Mike McGinn Moving Forward With Seattle's Part of the Tunnel Deal

Before the gribbles got to this piece of wood, pulled from the seawall, it was 40 feet long!
Mike McGinn finally got specific with this morning's "major announcement." He's going to ask voters to give him $241 million to replace the seawall within four years.

The seawall was completed in 1936 and runs along the downtown waterfront, keeping Pioneer Square night clubs from flooding and the soil beneath the viaduct stable. But now, the wall is crumbling thanks to millions of tiny crustaceans called gribbles that have been munching on it for decades.

Ironically, McGinn's announcement puts Seattle one step closer to fulfilling its obligations under the deal to replace the viaduct with a tunnel. (A deal, he noted again today, he's no fan of.) That makes him the only politician to date to actually move forward on any aspect of the whole plan. On the contrary, the agreement appears to be wavering after Speaker of the House Frank Chopp refused to comment to the Seattle Times' Andrew Garber on whether or not he would use his impressive legislative power to stop the whole thing in Olympia.

McGinn was unwilling to talk about how pressing on with the seawall replacement connects to the larger project as a whole. His decision to move forward on this is about public safety, he says.

Apparently McGinn had a bit of a "come to Jesus" moment when the state Department of Transportation released that viaduct snuff film. The simulation showed what might happen in a large earthquake here and the first thing to go is the wall, bringing down the viaduct with it.

With the events in Haiti, the timing of the press conference was politically awkward. McGinn says he scheduled his announcement before the quake hit Haiti, and isn't trying to capitalize on voter fears.

But realistically, he'll need all the help he can get. He must convince the City Council to put it on the ballot for May and 60 percent of the city voters to approve it.

Granted, we Seattleites are notoriously levy-friendly, but the state legislature will be finalizing its own likely tax increases in April, one month before the vote on McGinn's property tax hike. And if people are already looking at a hit on sales or utility taxes from the state, they might not be so quick to approve a new one.

Going back to the Major System for Classifying Major Announcements, I'd say this is a combination "Hot Lips"/"Major Major": It uses an eye-catcher to draw you in but in practice has a lot of vague implications and moving parts that still have to come into place. Plus it involve the hilariously named crustaceans--the gribbles!

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