Mayor Greg Nickels Continues to Blow Off His Own Gas-Saving Advice

The city's already looking into replacing the mayor's $45,000 hybrid.

Among those still not heeding Mayor Greg Nickels’ advice to use their cars more sparingly is Mayor Greg Nickels. The mayor’s vehicles consumed more than 1,130 gallons of gas, costing $3,500, in the 12 months since he urged Seattleites last year to find alternative transportation to save the Earth, according to newly released City Hall figures.

The figures show the mayor has consumed about three times as much gas since putting his economical hybrid SUV into service last June as he did for a comparable period when his previous car, a 17-mile-per-gallon Cadillac limousine, was in service.

Because of its record-keeping practices, the city can’t say how much gas was used in 2006–07 by each of the mayor’s three cars—the Caddy, a backup Ford SUV, and the hybrid Toyota Highlander. But it’s possible the hybrid is proving to be less fuel-efficient than anticipated. The EPA has already lowered the Highlander’s mpg rating from 31 to 27, and some consumer road tests come in at 20 mpg.

The $45,000 hybrid may have proved to be a bad investment for other reasons as well. Internal e-mails between the mayor’s office and the city’s Fleets and Facilities Department reveal that the Toyota has battery problems, causing added power accessories to shut down when the car is started. Nickels, according to the e-mails, will “probably” replace the Toyota this fall, possibly with a bigger Chevrolet Tahoe hybrid. Fleets spokesperson Katherine Schubert-Knapp confirms that “we’re starting our research” into which vehicle might replace the Toyota bought last June.

If Nickels gets another set of wheels this year, it would be his fifth new car in the three-plus years he has been garnering national attention as a crusader to limit greenhouse gases; that’s not counting the backup vehicles at his disposal.

As Seattle Weekly reported three weeks ago (“Gas-Guzzlin’ Greg,” May 23), though the mayor announced last June he was trading the Caddy for the gas-battery hybrid, he kept the Caddy in use into August. The latest e-mails and gas records were released as a follow-up request to that story.

The new records show that from Oct. 1, 2006, to April 1, 2007 (the billing period covering the time after the Cadillac was retired), the mayor chargedmore than 800 gallons of gas, costing $2,400. That compares to 260 gallons at a cost of $870 for the shorter, five-month March 2–Aug. 6, 2006, billing period, when the leased Cadillac wasin service. The city says gas for the backup car is mixed into those figures.

Nickels now uses the hybrid SUV and a conventional Ford Explorer. If a new vehicle is bought or leased, the hybrid would become the backup, the e-mails state. Since April 2004, taxpayers have spent $83,000 buying and leasing cars for the mayor’s use.

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