Traditionally, the big money pours in during the final campaign weeks on Seattle mega-transportation elections backed by City Hall. Take the 2007 downtown tunnel vote: More than $250,000 in contributions flooded in during the closing days of that campaign. So much gushed through that some donations violated city election codes, including checks somehow received by the pro-tunnel campaign four to five days before they were written. City power brokers were in a virtual stampede to get behind then-Mayor Greg Nickels' tunnel plan.
Today, it's pouring again--the pro-tunnel campaign, Let's Move Forward, which had $37,700 in the bank as of its last accounting in June, yesterday reported its treasury was suddenly spilling over with $386,335. That includes $28,140 from the Downtown Seattle Association, $25,000 from Microsoft, and $25,000 each from two of the designated tunnel contractors, Tutor Perini and Dragados USA.
That's about $115,000 less than the final total ($500,000) given to the Nickels-backed tunnel campaign four years ago. Still, the City Council backs the new plan, and many of the same powerful interests are aboard. Everyone but the mayor, that is.
To his advantage or drawback, depending on your viewpoint, today's mayor is with the opposition this time. Mike McGinn opposes the tunnel--no, he despises, hates, and loathes the tunnel. It will be a freakin', leakin', stinkin' tunnel, he says. Don't want it!
He's sure there's a better way, although he has yet to lay out an alternative other than an unfunded surface street/transit plan. While tolls on the proposed tunnel would cause thousands of typically viaduct-carried cars to divert onto city streets, his plan would dump all 110,000 daily viaduct vehicles onto city streets. In order for his likable but nebulous plan to work, he concedes, 50,000 cars a day will simply have to disappear.
None of that seems to translate into big money for his side. The anti-tunnel campaign he supports, Protect Seattle Now, is seriously short of deep-pocket backers. It was actually outpacing the pro-tunnelers in June, with almost $63,000 given by supporters. But yesterday its treasury had grown to barely over $84,000. They raised $21,000 in roughly the same time their opponents raised $348,000, and, bottom line, are currently in the hole $2,444.
In 2007, voters shot down both a tunnel and a viaduct rebuild, indicating perhaps they wanted to try the surface-transit option. But that option's not on the mostly-advisory mail ballots being filled out now through next week, and several new polls in the works are rumored to show a voter preference for the tunnel.
Still, this is Seattle where elections are held to essentially decide when we'll hold the next election on the same thing. Barring that, there's always the courtroom. Dave Barry says you should not ask a woman if she's pregnant until you see the head of the child coming out. So it is with the tunnel--believe it's true only when the first car emerges.