This morning, Seattle mayoral hopeful Mike McGinn held a press conference in front of the Philly Cheese Steak restaurant on 23rd & Union -- vacant since a brutal murder nearly two years ago -- in order to criticize opponent Joe Mallahan's proposal to postpone the search for a new police chief.
"Not proceeding with the search was a mistake," he said. "Now is not the time to wait."
Mayor Greg Nickels already had a 24-member committee at the ready when he asked both candidates how he thought he should proceed with the search to replace Obama-appointed Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske. McGinn said go ahead. Mallahan said wait. Nickels deferred to Mallahan. Now both are angling to convince voters that they were the one to make the right decision.
At the press conference, McGinn made the case that Mallahan is further delaying what will, and should, be a long process. ("Four to six months" was his best guess for a timeline.) But his main point seemed to be that Mallahan had gone back on a promise not to turn the selection into a political chess piece.
"Mr. Mallahan says he didn't want to inject politics into this decision," said McGinn. "But by choosing to delay he is doing just that."
Mallahan's campaign, naturally, disagrees.
"We didn't politicize it. Mike did," says Mallahan spokesperson Charla Neuman. "We didn't do a press conference on this. This process is way too important to use as a campaign gimmick."
So let's be straight: McGinn did ask members of the media to meet him at location where a very high-profile murder occurred (and then told us the spot wasn't relevant) and then said we were all there to talk about how his opponent was the one injecting politics into the police chief search. That fails the smell test.
On top of that, McGinn also revealed that, during a conversation with deputy mayor Tim Ceis, he offered himself his services to the 24-member committee.
(We scribble this in our notes and have called both the McGinn campaign and Ceis to try to verify what exactly was said. Our notes suggest that McGinn offered to head the committee before the election, but in initial talks with McGinn people they're saying that's not the case.)
If true, McGinn's offer makes sense. Mayor Nickels had promised both candidates that, if the search was to continue, they'd have a role. Dad offered a ride in his car. Mallahan politely declined. McGinn called shotgun. Whether you want to call that opportunism -- an attempt by McGinn to steal the crown of Public Safety that Mallahan has fitted himself with so snugly -- or just smart politicking is up to you.
The question of whether or not the search should go on during the campaign or after is also a good one and not easily solved. But the one thing that's clear is that if McGinn wants to accuse anyone of injecting politics into the search for a new police chief, he best start with himself.
Update: Ahh, the perils of early-morning note-taking. Turns out, McGinn was referring to a position back in his neighborhood activism days. He actually offered Ceis a liaison to sit in on all committee meetings. But he says he certainly didn't offer up his own services.