Reporters Have Mike McGinn's Struggling Seawall Plan For Lunch

There's not much time for eating when you're dealing with reporters and their incessant questions.
Mayor Mike McGinn invited reporters to have lunch with him today, leaving himself open to any and all questions. But most of the conversation was devoted to one thing--his seawall proposal.

McGinn announced his first major policy item--raising property taxes to replace the structure, which keeps Puget Sound from eroding the sand beneath the downtown waterfront--less than two weeks ago. The reactions he's gotten so far are a total lack of caring from the state and the feds, and anger from the City Council, whom he blindsided with the announcement.

Only alt-weekly types, who have no shame, and Joel Connelly brought actual food today. So without the distraction of sandwiches, reporters fired questions about his struggling plan. McGinn averaged about one bite of what looked to be a tuna sandwich every five minutes.

McGinn insists that the wall is on the verge of collapse. It was never built for an earthquake, he argues, and today he again trotted out chunks of wood that have been nibbled down to stubs by water termites called gribbles.

But despite the stimulus money floating around and an announcement today by the state Department of Transportation that it has $70 million to burn, no one from the state or federal government seems particularly concerned, let alone willing to help.

McGinn spent part of last week in Washington, D.C., and yesterday in Olympia. But in all of his conversations with the state and federal legislators and officials, he says, he's been consistently told that there is no financial help outside the city to pay for a new seawall. "I received no encouragement from our federal delegation," he said today.

Normally, thanks to the specter of Hurricane Katrina or now Haiti, people are clamoring to help prevent a tragedy. Patty Murray publicly requested federal aid for the levies protecting South King County in case the Howard Hanson dam floods.

But the possibility of the wall collapsing, taking down the viaduct with it, and potentially killing hundreds, as McGinn tells it, is getting nothing but crickets.

Of course, scare tactics have been used for ill political purposes in the past. And some City Councilmembers, including Sally Bagshaw and Tim Burgess, have expressed skepticism of his insistence that the seawall is a safety hazard, suggesting it's a political ploy to undermine the tunnel project.

Maybe if the Washington State Department of Transportation added screaming to its video simulation of the seawall and viaduct collapsing, McGinn would be getting more traction with the council and our representatives in Olympia and D.C.

Though he might want to save a more horrific version of the simulation for something other than a lunch meeting.

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