Kemper Freeman is the buttoned-up ying to Mayor Mike McGinn's open-collared yang. (If they were starring in a "Perfect Strangers" remake, Freeman would be Larry and McGinn Balki.) Aside from a strange-bedfellows moment in 2007 when they were briefly aligned against a roads and transit initiative, the Bellevue land baron and the bicycle-riding lover-of-light-rail have mostly stayed in their respective lanes. That Freeman is opposed to McGinn's latest budget-balancing proposal, then, might not surprise you. The reason behind his opposition, however, might.
Last week, McGinn announced a $1.50 increase in the cost of metered parking downtown as a way to fill a hole in the city's transportation budget. A raise to $4-an-hour that would make finding a spot in Seattle more expensive than every other major city in America not named Chicago.
As the owner of a couple of Eastside malls where parking is on the house, you might expect Freeman to be in favor of anything that makes his properties more attractive by comparison. But in an interview with the Puget Sound Business Journal, Freeman says that while he should be happy with McGinn for "putting a knife" into the heart of Seattle retail, he's not.
"This is not a good thing for the whole region," he tells the Journal. "The mayor and others seem to have forgotten one thing: Seattle is one of those super-regional cities like New York, Chicago, L.A. or San Francisco. People come here from all over the Northwest, Alaska and Western Canada. It's the regional center of everything for them, the center of commerce for any category you can think of: a ball game, the best lawyer, health care, the biggest banks, the distribution center for products."
He goes on:
Freeman says the whole Northwest and beyond depends on being able to get in and out of Seattle on a regular basis.
"What makes Seattle good is not those 600, 000 people who live there. It's those 8-10 million people who come to Seattle multiple times a year for all kinds of things and all kinds of reasons, who drive the economy of that city."
Freeman, a fourth-generation Bellevue land baron, continues, livid. "This guy (Mayor McGinn) doesn't have a clue how to run a city. I should be dancing, but I'm not. It hurts the whole region, believe me. It's like he hates people and he wants to run 'em out of there."