Writings and observations

McGinn
Mike McGinn

Mike McGinn has not been mayor of Seattle so long as to build up the list of critics and adversaries that any big-city mayor will develop over time. But while seemingly much more easy-going than his harder-edged predecessor Greg Nickels, he has moved quite a way down that path.

His big issue during the mayoral race was opposition to the Alaskan Way viaduct tunnel option, a stance that put him into flat opposition with many of the other regional powers. Here’s one summary from Wikipedia: “After the election, requests for state employee emails revealed a discomfort with the McGinn campaign by state government and transportation officials over McGinn’s anti tunnel position. Ron Judd, an aide to Washington Governor Chris Gregoire, sent emails to staff and DOT officials saying McGinn’s position was “BS” and accused McGinn of stoking populist angers and relying on voter’s ignorance about funding details to advance his anti-tunnel stance.”

And there was much more. The city council started making on its own announcements traditionally made by the mayor – acting independently to astunning degree. After McGinn made statements that seemed to accuse the governor of lying, Gregoire seemed to diss him totally, with statements emerging that apprently cut off relations with the mayor’s office in favor of the council (and working through Council President Richard Conlin). Nor does it seem that Olympia and the council is all; other power players, including much of business and labor, seems put off as well. Some liberal groups still cheer McGinn on, but he’s lost a lot of the rest.

Seattle Times column Joni Balter, running through some of this, concludes, “McGinn may be a one-term mayor because he has lost contact with the silent middle in Seattle.” She may be right.

All this is important to transportation issues. Beyond that, something significant is being reshuffled in the Seattle power structure.

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Northwest Washington

No one will know until into January whether the University of Oregon Ducks can claim the title of top college football team in the country. But the team’s no-loss season has already been somewhat transformative in Oregon: The interest level is much higher than the norm, with even loyal Beavers cheering on the players from Eugene.

It may matter beyond football. 2011 could be a key year for state officials to decide what to do about funding the state’s perenially underfunded higher education institutions. UO has been a leader in coming up with options (one being a massive fund on which it, or others as well, could draw), most of which entail in some way greater independence from legislative control. The Ducks’ adventures may have some peripheral effect on all that.

Maybe from a distance, as well, in Boise. There, the Boise State University Broncos, which have become a near-obsessional subject, had a very good but less than great season. Which was not enough for some people. Could this be a point of some useful deflation in Boise?

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Northwest Oregon

aloha
A view in Aloha, on the TV Highway/photo from Wikipedia

It’s a choice you can make, but be aware that there are two sides to it …

One of our favorite area eateries has been Reo’s BBQ, which features southern-style que in the proper manner – only but so many in the Northwest can make that claim. Its current location is in southern Portland, but that’s recent: Until a few months back it was located west of PDX on the Tualatin Valley Highway in the non-city called Aloha.

Aloha is something like White Center southwest of Seattle, or maybe the Southwest Community near Boise – a large mass of population, an urbanized area, that is not a city and doesn’t want to become or join one, however much they may look and act like one. The biggest reason seems to be taxes: Live in the unincorporated county, and property taxes are lower.

That’s one side of the equation. An article on Aloha in this morning’s Oregonian outlines some of the other side.

For example: “In the past 20 years, businesses have closed, leaving boarded-up shells along Tualatin Valley Highway, the blue-collar community’s main artery. Nearly a quarter of the county’s [that would be Washington County, population over a half-million] low-income, public housing is in Aloha. The area lacks sidewalks and nutritious food sources, the county told Metro earlier this year. The county-designated town center is a Big Lots and Little Caesar’s pizza.”

In fact the number of boarded-up businesses has grown around Aloha visibly faster than in most of the cities nearby, from large Portland (about a dozen miles away) on down. A number of them, like Reo’s, have moved on. Necessary services will be improved, from the physical like roads and sidewalks to the professional like safety and law enforcement. The larger cities of Beaverton and Hillsboro, on either side of Aloha, seem to be in better shape. And, the article makes clear, neither is eager to absorb Aloha because the region now would be costly to bring up to standards. (There’s even a running joke between the city officials there – “No, I don’t want it; you take it.)

Are taxes so obviously a detriment to business? Read the article and then consider again.

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Oregon