tax exemption from $80,000 to $100,000 and stuck with his new position (see his old one here) that he's against the "head tax," in which employers are charged $25 a year for employees who drive alone to work. This leaves Mike McGinn as the only candidate on record as opposing the repeal. Of course, any candidate who wants to repeal it will have to deal with the City Council, which didn't sound so sure about the idea.
Finally, Nickels coined his anti-poverty initiative "The Seattle Promise" and talked about expanding Pre-K education, post-secondary job-training, and the PeoplePoint program, which connects low-income people with benefits and services. He says he'll build 1,820 new affordable housing units and get 10,000 people out of poverty. (His ability to do the former--or exceed it--will likely be affected by the passage or failure of this fall's housing levy.)
All in all, it was a detailed set of proposals--the advantage of being in office and being able to claim credit for existing programs while also promising to beef them up--albeit one whose funding sources aren't entirely clear.
When asked how he'd tighten the belt in tough times while also expanding the aforementioned services, Nickels pointed to the Seattle's high rating in a Pew Study city finances (which would imply that there's not a ton of room to tighten the belt), $25 million in the city's rainy day fund, then touted his ability to make big cuts to city government--he cut 500 jobs when he first arrived.
As for the mistakes he said he's made, the Mayor named just one--not including additional pedestrian and bike infrastructure in the repave of Westlake Ave. in his first year in office.
And with that, it was back to being the bulls-eye, as Mike McGinn supporters worked the room, handing out flyers questioning how Nickels would raise the city's money for the viaduct, and James Donaldson and Joe Mallahan sending out e-mails slamming hizzoner.