57.4 F
Seattle
Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Mayor Finesse: Boston and Seattle find a groove

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan

Boston and Seattle have a lot in common: politics that pushes to the left, booming economies, smart citizens, and two Irish pols as mayors. Maybe Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan have also defined a new way to be a mayor in such a city. Go slow.

This article in the Boston Globe takes a close look at Mayor Walsh, an Irish pol from Dorchester who came up through the legislature and unions. He was elected in 2013 and reelected by 62% in 2017. He retains his popularity by a rope-a-dope strategy. Let the lefty politics of the city charge loudly ahead, keep listening sympathetically, and trot out the occasional half-measure. Let the council lead on many measures and then sign them somewhat grudgingly. Are the subways falling apart? Keep calm, says the mayor. We need time to change people’s commuting habits. Legalize pot? Ah, but what about the social-equity aspects of pot, and don’t we need to study that first?

Meanwhile, Mayor Durkan is also tapping on the brake pedal. She still says nice things about bike lanes, but alas we don’t have the money to build many more, at least now. Electric scooters may be the rage, but are they safe? (Let’s have another study). Spend more on the homelessness problem, but meanwhile clean up more of the squatter villages. It helps to be Irish, charming one’s way through these thickets, much as her father, Sen. Martin Durkan, did when steering a course among big business, big labor, and the new green liberalism. (The man, after all, twice ran for the governorship.)

It will be a tricky equilibrium to maintain both in Seattle and Boston. Much depends on a mayor who can quietly bury dumb ideas, and a council that can summon up some saving sanity. It helps that the Seattle mayor likes to lie low, guarding secrets, not tipping her hand, stalling on the hard decisions like the downtown streetcar.

Maybe this is the new formula for political survival in zany-left cities. Just let the council be the council, playing to the galleries, while a moderate mayor keeps the lid on without ever copping to the charge of moderation or centrism. True, a reform group such as People for Seattle wants to elect a pragmatic council (like the good old days of 1970-90), but I wonder if that is not a steeper hill to climb than to have and support a Mayor Finesse.

David Brewster
David Brewster, a founding member of Post Alley, has a long career in publishing, having founded Seattle Weekly, Sasquatch Books, and Crosscut.com. His civic ventures have been Town Hall Seattle and FolioSeattle.

1 COMMENT

  1. It’s a fine line between Finesse and Dodge-the-Issue, and the distinction rarely becomes clear before it’s too late to matter. Playing a hand close to one’s chest is OK unless your’e playing with other people’s money and .lives. Stalling on a controversial issue like the Streetcar may be tactically wise; when the stall coincides with actions to push ahead the street-car agenda while pretending there’s no controversy about it, that’s when disingenuous turns to dishonest.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

LATEST

Books: A New Classic of Northwest Logging and Radicalism

If Norwegians and Swedes laid down the legends of the Puget Sound country, Finns were their counterparts in southwest Washington and northwest Oregon in lands drained by the mighty Columbia.

Seattle Elections: Has the “Movement Left” Reached Its Half-Life?

Interest groups have a half-life of about 30 years in the fluid, non-partisan world of Seattle politics.

Democrats’ Debate: Let a Little Sunshine In

The best thing you can say about Julian Castro’s taunting of Joe Biden about “forgetting what he...

The Great Realignment: Are You Ready For America’s Seventh Version Of Political Parties?

We live in historic times. Our system is being realigned as a seventh party system firms up. Republicans have chosen long term political suicide by alienating everyone other than their increasingly narrow base. The door is open for the Democrats.

Dem Debate: A House Divided?

With so many threats to American security and democracy that every one of the 10 candidates was able to plant his or her flag on a vital issue.

TRENDING

Seattle Elections: Has the “Movement Left” Reached Its Half-Life?

Interest groups have a half-life of about 30 years in the fluid, non-partisan world of Seattle politics.

Books: A New Classic of Northwest Logging and Radicalism

If Norwegians and Swedes laid down the legends of the Puget Sound country, Finns were their counterparts in southwest Washington and northwest Oregon in lands drained by the mighty Columbia.

Dynamic Duo: When Maggie And Scoop Made The Senate Work For Us

Jackson and Magnuson each established a formidable legislative record. When it came to getting bills passed in Congress, these senators would put today’s Congress to shame.

The Great Realignment: Are You Ready For America’s Seventh Version Of Political Parties?

We live in historic times. Our system is being realigned as a seventh party system firms up. Republicans have chosen long term political suicide by alienating everyone other than their increasingly narrow base. The door is open for the Democrats.

Blown away by an unfiltered Mayor Pete

Simple outcome. I was blown away. Twenty minutes of house party stump speech was even better than I had any reason to guess I would come away with. Answers to questions were even better.